Backtracking: In Our Times: Summer ‘slowdown’ was local routine as recently as 1985

FilePart of Bresee’s Department Store is seen in May 1985 after undergoing a reorganization both to stay on top of the times and make room for more fashion merchandise.

The summer of 2020 will likely be the exception to the rule — but there was a time not long ago when Oneonta shifted gears to a slower time when the weather warmed up.

“Nearly half of the city’s population will be leaving the city in the next two weeks as the local colleges end their academic years, and the local routine is set for the change over the summer months,” The Daily Star reported on May 15.

There were no baseball camps and associated rental properties in the region until the late 1990s and after, making Memorial Day to Labor Day a generally quieter time around Oneonta.

Both Hartwick College and the State University College at Oneonta had summer sessions and Damaschke Field was often busy in the evenings when the Oneonta Yankees played baseball, but the pace of life overall geared down.

“Kevin Johnson, co-owner of Red’s Filling Station on Market Street, said his tavern will stay open all summer and keep the same hours and daily specials, but expects his clientele will decrease significantly,” the Star said.

“‘There’s a lot less people around,’ he said. ‘The activity tends to center in one place.’”

While it might have been quieter in downtown Oneonta, the same couldn’t be said for the lower River Street area.

Star readers found out on May 15, “Praising Oneonta’s Corning Glass Works plant as a quality flagship operation for the corporation, Corning Board Chairman James R. Houghton yesterday formally opened a new 10,000-square-foot addition at the River Street site.

“‘We are very, very proud of this plant,’ Houghton told a crowd of employees, city officials and local businessmen. ‘It is a growing business which we see continuing in the future.’

“The plant manufactures a line of plastic laboratory ware designed for use in the tissue-culture field and used widely in cancer research.”

Returning to the downtown area, the shopping pace may have been slower, but it was more up-to-date at Bresee’s.

 “With the advice of an efficiency expert,” The Star also reported on May 15, “Bresee’s Department Store… has taken on a new look to keep up with the changing times and make room for their growing fashion department.

 “‘We’re updating it considerably,’ said Nancy Mitchell, director of advertising, promotions and public relations. ‘It’s time — things have changed and we have to change with the times.’”

Just a short drive away on Interstate 88 in equally quiet Sidney, local residents were jolted awake with news about their largest employer.

The Star reported on May 16, “Allied Corp. and Signal Companies Inc. plan to merge into a huge high technology holding company that would rank among the nation’s 20 largest industrial organizations, their chairmen announced Wednesday.

“News of the proposed merger … came as a complete surprise to company and union officials at the Allied-Amphenol Products plant in Sidney.

“‘It was a real shock,’ said Donald Gargis, director of human resources at the plant. The Sidney Allied plant employs about 2,500 people and has an annual payroll of more than $57 million.

“Gargis said Allied has not issued any information about what the merger might mean to the Sidney plant or any other Allied divisions.”

After a few days, the news came into better perspective, and the Star reported on May 17, “‘I don’t think there’s any need for concern,’ said Allied spokesman Harris Applewhite, asked whether there would be duplication in the merged company which could lead to plant consolidation or shut-downs.

“‘It’s a very good match,’ he added. ‘The companies are similar in that they both have aerospace operations, but their products are totally different.’”

Before the college students left the area for the summer, they made their voices heard regarding business in general.

“Nearly 200 chanting, protesting students Friday faced college administrators and State University trustees and told them to divest SUNY funds from companies that are associated with the South African government,” it was reported on May 4.

“SUNY officials said they were sympathetic to the students’ cause, but had to consider the university’s financial health when making decisions about stock divestiture.

“The students marched from a rally in the center of campus … to the Morris Hall complex, where the officials were waiting on the steps for them.” A few “Divest Now” signs were visible at the college commencement ceremony on May 18.

This weekend: a look at our local business beat in the spring of 1895.

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

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