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July 8, 2013

A relaxing Fourth of July weekend was enjoyed locally in 1958

With a long Fourth of July weekend now in our memories, hopefully you got to relax a bit, have a cookout, or get a few things done, like mowing the lawn between the raindrops. Local residents enjoyed a long Fourth weekend in 1958 as well, getting an interesting month underway in our lives and times.

If you had a cookout this past weekend, I can confidently say that the charcoal you used wasn’t made in Otsego County. Chances were pretty good in 1958 that it was, as the Otsego County Forestry Department resumed the manufacture of charcoal, according to Stewart A. Wheeler, county forester, on Tuesday, July 1.

Charcoal was produced at the department headquarters, about four miles south of Cooperstown, beginning in 1954 and through 1956, but ended after a cinder block kiln had deteriorated. The county had obtained a new steel drum-1type kiln for production. The county, as it performed its annual thinning and improvement cutting of local forests, obtained the hardwood for charcoal manufacture. It was sold to area stores, or you could pick it up on Wednesdays at the Forestry Department office — just in time for cookouts on Friday, July 4.

That picnic or cookout might have been held at Neahwa Park or Wilber Park in Oneonta. The Oneonta Star reminded readers that traffic accidents accounted for 426 deaths nationally in 1957, suggesting that area residents stay close to home and use the city parks for their picnics, cookouts and recreation.

“A weekend at home can be safe and sane and maybe The Star won’t have to print accidents stories this weekend. The staff doesn’t like to write that kind of story,” an article stated on July 1.

Perhaps mowing the lawn was on the to-do list for the long weekend. If the blades of the mower were dull or the engine couldn’t start, many took their mower to “The Fix-It Man,” J. Rex Chamberlain, at his repair shop at 575 Main St., Oneonta.

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