Colchester Historical Society exhibit looks back in time

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Colchester - posted Mon., Aug. 26, 2013
Frank and Norma Gargano enjoy some fond memories of earlier days in Colchester. Photos by Kitty LeShay.
Frank and Norma Gargano enjoy some fond memories of earlier days in Colchester. Photos by Kitty LeShay.

The Colchester Historical Society opened an exhibit on Aug. 13 which not only features one of the town’s innovators and recorders of town events during the first half of the 20th century, but offers an interesting glimpse at how Colchester has changed.

“This exhibit is a remembrance of Earl Holmes [1894-1977] and his times. We hope that it will also activate some memories among the people attending that will be useful to the museum,” said Angela George, a co-president of the Colchester Historical Society along with Gigi Liverant.

Holmes – an amateur photographer - owned a drugstore in town, and there are many residents who remember going to the store as kids. “I used to go to the drugstore and get ice cream sodas and sundaes at the counter. Every Christmas Mr. Holmes would put up a train display and we could make the train move by touching a thermal device on the outside window. The old drugstore is gone, but the memories are still here,” said Frank Gargano. He and his wife Norma enjoyed viewing the Holmes photographs and old movies.

Holmes not only owned Holmes’ Drug Store, but he was a postman, ham radio operator, historian, innovator and accomplished photographer. His pictures and movies recorded important events in town, such as roads being paved for the first time, the aftermath of the 1938 hurricane, and numerous parades. His photos also show beautiful gardens and the rural beauty of farms and forest.

“We are very grateful to Earl Holmes’s great-niece, Laura McIntyre, who brought her great uncle’s photo albums to our attention and allowed us to reprint and preserve this wonderful visual history,” Liverant said.

Colchester has changed greatly since the 1920s and 1930s, when Holmes took many of the pictures in the exhibit. At that time, the population was a bit over 2,000, and today it is over 16,000. There are some old familiar places like Harry’s, a popular hamburger and hot dog stand which is now listed on the Register of Historic Places. There are many new homes and shopping plazas. Route 2, completed in 1966, cut the commute to Hartford in half and changed the town from a rural place with lots of chicken farms and resort hotels for New Yorkers who wanted to get away from the city in the summer, to a kind of rural suburbia with lots of services and a good quality of life for families.

The exhibit will remain at the museum on Linwood Avenue until the end of the year and can be seen every Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., along with other permanent exhibits of the history of Colchester. “We could do more great things with more people willing to help with inventory, research, cataloguing, website or serving as docents,” George said. Lovers of history with a bit of time on their hands are welcome.

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