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February 24, 2014

Gasoline, demons and baseball were 'trending' locally in 1974

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The Daily Star

---- — “Trending” has become a popular word in our present everyday language. This word wasn’t used in February 1974, but for what I write twice weekly, it could just as well have applied to local history.

Local news items that were “trending” 40 years ago this month included getting used to when you could buy gasoline, a movie that was coming to Oneonta soon but was already getting attention, and a very popular Oneonta Yankees “hot stove” event.

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A voluntary gasoline rationing program got its debut in Oneonta and across the state on Monday, Feb. 11, 1974. In this program, initiated by Gov. Malcolm Wilson, the last digit of a license plate dictated when you could buy gasoline. If the number was odd, the purchase could be made that day. Those with even numbers waited until the next day, Feb. 12. Zero was considered an even number.

Being voluntary, pretty much everyone ignored the program, from drivers to gas station owners.

Don Tyler had a Mobil station at the corner of River and Main streets and was undecided about using the system.

“I don’t know yet,” Tyler told The Oneonta Star. “We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens.”

For Tyler, he had both regular and self-service pumps and felt that having to keep watch on the numbers of plates at the self-service pumps could be a problem.

“It would defeat the whole purpose of self-service business if I had to pay somebody to check license plates.”

The voluntary program served as a warm-up exercise for what came a few weeks later. Mandatory odd-even gas rationing began on Tuesday, Feb. 26. There was plenty of confusion at local stations, as most customers were either unaware of the regulations or were attempting to circumvent them. Commercial vehicles were exempt from the regulations, which more than likely caused a fair share of grumbling from regular vehicle owners.

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A new movie had come out that month and was causing all kinds of discussion. It was “The Exorcist,” based on William Peter Blatty’s novel.

“The movie will appear in Oneonta, ‘not before April,’ according to Harold deGraw, owner of the Oneonta Theatre and the Showcase Cinema,” the Star reported on Feb. 9.

The movie and book had stimulated interest in demonology, not winning much praise from the Rev. Anthony Chiaramonte and the Rev. Liam Casey, both from Oneonta’s St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church.

“It’s stirring a phobia,” Chiaramonte said. “People are finding a devil under every nook and cranny.” Chiaramonte doubted many claims that complaints of possession by the devil had increased since the movie’s release. He felt that “possession” is just another excuse for what ails them.

Casey placed the blame of many possession claims on people who “haven’t been able to pinpoint their problems.” Some had jumped on the idea of possession because it “gives them an easy way out.”

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The annual Oneonta Yankee Banquet attracted its largest crowd ever on Sunday, Feb. 3.

Johnny Johnson was the featured speaker, then an assistant to baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who recalled his days when he was the general manager for the Binghamton Triplets, another Minor League affiliate of the Yankees. Johnson was then in charge of the World Series, All-Star games and other special events as Kuhn’s assistant.

Also featured was the flamboyant Ron Luciano, Major League umpire. The Oneonta appearance was several years before the Endicott native authored “The Umpire Strikes Back.” Luciano spoke of historic moments he was behind the plate, such as when Nolan Ryan, then with the California Angels, pitched a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers.

“You hear all the time about guys have a fastball that explodes,” he told the crowd. “Believe me Nolan Ryan’s fastball explodes.” Luciano said Ryan’s curve ball was even better.

“I’ll tell you,” Luciano added, “I had guys on that Detroit team ask me, ‘Did I miss that by one or two feet?’”

Oneonta Yankee fans looked forward to the season ahead, under the newly named manager, Mike Ferraro.

This weekend: Plenty of opinion mixed in with local news briefs in March 1889.

Oneonta 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 email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.