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October 21, 2013

Local education, employment trends shifted in early 1960s

The Daily Star

---- — Borrowing a phrase from the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, there was a “New Frontier” approaching for employment trends and the education of the future workforce in the Oneonta region in the early 1960s.

Several newspaper articles highlighted these two topics during October and the autumn of 1963.

“Prepare ‘Average’ Pupils for New World, Educators Told,” was a headline in The Oneonta Star of Saturday, Oct. 19, 1963 for an article about the local employment scene taking on a new “personality.”

“Education has taken over as one of Oneonta’s three most important sources of employment, ranking now with industry and the retail trades as a top employer in Oneonta.”

“In comparison, railroading, once Oneonta’s principal employer has slipped far down the scale and is now being challenged numerically as an employer by the emerging electrical industry.”

These and many other facts were pointed out to the 196 faculty members of the Oneonta City School District at “Business Education Day” on Friday, Oct. 18, a luncheon put on by the Greater Oneonta Chamber of Commerce and held at the Oneonta Elks Club.

A speaker from the New York State Dept. of Education, James W. Moore, used 1960 census figures to point out vast changes in local employment sectors from the levels in 1950. Overall, 895 fewer people were employed in Oneonta in 1960 than in 1950, an 11 percent decline. Most of the decline came from the D&H Railroad, where in 1950 there were 936 employed, falling to 353 by 1960.

Educational services, while at 275 employees in 1950, had jumped to 643 by 1960. Expansions at what was then called the Oneonta State University Teachers’ College, as well as at Hartwick College, figured into the increase.

Moore stressed to the faculty that they should concern themselves with the “average” student above all because that is the individual who would face the most trying times in the employment world in decades to come.

Average students or not, the Star reported on Monday, Oct. 21, that the area had many job openings for people in the food service industry. Specific areas mentioned were Richfield Springs, Little Falls, Mohawk and Herkimer. 

The need was big enough that the New York State Employment service formed classes to train individuals to fill the positions. Under the recently developed Manpower Development and Training Act in the Kennedy administration, training courses became available to qualified applicants. They could apply at the Employment Service office at 12 Dietz St., Oneonta.

It was also reported on Oct. 21 that students in the Andes Central School had recently taken part in a first-of-its-kind event. Thanks to a Bell Telephone development, under the supervision of Dr. Frank Cyr of Columbia University and later of Stamford, Andes students talked with students in Thailand, nearly 10,000 miles away. Thai educators were on hand locally, as they were visiting schools across Delaware and Schoharie counties at the time.

“The conversation included questions and answers concerning current political questions such as the integration issue in the South,” the Star reported. A motion picture and sound crew filmed the historic event, held in the library of the Andes school.

Oneonta’s schools were soon to undergo another phase of modernization. On Wednesday evening, Oct. 23, the Oneonta Board of Education unanimously approved a $2 million bonding resolution to create two new elementary schools in the city. Voter approval was sought, and when the votes were tallied on Dec. 10, the “yes” votes were 2,033, while 445 said no. The two schools opened for the 1966-67 school year, and we know them today as the Greater Plains and Riverside Elementary Schools.

This weekend: Little local fear was caused by a famous radio broadcast 75 years ago.

Oneonta City Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText ColorHistorian 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 His website is His columns can be found at