Backtracking: In Our Times: Local workers were cut, delivered and provided ‘wows’ during July 1954

Mark SimonsonShown in May is a view looking east near Roseboom. A new state Route 165 was constructed in the summer of 1954 at a contract price of $868,000.

Some were ending their jobs while others were getting started. Some jobs that were common in 1954 are a rarity in 2019. Some jobs were just amazing to watch.

All these were a part of our local employment picture in July, 65 years ago.

ROUNDHOUSE CLOSES

The jobs of many had been lost, Oneonta Star readers learned on July 1.

“The Delaware & Hudson Railroad yesterday announced the closing of its Oneonta roundhouse — once the largest in the world — effective today.

“‘The Oneonta roundhouse has been discontinued, as far as locomotive facilities are concerned,’ a spokesman said. ‘That completes the dieselization program in Oneonta.’

“The locomotive facilities, it was announced, will be consolidated with those of the car shop north of the Fonda Avenue Yards.

“As a result, some 13 D&H employes (sic), it was said, will be furloughed, and ‘probably exercise their seniority.’”

The roundhouse was partially demolished later that year, with the long-vacant remnants completed in December 1993.

NEWSPAPER CARRIERS EARNED MONEY FOR COLLEGE

As the physical newspaper industry has gone in recent years, so have the number of people delivering the paper to our doorsteps. Back in 1954, many a youngster had delivery jobs, as The Star of July 6 reported.

“Richard Edmunds, 15, believes in carrying on a family tradition of the Arthur Edmunds at 11 Birch St.

“Dick has been a carrier boy for The Star since last September. He took over the route, Number Seven, from brother Bill, who’d saved some $2,000 to go to college.

“He carries some 170 papers a day, always on foot. ‘I don’t use a bike,’ he says. ‘It’s easier walking. More convenient that way.’

“Dick’s proud that his Star route is one of the largest in the city. Yet he takes it seriously, too. His only gripe: ‘some subscribers stall on collection day.’”

Star readers were introduced to a new staff writer that month, as well.

“Robert Whittemore of Ilion has been appointed sports editor of The Oneonta Star,” it was reported on July 2. Whittemore had accumulated considerable experience in sports reporting in the Mohawk Valley prior to moving here with his family. He also worked with WDOS radio for many years, and later was with the Oneonta and Otsego County Chamber of Commerce.

NEW ROUTE 165 CUT THROUGH RUGGED WILDERNESS

According to a Star report on July 31 with a dateline of South Valley, “An awesome spectacle is being staged here on a mammoth scale as an army of men with mechanical mastodons changes nature’s landscape to suit man’s needs.

“A hitherto impenetrable jungle has been smashed and breached, 10-thousand trees have been felled, great rocks have been moved like pebbles, and hilltops are being shoved into creek beds.

“Construction of the new Route 165 from Roseboom to Weber’s Corners, near the Schoharie County line, is a rugged job calling for rugged methods.

“Hundreds of persons watch in amazement, almost unbelievingly, at things they thought could never happen. Between South Valley and the county line is a steep canyon with slopes of 1,500 feet or more. No one ever dreamed that a road could be laid across that abyss, but they are seeing it can be done.

“Men and machines are flattening that canyon as a woman with an iron presses a wrinkle from a dress. As a by product, firewood is abundant for the cost of hauling it away. The felled trees are offered to anyone who’ll cut and carry them away.”

The work was done by a large crew under the direction of Angelo Ottaviano from Madison County Construction Co. Inc., under a contract of $868,000.

This weekend: Our area’s business beat of July 1929.

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 simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns/.

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 www.thedailystar.com.

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