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May 11, 2013

Local people sought income in many ways in 1933

In the economy of the Great Depression, there were times people would do what it took to try to earn some money. In our area in May 1933 there were a few unusual or rare opportunities to make that much-needed income. Some opportunities were risky, while others were more conventional.

For some it was a test of endurance to win what was considered to be “fame and fortune.” Oneonta’s “Walkathon Marathon” began on Monday evening, May 1, at the Recreation Building. This was on Market Street, now occupied by The Green Earth store, and can be fondly recalled by many as Lamonica’s Bowling Center.

This was not a walkathon as we know today, such as the March of Dimes or Multiple Sclerosis Society, among others. It was a continuous endurance contest and a big floor show, as described in an advertisement in The Oneonta Star. Admission was 25-cents to see “30 Champion Couples Fighting Sleep and Exhaustion for Fame and Fortune.”

Some singles and couples in the contest were locals and others came to Oneonta to compete. Beatrice Myers of Oneonta teamed up with Charlie Peck of Binghamton, while Peggy O’Neil of Oneonta partnered with Marty Rand of Sidney. Dot Byam and Stuart Evans, both of Oneonta, rounded out the local couples, while others came from many in-state locations, as well as New Jersey, Illinois, Oklahoma and California.

The object of the contest was simple — just keep moving. When there weren’t floor shows viewed by paid admissions, contestants walked or just remained in motion.

By Thursday, May 4, only 20 of the couples remained in the contest. The Star followed the event each day and reported good attendance for the evening public shows.

By May 10, 13 teams and one solo were still in the running, having completed 196 hours of walking or dancing.

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