New London, Ohio, festival celebrates 100 years: Small town pride carries life lessons

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This past weekend was a very special one for our family. As New London, Ohio, celebrated its 100th Labor Day Festival anniversary, we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

New London is a small town, and it is the town where my husband and his brothers grew up together. Their parents, Don and Edie Sutherland, owned the ice cream shop on the north side of town. It was a hoppin’ business, with drive-in service and car hops and good food.

It was Don Sutherland’s idea back in the early 1960s to ask his sons if they would like to start a little business of their own. He had recently purchased a pony that was trained to both ride and drive, and he had the chance to buy a surrey with a fringe on top. Would the boys want to pull that cart around town, selling ice cream treats?

Sales bonanza

The idea was a hit. The little cart was perfect because all four of the boys could ride in it with room for coolers in which to carry such treats as ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, Popsicle and other novelties.

At that time, New London had several manufacturing businesses, including C.E. Ward, where graduation caps and gowns were made. The boys planned their stops to coincide with the afternoon breaks of the various businesses, and the employees began looking forward to those treats in the middle of a hot summer day.

When necessary, the boys would take the pony named Princess back to the dairy for a little rest and a drink of water while they re-stocked their coolers.

The biggest treat of all was when the little pony mare gave birth to a foal. So, in that second summer of their business, little Queenie tagged along with the crew, just walking freely along beside her mama, letting lots of people make a fuss over her while they decided between ice cream sandwiches or the latest Popsicle flavor.

The boys are back

So, this year, there was no doubt that the boys wanted to be a part of the big celebration and parade.

The little surrey wagon was pulled out of storage here on our farm and shined up a little bit. The signs which read “Don and Edie’s Boys” were brightened up and returned to the wagon. Special T-shirts were made with a great picture that had appeared in the newspaper back at that time screen-printed on to the back of the shirts.

In the picture, the proud parents are smiling as their boys sit in the wagon with the mare hitched up, her foal by her side. Everyone is smiling, and the photograph depicts an incredibly happy time. You simply cannot look at that picture without smiling and feeling the joy of that chapter of their lives.

And the parade, held on an absolutely perfectly sunny day, carried that same great feeling. The “boys” were all there, still acting like boys even though that boyhood was long ago. They said it was great to hear people call out, “Hey, that sure brings back memories!” as the pony pulled them along the parade route.

The feelings are all still the same, though the prices have changed!

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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