State's 300th Observed In 1935-2005 Won't Be Newtown's First Tercentennial Celebration
Stateâs 300th Observed In 1935â
2005 Wonât Be Newtownâs First Tercentennial Celebration
By Jan Howard
Just as Newtown residents are preparing for a ball, picnic, parade, and other events to celebrate the townâs tercentennial in 2005, Newtowners in 1935 were planning similar events in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the colony of Connecticut.
Unlike 2005, which has a Tercentennial Steering Committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen, the committee spearheading the 1935 tercentenary was the local Chamber of Commerce.
The committee members were W.M. McKenzie, chairman, Selectman Stanley Blackman, Wallace N. Mitchell, Arthur J. Smith, Jr, and John C. Beers. The committee was joined at its first planning meeting by the Rev Paul A. Cullens, the Rev William Wright, and Paul S. Smith, president of the chamber. The Rev William J. Collins, a local clergyman, sent his regrets, expressing his cooperation with the committee in staging the celebration.
Early in April of 1935, the tercentenary committee laid out a program of events for the celebration that included a Decoration Day (Memorial Day) parade and ceremony, costume ball, and a banquet that would take place during the summer and plans for an information booth on Main Street.
Plans for the colonial style, seven- by eight-foot booth were drawn without charge by Frederick H. Beckwith of Bridgeport and constructed by Arthur McCollam, Sam Day, Sam Murphy, Martin Salander, and Paul Tani with lumber purchased at a low cost from E.C. Platt of Hawleyville. Milton S. Williams furnished the signs, and Julia Aiken created flower boxes with flowers from Charles A. Steck.
Donations for the booth were also received from several Newtown residents, including Arthur T. Nettleton, H.C. Hubbell, G.H. Beers, H.G. Warner, Richard Carmody, and others.
The booth, located just north of Edmond Town Hall, opened on Wednesday, May 29, in time for the parade, with Reba Stickles securing Trinity Guild members as attendants for the first week of operation.
The booth contained information about Newtown prepared by members of the history group of the C.H. Booth Library, a folder with general information about Newtown, and a business directory for visitors financed by business people and prepared by Mrs William Hunter of Hawley Manor.
Also among tercentenary plans were exhibits in the C.H. Booth Library, designation of old houses, and tercentenary souvenirs, such as a set of four plates that were available in black or pink. Each plate depicted a famous building in Connecticutâs history.
In March, arrangements were made with Henry Carlson of Liberty Garage and Louis Lovell of Lovellâs Garage for the sale of tercentenary automobile plates at 25 cents per pair or 15 cents for a single plate. On March 22, The Bee reported, âAlready many plates are being displayed on automobiles throughout the state.â
Fundraising events included a card party and a moving picture performance at Edmond Town Hall Theatre. It was decided that any money raised over expenses for the celebration was to be donated to local organizations, such as the Visiting Nurse Association.
On April 26, at Hartfordâs Bushnell Memorial, a meeting of the General Assembly, Superior Court of Errors, and state officials commemorated the first session of the General Court of Connecticut.
At the same time as that event was taking place, Newtown recognized the start of the celebration by ringing church bells and blowing sirens and factory whistles. A number of flags were also flown throughout the day.
Newtownâs fundraising card party was held in the Edmond Town Hall gym on May 2 and was termed a great success by Mrs Charles F. Cavanaugh, chairman, who expressed her gratitude to the committee of women from local churches and attendees. A total of $92 was raised after expenses were deducted.
There were nearly 40 tables of bridge, whist, and pinochle. Attendees brought their own cards, but score pads and tally cards were furnished. Prizes were awarded and cake and coffee served.
A large advance sale of 1,000 tickets ensured that a record crowd would attend two shows of a benefit moving picture performance of Laddie at the Edmond Town Hall Theatre on May 10.
The benefit movie included a newsreel, an Our Gang comedy, Beginnerâs Luck, and a Silly Symphony, The Golden Torch. The movie, based on a book by Gene Stratton Porter, was about âthe folk who toil, pitted against that nobility that comes by the peerage route,â The Bee said. It was set in Indiana farmland of the 1870s. The movie netted $130.
On May 17, a Tercentenary Street Fair prepared by the Young Peopleâs Society of the Congregational Church depicted Newtown in its various stages of development, from 1635 with a Native American wigwam to 1935 with a moving picture show and two programs, one in which attendees would go back 300 years and another with magicians, dancers, singers, and instrumentalists. In the event, dancing to Ray Cavallero and his radio orchestra from New Haven was enjoyed. Admission was 25 cents, children, ten cents.
The street fair proceeds of a little less than $200 were used to send delegates from the church to a summer conference. The Bee noted that 150 boys and girls had fun and the experience of working together.
An Impressive Parade
A record turnout attended the first official event of Newtownâs tercentenary celebration. The parade and exercises on May 30, 1935, marked both Memorial Day and Connecticutâs tercentenary, with marching units and floats appropriate for the occasion.
Three prizes of ten, five, and three dollars were presented to the three best entries. The Newcomersâ Club float won first prize. Two of the judges were Gerald Curtis of the Curtis School in Brookfield and the Rev H.G. Megathlin of Brookfield Center.
