"President Asks For War."
That was the headline readers of the Oneonta Daily Star saw on Tuesday, April 3, 1917, after President Woodrow Wilson urged Congress, assembled in joint session on Monday, to declare a state of war between the United States and Germany.
The American steamship Aztec had been sunk by a German submarine off the coast of France that day.
Congress passed a resolution and President Wilson signed it on Friday, April 6.
Plans were to assemble an army of a million men in a year, and 2 million within two years.
Oneonta Mayor Joseph S. Lunn had made a proclamation Monday, asking loyalty and "unfaltering support" for the president.
"Oneonta responded…with much vigor and enthusiasm," the Star reported on Tuesday, with "the Stars and Stripes being displayed in all sections of the city as never before even on a national holiday, the store or residence that did not have the national colors showing being quite conspicuous by the absence."
Church bells were rung at noon, and students at both Oneonta High School and Oneonta Normal School gathered in their auditoriums for programs with a patriotic theme.
Documents were printed by the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce and distributed to many sites in the city, so residents could sign one, declaring their loyalty to the government "in its measures to uphold American rights and protect the lives of American citizens."
The U.S. had been watching what was then called the Great War since its start in 1914 and had pursued a policy of non-intervention, avoiding conflict while attempting to broker a peace. Now that the U.S. was in the fight, many were likely wondering what this might mean on the home front.
The Star of April 10 reported, "That America has entered upon a war that will require all the energies and resources of the nation and that if this nation would save itself the loss and disaster that came to England before she appreciated fully the magnitude of the task before her seems to be appreciated by but few.
"In an effort to arouse the residents of the county of Otsego to a comprehension of the need of exhaustive preparation for the war should its duration be prolonged, mass meetings are to be held in the various villages about the county within the next few weeks, at which the true condition will be outlined and an earnest effort to arouse the public to a correct understanding of the importance of a vigorous policy of preparedness."
A representative of the National Guard had met the day before with the directors of the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce to discuss the needs of a campaign for preparedness and secure enlistments for service.
For Oneonta, such a mass meeting was set for Friday evening, April 20, at the State Armory on Academy Street.
The crowd was estimated at 2,000, as they listened to five rousing speeches.
"Whatever of doubt may have existed in any quarter relative to the patriotic fervor of Oneonta citizens, was dissipated beyond a possibility of a doubt last night when a monster parade of citizens was followed by a patriotic rally … the equal of which the city has never before witnessed," the Star reported.
In addition to the display of Stars and Stripes, a common sight in the Oneonta area during the spring months was people at their homes or in the parks, carrying shovels, rakes and hoes, and pushing wheelbarrows, as they were busy planting gardens.
The Chamber of Commerce garden committee encouraged citizens to plant vegetable gardens for their own use, so farmers could supply food needed in the war effort.
The committee worked closely with the city parks commission, for use of land in Neahwa and Wilber Parks, so citizens could plant gardens if there wasn't enough space on their own property.
By early May, 70 lots had been plotted in Neahwa Park, "south of the boulevard," which is today's war memorial walkway, extending to the river. In Wilber Park, 27 lots had been secured just west of Oneonta Creek, near today's tennis courts and pool.
Much more private land had also been offered, and even those who'd never gardened before got into the act that year.
The garden committee furnished informational bulletins to help many newcomers.
Many male students from our area's high schools became "farm cadets."
By serving from May 1 to Nov. 1 in assisting a farmer in planting, cultivating and harvesting crops, the student was eligible for Regents credit for the studies they pursued that year, without the regular examinations.
"Each boy who enlists will be given a badge by the governor," according to the Star, "indicating that he has enlisted in the army as a farm cadet, and in this highly efficient manner is to do his bit for his country."
On Monday: Tragedy on a New York Thruway bridge in 1987.
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 email@example.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.
"President Asks For War."
- Mark Simonson
Successes, train derailment were newsmakers in July 1984
The names and accomplishments of New, Drago, Ferraro and Ono, and a train derailment in Emmons were all making news in our area during July 1984.
