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May Baskets, a Dog, and a Party for Children

Text by Candace Kanes and Renée DesRoberts

Images from McArthur Public Library

A series of photos taken by amateur photographer and part-time Biddeford Pool resident Robert Henry Gay in 1917 have long carried the label, "War Relief Party, Biddeford Pool, 1917."

Summer residents of the Pool and others held many parties that summer to raise money for aspects of the World War I effort. The U.S. had entered the war on April 6, 1917, prompting civilian efforts at assistance.

But 1917 Biddeford newspapers carry no reference to this party at the "Foster" residence, although there were plenty of stories about other war relief parties.

Another article, however, probably explains the photos. In the Biddeford Daily Journal on August 17, 1917, and in the Biddeford Weekly Journal on August 24 was a short item entitled "Gave Children a Party."

The party at the "attractive summer home of Mrs. T. K. Niedringhaus of St. Louis" for 22 children followed one some weeks earlier given by Mrs. Foster, "another summer resident at the Pool."

The parties were given to make reparation to the children for a "rather humorous incident" that occurred the previous May.

Mrs. Niedringhaus was spending the night at Mrs. Fanny C. Foster's home on Main Street. They heard a knock at the door and, "fearing burglars, the house dog was loosed and he chased whoever the party was across the golf links and far away."

The next day, the women discovered two May Baskets hung on the door by children. As an apology for the chase, each woman held a party for the children.

The article concludes, "There are those among the children who aver that they would gladly be chased across the golf links again for another such good time."

Renée DesRoberts is the archivist and adult room librarian at McArthur Public Library in Biddeford.