Backtracking: In Our Times: ‘Where were you when’ moments recalled locally in February 1980

FILEA locally drawn editorial cartoon seen in The Daily Star of Feb. 9, 1980, poking fun at reinstating the military draft of 18- and 19-year-olds. Gary Grossman is a former editor of The Daily Star.

A proposed new military draft, tensions with the Soviet Union, and the “Miracle on Ice” were all part of local conversations taking place during February 1980.


“President Carter proposed Friday that men and women aged 19 and 20 register for military service, probably beginning this summer,” readers of The Daily Star found out on Feb. 6.

“Declaring that ‘equal obligations deserve equal rights,’ Carter became the first president to suggest draft registration for women.”

Congressional leaders expressed doubts that Congress would go along with the plan to register women.

Nevertheless, there was plenty of discussion locally about the proposed draft, as Carter felt it needed to be revived because of the Soviet Union’s move into Afghanistan the previous December.

In The Star of Feb. 9 came feedback from readers.

From Mrs. Kathryn Masters of Cooperstown came, “I do not agree that President Carter should reinstate the draft. We still have Vietnam with us. That was hell. If the registration should go through, I believe the women should register and go the same as men. They want equal rights so they should be treated equal.”

Also from Cooperstown, G.L. Hall wrote, “No. President Carter should not ask for registration for the draft. He is warmongering. He wants to send our 18-24 year olds to fight for oil in the Persian Gulf. This will start World War III and this will be the final war of the world and the end for everyone.”

At the State University College at Oneonta, an anti-draft rally was held on Feb. 13. One professor advised students not to register even if the draft is not imminent, saying the time to fight the draft is at the beginning, not after it’s too late.


The Star reported on Feb. 21, “The Carter administration said Wednesday the United States will officially boycott the Moscow Olympics…and U.S. Olympic Committee officials and athletes are expected to follow suit.”

The United States had warned the Soviets to pull the troops out of Afghanistan.

“‘The United States set a deadline for its decision on whether to participate, a decision to be contingent on the withdrawal of Soviet troops,’ said Carter, accompanying Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance on a tour of European capitals.”


The United States played in the Winter Olympics, and an underdog American hockey team shocked the world with a victory over the Soviet Union on Friday, Feb. 22, 4-3. The U.S. then took the gold medal on Sunday with a win over Finland, 4-2.

As read in The Star of Feb. 25, “The frenzied crowd of 8,500, including countless ecstatic parents, loving wives and sweethearts, could not have made more joyful noise. As they have since the first puck was dropped, they showered America’s newest heroes with their rallying cry, ‘U-S-A, U-S-A.’”

Many can remember where they were when the U.S. upset the Soviets. Some local residents were there to experience it, as The Star reported on Feb. 26.

“Mary Jane Briscoe of Laurens came back from Lake Placid with autographs from three of America’s gold-medal winning hockey team.

“James Elting of Oneonta returns with memories of seeing the crucial U.S.-Soviet Union hockey match and Eric Heiden’s victory in the 1,500-meter speed skating race.

“Neither of them was an ordinary tourist. Both worked as part of the army of support personnel that volunteered their time to make the Olympics safe for spectators and athletes.”

Briscoe was among several members of Otsego County emergency squads helping Lake Placid handle accidents and health emergencies. Elting, an orthopedic surgeon, was one of nine physicians who stood watch at the alpine skiing events in case of accidents.

Neither were called into duty, as Elting told The Star, “All in all, from the athletes’ standpoint, I think the games went beautifully.”

Ray Valley, also a member of the Laurens squad, commented on this Olympics and the upcoming U.S boycott of the summer games, saying the U.S. athletes should be able to compete.

“Once you’re there on the scene watching this, politics are erased,” he said.

This weekend: All things “wet and dry” locally in February 1930.

 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

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