120 years, 50 committees, one big celebration — it's Old Home Week

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

A tradition that dates back 120 years to the 1902 Old Boys’ Reunion returns to the Greencastle-Antrim community with the 41st triennial Old Home Week kicking off Saturday, Aug. 6, and continuing through Saturday, Aug. 13.

The celebration has endured every three years through two world wars and the Great Depression. The triennial timing had the 40th installment in August 2019 before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 41st occurring after its darkest months.

The Mayor's ReportOld Home Week

Some things to do:Name a flower, remember 'Mr. B' or pick up a paintbrush during OHW

“After everything the world has been through the last three years, we’re still having Old Home Week,” Bonnie Shockey, president of this year’s Old Home Week, said near the end of the final planning meeting on July 25.

Under her leadership, the chairs of nearly 50 committees have met monthly since September 2021. Committees run the alphabet from alumni reunion, antique car show and antique tractor show to the website, window displays and WRGG’s David King concert.

About 50 committees are involved in Greencastle-Antrim’s Old Home Week, including one for the antique tractor show.

Some committee leaders shepherd events that echo those of the Old Boys’ Reunion.

Then, there was a chicken dinner and picnic along the Conococheague Creek.

Today, people will sit at picnic tables or walk around the Square munching on hot dogs from the BSA Troop 99 concession stand. Then there was a minstrel show.

Today, there’s a pageant, this year titled “Yesterday, When We Were Young” on stage at the Greencastle-Antrim High School auditorium at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

Then, an iconic photo was taken as the “Old Boys” gathered for their first — and last — reunion in 1902.

Today, an estimated 2,000 people — from tiny babies to nonagenarians — will pack the Square for the traditional Old Home Week photo that will be taken at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Then, there were band concerts.

Today, there is a concert at Jerome R. King Playground from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and music on the Square from 8 to 11 most nights. The action moves to the Greencastle-Antrim School District’s Kaley Field for a concert by the U.S. Navy Band Cruisers from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Friday, followed by the Old Home Week fireworks display at 9 p.m.

The first — and only — Old Boys’ Reunion

The Old Boys’ Reunion was orchestrated by Philip E. Baer, who was born in Greencastle in 1865. He grew up to travel the country as a concert singer. Wherever he performed, he received a warm welcome from former residents of his hometown. He and his wife, Jannette, began talking about a gathering of those friends at their home in Greencastle.

“This concept grew into an idea that included the entire town with organized entertainment for a weekend, which expanded to plans encompassing the entire week,” according to William P. Conrad, a late local historian and superintendent of Greencastle-Antrim schools.

Conrad traced the evolution of the celebration in “A Safe Kept Memory: The Old Home Week Story” for the 29th triennial Old Home Week in 1986.

Sixty-five “old boys” attended the event and had such a good time, they decided to meet again in three years in 1905.

This is the classic photo taken at the 1902 Old Boys’ Reunion, which became Old Home Week in 1905.

Their enthusiasm and good time did not go unnoticed by their wives who stayed home, according to Conrad.

“The ‘Old Boys’ Reunion’ was finished,” he wrote. “From 1905 until the present, Old Home Week has been the accepted title for the event with invitations going to both ladies and gentlemen.”

How is Old Home Week paid for?

“Participation in these triennial rites has varied through the years, but the sixty-five ‘old boys’ who tended their reunion in 1902 would marvel at the growth of the institution they originated,” wrote Conrad.

He noted “early budgets seldom exceeded five hundred dollars.” In 1983, expenses were around $20,000.

Today, Old Home Week is a $75,000-plus endeavor funded mainly by donations from individuals and businesses, as well as sponsorship of some events.

Money also is generated by the sale of Old Home Week badges. A badge costs $6 and is all that is needed for admission to all Old Home Week events, except the meeting of the Loyal Daughters.

A $5 membership fee will be collected at the Loyal Daughters meeting, themed “Teach Love Inspire,” Tuesday afternoon at Antrim Brethren in Christ Church. The money is donated within the community.

A different local landmark is depicted on the badge every three years. The badge for the 41st celebration features a sketch of Allison’s Tavern as it may have appeared when John Allison laid out the town of Greencastle 240 years ago in 1782.

A rendering of Allison's Tavern, the first structure in what is now the Borough of Greencastle, is on the badge for the 41st Triennial Old Home Week.

