There was no doubt about the curiosity Oneontans had about the First World War in 1918. That curiosity was evident on Tuesday, Oct. 1, when more than 5,000 people showed for a special appearance of the War Trophies Train as part of a war bond fundraiser in the city.
The Oneonta Star of Monday, Sept. 16, 1918, gave a preview of the train, “containing a large and interesting collection of souvenirs and relics from the battlefields of France and Belgium. It will be accompanied by several of Pershing’s men, who have seen active service at the front and also French, British, Italian and Polish officers will be able to explain all the relics … and tell of experiences at the front.”
The idea of bringing this train to Oneonta and many communities along the D&H Railroad was to stimulate sales of war bonds. The Fourth Liberty Loan campaign had begun in Oneonta in the final days of September. A $600,000 goal had been set for the city, and after only three days the total subscriptions taken in had gone beyond the 50 percent mark.
“The arrival of the train was marked by the blowing of whistles and the ringing of church bells,” the Star reported. “The Oneonta City band and Company G, with a large contingent from Cooperstown in line marched to the station shortly before 7 o’clock and were assembled when the train arrived as scheduled.” The station referred to was the D&H depot, where the Stella Luna Ristorante is today on Market Street.
Laverne P. Butts was the chairman of the Oneonta committee raising the funds for the Liberty Loan. As soon as the lights could be lit on the two railroad flat cars, the city band played one verse of “America.” Butts then welcomed the multiple-car train and the crowds.