Old Home Day: A Summer Tradition Rich as New Hampshire’s Roots
“I have a scheme,” said New Hampshire Governor Frank Rollins in 1899 at the Sons of New Hampshire dinner in
Two years prior, Rollins had begun thinking about the benefit of such celebrations when he mused, “I wish that in the ear of every son and daughter of New Hampshire, in the summer days might be heard whispered the persuasive words: Come back, come back.”
New England Magazine, in a May 1899 editorial, agreed:
We can think of nothing which, if taken up and carried out in the spirit in which it is proposed, would do more to enlist the interest of influential sons and daughters of
Nostalgia and Economy
This bit of history certainly adheres to that old cliché—the more things change, the more they remain the same. There has been a lot of press in the last few years addressing the migration of our youth out of the state to other places supposedly offering them better opportunities. In fact, a recent study by the
The second motivation of Rollins’ call for nostalgia was economic. The Civil War, mechanized agriculture and urban manufacturing jobs all drew state residents elsewhere. To counter the relocation movement, Rollins and participating towns invited former residents to come back and visit “the old home where you were born” to see all that they were missing, buy summer homes and revitalize local community spirit.
Association Is Formed
As governor, Rollins founded the Old Home Day Association to form what has since become one of
The promotion for this new event went so far as to include an invitation from New Hampshire Senator William Eaton Chandler to U.S. President William McKinley to attend festivities. The New York Times carried this related news item on July 3, 1899:
Senator Chandler today called upon the President on behalf of the Governor of New Hampshire to visit that state during the latter part of August and participate in the celebration of Old Home Day. The president, while expressing interest in the proposed celebration, is doubtful as to his ability to be present. He did not, however, positively decline.
Rituals and Antics
Each town celebration has its own traditions and antics.
In Gilford, parade judges know enough to arm themselves with super-soaker squirt guns in defense against float participants who pass by the reviewing station using similar water-filled weapons. Gilmanton offers a traditional bean hole supper on the historic grounds of Smith Meetinghouse. The Town of
So, when the dog days of August descend upon the towns of
Come back! Come back!
Kevin J. Sperl is publisher and managing editor of Lakes Region Spirit Magazine, a quarterly publication based in
Back on the Hill
(Recited by Fred Parker Ham on Gilmanton’s Old Home Day, August 1907)
After only one short year’s absence,
We’re back on the hill again;
For we’ve listened and heard the Old Home Horn
Calling “Don’t let me summons in vain.”
We found the Old Meeting House opened,
And the key to the doors laid away,
As the purple rays of the Sun’s fond gaze
Through the window read “WELCOME TO-DAY.”
[Source: New Hampshire Old Home Celebrations by