Badges are on sale at numerous local businesses and at headquarters, 42 Center Square, during Old Home Week.

‘Are you ready for Old Home Week?’

The Old Boys’ Reunion brought participants from far and wide and many people who have moved away come home every three years.

Those who still live here also are excited about the celebration and for months everyone’s favorite question has been “Are you ready for Old Home Week?”

Tim Starliper is one of many who triennially schedule vacation time for Old Home Week.

“I love it, I love it,” the 1988 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School said at a stop during his rounds as a UPS driver.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Starliper, who always takes the whole week off. He has some buddies coming home and they’ll spend time together and play a little golf.

Starliper listed the parade and the fireworks among his favorite activities. Both are popular not just in the Greencastle-Antrim community, but throughout the region.

From left, Rita Plessinger, Carolyn Waltz, Esther Walck and Linda Stoler dressed up for a patriotic entry in the 2019 Old Home Week parade in Greencastle.

The parade is set to step off at 6 p.m. Thursday, and an estimated 6,000 people will line the streets. Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas noted that he saw a lawn chair in position on the parade route with a sign on it the last Saturday in July.

Thomas also commended “the officers, committee chairs and the hundreds of volunteers who have planned, practiced, met and are now ready to make the magic happen.”

The official Old Home Week opening ceremony will be held from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 6, on Center Square. Children younger than 16 are invited to help President Bonnie Shockey cut the ribbon.

The unofficial opening starting at 11 p.m. Sunday on Center Square is when a lot of people feel like Old Home Week officially begins.

At one time, thousands of people used to gather on the square to greet old friends and welcome new ones, according to Conrad, and some “groups of inebriates” would demonstrate “what absolute fools some mortals can really be.”

A crowd gathers on Center Square in Greencastle in 2019 for the unofficial opening and welcomes Old Home Week at the stroke of midnight. It's a tradition that is expected to continue this year.

That gathering was replaced with a family-friendly, late-night event decades ago. When the town clock strikes midnight, Vernon McCauley will say "Happy Old Home Week, everybody!" before the crowd breaks into the song "The Old Gray Mare,” followed by other well-loved songs.

The “magic” of Old Home Week also includes something for everyone, whether their interests are in history, music, sports, learning about the town or just spending times with friends and family.

There are car, motorcycle, antique tractor, flower and dog shows; worship services; and sporting events from the Fred Kaley Memorial Run to an old-timers baseball game.

Driving through Martin’s Mill Bridge, the historic covered bridge which is normally closed to traffic, is a highlight of the first day of Old Home Week.

History-lovers can start the week by driving through Martin’s Mill Bridge, the historic covered bridge that’s normally closed to traffic, on Saturday. They can also visit Allison-Antrim Museum and Brown’s Mill School and learn about the “Roots of Tayamentasachta: Exploring the History the School Farm.”

“Reminiscing” sessions spread out over three days will feature current and former local residents sharing their memories and stories. Examples include 1980s Greencastle-Antrim High School cross-country team members and coach Greg Hoover; people who grew up in Shady Grove; and Brian Fuss, who has covered five presidents in his 23 years at the CBS news bureau in Washington.

A movable community mural will be created by many hands during Paint in the Park; there will be laughs all around during the program “Good Morning Greencastle”; the Greencastle-Antrim Christian Women’s Fellowship will host a morning of music; and a bus tour of the town and township and walking tours to the High Line Train Station are planned.

Theodore Guy was one of the riders in the 2019 Old Home Week bicycle races on North Carlisle Street in Greencastle. In addition to the races, youngsters also can enjoy the Fun Fair at the Playground.

Kids can put the pedal down at the bicycle races and have a good time at the Fun Fair at the Playground.

Old Home Week is a noncommercial enterprise and food sales are limited to local Scouts, who use the opportunity to earn money for regular and special activities. BSA Troop 99 will be set up at its traditional spot on the Square selling hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, steamers, pulled pork and walking tacos, and other scouts will offer gelati, snow-cones, popcorn and cotton candy at activities throughout the week.

Free food also will be available as community businesses, organization and churches host open houses and events such as ice cream socials.

The complete schedule of events can be found on the Old Home Week website. It also is included in the program people get when they buy a badge.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at shardy@gannett.com.