"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 firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.
"President Asks For War."
- Mark Simonson
Local pipeline construction stirred controversy in 1964
Unlike the proposed Constitution Pipeline project, planned to bring natural gas from northeast Pennsylvania through our region to a terminal in Schoharie County, another pipeline project built from Watkins Glen to Selkirk generated considerably less local controversy 50 years ago.
Natural gas drilling efforts of the 1880s found little locally
There was no such process as hydraulic fracturing. New York didn't have a Department of Environmental Conservation. Lawn signs for or against it weren't seen anywhere. Yet natural gas drilling efforts were going on in our region more 125 years ago. It was an industry still in its infancy. Numerous reports were published in local newspapers during the late 1880s and beyond.
Beauty, grooming took center stage in Oneonta in March 1964
Good grooming, beauty and style seemed to be a recurring theme in the news around Oneonta during the month of March 1964.
Local news, opinion often mixed in 1889 newspapers
Modern-day newspapers make it very clear where local news is found, as well as opinion, separated by their own pages in weekly or daily editions, including The Daily Star.
Gasoline, demons and baseball were 'trending' locally in 1974
"Trending" has become a popular word in our present everyday language. This word wasn't used in February 1974, but for what I write twice weekly, it could just as well have applied to local history.
- Saturday, February 22, 2014
Early efforts to halt Silver Creek were slow going
Incidents of Silver Creek overflowing into the streets of Oneonta aren't making news as often as they once did.
- Monday, February 17, 2014
Effort to establish Oneonta historic district began in 1970s
- Saturday, February 15, 2014
Experiment to treat inebriates began 150 years ago
Dr. J. Edward Turner came up with a unique idea in the 1840s on how to treat and restrain inebriates in the United States. Turne
- Monday, February 10, 2014
Milford fought over new school 30 years ago
At times nearly 30 years ago, the future of the Milford Central School District could have been portrayed as a weathervane, spinning in directions of either a new school, consolidation, or closing. The â€œwindsâ€� changed considerably between 1984 and 1988, but the end result was a new school in the village before the end of the decade.
- Saturday, February 8, 2014
Military camp, jobs, new Sidney church made news in February 1934
Despite bitter cold February weather, some already had summer camp on their minds, including one camp that may not be very popular today. A re-employment service was experiencing unusual success during the Great Depression. Also, a new church opened in Sidney. All were part of our local life and times in February 1934.
- Monday, February 3, 2014
The Farm of Franklin became a 'commercial for God' in the 1970s
Their mission was pretty simple.
- Saturday, February 1, 2014
Oneonta businesses expanded, bonded in February 1904
While some of Oneonta's businesses were changing hands or expanding, some of them paused to remember one leader who helped make the village's overall prosperity possible. Other business people who had previously worked in a bit of vacuum saw the benefits of working together for a better business climate. It was part of Oneonta's "Business Beat" of February 1904, as read in The Oneonta Star.
- Monday, January 27, 2014
Business changes, energy conservation made news in January 1974
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.
- Saturday, January 25, 2014
Oneonta students responded strongly to Victory Corps in 1943
Oneontans seem to have a history of responding when being called upon to help. Earlier this week, when our local radio stations held an on-air fundraising event to help rebuild the Doc Knapp Little League field, after being hit hard by vandals last weekend, a goal of $3,000 was set. Local listeners responded with more than $10,000 in only two hours.
- Monday, January 20, 2014
Debates, updates dominated local education news in 1969
Need for another local college was debated, departures of two longtime college administrators, and the dedication of a new occupational center made local news during January 1969.
- Saturday, January 18, 2014
Civil War deserters challenged local law enforcers in 1864
Area law enforcers had their hands full with rough and tumble activities in the early months of 1864. While there were still many enlisting in the Civil War, there were also many local deserters from the front lines, and it was the latter men who challenged the authorities. These accounts came from January editions of The Oneonta Herald.
- Monday, January 13, 2014
Otsego Habitat for Humanity got start 25 years ago
Here's proof that good things can happen on any Friday the 13th. A potluck supper was held on Friday, Jan. 13, 1989 at the First United Methodist Church at 66 Chestnut St. in Oneonta, and over some good, shared food came the start of a positive mission in Otsego County.
- Saturday, January 11, 2014
Winters spent differently by Worcester residents in 1914
I hope you've been coping with the wild roller coaster ride of temperatures we've experienced the last few weeks, from the teeth chattering cold to days we could break out the barbecue grills. Worcester residents had an adventure in coping with the winter weather 100 years ago, while a few others from the village had it a bit easier.
- Monday, January 6, 2014
Moving clocks forward caused local controversy in January 1974
- Saturday, January 4, 2014
Juvenile delinquents stressed local authorities in 1919
As Oneontans turned over their calendars to January 1919, they soon learned that the city had a problem of bad behavior amongst some of their youngest citizens. News was abundant and reported in The Oneonta Star, and by February a crusade was called for to turn the tide on juvenile delinquency.
- Local pipeline construction stirred controversy in 1964