There were some interesting new developments in education in Oneonta during the month of April 1952. These took place in the public and private schools, as well as on the Hartwick College campus.
It was reported Wednesday, April 2, that the State University of New York authorized the addition of a ninth grade at the Percy I. Bugbee School, the campus school of what was then called the Oneonta State Teachers College.
For several years some parents had been asking for a ninth grade, so beginning that month, Bugbee administrators held meetings so all parents and students could discuss whether or not to add the ninth grade.
The meetings drew plenty of support, and the ninth grade began in September.
Before this, Bugbee students went to Oneonta Junior High School on Academy Street after eighth grade, and then to Oneonta High School, next door.
The ninth grade at Bugbee existed until the campus school closed for good in 1975.
New Radio station
A new radio station, by and for Hartwick College students, made its debut April 1, 1952.
"The new station is called WJCH, the last three letters being the initials of John Christopher Hartwick, who founded the original Hartwick Seminary, a branch of which later became Hartwick College," The Oneonta Star reported. It was the creation of the college's Dramatic Club.
The station couldn't be heard by Oneonta residents, as the operation was designed to train students in the techniques of radio writing, acting and broadcasting.
Students used an old public address machine, with a microphone attached as the broadcasts came from the student newspaper office.
A two-hour daily broadcast was "piped" into the student lounge.
It was hoped at the time that this would become a real radio station, once permission was granted from the Federal Communications Commission.
Throughout the month of March 1952, Leonard Watters, head football coach at Williams College, had been conducting a survey of athletic facilities, equipment and personnel in all of Oneonta's schools.
The complete report and recommendations were published in the Star on Friday, April 2.
"In a sweeping move that shakes up the Oneonta public school athletic and physical education programs from top to bottom, the Board of Education is putting into force the complete report and recommendations, made by Leonard Watters."
Some visible changes to students and the public included the end of night football games, use of the State Armory for varsity and junior varsity basketball games and practices, use of Neahwa Park Field -- today's Damaschke Field -- for baseball and football games, and an immediate competitive grade school program for boys, such as touch football, basketball, track and baseball, after school and Saturday mornings.
The Watters report called for play facilities at the five elementary schools to be improved and expanded, both indoors and outdoors. Four of these schools, East End, Mitchell Street, River Street and Chestnut Street schools are gone or are in another use today. Only Center Street still currently exists.
"Five elementary schools are without any semblance of indoor space that can be used for any type of program. There is no possibility for any type of competitive play and no opportunity for the teaching of game skills to be used in competition later. The sad part is that nothing can be done at any one of the five schools to create even makeshift areas indoors, the space is just not there," the report stated.
The Star reported April 7 that, "Babies have now made their personal appearance in the program of modern education. Each Friday is babies' day in the Home Economics house of Oneonta High School, where classes in child safety are conducted."
"A teacher, Miss Marcia Curtin, explained it this way: 'We got talking about child care and someone (among the girl pupils) said we ought to know more about babies.' Someone else said, 'Why don't we bring them to school?' That's the way it started.
"What we are striving for," Miss Curtin said, "is to get acquainted with babies up to two years old … what they look like, what they do, what is normal for them."
Finally, a State Department of Education official was in Oneonta on Tuesday, April 29, to explain to the Oneonta Plains School PTA that their school and 12 other common school districts adjoining Oneonta would need to merge into a core district.
The Plains School was once found at the corner of Chestnut Street and Winney Hill Road, where the West Gate Plaza is today.
It was the beginning of the effort to create the Oneonta Consolidated School District, completed in 1957.
This weekend: A Titanic survivor visited Oneonta two weeks after the April 1912 disaster.
City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.