Buchman spent his summer holidays either on cycle trips (one year he and a school friend, Arthur Keller, went by train and boat as far as Montreal, making side trips by bicycle or on foot) or at Chautauqua, the religious and cultural centre in New York State, where an annual series of lectures and recitals provided what seems to have been a cross between a holiday and a summer finishing school. Its programme included lectures on subjects ranging from Milton to cookery and temperance, prayer meetings and sports, and was enlivened by a variety of entertainments, among them orchestral concerts, Swiss yodellers and college girl octettes. The lecturers included evangelists like Henry Drummond, though Buchman never met him, and writers like Mark Twain.
While at Muhlenberg, Buchman visited Woonsocket, Rhode Island, at the invitation of a Miss Florence Thayer, whom he had evidently met either in Chautauqua or at a social gathering in Allentown, and whose father ran five satinette mills. The splendour of the Thayers’ home quite dazzled him. The house, he told his mother, was in a very aristocratic quarter, in the finest street in Woonsocket, and right next to the home of a former governor of Rhode island. It had a large hall, a large reception room in gold and white, and there were Wilton carpets on the floor, fine draperies at the windows and handsome pictures on the walls. One room alone, he calculated with the eye of a hotelier's son, must have cost $1,500 to furnish, if not more. The Thayers, he concluded, had no less than three carriages.7
The social life was equally captivating. He went to dances with Miss Thayer and was ‘entertained at cards’ by her friends. One was a multi- millionaire's son who had recently graduated from Harvard. He was, Buchman reported, ‘a splendid young fellow, interested quite a bit in racehorses but seems to be a Christian’. His own delight was all the greater because he felt in such demand. ‘I am perfectly lionised here,’ he told his mother. ‘They want me at the house all the time.’8 As for Miss Thayer herself, ‘She did not disappoint me in the least.’9 It is clear that the young Frank regarded Florence as a possible fiancée. She is on his list of those who gave him Christmas presents in 1897 and 1898; although several other ladies also appear on the latter list. Another young lady was the recipient of Buchman's fraternity pin, such an exchange in those days often being a precursor of engagement and marriage; while the daughter of a third is convinced that had Buchman married, it would have been to her mother, Bertha Werner.