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October 28, 2013

A variety of local changes made news in October 1988

Departures and arrivals of various kinds could easily describe many local news items reported during October 1988.

A departure was reported on Saturday, Oct. 1, as Harold deGraw, considered the “dean” of Oneonta cinema for decades, had sold The Oneonta Theatre the day before to two local men, Peter Van Woert and Philip Colone Jr.

deGraw had come to Oneonta in 1940 to manage the Oneonta and Palace Theatres, the latter once found at the corner of Main Street and Ford Avenue, as part of the Schine Theatre circuit. He then moved to Maryland in 1948 to continue his career in cinema management, but returned to Oneonta in 1960, where he purchased the Palace and later bought the Oneonta.

deGraw sold the Oneonta in 1988 because he knew that Van Woert and Colone wouldn’t cut up the old auditorium for a cinema multiplex.

“If I had sold to a circuit, that might’ve happened,” deGraw told The Daily Star. “But these boys won’t do that.”

deGraw had installed a second movie screen in an upper balcony in 1980, able to seat 187 at the time. He opted to do this, rather than divide the auditorium.

“If I had done that, the stage would’ve been lost,” said deGraw, who had always been a fan of live performances. The Oneonta Theatre has since been sold twice, first to Terry Matteson and then Tom Cormier.

THE DEMISE OF ‘KITTYCAT’

The “Kittycat” saga came to an end in Masonville in the early days of October. The African lioness known as “Kittycat” was found dead in her cage. The death was considered suspicious, but owner Joan Albanese chose not to have the cause of death investigated.

Kittycat arrived in the United States in April 1984 as a six-week-old, eight-pound cub. She was brought to her new home in Bainbridge. Legal battles soon began, as Albanese was convicted in 1984 of failure to protect the public from attack by a wild animal after the 22-pound cub disappeared. Albanese then brought the cub to Masonville, so the lioness wouldn’t have to be caged. Area residents had threatened to kill the lioness in the past.

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