"President Asks For War."
That was the headline readers of the Oneonta Daily Star saw on Tuesday, April 3, 1917, after President Woodrow Wilson urged Congress, assembled in joint session on Monday, to declare a state of war between the United States and Germany.
The American steamship Aztec had been sunk by a German submarine off the coast of France that day.
Congress passed a resolution and President Wilson signed it on Friday, April 6.
Plans were to assemble an army of a million men in a year, and 2 million within two years.
Oneonta Mayor Joseph S. Lunn had made a proclamation Monday, asking loyalty and "unfaltering support" for the president.
"Oneonta responded…with much vigor and enthusiasm," the Star reported on Tuesday, with "the Stars and Stripes being displayed in all sections of the city as never before even on a national holiday, the store or residence that did not have the national colors showing being quite conspicuous by the absence."
Church bells were rung at noon, and students at both Oneonta High School and Oneonta Normal School gathered in their auditoriums for programs with a patriotic theme.
Documents were printed by the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce and distributed to many sites in the city, so residents could sign one, declaring their loyalty to the government "in its measures to uphold American rights and protect the lives of American citizens."
The U.S. had been watching what was then called the Great War since its start in 1914 and had pursued a policy of non-intervention, avoiding conflict while attempting to broker a peace. Now that the U.S. was in the fight, many were likely wondering what this might mean on the home front.
The Star of April 10 reported, "That America has entered upon a war that will require all the energies and resources of the nation and that if this nation would save itself the loss and disaster that came to England before she appreciated fully the magnitude of the task before her seems to be appreciated by but few.
"In an effort to arouse the residents of the county of Otsego to a comprehension of the need of exhaustive preparation for the war should its duration be prolonged, mass meetings are to be held in the various villages about the county within the next few weeks, at which the true condition will be outlined and an earnest effort to arouse the public to a correct understanding of the importance of a vigorous policy of preparedness."
A representative of the National Guard had met the day before with the directors of the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce to discuss the needs of a campaign for preparedness and secure enlistments for service.
For Oneonta, such a mass meeting was set for Friday evening, April 20, at the State Armory on Academy Street.
The crowd was estimated at 2,000, as they listened to five rousing speeches.
"Whatever of doubt may have existed in any quarter relative to the patriotic fervor of Oneonta citizens, was dissipated beyond a possibility of a doubt last night when a monster parade of citizens was followed by a patriotic rally … the equal of which the city has never before witnessed," the Star reported.
In addition to the display of Stars and Stripes, a common sight in the Oneonta area during the spring months was people at their homes or in the parks, carrying shovels, rakes and hoes, and pushing wheelbarrows, as they were busy planting gardens.
The Chamber of Commerce garden committee encouraged citizens to plant vegetable gardens for their own use, so farmers could supply food needed in the war effort.
The committee worked closely with the city parks commission, for use of land in Neahwa and Wilber Parks, so citizens could plant gardens if there wasn't enough space on their own property.
By early May, 70 lots had been plotted in Neahwa Park, "south of the boulevard," which is today's war memorial walkway, extending to the river. In Wilber Park, 27 lots had been secured just west of Oneonta Creek, near today's tennis courts and pool.
Much more private land had also been offered, and even those who'd never gardened before got into the act that year.
The garden committee furnished informational bulletins to help many newcomers.
Many male students from our area's high schools became "farm cadets."
By serving from May 1 to Nov. 1 in assisting a farmer in planting, cultivating and harvesting crops, the student was eligible for Regents credit for the studies they pursued that year, without the regular examinations.
"Each boy who enlists will be given a badge by the governor," according to the Star, "indicating that he has enlisted in the army as a farm cadet, and in this highly efficient manner is to do his bit for his country."
On Monday: Tragedy on a New York Thruway bridge in 1987.
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 email@example.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.
"President Asks For War."
- Big Chuck D'Imperio
1965 Oscars? Thanks for the memories
Well, the 86th Academy Awards are over. And for the record, I did a pretty good job in my Daily Star Oscar picks. I got them all right except one. Cate Blanchett was the spoiler in my clean sweep. Not bad, if I do say so myself.Continued ...
