Old Home Week August 9-15, 1925
The Grandest Party Bradford Ever Saw!
World War I had ended, the boys had returned, and the folks of Bradford were remembering the "good old days" with fondness. Also, the increasing popularity of the automobile had made travel back to the old home town an easy possibility, and so in the spring of 1925, a group of influential men including Rufus Stone, John Ley, William Wallace Brown, Robert Habgood, Thomas Kennedy, Harry Schonblom, and Bill Piper, among others, decided to hold a huge town reunion. Planned for that August, the occasion would be even larger than the last Old Home Week of 1909 and would give Bradfordians a chance to show off the city and have a great time doing it.
Based on the general assumption that the first settlers had arrived in Bradford (then called Littleton) in 1825, the celebration was to be a centennial affair, with parades, beauty queens, dances, and special attractions. Each day that week, the Johnny J. Jones Exposition of Amusements entertained visitors with its mammoth 40-car show both afternoons and evenings at the Driving Park, Harri Emery flew exhibition flights and gave rides to adventurous visitors, and an "Old Home Week Dance" was held each evening at the Armory from 9:30 PM to 1:30 AM. A special song "Back to Bradford" was written and everyone could hum a few bars.
The celebration began August 9. Being a Sunday, activities were curtailed, but a concert by the St. Joseph's Orphanage Band of Erie, PA was held in the Square, and various ministers and church choirs held a community service in Shea's Theater.
The real fun began early the next day, Monday morning, August 10. Declared "Military Day", a special train from Tulsa, Oklahoma, consisting of five Pullman cars, and a baggage car and carrying 52 former Bradford residents arrived at 9:30 AM. Each train passenger stepped off the train dressed as a pioneer, Indian, or cowboy, but the grandest of all was "Colonel Tulsa", Nate Bushnell, who had left Bradford 30 years ago to work in the Oklahoma oil fields. Dressed splendidly as a frontiersman, Bushnell stepped off the train to the good-natured cheers of hundreds of Bradfordians who had rushed to meet the train. The mayor of the city grandly presented him with the keys to the city.
Later that afternoon, the first parade was held, with local and visiting military organizations, the Boy Scouts, the VFW, the American Legion, and the National Guard. Aged members of the GAR, veterans of the Civil War, rode in automobiles, and two bands accompanied the marchers. At dusk, a sham military engagement near Seaward Avenue (featuring local troops and the Kane Machine Gun company) reenacted a scene from WWI, showing the taking of a machine gun nest at night, including star lights and the firing of 40,000 rounds of ammunition. The noise only added to the fun!
The next day, Tuesday, August 11th, was designated as "Historical Day". A parade of the First Families of the Tuna Valley with floats bearing interesting relics of the days of the early oil excitement began at 2:00 PM, joined by floats designed by the local merchants. The first performance of a historical pageant was presented at 8:00 PM that night. And what a pageant it was! Seven hundred performers acted out a variety of skits which illustrated the history of Bradford, based on the themes "The Wilderness in the Tuna Valley" followed by "The Coming of the White Man", "The Birth of the First White Children", the "Town's First Name", and "Oil Becomes King". The only place large enough to hold all the spectators and performers was at the Foster Brook picnic grounds (currently the site of the !DeSoto Motel, and First and Second Streets). Trolley lines ran special cars for the occasion.
The pageant opened with trumpeters announcing the arrival of "Miss Bradford" (Gloria Jacks); who was flanked by her attendants, Beauty, National Pride, Strength, Fertility, Patriotism, Peace, Courage, Faith, Hope, Charity, Liberty, Health, Wealth, Thrift, and Preparedness. She gave the official welcome to the pageant. Next, Miss America (Mrs. Edward Hanley) arrived, followed by her attendants, young girls representing the 48 states.
Then the show began.
The first "episode" was The Dawning of Creation and "ghostlike creatures with veils"; 27 girls portrayed the universe and danced about. Other girls represented the land, the sky, and the flowers.
Episode Two described the coming of the Indians. The official program stated "the still harmony of nature - was broken - and in gross confusion, the spirits run and hide under the cover of the forest." It also admitted, "with no direct knowledge or evidence at hand regarding the ancestry of the Indian, their coming is merely symbolic." Small bands of Indians were shown, living in small villages, with "hunting and dancing their chief enjoyment". Seventeen men played the parts of the Indians, with nineteen women as squaws, and 15 children.
Episode Three portrayed the arrival of the first white settler, Dr. William Bennett in 1825, in a canoe; Episode Four featured a real covered wagon with settlers; Episode Five focused on the earliest settlement, "a symbolic scene representing the struggle between man and the forest, showing how he conquered the various powers of nature, including fever, famine, and finally death, and how the inanimate forces yielded to his strong will and determination, and Episode Six illustrated the first school in Bradford. Episode Seven described the arrival of the first train, while Episode Eight and Episode Nine tied everything together with a history of the oil fields.
Episode Ten featured a reenactment of the first wedding, with dancers, wedding guests, and wine and food. (A note in the program assured the spectator that the jug being passed around in this scene contained only water).
The last Episode, No. 11, was the finale to the show, and it was spectacular. "A huge symbolic episode, an outstanding feature of the entire performance, typifying various nations now amalgamated within our own city and country, each group, including Japanese, Chinese, Belgians, Italians, French, Dutch, Irish, English, and the USA, all costumed appropriately, and dancing interpretively". The orchestra closed with the National Anthem.
The next day, Wednesday, August 12th, was designated Oil Well Workers and Visitors Day, and a mammoth parade of oil well workers and every type of oil field equipment made its way down Main Street, accompanied by the Oklahoma delegation, dressed in cowboy outfits. The historical pageant was performed twice more that day, at 3:00 PM and again at 9:00 PM.
Thursday, August 13th, was Firemen's Day, with a grand parade of local and visiting firemen, and demonstrations of foam fire fighting for oil fires on Jackson Avenue. Friday was declared "Fraternal Day", and its parade held over 1000 marchers with many floats symbolizing their particular organization. That day finished up at the Foster Brook grounds with a band concert, patrol drill, and elaborate fireworks display.
Saturday, August 15th, was the last day, and much of it was devoted to simply visiting with friends. At 8:00 PM, the grand finale, a Mardi Gras was held, and visitors danced their way to midnight.
And so it ended. The train returned to Tulsa, the streets were swept clean, and the people of Bradford went back to their daily lives. But for those who were in Bradford for that August week in 1925, it was indeed, "Old Home Week".