Backtracking:

FileMany local businesses had advertisements in The Oneonta Star like this one on Monday, Sept. 12, 1949, when the Freedom Train made stops in several local communities. 

There was much to see and do in our area during September 1949. A special train visited Cooperstown, Sidney and Oneonta, the Otsego County Fair was still held late in the season and the City of the Hills went to the dogs for the first time that month.

ALL ABOARD FOR THE FREEDOM TRAIN

“Displayed in three of the six blue and gold cars of New York State’s Freedom Train, a priceless collection of revered historical documents illustrating the nation’s heritage of freedom will be on view at the D&H railroad station tomorrow,” The Oneonta Star reported Monday, Sept. 12, 1949.

While referring to Oneonta’s station on Market Street, this also applied to Cooperstown, which hosted the special train on Sunday, Sept. 11 and Sidney on Monday.

In Sidney a parade stepped off at 9 a.m. at the Sidney Central School to welcome the Freedom Train. School buses transported students from area towns such as Bainbridge, Guilford, Mount Upton, Gilbertsville and Unadilla.

Both D&H and Oneonta city police were on hand Tuesday to guard what was considered to be $1 million worth of irreplaceable documents, including the preliminary draft of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, George Washington’s Farewell Address, and an ancient copy of the Duke of York’s 1683 Charter of Liberties and Privileges.

“When the doors of the train opened at 9 a.m. about 500 children from the Oneonta Junior High and public schools were eagerly waiting in line. They were followed by students from area schools,” the Star said. “As the children moved in double file through the Freedom Train, teachers pointed out documents of great significance.”

By 9 p.m., more than 5,500 children and adults had viewed the contents. The Freedom Train then moved on to Stamford, Arkville and Cobleskill by the end of the week.

ALL’S FAIR IN MORRIS

Unlike the modern era, the Otsego County Fair in Morris was held during September at the time.

“Horace Heidt’s ‘Parade of Stars’…will be the opening feature of the 64th annual Otsego County Fair,” which opened on Monday, Sept. 12. Auto racing was the concluding event on Saturday on the fair’s half-mile dirt track.

Many an Oneontan, especially kids from the East End, may recall how they got to the fair in Morris: by Nick Rizzo’s truck.

“Since 1922 Nick has provided transportation to and from the fair at Morris,” the Star reported Sept. 14. “Sometimes he took them to the Cobleskill Fair. But he did it in a very private manner without publicity, because he had but one truck and his capacity was therefore limited.

“However, The Star got wind of the good work last year and published a piece about it. That was Nick’s undoing.

“I was swamped,” he said. “I crowded 47 kids into my two-and-a-half ton truck … and about 100 more had to be disappointed. They got mad at me. I even lost customers at my grocery store!” Rizzo’s Market was once found at 488 Main St.

“I never wanted publicity but since I got it I may as well use it to help more kids.” The Star published an article to seek more trucks and drivers to take kids to the fair on Thursday, which was the free admission Children’s Day.

Rizzo got his wish, as the Star followed up on Thursday that two men with trucks, Messrs. Sprague and Garlick, volunteered to the call, and they were able to transport more than 100 boys and girls to Children’s Day.

“So guess we are all fixed,” Rizzo said. “You can tell all the people I have forgiven The Star.”

ONEONTA DEBUTED A DOG SHOW

“The two smaller dogs among about 100 won the two biggest honors yesterday afternoon at Oneonta’s first dog show in Neahwa Park baseball field,” the Star reported on Monday, Sept. 29.

“A 30-ounce Chihuahua which one judge humorously called ‘The Mouse’ won the best puppy in the show prize, and a four pound Pomeranian that had been bowling over competitors in other shows took the ‘best dog in match’ trophy.”

The sunny and clear weather brought more than 200 spectators to watch the judging in three rings and the obedience trial in a fourth ring. The show, officially known as a “match,” was sanctioned by the American Kennel Club and became an annual Oneonta tradition for many years.

This weekend: Oneonta got its second state Armory in 1904.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. 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/.

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