In the Beginning – A simple idea becomes a tradition
The History of Pelham Old Home Day
Pelham’s Old Home Day is a gracious response to the request of the Governor of the state of New Hampshire in 1906 who asked for a statewide celebration of Old Home Days. The first Old Home Day was celebrated in Pelham on August 18, 1906. August was the best time because the farming communities were between harvests. Farmers were not known for having summer vacations. Pelham was championing its place on the new Electric Railroad System between the points of Lowell, Massachusetts and Canobie Lake/Salem, New Hampshire. Wednesday was an excellent day for this event! Businesses closed in Lowell for the afternoon and their day in the country benefited the people of Pelham. The first celebration in 1906 reunited the Greeley Singers. A souvenir book with ads and pictures was available. It was a time of speeches and a dinner at the Pilgrim Hall sponsored by the ladies of the Congregational Church. Several years later a parade and sporting events were added to the venue. The Lowell Symphonic Orchestra would come to play in the evening at 6 p.m. Mrs. Bigelow, choir director at First Congregational, was instrumental in bringing the Lowell Symphony to Pelham.
Some people still fondly recall those summer celebrations. People had a good time just visiting. By 1931, Old Home Day was sponsored by the Pelham First Congregational Church. This fundraiser helped to meet church expenses. The Ladies Aid Society would make aprons and pot holders which would sell for a few pennies each. May Smith was known for buying enough aprons to keep herself for a year. A doll carriage parade, baby shows, fashion shows, plus talent and dance became a part of the program. A bake table provided cuisine fresh from the oven. Tug of wars and baseball games would not only provide entertainment but also be wonderful means of endearment and encouragement.
The Girl Scouts at Camp Runnels would come to town to use their teamwork and developing leadership skills to take on a baseball team of married men from the community. These baseball games were an integral part of the day. Check out the book, “Reflections: A Pictorial History of Pelham, New Hampshire 1746-1996” for references to the different baseball teams. There is a fun picture from the mid-1930’s featuring the young men’s baseball team in women’s dresses (page 151). Herb Currier, Sr. sports an attractive hair band as part of his outfit.
An antique auction was added in 1932 and provided some evening excitement. A young child during the 1940’s may spend $2 (two dollars) on soda, grab bags and knocking down milk bottles. Ice cream was intentionally not sold so that the store business may not be interrupted. For a while there was a Horribles Parade. Was your costume ugly enough to scare someone? A big change came in 1972 to accommodate the lifestyles of the changing community. Families were taking summer vacations. A decision was made to change Old Home Day from a Wednesday in August to the first Saturday after Labor Day in the month of September. In 2010, the Old Home Day date changed again, this time to the second Saturday after Labor Day to avoid conflicts with other wonderful events in surrounding towns.
Today, Pelham is a town of over 12,000 residents. Its school system is a leader in the state and is one of the hottest real estate markets in the state. Pelham makes intentional strides to accommodate the diversity of its citizens. The current Pelham Old Home Day attempts to mirror the dreams of its ancestors while embracing the practical daily lives of its residents. New residents find Old Home Day an important place to meet and discover what their new adopted community is all about. The youth of the community find an outlet of gaining community service. The schools require the youth to be involved in community service. Some of the young people volunteer their time, effort and skills to make Old Home Day a success. The 5k Run is available for those wanting to support the Nashua-based organization of the New Hampshire Special Olympics.
The community turnout in 2006 made our 100th anniversary of Pelham Old Home Day a spectacular event. The town continues to mature and find new meanings in the lives of its citizens. We hope you will continue to make Old Home Day a memorable part of your life.
Well, former Governor Rollins’ idea was indeed a vision that lives on in this small but growing town. This event has been sponsored and coordinated by the proud and dedicated members of the First Congregational Church for 113 years.
With an abundance of caution, all onsite activities are cancelled for the 114th Pelham Old Home Day on Saturday September 19, 2020. We hope you will check out the traditional homemade Quilt Raffle and participate in the Grand Parade, both of which will still take place.