The parade began in Sandy Hook at 11 am under the direction of Mrs William Bentley and proceeded up Church Hill Road to Queen Street and up Newtownâs Main Street from Lovellâs Garage, passing a reviewing stand at Edmond Town Hall. It then turned at the monument and returned to town hall where the public was assembled for a program in the theater.
The parade was led by Officers Beers and Blake in police cars, followed by Wallace N. Mitchell, the parade marshal, on horseback.
Among those in the line of march were the Litchfield Riding Club; Shelton Band; Newtownâs World War I veterans; and floats by the Chamber of Commerce, Girls Friendly Society, Newcomersâ Club, Pohtatuck Grange, Visiting Nurses, with Hazel Kiernan as Florence Nightingale; and Joseph Buzzerâs traveling blacksmith shop with a pony on a truck and a man working on the forge.
Among others taking part were William C. Johnson dressed as Abraham Lincoln; DAR members in an old wagon with six-horse hitch, driven by William Ferris; fire apparatus; cars for the guest speaker, Red Cross, and town officials; Nicholsâ 4-H Fire Patrol Unit; Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; Newtown Orchestral School; and Newtown children. Decorated cars fell in line behind the fire trucks.
Beach Nichols, who at 92 was Newtownâs only surviving Civil War veteran, was driven in an automobile in front of the World War I veterans. Mr Nichols, who traced his ancestry to the Rev John Beach, Newtownâs first Episcopal minister, later when seated on the platform, received a special tribute to his ancestral history from Mr McKenzie.
A program in the Edmond Town Hall Theatre featured music by the American Legion Band, a mixed quartet, and the high school glee club. The invocation was by the Rev W.J. Collins of St Rose and the benediction by the Rev W.G. Wright. Newtown Girl Scouts led the Pledge of Allegiance followed by school children singing âKeep the Home Fires Burningâ and âTenting Tonight.â
The speaker was Reuben H. Bowden of New Canaan, an architect in New York City, who spoke on âAmerica and Americanism Worth Fighting For.â
Colonial Costume Ball
On June 21, The Bee reported that many reservations were being made for the colonial costume ball. On June 28, the newspaper included a long list of those making reservations.
The ball was held in the Edmond Town Hall gymnasium on July 3 with Mrs George B. Beers as chairman. Admission was 50 cents per person for the 400 who attended. Many were in colonial costumes.
Music for dancing, which included modern and colonial dances, was by Charles Coleâs Orchestra of Bridgeport. Albert Cole acted as floor master.
Wallace N. Mitchell had decorated the gymnasium with streamers and small American flags, Arthur Page received tickets at the door, and refreshments were by Mrs Milton Hull, assisted by Mrs Harry Hart.
Mrs George B. Beers and her grandson, H. Newell Tiemann, led a grand march in the middle of the program of round and square dances.
The Newtown Bee reported on July 12 that the ball was a great success, noting, âA pleasant surprise occurred when Baird Hall was carried into the gymnasium in stocks by two Pilgrim fathers and accompanied by two Pilgrim women, one, his weeping wife, in tears because her poor husband was sentenced to three days in the stocks for kissing her on Sunday.â
On July 5, the C.H. Booth Library opened its first of four exhibits of antiques that would be featured during July and August as part of Connecticutâs tercentenary event. Among the four exhibits that delighted many visitors were antique jewelry, silver, glass, old pictures, china, quilts, samplers, handmade art, rugs, embroidery, dolls, brassware, candlesticks, and a collection of wood, metal and pewter.
Also in July, the information booth reported the sale of âquite a fewâ tercentenary plates and Connecticut Guides. The booth remained open until August 23, the day following the tercentenary banquet.
The event that marked the close of Newtownâs tercentenary celebration was a semiformal banquet in the Alexandria Room of Edmond Town Hall on August 22. The room was filled to capacity with 100 couples. The steak dinner, served by Mr and Mrs William Hunter of Hawley Manor, was $2 a plate.
Fannie Edwards and Mrs Milton Hull had decorated the hall with flowers. David C. Peck donated table bouquets, and Mrs Charles M. Goodsell played for the singing. Each lady was presented with a tercentenary plate as a souvenir of the occasion.
The program was presided over by Paul S. Smith, president of the Newtown Chamber of Commerce. The featured speaker was Chief Aviation Pilot Harold June of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition, the only man to have made every flight of exploration to the Antarctic in both of the Byrd expeditions, including a flight over the South Pole in 1929.
Young women, who served as waitresses at the banquet, sang a song about Newtown that was especially written for the occasion by Louisa S. McKenzie.
Because August 22 also marked the anniversary of the birth of Mary Elizabeth Hawley in 1857 and opening of Edmond Town Hall in 1930, a moment of silence was observed in her memory.
Colonel Samuel H. Fisher, chairman of the state Tercentenary Committee, extended his greetings and congratulated Newtown on its events. Chairman W.M. McKenzie was presented with a traveling bag in appreciation.
The Newtown Bee reported on August 30 that the banquet that closed the Connecticut tercentenary celebration was said by many to have been the most enjoyable affair of its kind ever to take place in Newtown.
The committee later reported total receipts for the celebratory events of $408.85. After expenses, there was a balance of $88.35, with the banquet not included.