In celebrating each Triennial Old Home Week, the Greencastle-Antrim Community is maintaining a tradition which dates back to September 5, 1901 when the late Professor Philip E. Baer, then a noted concert singer, wrote to local papers suggesting that an "Old Boys' Reunion" be held from August 10th to 20th, 1902.
In another letter dated April 3, 1902, Mr. Baer suggested a program for this reunion. The dates originally suggested were changed to August 8 of that year, and at that time between 50 and 60 "Old Boys" arrived for the big affair. The first Reunion proved so completely successful that it was decided to hold another in 1905 and the custom of a Triennial was established.
Philip Edward Baer born May 28, 1865 was the son of Adam and Catherine (Goetz) Baer. He graduated from Greencastle High School.
Baer worked as a soloist for two years traveling with minstrel show companies beginning in 1884 with the Hamlin Wizard Oil Company, a combination medicine and minstrel show. He then traveled with the Cleveland Minstrels one of the nation's top companies of its kind.
In 1894 Father Gillespie of the St. Aloysius Church invited Baer to sing at several masses. On March 23, 1894, Good Friday, Monsignor Satolli heard Baer sing and was so impressed by his voice that the Monsignor obtained funding for Baer to study music in Italy. There hestudied voice, opera, piano, violin and the Italian language for four years with principal instructors of the time.
On his return to the United States his concert tours lead Baer to many big cities across the nation. In 1891 he purchased property in the Borrough of Greencastle.
During his concert tours he and his wife, Jannette Dubbell, of Michigan, would often see and visit with former Greencastle-Antrim residents. At such times they would reminisce about their hometown and soon Baer and his wife began talking about getting everyone together again for a reunion in Greencastle.
On September 5, 1901 Philip Baer wrote a letter to the newspapers in town asking for their help to get people interested in organizing an Old Boys' Reunion in August of 1902.
In April of 1902 the program was announced for the first Old Boys' Reunion that would be held August 10 to 20, 1902. Events that year included a chicken dinner at the Town Hall; a picnic at Sandy Hollow (a favorite swimming place since colonial times) along the Conococheague Creek; speeches; and band concerts by the Citizens Band.
Sixty-five men responded to invitations and the Old Boys' Reunion was such a success that they decided to do it again in three years in 1905. And so was born the now almost century old and most unequaled triennial tradition in the nation.
In 1905 the Old Boys' Reunion became known as Old Home Week to which not only the Old Boys of Greencastle were invited but also the ladies and the sons and daughters of Antrim Township.
The Old Home Week Celebration has been held without interruption since 1902. We honor our founder Philip E. Baer and the past Presidents and Association Members, both living and dead, who have perpetuated the idea of an "Old Boys' Reunion".
Of the many things of which Greencastle’s sons and daughters may he proud, there is none of which they should be prouder than the fact that it is in their own native town that the institution of Old Home Week seemingly originated and has undergone its finest and fullest development. Other towns, it is true, have their home-coming days and gala occasions of one sort or other; but it has remained for Greencastle to show the world the spectacle of a great triennial weekly gathering of loyal boys and girls, paid for by the generosity of the home-comers themselves, and conducted without any taint of commercialism or fakirism.
It was on September 5,1901, that Prof. Philip E. Baer writing in the Greencastle papers, made the suggestion out of which Greencastle’s famous Old Home Week was to develop. His plea was that “fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers notify their sons of a reunion to be held August 10th to 20th, 1902”. In a second letter, dated April 3rd, 1902, he announced a tentative program for this “Old Boys Reunion”; and on August 8th of the same year about fifty or sixty of Greencastle’s sons responded to his invitation.
It is interesting to note that the first Reunion was somewhat of a masculine affair, as its name suggests. The program began on Tuesday morning and included a tour of the town, a chicken dinner in the town hall, a picnic along the Conococheague, and a big minstrel show. Bands and orators entertained the visitors from a platform on the public square. The committee in charge consisted of E. E. Davison, chairman; T. M. Goetz, P. F. Carl, L. V. Brendle, C. C. Kauffman, George Ilginfritz, \V. C. Kreps, B. C. Prather, W. J. Patton, H. E. Petrie, James Shirey, George S. Heck, H. K. Schafhirt, J. A. Carl, and John H. Hostetter;— pioneer Old Home Week officers.
The second reunion, held in 1905, was not widely different from that of 1902, one innovation being an open air picnic at Pen-Mar park. By 1908, however, the idea of including Antrim township in the celebration had occurred to the committee, and this was formally accomplished at a meeting on February 14th of that year, when township members were added to the committee on arrangements. A reception in the town hall, a reunion of the 126th Regiment, and elaborate fireworks were features of the third Reunion, then known as Old Home Week, held from August 16th to 22nd of that year.
The largest Reunion ever held, with the possible exception of that of 1923, was the one held August 5th to 12th, 1911. The program opened on Saturday with a mammoth parade and tournament, and on Sunday a union church service was scheduled for the first time. On Monday there was a reception in the Town Hall, and motion pictures—then very much of a novelty on the square. Band concerts, a picnic, a smoker, and a fireman’s reunion also added to the gaiety.
Prior to the 1911 Reunion it had been the practice to have the town meet the expense of the celebration. The 1911 program, however, incurred an expense of nearly $2500, and citizens began to murmur against the burden imposed upon them. It was at this point that John M. Easton came to the rescue. In a letter written on February 5, 1914, he declared that the Old Boys would arrange their own Reunion. On April 27th a meeting of the 1911 committee was held, with W. J. Patton presiding, and the Old Boys were assured at least of the hearty co-operation of the citizen’s. On August 9th, 1914, just as the World War began in Europe, the Fifth Old Home Week got under way. At this reunion the town was presented with the Memorial fountain on Center Square.
The fact that a reunion was held at all during the troublous war days of 1917 is due largely to the efforts of C. C. Kauffman, Pitt F. Carl, John M. Easton, and the late Eddie Martin, who felt that the old custom should not be discarded and who personally worked out an informal program. The 1920 celebration was more like those of old. Led homeward by “Bones” Smith, the Old Boys and Girls gathered in, and an entertaining program was arranged. Admirers of “Bones” met him at the station and carried him triumphantly through the streets behind the Old Gray Mare, later presenting him with a gold watch.
In the course of the 1920 reunion, the Old Boys, who since 1911 had been working without a definite organization, decided that Old Home Week was worthy of perpetuation and therefore organized the Old Borne Week Association, with J. Gilmore Fletcher as first president. The wisdom of this policy was plainly shown by the tremendous success of the following Old Home Weeks, those of 1928 and 1926, when hundreds of Greencastle and Antrim natives returned to register, and thousands of visitors thronged the town. The Association welcomes all Old Boys and Girls to its membership, keeps a permanent mailing list to which it adds names all the time, and no sooner completes one Old Home Week than it re-elects officers and prepares for the next triennial.