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Mark Simonson

May 18, 2013

Sunday movies in Oneonta finally shown in 1934

You know an issue is divisive when a vote to resolve it is quite close. In Oneonta during the early 1930s there were probably plenty of discussions or arguments at the family dinner table or sermons from the pulpits on Sunday mornings, regarding whether or should be able to see a movie in Oneonta on Sunday.

The debate about Sunday movies was very visible in the form of advertisements in The Oneonta Star leading up to the November general elections, held on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 1932.

“Shall we commercialize the Sabbath Day? Do we want to make the movies a preferred business?” asked the potential Oneonta voter to choose no to Sunday movies.

From the other side, “To Set Aright Any Misunderstanding or Misleading Information — the American Legion is to receive 50% of the Net Proceeds from Sunday Performances to carry on the much needed Welfare Work.”

Voters went to the polls and the “no plurality” was 133 votes, with 1,960 residents voting yes for Sunday movies, 2,093 opposed. Oneonta’s First, Fourth and Sixth Wards had “yes” majorities.

With that vote, the Sunday movie issue didn’t go away, as witnessed at a Common Council meeting on Tuesday, June 20, 1933.

“Over 5,000 signatures to a petition requesting the Common Council to call a special election to determine the desire of the people of Oneonta as to the showing of moving pictures in this city on Sunday were presented…at its regular meeting,” the Star reported the next day.

A few people from both sides of the issue attended. While no action was taken that evening, a public hearing was set for Friday evening at the Municipal Building, then at today’s 242 Main St. Those opposed to an election had charged that signatures on the petition had been obtained through misrepresentation, and this hearing could allow people to have their names removed.

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Mark Simonson

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