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October 28, 2013

A variety of local changes made news in October 1988

The Daily Star

---- — 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 “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.


Independent regional hospitals were going by the wayside in 1988, as larger hospitals were looking to become merger partners.

O’Connor Hospital in Delhi outlined details of a merger with Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown on Tuesday, Oct. 18, to take effect on Dec. 1. This merger allowed O’Connor to continue providing care with its 28-beds, to operate under the Bassett division but retain its name.

Other mergers pending at that time were The Hospital in Sidney, Margaretville Memorial Hospital, Delaware Valley Hospital in Walton and Community Hospital in Stamford.


Philip Morris, the major cigarette company, offered to take over Kraft, Inc., which had plants in Walton, Norwich and South Edmeston. The first offer, announced on Thursday, Oct. 20, was $11.4 billion, but agreed by Sunday, Oct. 30 to a $13.1-billion buyout.

The South Edmeston plant, which had produced cheese since 1929, was making Breyer’s yogurt at the time. Kraft closed here in 2005, and Agro Farma re-opened the site in 2007, producing Chobani yogurt. In 1988, the Walton plant was producing cottage cheese, sour cream and dips. The Norwich plant, known as Sheffield Products, produced cheese.


It was a departure of nice weather, and an early taste of winter, on Saturday, Oct. 22. A record snowfall caused numerous car accidents and downed power lines across the region.

The 3.8-inch snowfall at Goodyear Lake smashed a previous record of 1.1 inches dating back to 1889, said David Mattice, a National Weather Service observer for the Oneonta area.

The Sherburne-Earlville area recorded between 8 and 9 inches of snow, while in comparison the village of Walton had received about 1.4 inches.

Those having lost power on Saturday, due to the weight of the snow on leaves and power lines, had service restored by Sunday night.


In near darkness and with a tape recorder and microphone in hand, this writer waited for the arrival of an airplane at the Warren E. Eaton Airport in Norwich on Tuesday, Oct. 25. On board was U.S. Sen. Robert Dole, who came to Norwich for a Republican fundraiser at the Canasawacta Country Club. Dole was also campaigning for presidential candidate George H.W. Bush.

Republican Committee chairman Thomas Morrone said it had been quite an effort to get such a big name as Dole to come to our region, after three weeks of planning.

“My eyeballs are popping out, I’m so tired,” Morrone said.

After a short news conference at the airport at 5:45 p.m., this former radio news director departed back to the Norwich station to prepare the story for Wednesday morning’s newscasts.

This weekend: a return to some of the local life and times in the autumn of 1863.

Oneonta City Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText ColorHistorian 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 His website is His columns can be found at