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Friday, June 20, 2008

Opinions

Old Home Day: paying the bills

Just a week to go before Carlisle celebrates Old Home Day, our own traditional family celebration of small-town life. The first OHD on July 31, 1912, featured a parade, a town picnic, a greased pig chase and a milkmaid contest. How times have changed.

Once a town event that was self-supporting, OHD is now run by the Carlisle Old Home Day Association, a volunteer group operating, since 2005, as a non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity and designated an educational organization under state and federal law. It might be a stretch to think of Old Home Day as an educational organization, but this designation satisfies the legal requirements of a 501(c)(3). It enables the association to request tax-deductible donations and covers its volunteers for liability under the Volunteer Protection Act of 1999. For the past several years the OHD committee has requested donations from townspeople to meet escalating expenses of facilities and equipment rental, publications, and other costs of staging this major event. This year OHD is estimated to cost $10,000.

To meet its obligation as an educational organization, OHD offers scholarships each year, a charitable enterprise that perplexes some townspeople. “Why should I support Old Home Day,” they ask, “when they have enough money to offer scholarships?” Two $1,500 scholarships and a $500 educational grant from last year’s funds will be awarded at this year’s event.

We asked Dave Reed, co-chair of the OHD Committee, to address the question. “Scholarship money is earned by us,” he said, referring to the volunteers. “Expense money is donated, and donated money is not used for scholarships [unless so specified by the donor].” He offered more details on OHD funding.

Funds to pay OHD expenses come from three sources – first, a percentage of the proceeds earned that day by town organizations such as the Council on Aging, Boy Scouts, and the library’s book sale, among others, is committed to paying OHD hosting expenses; none is used for scholarships. Second, donations supplement the amount raised on Old Home Day and help pay expenses. Again, none is committed to scholarships unless the donor so states.

A third source of income does contribute to the scholarship fund. It is generated by fees from volunteer-run activities – the Art Show, Cake Walk, Soapbox Derby, Road Races, Dunking Booth, etc. Proceeds from these events only are earmarked for next year’s scholarships. But if proceeds from the first two sources fall short, these funds will be tapped until all expenses are paid.

Conceivably, there might be no scholarship money available. Should this happen, Reed said that committee members would dig into their own pockets to secure scholarship funds to the extent of the volunteer-run earnings in order to preserve the organization’s 501(c)(3) status.

“We’re two-thirds of the way toward our goal,” said Reed earlier this week. If you haven’t donated yet, turn to Reed’s letter on page 14 and consider supporting Carlisle’s unique celebration.

A little new knowledge is a dangerous thing

In the same manner that chance meetings can lead to new friendships, chance encounters with objects can lead into new realms of knowledge. It has just happened to me. As those of you who were up and about last Saturday may have seen, the Savoyard Light Opera Company had a fundraising yard sale in my front yard and, as those who stopped by may have noticed, among the items for sale was an electric organ. It had been left behind a few years ago by an itinerant renter of the apartment in the Historical Society’s Heald House and had ever since languished in the barn. My plan was to sell it and split the proceeds between the Savoyards and the Society.

The plan, however, was thwarted by the fact that the thing produced not a peep of musical sound. Undeterred at first, I removed the back, expecting to find a few circuit boards with a loose connection or a dangling wire. But what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature array of eight or so not-so-tiny vacuum-tube amplifiers as well as a mysterious box with a shaft driven by an electric motor and about a million wires coming from it and another mysterious device with two very soft spring coils that looked like a heater. I tried all the standard techniques of wiggling connections, re-seating the tubes, and hunting for a cold tube, all without success.

As the day wore on, several people who knew more than I (though that is not saying a great deal) came by and offered their opinions. The organ, they said, is a Hammond Organ, something of which I had heard but never knew the significance. The components are of some modest value, prized by rock guitarists who believe that vacuum-tube amplifiers produce better sound than modern transistorized ones. The springs are used to produce reverberations and are still used by guitarists. The motor is used to spin wheels whose protrusions produce varying magnetic fields that in turn produce the sound frequencies, both the fundamental tone and selected harmonics, which compose the tonal output. Of course, this particular Hammond Organ produced no tonal output at all, an important drawback.

Anyway, this information opened some intriguing lines of thought and, blessed as we are today with the wonders of search engines and the Internet that place all sorts of esoteric knowledge at our fingertips, it is not hard to learn all about Hammond organs. So far I have learned that they were the invention of Laurens Hammond, who patented his spinning wheels in 1934. The organs were a great success, selling for $1,250 – around $140,000 in today’s dollars – largely to churches that could not afford a pipe organ that might have cost four or five times as much. Today a refurbished Hammond Organ like the one in my possession sells for $8,000 or $9,000. I was planning to ask $200 but, since it did not work, no one seemed much interested. So I still have it.

But I also have a good deal more knowledge, including the fact that service manuals and parts are available, which gives me hope that I may master its intricacies. If I do, dulcet tones may one day issue again from this particular Hammond organ. And then perhaps someone will want to buy it. I will still split the proceeds between the Savoyards and the Historical Society, but I am not the world’s fastest learner so I warn them not to budget for this revenue any time soon.

 

 

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