Celebrating our past in the rural woodland hamlets continues to be a part of life in the Adirondacks. Maintaining the Old Home Days, Fourth of July, and other special celebrations is not an easy task and we can be thankful for those loyal, hardworking citizens who rise up to the task, sometimes year after year. Parades, ballgames, firemen events, races, and fireworks, along with midways, carnivals, food booths, and craft booths and performances take time and money to produce.
Each August, usually the first weekend, Wells celebrates their Old Home Days. It is a time for former residents, residents, and visitors to gather to celebrate the more than 200-year-old settlement. Old Home Day has been observed each year since 1950, except in 1973 when a manhunt for a criminal was going on.
The formula for a successful Old Home Days celebration includes the crowning of a queen, selected from local contestants. A parade and fireworks are possibly the two events that guarantee success. There is no charge for the public so that thousands can line the streets, parking lots and roadways to enjoy the bands, vehicles, floats, horses and "ooh" and "ahh" over the exploding fireworks show.
Displays, exhibits, good food, dance bands, performers and athletic events add to any celebration. Trophies and ribbons provide lasting memories for successful participation.
Add to all of the above, the opportunities for "networking" that occur when old friends, relatives, and visitors gather together for food, enjoyment, learning and old-fashioned "visiting." Renewing old friendships, getting updated on life's events and looking ahead to what life holds, does more for our mental and physical health than a new pill.
My wife, Beverly, who is a Wells native, and I, a native of Giffords Valley between Northville and Benson, had our usual historic booth in the old Wells gym. The community hall holds memories for us from the years of attending the ball games and holding our wedding reception "under the basketball backboards;" they are in all our photographs.
Displaying our vast collection of historic documents, photos, and Adirondack artifacts raises up good memories for the hundreds who attended the Old Home Days. Opportunities for sharing historic information and stories flow back and forth over the two days like a bubbling mountain stream. It never stops; questions are answered and details of historic fact are corrected and recorded.
In my estimation, history is in the eye of the beholder and the closer that you get to the first-hand story, the more accurate the facts.
A good example of fact and fiction is the "Great Wells Bank Robbery." My mother-in-law, Mary Buyce, lived next to the bank and never saw it happen. Fortunately for the true story, Ermina Pincombe, Benson supervisor, did. She was working in the bank on that day, thus, a true eyewitness.
I shared the accounts of the robbery from two newspapers of that day with her at the Old Home Day Celebration and, sure enough, the facts were twisted and inaccurate. Ermina has agreed to record the real story for me so it can become part of our history-watch for that story in a future column.