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January 27, 2014

Business changes, energy conservation made news in January 1974

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The Daily Star

---- — Our family’s automotive parts store business on Valleyview Street in Oneonta was no place to be if you wore a short-sleeve shirt to work in January 1974. The thermostat was turned back, and putting on a sweater or sweatshirt was the clothing of necessity for doing business during the first energy crisis of that era. Some businesses closed due to energy costs locally and nationally, while others got started that month. At home or at work, local residents were finding ways to save energy and its high cost at the time.

The Oneonta Star began a contest that month called “Energy Line.” Readers could write a suggestion to save energy on a letter or post card, and the weekly winner received $5 for the best idea. The contest was first advertised in the Jan. 3 edition, and it lasted into March.

The first winner was published on Jan. 14 from William Fanning of Jefferson, who came up with nine ideas saying, “These are nothing more than common sense.”

“When making your morning tea,” Fanning wrote, “measure the water which goes into the kettle. Most people boil up to two quarts of water to make a four ounce cup of tea. Boiling 2 quarts of cold tap water consumes approximately 824,000 calories of heat energy, while boiling 4 ounces of the same tap water only consumes 51,500 calories of heat energy.”

“Do not refrigerate heat! A gallon of freshly prepared soup contains numerous heat calories. Most people refrigerate such items prematurely. Allow heated food to cool to room temperature before refrigeration.”

A more unique idea was a winner, published on Jan. 28 from Mrs. William VanBenschoten of Andes.

“Start a goose farm. The down of a goose is warmer in bedding than any electric blanket. What good is an electric blanket in a brown-out?”

“Roasted goose can be eaten hot or cold — it rivals the best high-priced beef.”

Fuel and food aside, geese have much more to offer, Mrs. VanBenschoten claimed.

Geese make “excellent pets and watchdogs and they eat less expensively.”

If you planned to cut food bills by planting a garden, the goose could do the gardening.

“Geese are great weeders,” she said. “They like all the dandelions and thistles.”

Many businesses closed or relocated to warmer climates in the early 1970s due to the cost of heating their buildings. It likely had a role in the closing of Oneonta’s Family Bargain Center discount department store in the West End, in what is today’s Westgate Plaza. The entire chain of 43 stores, which included stores in Sidney and Norwich, had begun closing before Christmas in 1973. The only closing date given for Oneonta, announced on Jan. 7, was when all the merchandise was sold. The FBC store opened in 1966 after the shopping plaza was completed at the corner of Chestnut Street and Winney Hill Road.

One business decided to make a go of it, despite energy costs and with the completion of the Oneonta section of Interstate 88 growing near.

“The Lancaster Development Corporation will build a 24-lane bowling alley on land adjacent to the Holiday Inn sometime during 1974,” it was reported on Jan. 18. We know it today as Holiday Lanes. Lancaster also owned lanes in Cobleskill, Saratoga and Albany. Work soon began on removing hilly land on the site.

“Plans are also being discussed to build a Cinema II theatre at the same location, but there is no definite word on a possible construction date.” Those plans never came to be.

With warmer temperatures only a distant thought, Cooperstown businesses were looking forward to summer, especially Hall of Fame Induction Weekend for a big influx of tourists and busy cash registers. With likely the same enthusiasm received by business owners in recent weeks with the 2014 induction class, the 1974 class named on Jan. 16 by the Baseball Writers Association included Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, longtime New York Yankee teammates.

This weekend: More from the local “Business Beat” of February 1904. 

Oneonta 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 simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.