- There was just no telling about snow days
- And the music goes round and round
- When did pranks turn into vandalism?
- Happy and sad memories of Jan. 7, 1966
- 1965 Oscars? Thanks for the memories
- Cary Brunswick
It's time for warmer relations with Cuba
It has been 55 years since Fidel Castro and his bands of nationalist fighters and supporters took over the government of Cuba. The United States immediately took issue with that regime change, and ever since has had serious problems with the tiny nation just south of the Florida Keys.Continued ...
- Unconventional events changed my outlook
- Keystone XL pipeline is still a terrible idea
- We shouldn't trade privacy for security
- I'm pleasantly surprised by Pope Francis
- It's time for warmer relations with Cuba
- Chuck Pinkey
- Guest Column
State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
Recently, the Margaretville and Roxbury boards of education joined their colleagues across the region and throughout the state in adopting a resolution calling on the state legislature to end the so-called "gap elimination adjustment."Continued ...
- The state Board of Regents deserves a shakeup
- It's no wonder businesses avoid us
- How to bridge a widening wealth gap
- Nimbys, shills and celebs: A morality play for our times
- State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
- Lisa Miller
A view from above
Fire towers in the Catskill Mountains have always been destination points, built to capture some of the region’s best views. These sentinel stations served an important role for the earliest possible sightings of forest fires in the remote mountain ranges. But the fire towers and those who manned them fulfilled a multitude of other roles as well.Continued ...
- Being a parent is a constant learning process
- Healthy doesn't have to mean expensive
- A family era ends with close of Potter series
- Independent stores make up for loss of Borders
- A view from above
- Mark Simonson
Local pipeline construction stirred controversy in 1964
Unlike the proposed Constitution Pipeline project, planned to bring natural gas from northeast Pennsylvania through our region to a terminal in Schoharie County, another pipeline project built from Watkins Glen to Selkirk generated considerably less local controversy 50 years ago.Continued ...
- Natural gas drilling efforts of the 1880s found little locally
- Beauty, grooming took center stage in Oneonta in March 1964
- Local news, opinion often mixed in 1889 newspapers
- Gasoline, demons and baseball were 'trending' locally in 1974
- Local pipeline construction stirred controversy in 1964
- Rick Brockway
It's cold, but there's still plenty to do
This has been a tough winter. In fact, it has been one of the coldest winters on record. Now don't get me wrong, I love winter and I always have. I've always believed that people who don't like winter don't have anything to do when the snow flies and temperatures drop below freezing. But I've never had that problem.
- Animals' behavior a sign of wild winter
- Opossum is unique in many ways
- It can be too cold sometimes
- It's tough to say what you really did see
- It's cold, but there's still plenty to do
- Sam Pollak
Religion should be a comfort, not a weapon
Discuss politics or religion in any establishment that specializes in dispensing alcohol, and -- proprietors warn -- the discussion is highly likely to result in you waking up on the tavern floor and spitting out teeth, probably your own.Continued ...
- The world must think we're nuts
- Mistakes easy to take ... if they're not yours
- Celebrate 2013 with the annual 'Sammy Awards'
- The feds still aren't coming for your guns
- Religion should be a comfort, not a weapon
- William Masters
Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues
As the time to vote draws near, we need to remember how money can run politics more than we can. Raising funds is a prominent (if not the dominant) task of getting elected. Raising issues is also crucial, but those efforts are subject to distortion and fear-mongering.
Republicans feelentitled to allthey can garner
An entitlement is a legal benefit available from the government to individuals who are within a defined category of recipients, such as needing insurance for unemployment or health services.
Romney focuses on self; Obama emphasizes unity
Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama for saying a person's success is rooted in his community, and is not all his alone. Romney belittles this with his belief in individual initiative. He is better at the put-down than the push-up.
Romney shows little regard for common man
The Republicans in Congress have voted over and over, 33 times, redundantly and uselessly, to rescind what they call Obamacare.
Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists
The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.
- Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues