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The Old Colony Club In The Twentieth Century


As the world moved through the Edwardian era towards the Great War, the older generation still hearkened back to what was then the "real war" (1861-1865). On April 15, 1911, the Club chose to honor the first Massachusetts men who had responded to Lincoln's call for volunteers, the "Minute Men of `61" (3rd Reg. Mass.). The guests were the Plymouth survivors of this regiment, including Capt. Charles C. Doten, Augustus H. Fuller, George H. Chase, John H. Martin, Lyman Dixon, Jacob H. Southworth, Albert E. Davis, Charles H. Holmes and Rufus H. Pope.

For half an hour the club members greeted and entertained their guests. At eight o'clock the committee, each escorting one of the guests, then led the way down stairs to the grill room which was decorated with flags and bunting. The guests were seated at the head table, Hon. Arthur Lord presiding, and a most excellent dinner was enjoyed. The Plymouth Male Quartet led with a patriotic song, and Mr. Lord welcomed the old soldiers and spoke of Plymouth history and patriotism in the Revolutionary period and during the Civil War. On behalf of the club Mr. Lord requested Capt. Doten to relate the story of how the Plymouth Minute Men went to war which was very interesting and entertaining. Before leaving the table, Capt. Doten as a memento of the occasion presented to the club a copy of the History and Complete Roster of the Massachusetts Regiment Minute Men of 61 who responded to the first call of President Lincoln Apr. 15, 1861 to defend the flag and Constitution of United States compiled by Col. Geo W. Mason of the 5th Regiment. It is a valuable and very interesting book containing with histories of each regiment and company a large number of portraits of the men who served in their ranks. While the book was the gift of Capt. Doten, much of value was added to it by the inscription on the fly leaf of the names written by themselves, of the guests of the evening, each adding his age, the average age being more than 75 years; the oldest being 89 and the youngest 69.

Clark's Orchestra furnished music for the occasion and at a late hour the guests and members of the club left for their homes well satisfied with the manner of celebration. (The book is still in the Club library.)

In 1913 physical improvements were again called for: new wallpaper and paint, hardwood floors, sheathing in the cellar and the installation of "modern plumbing." This necessitated an increase in the admission fee, and the number in each category of membership, Active and Non-Resident, was raised to 125. A new basement banquet hall was installed, where previously the meals were both cooked and served on the first floor. The Old Colony Memorial account of the 1915 meeting is an interesting snapshot of the Forefathers' Day festivities in the new hall just before the First World War:

BY THE OLD COLONY CLUB
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Celebration of Its 145th Anniversary a
Most Happy Event
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The anniversary of the Old Colony Club is on the 22d of December, the organization dating back to 1769, and then being founded to honor the memory of our Pilgrim Forefathers and to observe the day of Landing on Plymouth Rock. The Club did observe Dec. 22, 1769, as "Forefathers' Day" by a dinner and appropriate exercises held at the inn of Thomas Southworth Howland, which stood in those times near the head of North street on the site of the house now owned by Dr. W.G. Brown.

The Club's headquarters were in Old Colony Hall next to the Town House, and in the rear of and immediately adjoining what is now the provisions market of Everett T. Harlow, access being had from Market street as now to the residence of Mrs. Charles Holmes, which has taken the place of the Hall.

Discovery that an error of a day was made in fixing the date of the Landing from adding 11 days to Dec. 11th, old style instead of 10 days to conform properly to new style, has made no difference to the Old Colony Club. The 22d was established as its day of celebration 145 years ago, and it is going to stay so.

In accordance therewith last Tuesday evening the 22d inst., the Club held its regular annual meeting and received reports and transacted usual business except putting over the choice of officers until the next monthly meeting. These routine matters being disposed of, the large company of members which had assembled repairedto the rooms below and sat down to a most excellent succotash supper prepared by Club steward Geo. L. Gray, a most competent chef which the Club fortunately possesses. Capt. E. B. Atwood, the president, made a short address when the plates were removed, and then asked Judge Harry B. Davis to act as toastmaster. The Judge is happily adapted to such a position and very nicely introduced Hon. Robert O. Harris as the guest of the Club. Judge Harris' address, of course, related to the Pilgrim Period, but was out of the usual course of eulogy and co-related matters of our times with the principles of the Pilgrim foundation. He is an easy, fluent talker and the Club was greatly pleased with what he had to say, giving him rounds of applause at the conclusion.

