"Historic Highlights" for Gilford Steamerís 7 Oct. 2004 issue

"GILFORD BLAZES WITH LIGHTS AS TOWNSPEOPLE SING ODE"

This was a headline on the front page of the Monday, October 10, 1927 issue of the Laconia Evening Citizen, an article which is part of the archival collection of Thompson-Ames Historical Society. It seems an appropriate time to share this article which highlights an event that happened in Gilford 77 years ago and which changed life in Gilford forever.

Turning on the electric lights at Gilford for the first time Saturday evening (October 8, 1927) resulted in a remarkable civic celebration, the entire town participating with good sized delegations from Laconia and elsewhere assisting in the ceremonies marking the event. When it was announced a few months ago that the Public Service Company of New Hampshire proposed to extend its lines into Gilford, the townspeople received the news with rejoicing, recognizing that benefits would accrue in numerous directions, not only in the matter of comfort and convenience, through the many uses of electricity, but also by enhancing property values.

Accordingly, it was decided that the first turning on of "juice" on Saturday evening last should be accompanied by a manifestation of joy worthy of the occasion, and a program was arranged with Mrs. W. A. Gove as chairman. A bountiful harvest supper was a preliminary to the major event of the evening, the supper starting at six oíclock, and tables were filled five times before everyone in the great crowd was fed. Gilford cooks lived up to their time-honored reputation, and no one went hungry.

At 7:15 community singing was started, under the leadership of Fred

L. Ayers of Laconia, who brought his trombone along, and inspired the gathering to lively renditions of "Keep the Home Fires Burning", "Long, Long Trail", "Sweet Adeline", and "Till We Meet Again."

An original verse composed by Mr. Ayers was sung, which made reference to the advent of electricity to the town, and when that point was reached in the song buttons were touched by the chairman of the Gilford selectmen and Mgr. F. Brockington of the Public Service Company, which sent the flood of light through the town.

Nothing could have been more dramatic in its effect than this method of "pressing the button."

The crowd was singing Mr. Ayerís composition,

We love the Town of Gilford,

And we want to keep it right,

We want our town of Gilford

To be always gay and bright.

Thatís why our Town of Gilford

Has put in electric light,

Yea, we are marching on!

A temporary switch had been installed at the Grange Hall for the convenience of Mgr. Brockington and the Selectmen in turning on the "juice

All at once every room of every house which had been wired for electricity, church, town hail, and stores blazed into light, it having been pre-arranged that switches would be left open. Great cheering followed.

Even the attics and cellar windows were aglow.

"I never saw a town with so much co-operation," remarked one visitor. After this ceremony the crowd marched up the road to the lighting of a bonfire under the direction of Selectman John A. Hammond, and afterward dancing was enjoyed until midnight.

Mgr. Brockington of the Public Service Company and a corps of service men were in attendance to see that everything went off without a hitch. The Public Service Company also had a complete exhibit in Grange Hall of all modern appliances made possible by use of electricity, and brought within the reach of every one by the recent reductions in rates for service.

Without question this anniversary date is noteworthy on Gilford calendars each year. Certainly the availability of electricity changed life in our town forever.

As Adair Mulligan noted in The Gunstock Parish, A History of Gilford, New Hampshire, the advent of electricity to Gilford meant that radio could bring news and music even into local cow barns.

Among the Thompson-Ames Historical Society collections in the Gilford Village museum buildings are vintage radios that were listened to by Arthur Tilton and his family and some early electric toasters.

To contact Thompson-Ames Historical Society to request a tour, etc., please telephone 527-9009 or send an e-mail to thomames@worldpath.net or stop in at the Grange Museum Building whenever the OPEN flag is on display at the doorway to The Hallway of Historic Signs, at 8 Belknap Mountain Road.