Oneonta street boomed to prosperity in 1893
The Oneonta Herald of May 8, 1894, made this observation of a bustling new street in the growing village:
Local landmarks, new conveniences made news in summer 1954
The summer of 1954 in Oneonta was a time when there was a significant closing and the end of a landmark that had been around since before Oneonta became a city in 1909. Also during that summer a couple of new conveniences were introduced around the city.
Locals headed to the lakesides in July 1924
We've had our fair share of heat and humidity so far this summer. For many, we can take refuge in air conditioning these days, but there wasn't a whole lot of this kind of escape from the heat in our area in July 1924, as Willis Carrier's invention was only starting to become popular.
Local closures, communism, bike parade highlighted July 1949
Saying farewell to two longstanding institutions, a local scare by the "Red Menace," and a Bicycle Mardi Gras were all part of our local life and times in July 1949.
- Saturday, July 5, 2014
Oneonta's July Fourth of 1919 honored World War I veterans
When it comes to fun, food and fireworks on the Fourth of July weekend, Otsego County has our area covered--from Springfield in the north to Oneonta in the south. Both communities expanded their celebrations to two days this year.
- Monday, June 30, 2014
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- Saturday, June 28, 2014
Local communities competed for new railroad lines in 1889
The present-day competition to have a resort casino built in a community near our region is fierce. Broome and Tioga counties are in the running. Howes Cave is competing against Amsterdam, Albany and East Greenbush -- all for the lucrative prize of jobs and tax revenues. Today's casino fervor is much like another kind 125 years ago, when nearly every local community wanted to have a new railroad "trunk line" pass through it.
- Monday, June 23, 2014
Dry post-prom party tradition began locally in 1984
High school prom and graduation season can be an incredibly exciting time for local students. It can also be a time of high anxiety for the parents of the grads, especially the times after the prom or graduation events end and the after parties begin.
- Saturday, June 21, 2014
Area schooling could be rough-and-tumble in 19th century
Another school year is coming to an end for the schools across our region. It is a time to reflect upon achievements for some, what lies ahead after school is out, and to say so long to friends and good riddance to enemies.
- Monday, June 16, 2014
Changing downtown Oneonta, education made news in June 1984
A new role was emerging for downtown Oneonta. High technology was also emerging as an aid in teaching in Oneonta's schools. The city mourned in the loss of an OHS grad, working as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. These were all a part of our local life and times during June 1984.
- Saturday, June 14, 2014
Oneonta's brick, construction industries thrived in 1894
Any business that manufactured bricks, or those who were skilled in bricklaying and masonry, were in for a robust construction season in Oneonta in 1894.
- Monday, June 9, 2014
Emergency management plan paid off for Sidney in 1984
If there had ever been any doubts about the value of a having an emergency management plan in place in Sidney, all doubts were cast aside in June 1984 when a fuel depot in the village experienced a series of explosions in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 9.
- Saturday, June 7, 2014
Harold Hunt tallied decades as iconic coach, teacher at OHS
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- Monday, June 2, 2014
Business changes, developments were plentiful in June 1974
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- Saturday, May 24, 2014
A good militia in Oneonta became reason for building an armory
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Sidney saw major housing booms in 1940 and 1964
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Agriculture, housing boosts sought locally in 1919
Restoring prosperity to the Oneonta area and Otsego County has certainly been in the local news in recent years. Formation of organizations such as the Greater Oneonta Economic Development Council may come to mind, as well as the much publicized economic and "sustainability" summits, all to promote job growth and new business ventures.
- Monday, May 12, 2014
Changes to landscape, local media made news in May 1974
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- Saturday, May 10, 2014
Paving Oneonta's streets became controversial in 1889
"The bill authorizing the village of Oneonta to bond for $20,000 for the purpose of paving certain streets, was signed by the Governor Monday. Now for business, gentlemen."
- Successes, train derailment were newsmakers in July 1984