If you listen to the radio these days, you can’t miss the many commercials boasting how “if you have ‘x’ amount in credit card debt, you might qualify” for this or that deal to lower your balance and payments. In other words, you got there because you spent more money than you really had in the first place. Apparently, there were similar situations of overspending like this in our area in September 1917, as the business and professional community called for a campaign of thrift in Oneonta.
According to The Oneonta Star of Saturday, Sept. 15, about 20 business and professional men had a dinner and conference on Friday evening at the Oneonta YMCA, then on Broad Street, to become familiar with a thrift campaign being promoted in about 200 cities across America.
Dr. George J. Dann, who was the superintendent of Oneonta’s schools at the time, chaired the meeting of this newly formed Thrift Committee. The idea of this campaign was to wage an aggressive effort, through speakers, publicity in the newspapers and through the motion picture houses, to “arouse the general public as to the importance of systematic saving and the need of thrift.” Commercial radio was still a few years away from becoming another means of public influence.
One of the speakers, YMCA secretary Albert B. Davis, spoke of the need of such a movement “with the country not aroused as to the situation we are placed by the war and with so many people evidently not appreciating the importance of personal thrift but apparently willing to spend even more than their income and with no thoughts of future needs.” Davis added how “we are becoming a nation of spenders and wasters and unless the people can be aroused we will soon become a nation of dependents with no self reliance and no stability of character.”