Old Home Week: Revisiting the reunions of 1924 and 1948

Just in Time local history series

By Ian McKechnie

Lindsay Old Home Week Celebration, 1924. Courtesy City of Kawartha Lakes Municipal Archives.

Three quarters of a century have passed since Lindsay’s last “Old Home Week.” This memorable community-wide reunion, which took place from July 1-10, 1948, was the second of two homecoming events organized by civic officials and local businesses in less than 25 years; the first took place in 1924. They were developed to bolster local tourism and commerce while renewing old acquaintances in a community that was still very much the epitome of small-town Ontario.

Organizers of the 1924 Old Home Week waxed eloquently about the significance of homecoming in their advertising. “The ties that bind one to the old home are most sacred,” intoned copy in the July 2, 1924 edition of the Lindsay Daily Post, “and a visit to the old home in a week set apart as ‘Old Home Week’ when hundreds and thousands of others, the friends of other days, will gather likewise, makes an event that is very rare and one that will never be forgotten while memory lasts.” This poignant invitation was surrounded by advertisements from enthusiastic merchants, who were no doubt anticipating a booming business on account of the 2,200 people who had registered for the reunion.

Revellers descended on Lindsay from major urban centres such as Hamilton, London, Toronto, and Windsor – and even from as far away as Philadelphia. Cars filled all the main thoroughfares downtown, while private yards handled overflow traffic. Getting things underway on Dominion Day (July 1) was a spectacular “callithumpian parade” up Kent Street, featuring festively-decorated automobiles and floats numbering in the dozens. These were sponsored by a long list of local businesses – including Horn Bros. Woollen Mill, which won first prize for the best-decorated float.

The 1924 festivities offered residents and visitors alike much to see and do throughout town and at Exhibition Park, as the former Lindsay Fairgrounds was called then. For 25 cents, one could enjoy a tattoo consisting of nine bands during the evening of July 3 – all culminating in an impressive display of fireworks at the exhibition grounds. Those who missed the fireworks were no doubt recovering from the big dance held at the Armoury the night before, where more than 400 people gathered to cut a rug from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Made all the more merry thanks to Hal Rich’s Toronto-based orchestra, Old Home Week dances were organized under the auspices of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire and raised money in support of the Old Home Week Association.

More solemn moments transpired at Lindsay Collegiate Institute on July 3, when Major-General Sir Arthur Currie unveiled a bronze plaque in memory of alumni who had made the supreme sacrifice during the Great War. Remembrance of dearly departed friends was a theme woven throughout the Old Home Week celebrations of 1924 – but so too was hope and optimism for the future. Old Home Week, asserted the Post, “provided a demonstration of charity, concord and brotherly love that is bound to leave its impress on the community.”

This souvenir booklet was prepared by the staff and students of Lindsay Collegiate Institute and distributed at the 1948 Old Home Week festivities. Courtesy Ian McKechnie.

Fifteen years of economic depression and worldwide warfare had passed by 1948, when local citizens past and present were once again invited to another Old Home Week. Like its predecessor, the 1948 event was distinguished by the usual mix of dances, concerts, a “Miss Victoria” pageant, and other opportunities to reconnect with old friends – of which there were many. Among the 1,923 registrants were people from California, Detroit, England, Massachusetts, and Vancouver. In some cases, three or four decades had passed since they had last set foot in Lindsay. “Howard Elliott left here in 1920 and travelled all over the States,” reported the Post on July 7, 1948. “He says he has been in almost every State in the union and hasn’t seen any town nicer than Lindsay and he would still like to live here.”

Although organizers prepared an outstanding schedule of events and activities, Old Home Week of 1948 was not without its critics. A Post editorial on June 23, 1948 raised concerns about the lack of sufficient publicity two weeks ahead of the festivities – and in a July 7 letter to the editor, George W. Reeves questioned the wisdom of basing virtually the entire program at the fairgrounds.

Who would ever think of taking the trouble of strolling all the way up to the fair grounds just to sit in the grandstand for two or three hours and watch a performance, when the minds of the old boys and girls are set on renewing old acquaintances and making new friends?” Reeves asked. (Similar criticisms filled editorial pages half a century later, when organizers of Lindsay’s Riverfest – which shared many of the same characteristics as Old Home Week – relocated the event from downtown to the fairgrounds, much to the chagrin of some local residents.)

Overall, however, Old Home Week of 1948 was deemed to be a success. “You will see over the door to our city hall a large key,” said Mayor Charles Lamb in welcoming “old boys and girls” back to Lindsay from near and far. “This key is a symbol indicating that the whole town is yours to enjoy. It is a large key, but not as large as the feeling of welcome in each of our hearts to you.”

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