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.
The prize the competitors were seeking was never reported or advertised, which made the contest suspicious and risky. On Monday, May 15, the Star reported the event “folded up” at 1:30 a.m. that day because “the public had not sufficiently responded to the enterprise.”
“As is in such enterprises, those taking part will go without the prizes which were offered.” Those taking part “would be given 24 hours in which to recuperate, and then be given transportation back to where they came from to enter the contest.”
It was reported on Wednesday, May 10 ,that Sidney’s silk mill, having been idled for some time, was set to re-open the next day with a new manager. Harry Seigel of Paterson, N.J., was moving his family to the village for the new position.
No number of employees put to work was given, although the factory would be a 24-hour per day operation and that the firm had contracts for at least a year’s worth of work.
From near Roxbury it was reported that if you were good at raising some animals or shooting unwanted ones, the Batavia-Kill Rod and Gun Club had an offer to make for new and existing members.
At their meeting hall in Denver on Thursday, May 12, attendance was good as the club announced that they would pay 50-cents for every pheasant raised to the age of six weeks and liberated. Pheasant eggs were distributed that evening. The club would also pay a $5 reward to those who discover any person destroying a pheasant.
The club was ready to pay bounties on woodchucks, gray foxes and owls. They didn’t indicate how much the bounty was, but if your aim was good, there were no limits reported.
On Monday: Some local life and times in May 1968.
City Historian 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.