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March 26, 2012

Devastating fire, loss in sports status, education made major area news in March 1982

By Mark Simonson

A fire destroyed a foundry in Morris, Hartwick College basketball dropped a division level, two schools considered a merger, and a local Odyssey of the Mind was born. These news items and more made for a busy month in March 1982.

It had only been a month since Morris Castings had reopened an old foundry near the Otsego County Fairgrounds, when fire ripped through the old stone  and wood structure on Monday, March 1. It had beenrecently closed due to slow business. The company was producing a variety of small metal parts, brass plaques and foot pedals.

Eight fire departments and 150 firefighters fought the blaze for several hours, which caused damages well in excess of $100,000. Arson was ruled out, as fire investigators decided a massive furnace was the cause, igniting a ceiling area. The building was totally destroyed.

Maurice Bridges was on the scene, taking photos of the blaze. Bridges knew the plant well, as he recalled it being built in 1917, and holding a job there starting  in 1929. It was built by Holman Harry Linn as a factoryto produce the Linn Tractor.

“That’s the way I got started in life,” Bridges told The Daily Star. “I was in the third office in here. I was assistant to the sales manager. I was 24.” Bridges said when he was hired the factory employed as many as 70 and produced 225 tractors a year.

“It became very profitable,” Bridges said. “He and his partner,” referring to Linn, “made a million bucks in about 12 years.”

Bridges and a partner later bought the factory in 1949, after Linn had moved its operations to Oneonta. They leased it to such companies as the Raymond Corp. of Greene, Bendix of Sidney and Corning Inc. of Oneonta, and later sold it to Charles Lay of Morris in 1975, who started Morris Castings.


The same day as the fire, Hartwick College played its season finale in basketball, losing in overtime to St. John Fisher, 103-102, and was denied a bid to a regional playoff tournament.

At the time, Hartwick was a NCAA Division II team, but only two days after that loss, Dr. Philip Wilder, President of Hartwick College, announced that the college would drop the Division II status, and go to Division III play.

“Hartwick has had great tradition in division two basketball for a long time,” said then coach Nick Lambros. “I’m really down that we’re going to division three, not that there aren’t good division three teams around. I watched it as a kid in the 1950s and captained the team in 1958 before coming back to coach,” he said.


Worcester and Schenevus school officials agreed to study the feasibility of a merger, it was reported on Saturday, March 6. School boards from both districts directed Schenevus Superintendent Menzer Doud and Worcester Superintendent George Mack to make an in-depth study of the merger.

Nothing ever resulted from it, but the last talk about a merger had been started about 10 years earlier.

“There’s nothing at all new about the idea,” Mack said of the merger. “Existing schools now, such as Worcester and Schenevus, themselves resulted from mergers.”


Meanwhile students from five school districts competed in the “Olympics of the Mind,” on Saturday, March 27 at the Bugbee School, Oneonta. Later named Odyssey of the Mind, the competition was founded in 1978 in New Jersey at Glassboro State College, what is now Rowan University, involving 28 schools.

he competition was designed for highly creative, gifted/talented students, in problem-solving activities. “Seventy-five students from schools in the Catskill Area School Study Council will compete,” it was reported. The schools were Walton, Sidney, Unatego, Oneonta and Laurens. Ron Whalen, then a teacher at Center Street School, presented awards at the end of the day. Unfortunately the results were either never submitted to, or printed by the Star, but winners of this competition went on to compete in a state Olympics of the Mind on May 1 in Albany.

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