In Greencastle, you can go home again

August 01, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

GREENCASTLE, PA. - People greeted each other Saturday with "Happy Old Home Week" on Center Square in Greencastle.

The opening of the 35th triennial Old Home Week is a much-anticipated event in the borough. Houses are painted and streets are swept before the influx of thousands of people who return to their hometown every three years for the camaraderie, music, food, reunions and events.

"It started in 1902 as the Old Boys Reunion," said Sharon Bumbaugh, publicity chair for the event.

Philip Baer, a well-known concert singer who grew up in Greencastle, often met other Greencastle natives when he performed. He wrote to the editor of the local paper proposing a reunion of people from the area. Sixty-five "old boys" attended and had a picnic, minstrel shows, speeches and a ride around the town, which later became the parade, Bumbaugh said.

"They decided to do it again in three years, and to that one, in 1905, they invited the ladies," Bumbaugh said.


The speaker for Saturday's official opening was Capt. Jeremy Hirneisen, who served in Iraq for 12 months with a unit from Delaware, returning home in April.

Hirneisen graduated from Greencastle-Antrim High School in 1988 and from Bucknell University in 1992 on an ROTC scholarship. From 1997 to 2000, he was commander of a reserve unit in Greencastle.

"Things have changed a lot since the last Old Home Week," in August 2001, Hirneisen said. "The war on terror and al-Qaida were not part of our language. Most of us had never heard of Fallujah or Bahrain. Now, we know people who have been there."

"I'll let you know why I'm so glad to be home in Greencastle," he said. "In Iraq in July, it's 110 to 120 degrees in the shade, and 130 to 140 degrees in the sun. The typical soldier wears 20 pounds of equipment. Soldiers have to drink about a gallon of water a day to stay hydrated.

"If you want to experience the conditions in the desert, turn your heat up to 120 degrees, put on long sleeves, long pants, a Polartec vest and a wool hat. Then turn your hair dryer on high, blow it at your face and have someone toss sand at you."

He said that Old Home Week is evidence that Greencastle is more than a borough, "it's a community. I'm proud and thankful to be from a town that is patriotic," he said.

While he was gone, his young daughters would say of the flags and yellow ribbons throughout the town, "They're cheering for Daddy."

He said he also is proud and thankful to live in a community that cares. In his absence, local people helped his wife, Susan, and daughters, Lauren, 5, and Meghan, 6, with home maintenance, shoveling snow and other chores.

Meghan said that she sent her father "snack food and M&M cookies. That's what he loves."

Susan Hirneisen said that contact via satellite telephone helped the girls stay in touch with their father.

The unofficial - and extremely popular - opening of Old Home Week happens at 10:30 p.m. today on Center Square when, after an hour of music, old friends meet each other and reminisce about their lives in the borough.

Chuck Fitz of Linglestown, Pa., grew up in nearby Shady Grove, Pa., and returned as he usually does for Old Home Week with his wife, Donna, and sons Chad, 16, Dan, 11, and Josh, 5.

"We pretty much know the schedule from year to year," he said. The family plans to attend "the service tomorrow night, and the unofficial opening on the square, and the pageant Tuesday, then I have to go back to work for a couple days." He said they will return for the parade and fireworks at the end of the week.

Frank Mowen, a director of the Old Home Week Association, said that the title of Thomas Wolfe's novel, "You Can't Go Home Again," is not true.

"The Greencastle-Antrim Old Home Week Association made it possible," Mowen said.

The following were the winners of the Window Decorating Contest Winners at Greencastle's Old Home Week.

Grand Prize - Heinz Memorabilia at Zarger's Plumbing (designed by Lynn Johnson)

First place, Clothing and Accessories - Designed by Middleburg/Mason-Dixon Line Historical Society at Cup O' Joe Coffee Shop (right side)

First place, Furniture, Dishes and other Household Items - Designed by Creative Interiors (Stacy Hull) at ELM Department Store, women's entrance (right side)

First place, Memorabilia, Booklets, Papers, Scrapbooks and Other Collectibles - Designed by Lynn Johnson at Zarger's Plumbing

First place, toys - Designed by Dodie Starliper at Dodie's Designs

First place, War-Related Items: Civil War, World War I and II, etc. - Designed by A. Richard Walck at Creative Moments

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