Backtracking: The Early Years: A last grasp at summer fun taken on Labor Day weekend in 1934

FILEThese were but few of the many opportunities to enjoy some leisure time over the Labor Day weekend, as seen in these ads from The Oneonta Star of Sept. 1, 1934.

If I were to ask for a show of hands on whether your summer went by too quickly, I’m guessing a lot of hands are going up as you read this.

The same was likely true in 1934 as Labor Day approached, as many were trying to get some fun and leisure in before school resumed and vacations were ending.

“Hundreds of vacationists who have been enjoying the past week, month, or perhaps the entire summer away from the cares and worries of business and the routine of the regular jobs are preparing to return home Monday,” The Oneonta Star reported on Sept. 1. “They will once more settle down to their respective tasks until the festive season of Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays again give them a respite from their labors. Many, too, who had but a week or so of vacation and spent it in the early part of the summer, are planning to make use of Labor day weekend for a final fling before winter sets in.”

A glance through pages of The Star of Sept. 1 showed several advertisements of places to go dining or dancing, for example.

“In Oneonta as in other municipalities throughout the United States,” The Star continued, “plans have been made to celebrate the day which marks the beginning of another year’s labors. Sports will furnish a good share of the activity within the city Monday, two separate programs having been planned.

“The Oneonta Merchants with the Mohawk Colored Giants of Schenectady in a doubleheader at the Neahwa park diamond. It is also expected that a large crowd will be present to witness or participate in the 18-hole Labor day sweepstakes at the Oneonta Country Club. The contest will be an 18-hole medal handicap round for men and women.

“Business institutions will not be open, nor will the banks and the Building and Loan association. Likewise the Huntington Memorial library and the Community house will be closed,” the latter once found in the area of today’s parking lot on Ford Avenue, near the Wilber Mansion.

“The city parks will be the scenes of picnics and group gatherings, reservations for family reunions having been made some months ago. Members of the United Commercial Travelers’ association will hold a clambake in Wilber park all day Monday.”

Many a local farmer and family took part of a day off from the routine of chores on Saturday to make way to the Morris fairgrounds for the annual Otsego County Picnic.

It was reported that there were about a thousand in the grandstand and many more in parked cars in the vicinity, to listen to speeches from members of the Dairymen’s League about problems the state’s milk producers were facing.

Non-farmers were also in attendance for the picnic. The Star of Sept. 4 noted, “The Cooperstown Community band furnished excellent music for the day and gave a concert from 12:30 to 1:30 during the lunch hour. The scheduled pulling contest between a team of horses and 25 picked men ended in a draw, after the rope had broken twice and the men had fallen backward in the dust.

“The milk bar and ice cream stand, from which the day’s income was secured for expenses, were well patronized and the quality of both the milk and ice cream excellent.”

There were many athletic contests, including a baseball game, 40- and 60-yard dashes, a ladies balloon blowing contest, a rolling pin throw, sack race and egg throw. However, “Much interest was manifested in the horseshoe pitching contest for the championship of the county. Dan Harvey of Cooperstown, who some time since defeated all the aspirants here, proved too strong for all his competitors and did the same excellent work with the shoes.”

Not everyone had the day off on Labor Day, it turned out, as court was in session in Cooperstown. It was a near closing day in the murder trial of Eva Coo, where a Star sub-headline of Sept. 4 read, “Defendant Shows Nervousness” regarding an alleged confession by Coo being read to the jury. By Wednesday the jury brought in the verdict of guilty. Eva Coo was sentenced to die in the electric chair, which took place in 1935.

On Tuesday: A look at our local life and times in September 1974.



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

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