As a community project the magnitude of the Harvest Home Fete held on the Walton estate in October 1915 is difficult to envision after the years have passed. The enthusiasm which went into the planning of the great event is the only thing that made it possible. That so many people and so many groups shared this enthusiasm is almost incredible. Probably no organization except the newly-founded Neighborhood League could even have inspired it. In the writing of it afterward “The Suburban” said: “Perhaps no other event ever brought the people of the neighborhood into such pleasant and harmonious relations as this Harvest Home Fete . . . good feeling prevailed everywhere, as shown, for example, by the closing of many of the stores to allow employes to take part in the holiday, and by the suspension of the regular schedule at the Wayne and St. Luke’s Schools, in order to give all the boys and girls an opportunity to flock to ‘Walmarthon’.”
With the beautiful grounds in readiness, with all decorations in place, with all booths and other attractions prepared, all that was needed was a fine warm day, bright with sunshine. And during the first hour or two just such weather conditions prevailed. Early comers saw a picturesque and fascinating scene as they wandered from the real gypsy fortune tellers, in their tents near the entrance, on to the many other attractions scattered throughout the vast grounds. For the moment everything gave promise that the Fete would be one of the most memorable and successful affairs in all the history of the Main Line. And so it was, in spite of almost overwhelming odds.
For the Fete had not been in progress long when the clouds gathered and the rains came. Tremendous damage was done almost at once to the gay booths, which could not be protected in time. But, of course, there were the other attractions. Dancing went on merrily on the porches of the Walton mansion, while supper was served to hundreds of people at the log cabin. Throughout the evening the brilliantly lighted grounds were thronged, although there were few chances to make purchases at any of the booths.
Plans were made to reopen the following day, and when two o’clock came the scene was again a gay one, with a promise of a large attendance. In addition to the booths, there were many other attractions, such as the “Plantation House” at the little log cabin on the grounds. Here Mrs. Walton herself had provided for singing by students from Tuskegee Institute, whose concerts were proving of such popular appeal throughout the country. The furnishings of the log cabin itself were such as to suggest plantation life. And then there was the “lemonade well”, which was built in one of the pergolas near the porch of the Walton house. Representing the Bryn Mawr Hospital Social Service, Mrs. William R. Philler was in charge of the “well.”
Punch and Judy shows were run during most of the afternoon and evening in the Thomas E. Walton garage, under the direction of John Diver. The Live Stock Exhibition and Sale, under the chairmanship of Miss Lena Newton, featured ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, and kittens. Even a donkey was on sale! The Dog Show had 133 entries, including those for pomeranians, pointers, chows, fox terriers, pekinese and airedales. There was even a prize for “the fattest child showing the fattest puppy!” This was won by Miss Eleanor Croasdale and her bull puppy, Midland II. Judges for the show were Alfred Delmont and Dr. Charles W. Reed, Jr.
Moving pictures were provided by the Men’s Club of Wayne. The Mandolin Club of Central Baptist Church played in the patio under the direction of John T. Whitaker. Among well-known musicians of the group were Gordon Mackey, Francis Adelberger, James Kromer, R. W. Houck, James W. Price, Orville Dunn, Harold Lawrence, John Newton and Archie Morrison. There was music also by the Band of Gulph Mills Boy Scout Troop 1. The Home and School League, with Louis Jaquette Palmer as chairman, sold balloons to small fry. The W.C.T.U. sold waffles and sausages.
Had the rain not interfered, supper would have been served not only in the log cabin, but on the tennis courts as well. Mrs. Charles G. Tatnall was in charge of this feature of the fete, which was well patronized in spite of the inclement weather. She was assisted by Mrs. S. S. Thornton, Mrs. Marshal Smith, Mrs. C. R. Kennedy and Mrs. Henry Roever. No less than 70 young women aides were also on hand for serving the many delicacies provided for the occasion.
For those who wanted only light refreshments, afternoon tea was to be served from 3 o’clock until 5:30 at the foot of the terraces near the upper lake. In charge of this was Mrs. J. W. England, assisted by the Misses Helen and Marion Tull, Mrs. George Boles and the Miss Marie Jefferts, Nancy Aman, Margaret England, Helen Boles, Katherine Verner and Martha Walton. A far cry from dainty sandwiches and tea was the Clam Bake run by Mrs. Leonard W. Coleman, aided by Mrs. J. Arthur Standen, Miss Bessie Bailey, Earl Knowlton and various Boy Scouts. This was to be one of the special features of the Harvest Home Fete, as indicated by the advertisement run in “The Suburban” which stated that the price would be 25 cents! Waffles and sausages were sold for the same amount while an entree supper was to be had for what would seem the trifling sum of 75 cents! And tickets of admission to the Fete, which were collected at the gate by members of the Radnor Fire Company, were only 10 cents!
(To be concluded)