Backtracking: In Our Times: Bowling, vacations, loss of a local retail icon highlighted news in July 1964

Contributed photoAs shown in 1972, Bresee’s closed for the day on July 20, 1964, due to the death of the store’s president, Fred H. Bresee.


Bowling could apply as a theme in Cooperstown and Sidney. Plus, a retailing mastermind in Oneonta died.

There were a part of our local life and times during July 1964.


“A new 16-lane bowling establishment is scheduled for completion next winter located on a vacant lot behind the old McDonough Motors Garage on Chestnut Street,” The Oneonta Star reported on July 2.

“Work has started on clearing of the site, where the new 100x170-foot faced block single story building will be erected.

“The principal entrance to the alleys will be from Chestnut Street just north of the McDonough garage along a strip over which the operators will have the right of way. They expect to develop a plaza-type parking along the side of the new building.”

The alleys were open for many years but in recent decades changed into a supermarket, most recently as a Price Chopper and before that a Great American.


Many are familiar with the old saying how you could roll a bowling ball down Main Street and it wouldn’t hit anyone, inferring a deserted street.

Such was the case in Sidney, as The Star of July 25 reported, “Employees of Sidney’s major industry, Scintilla Division of Bendix Aviation, began their vacation exodus yesterday.

“The local plant employs 4,289 persons. A majority of the employees, sources revealed, are from Sidney.

“The community buzzed with activity earlier Friday when persons checked off their inventory list of vacation supplies while glancing apprehensively toward the overcast sky.

“More people seemed to stop in the First National Bank here late in the afternoon. As one person described it, ‘The bank seems like Grand Central Station.’ Recently Scintilla officials said their vacation payroll is $1,100,000.”

To those leaving town, making Sidney a ghost town for two weeks, state police reminded vacationers to drive carefully.


Many former employees of Bresee’s Oneonta Department Store referred to any of the Bresee family executives as “Mister” and a first name, such as Mr. Wilmer, Mr. Clyde, Mr. Lynn and the founder, Mr. Frank.

The Star of July 10 reported, “Fred H. Bresee, 66, president of Bresee’s, …civic leader and nationally known authority on merchandising, died Saturday morning, July 18.”

“Mr. Fred” was born in Schenevus in July 1898, the son of Frank H. and Ella (Benjamin) Bresee. He had lived in Oneonta since 1901 when his father moved here and established the department store. He was an Oneonta High School graduate and after discharge from service in World War I he entered the family business.

“Fred Bresee was widely known for his knowledge of merchandising methods and he had given talks to retailers in many parts of the country,” The Star continued. “He had been very active in the work of the National Retail Merchants Association and was a member of its Board of Directors. He was a past member of the Executive Committee and was a member of its Public Relations Committee and of the Committee to Cooperate on Projects to Strengthen the United Nations.”

While nationally known, Bresee was well respected in Oneonta. Mayor Albert S. Nader ordered all city flags flown at half-staff for July 20. Nader considered Bresee to be a “fine civic leader,” as he was involved in many organizations such as the Greater Oneonta Chamber of Commerce and the Otsego Development Corporation.

A Star editorial read, “There have been some envious detractors and an occasional sore toe where Mr. Bresee stepped, but no man could have been generally more respected and needed by his community. He was a great one in his trade and in his community.”

This weekend: Excitement was truly in the air over Sidney in July 1919.

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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