The toastmaster read a telegram from Hon. Joseph Walsh of New Bedford, Congressman elect from this district who was obliged to remain at another gathering in his resident city. Hon. Arthur Lord, president of the Pilgrim Society, spoke very entertainingly of an incident of Pilgrim history relating how Squanto, a Plymouth Indian, had been treacherously captured and carried to Spain, where he was placed in slavery some years before the coming of the Pilgrims. Escaping to England he there learned the language and customs and fortunately returned to Plymouth in time to be the interpreter and staunch friend to the Pilgrims and undoubtedly through his influence with the aboriginal race preserved the Colony from serious disaster, if not extermination. Capt. C.C. Doten spoke briefly, and then the company standing sang "America," and adjourned to the parlors.

An efficient committee headed by W.M. Douglass, had provided professional entertainers from Boston, and with music, song and story, the hours were most pleasantly passed. An extra of the program was volunteered by the corps of colored waiters who sang sentimental songs and peculiar southern melodies in excellent style. The occasion was one of the best of the Club celebrations of Forefathers' Day."

When the United States finally entered the war, the Club as usual was among the first to do its patriotic duty. The German government declared on February 1, 1917 that it would sink all ships in the western North Atlantic, neutral or belligerent. Even before war was declared on April 5, Massachusetts had appropriated a million dollars to equip the State's new National Guard of 9,171 men. Guard recruitment began in earnest (following the recruitment needs of the Regular Army) for another 6,000 troops, and when it became evident that the National Guard would be taken into Federal service, a second "State Guard" of 9,000 men was formed to take care of safety at home.

On July 25th, the Massachusetts Guard got the call. Tents for the troops were erected on the playing field behind Nathaniel Morton School for Plymouth's Company D (the old Standish Guards) of the 5th Massachusetts, who elected officers under the direction of Old Colony Club member Major Charles H. Robbins. As news of the impending departure of Company D as part of the 101st Infantry became known, the Old Colony Club decided to organize a farewell banquet for the troops and other local enlisted men. A special meeting was held on July 30, 1917, at which a motion by William P. Libby was passed to create a committee of five members (William Douglas, George L. Gooding, H.E. Mabbett, Major Robbins and President Robert Harlow) to organize "entertainment in the honor of the departure of the Standish Guards and other enlisted men of the Town on war service".

It was decided to assess each member $5.00 towards the costs, and $465 was raised. The remainder after expenses was to be contributed to the Standish Guards fund — this being the munificent sum of one dollar and thirty-six cents!

The banquet was held at the Hotel Pilgrim on August 3, 1917. Special cars were hired on the Brockton and Plymouth Street Railway to transport people to the hotel. The large dining room was decorated with fresh flowers and American flags. 160 guests attended, including 92 Old Colony Club members, at a cost of $240. George Gooding provided 150 souvenirs, $20.20 was paid for 600 packages of cigarettes and 200 after-dinner "Overland Puritanos" cigars.

The most intriguing feature, however, was the entertainment. The White Entertainment Bureau of Boston supplied for $75 a Mr. Phillips, a Miss Hill and "four cabaret girls". They were later put up at the Samoset House for the night, along with several guests. Also two of the hotel guests, Mrs. Richard Percy and Mrs. Caroline Mihr-Hardy, assisted in the entertainment. Unfortunately, no description survives of what occurred.

In 1917, dues were remitted for those members who were in the Armed Services. On "April 19th, the occasion of the Preparedness Day, the Club turned out as a body on parade for the first time in its history. While we were handicapped by the draft of our members for other institutions we made a credible showing and drew forth the applause of the spectators along the line of march. Lieutenant-Governor Coolidge was a guest of the Club after the exercises on the Training-Green." The Club held a Victory Smoker on November 29, 1918 (a new cigar stand having been installed the year before) and a second Smoker was given for the returning soldiers on June 2, 1919.

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