Backtracking: In Our Times: Fire, water and rock (music) made headlines in May 1979

FileFirefighters pour water on a home while battling flames raging out of control at the Munson Building Supply building on May 3, 1979.

Fire couldn’t keep an Emmons business down, Goodyear Lake was finally out of danger of being drained, and a Woodstock reunion concert faced an uphill battle.

These were all part of our local life and times during May 1979.


“Fanned by brisk winds from the southwest, fire raced through Munson’s Building Supply on Route 7 in Emmons Thursday afternoon, destroying about $500,000 worth of goods, supplies, and buildings,” The Daily Star reported on May 4.

The fire was discovered shortly before 1 p.m. in the rear of the business. Flames spread rapidly through the cinderblock main building, a pole storage building in the rear, consuming two train car loads of plywood, cabinets, paint supplies, insulation and related materials.

The paint contributed to what was described as a pillar of black smoke that was visible from Milford and far up and down state Route 7 and Interstate 88.

Part of the loss was insured. An electrical short in the attic of the main building was believed to be the cause of the blaze.

“I’ve always been careful about fire,” owner Frederick Munson told The Star. “I even unplug the pump when we go home at night.” Electric lights were the only possible fire hazards he knew of in the rear of the building. Munson vowed to rebuild the business.

Sure enough, an advertisement was seen on May 14, announcing Munson’s had re-opened and rebuilding was underway. The ad thanked firefighters, communities, friends, neighbors and customers for help and support.

“Out of our loss has come a great strength through the efforts,” the ad copy read.


“The New York State Electric & Gas Corporation Monday transferred the title to the Goodyear Lake Dam, powerhouse, canal, 10 acres of lakefront property and water rights to the Goodyear Lake Association,” Star readers learned on May 8.

The title was immediately transferred by Fred Knott, president of the association, to F.W.R. Stapenhorst Inc. of Point Claire, Quebec.

“Obviously pleased, Knott stated that due to the combined efforts of people, ‘we finally reached the solution for the preservation of Goodyear Lake.’”

Trouble had begun at the dam in July 1967, when NYSEG announced it wanted to get rid of the old structure, saying it was no longer needed to impound water to operate the phased-out hydroelectric plant at Colliersville.

F.W.H. Stapenhorst essentially stepped in to continue operation, re-tooling it with a new kind of hydroelectric turbine.


We’ve heard in the news lately about some financial setbacks for a Woodstock concert to be held in Watkins Glen this August, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original festival in the Catskills.

A 10th anniversary concert was in the works in 1979, and a proposed site was in our four-county area.

A Star editorial on May 8 read, “One of the worst ideas to hit our area in a long, long time is to hold a 10th anniversary ‘Woodstock’ concert somewhere in Delaware County.

“Several areas have been considered but attention seems to be focused most on the Town of Meredith. Town supervisor Owen Howarth is wasting no time in dealing with the matter. The town board will meet at 8 p.m. tonight to pass a local law pertaining to rock concerts and other mass gatherings.

“We hope they vigorously oppose the concert.”

Meredith did just that, as did other local towns approached. The Woodstock Reunion concert was finally held on Sept. 8, 1979, at Parr Meadows racetrack in Yaphank, Suffolk County.

This weekend: A baseball centennial celebration began in Cooperstown in 1939.

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

Ask Mark... 

Have you ever had a question about a history-making event or a prominent person in our area and didn't know where to find the answer? Well, we've got an expert who might be able to help you. Historian Mark Simonson has spent many years chronicling major local happenings, and he's ready and willing to dive into The Daily Star archives for answers, which will appear in this newspaper and online at

Write to him at "Ask Mark," The Daily Star, 102 Chestnut St., Oneonta, NY 13820 or email him at