Story of Old Home Week Published by the Tenth Triennial Old Home Week
Of the many
things of which Greencastle’s sons and daughters may he proud, there is
none of which they should be prouder than the fact that it is in their own
native town that the institution of Old Home Week seemingly originated and
has undergone its finest and fullest development. Other towns, it is true,
have their homecoming days and gala occasions of one sort or other; but it
has remained for Greencastle to show the world the spectacle of a great
triennial weekly gathering of loyal boys and girls, paid for by the
generosity of the homecomers themselves, and conducted without any taint of
commercialism or fakirism.
It was on
September 5,1901, that Prof. Philip E. Baer writing in the Greencastle
papers, made the suggestion out of which Grencastle’s famous Old Home Week
was to develop. His plea was that “fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers
notify their sons of a reunion to be held August 10th to 20th, 1902”. In a
second letter, dated April 3rd, 1902, he announced a tentative program for
this “Old Boys Reunion”;
and on August 8th of the same
year about fifty or sixty of Greencastle’s sons responded to his invitation.
interesting to note that the first Reunion was somewhat of a masculine
affair, as its name suggests. The program began on Tuesday morning and
included a tour of the town, a chicken dinner in the town hall, a picnic
along the Conococheague, and a big minstrel show. Bands and orators
entertained the visitors from a platform on the public square. The
committee in charge consisted of E. E. Davison, chairman; T. M. Goetz, P.
F. Carl, L. V. Brendle, C. C. Kauffman, George Ilginfritz, \V. C. Kreps,
B. C. Prather, W. J. Patton, H. E. Petrie, James Shirey, George S. Heck, H.
K. Schafhirt, J. A. Carl, and John H. Hostetter;— pioneer Old Home Week
reunion, held in 1905, was not widely different from that of 1902, one
innovation being an open air picnic at PenMar park. By 1908, however, the
idea of including Antrim township in the celebration had occurred to the
committee, and this was formally accomplished at a meeting on February 14th
of that year, when township members were added to the committee on
arrangements. A reception in the town hall, a reunion of the 126th
Regiment, and elaborate fireworks were features of the third Reunion, then
known as Old Home Week, held from August 16th to 22nd of that year.
Reunion ever held, with the possible exception of that of 1923, was the one
held August 5th to 12th, 1911. The program opened on Saturday with a mammoth
parade and tournament, and on Sunday a union church service was scheduled
for the first time. On Monday there was a reception in the Town Hall, and
motion pictures—then very much of a novelty on the square. Band concerts, a
picnic, a smoker, and a fireman’s reunion also added to the gaiety.
Prior to the
1911 Reunion it had been the practice to have the town meet the expense of
the celebration. The 1911 program, however, incurred an expense of nearly
$2500, and citizens began to murmur against the burden imposed upon them.
It was at this point that John M. Easton came to the rescue. In a letter
written on February 5, 1914, he declared that the Old Boys would arrange
their own Reunion. On April 27th a meeting of the 1911 committee was held,
with W. J. Patton presiding, and the Old Boys were assured at least of the
hearty cooperation of the citizen’s. On August 9th, 1914, just as the World
War began in Europe, the Fifth Old Home Week got under way. At this reunion
the town was presented with the Memorial fountain on Center Square.
The fact that
a reunion was held at all during the troublous war days of 1917 is due
largely to the efforts of C. C. Kauffman, Pitt F. Carl, John M. Easton, and
the late Eddie Martin, who felt that the old custom should not be discarded
and who personally worked out an informal program. The 1920 celebration was
more like those of old. Led homeward by “Bones” Smith, the Old Boys and
Girls gathered in, and an entertaining program was arranged. Admirers of
“Bones” met him at the station and carried him triumphantly through the
streets behind the Old Gray Mare, later presenting him with a gold watch.
In the course
of the 1920 reunion, the Old Boys, who since 1911 had been working without
a definite organization, decided that Old Home Week was worthy of
perpetuation and therefore organized the Old Home Week Association, with J.
Gilmore Fletcher as first president. The wisdom of this policy was plainly
shown by the tremendous success of the following Old Home Weeks, those of
1923 and 1926, when hundreds of Greencastle and Antrim natives returned to
register, and thousands of visitors thronged the town. The Association
welcomes all Old Boys and Girls to its membership, keeps a permanent
mailing list to which it adds names all the time, and no sooner completes
one Old Home Week than it reelects officers and prepares for the next