Backtracking: In Our Times: Arrivals, departures, gas lines made business news locally in 1979

FileGasoline lines were not long, as seen on June 24, 1979, at Highway Oil on state Route 7, Oneonta. Next door, as part of a grand opening, Berliner’s Farm Stand offered free samples.

Local businesses came and left. Some had long lines of customers waiting. Another had a part in space shuttle television coverage.

It was all part of our local business beat during June 1979.


“After a year of negotiation, ground will be broken for the Gifford Road K-Mart shopping center in about three weeks,” The Daily Star reported on June 21.

“The Sidney Industrial Development Agency unanimously passed an inducement resolution … that finally permits the stalled construction to begin at the site as soon as contracts are awarded.”

The inducement resolution permitted a bonding company to issue industrial revenue bonds for construction. These bonds covered construction for the K-Mart, Grand Union, Rite Aid Drug Store, McDonald’s and other satellite stores.

This shopping center has been abandoned for several years, after a larger K-Mart plaza opened in more recent years west of the site.

Meanwhile in Oneonta, Berliner’s Farm Stand, on state Route 7, east of the city, held a grand opening during the week of June 18 to 23. We know it today as Annutto’s Farm Stand.


“The next time you dial ‘O,’ you’ll talk to an operator in Colonie or Schenectady,” The Star said on June 23.

“The New York Telephone long distance switchboard in Oneonta was closed early this morning.

“Automated equipment will do much of what operators used to do in handling collect, person-to-person, credit card calls and calls billed to a third party, Oneonta manager John Murphy said.”

The move idled 36 permanent employees of the long distance office and, according to members of the Operators’ union, 13 temporary workers.

Ever since telephone service in Oneonta began in the 1880s, there had always been local operators.


Star readers of June 21 learned, “Gasoline shortages intensified Wednesday, and officials in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia worked together on an odd-even rationing plan for drivers in the metropolitan Washington area.”

Still, the lines were long at gasoline stations. In New York City, lines of cars snaked three or four blocks near stations that were open. Half-gallon pricing of gasoline in New York state was approved that week.

In our region, lines weren’t terribly long or congested, but according to The Star of June 26, the effect of gas shortages elsewhere was a numbers killer for local tourism.

“Spokesperson for the Cooperstown Farmers’ Museum and Fenimore House, Maria Zanelis, reported that attendance this year at the Farmers’ Museum is about half of what it was last year at this time.

“Mrs. William Zoeller, co-manager of the Lake Front Motel and Restaurant said business has recently dropped about 35 percent. ‘We can get all the gas we want,’ she asserted, ‘but the minute tourists hear of a gas crisis on the radio or in the papers, they become frightened and freeze.’”


“Medical Coaches Inc., Oneonta, has been awarded a $94,950 contract to provide three mobile television vans for NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center,” The Star reported on June 26.

“The firm, fixed-price contract calls for vans equipped with broadcasting apparatus to facilitate color television coverage of Space Shuttle launch and landing activities.

“Each 17-foot van will house two monitoring screens and provide enough room for two technicians in addition to camera equipment and storage space. NASA will provide the televising equipment, and Medical Coaches Inc. will design and construct the interior.

“The Kennedy Space Center is the primary launch and recovery site for the Space Shuttle, scheduled to begin manned test flights in late 1979 or early 1980.”

This weekend: In 1929 a local company wanted to start to Oneonta — only if residents wanted to have the company here.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Tuesday columns address local history 1950 and later.  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

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