Old Home Day in Union, CT has certainly become a much loved and appreciated tradition that celebrates our local roots. But, have you ever wondered where it came from, how it derived and why we celebrate it? The birth of the original Old Home Day celebration can be traced to one man. His name was Frank Rollins. Mr. Rollins set the concept in motion in New Hampshire back in 1899 because he worried about the decline of the state’s rural communities. In essence, people began moving away. In fact, a lot of people started to move from New England in the late 19th century. People went west in search of warmer climates and better land.
They also moved from rural towns to the larger cities in order to work in the factories and mills. It was certainly a significant change in population trends from the previous century. Frank Rollins wanted to bring people back, or at least keep the population from further decline in rural New Hampshire. He did have some self interests at play. You see, Frank Rollins and his father Edward Rollins owned one of the largest banks in the area. So, in 1897, Frank Rollins came up with the idea or concept of Old Home Week in order to celebrate small, rural towns across New Hampshire.
He wrote “I wish that in the ear of every son and daughter of New Hampshire, in the summer days, might be heard whispering the persuasive words: Come back, come back! Do you not hear the call? What has become of the old home where you were born? Do you not remember it? The old farm back among the hills, with its rambling buildings, its well-sweep casting its long shadows, the row of stiff poplar trees, the lilacs and the willows?”
Forty four (44) New Hampshire towns held Home Week celebrations during the last week in August in 1899. The towns held humongous and lavish celebrations that included dances, dinners, banks, bonfires, parades, and many speeches by local statesmen. The first Old Home Day in Concord, NH ended with a spectacular fireworks display. There were actually 53- parts to that fireworks show with each part having their own spectacular theme. Old Home Day soon caught on in other areas. Both Maine and Vermont added the celebration in 1901. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Connecticut soon followed.
The holiday spread to other states including Rhode Island, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama. Soon after that, Old Home Day was also celebrated in other countries including Nova Scotia, Ontario and Australia. Old Home Days typically included reunions and poetry reading that described the pond where you skated, and the lake where you fished and swam. Other poems described the farm, ticking of the old clock, the old oaken bucket, flowers in the yard, and the fleece-like clouds.
There was even a standard Old Home Week songbook. When the great wars ended, Old Home Week celebrated the return of the men and women who fought in World War I and World War II. The Old Home Day season gradually spread out from early June to late August. Speaking of which, the Town of Union, Connecticut will hold its annual Old Home Day celebration on August 20, 2022. Please join us for a day of fun filled activities. Connect with old friends and help us celebrate Union’s rich history.