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The spoken word when I was growing up


Old Home Day
Donald Hall Poet
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Old Home Day was a response to the diaspora of America… of the New Hampshire people, and every summer there would be a particular week degenerating to a day sometimes, or two days, when people would come back and people would get prizes for traveling the greatest distance, but many of them would come up from Massachusetts or even from other mill towns in New Hampshire, for that matter, to go back to the towns that they'd grown up with, and see again the people they'd gone to one room schools with, and to high school and so on, if they went.  And there would be dances and apparently there were some bad boys and there would be some hard cider, and possibly a few extra births nine months after Old Home Day.  And there was always a play - they put on a play - people spoke, there were… there was a marching band, well not a marching band - a brass band. During my youth the brass band from Sanbornton always came and it was very hot, it was generally in August and they wore these great, thick, woolen coats with their necks up to here, blasting away. It was picnics all the time and… by the time I arrived it was just one day, so when I speak about dances and plays, and week long things, I'm dealing with my mother's memories, and so on. It… it just started… I think some towns had had it before the governor proclaimed it, but it became almost universal, not quite - not every town, but almost every town - had its Old Home Day, which was an acknowledgment that people have gone away.  And there was a guy who taught high school in Ohio who used to come every year, and he was called Professor and he usually got the prize for coming the furthest away.  But sometimes somebody would come from California even, and so on, and we still have it now. It's one day - it's a church service, a picnic, and then a talk afterwards.  Someone… I've given an Old Home Day talk several times and sometimes shows of photographs from old Old Home Days and you pick out your grandparents and great grandparents and show them around.  But it's… it’s you know, lost its meaning mostly. There was a boy here that I used to play with in the summers, maybe once in the summer I'd have a play day with a guy named Richard Currier [sic] who lived about two miles, no, less than that, a mile down the road, and he lives in Maine now, but he comes over every summer for the Wilmot Old Home Day and I see him then.  But apparently they were great long affairs into, probably, oh, into the '20s, at any rate, if not later.

The 14th US Poet Laureate Donald Hall (1928-2018) was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, then earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1951 and a BLitt, from Oxford in 1953. He published many essays and anthologies of both poetry and prose including String too Short to be Saved: Recollections of Summers on a New England Farm, White Apples and the Taste of Stone, Without: Poems, and Ox-Cart Man, a children's book which won the Caldecott Medal. Hall was editor of the magazine Oxford Poetry, literary editor of Isis, editor of New Poems, and poetry editor of The Paris Review. He won many awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships and a Robert Frost Medal. At the end of his first Oxford year, he also won the university's Newdigate Prize, awarded for his poem Exile.

Listeners: Kendel Currier

Kendel Currier started working for Donald Hall in August of 1994 as his correspondence typist. Later she took on his manuscript typing as well, and in October of 1998 moved 100 meters down the road from Donald and became his personal assistant, adding many various new tasks to her work. As well as working for Donald for the last 10 and-a-half years, Donald Hall and Kendel Currier share a set of great (or for Kendel great-great) grandparents, making them distant cousins and part of a similar New Hampshire heritage.

Tags: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Sanbornton, Ohio, California, Maine, Wilmot, Richard Currier

Duration: 3 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008