Backtracking: The Early Years: ‘Bachelor’ letter to editor struck nerves locally in 1945

This advertisement appeared in the Aug. 1, 1945, edition of The Oneonta Star. A few advertisers with the newspaper made their thoughts known about a letter to the editor that appeared on July 31, written by a man identified only as ‘Bachelor.’File

The Daily Star has published its fair share of controversial, point-counterpoint letters to the editor in recent years. However in my searches through the archives over the years I hadn’t come across an issue that stirred up an “angry bees’ nest” more than one found during the summer of 1945.

One letter, published in the July 31, 1945, edition not only angered women, but a few Star advertisers as well. The letter came addressed only as “Bachelor.”

“As a summer visitor in Oneonta I have been impressed by the appearance of local girls,” he began. “They have impressed me, in regard to poise and dress, as being the dowdiest bunch I ever saw.

“I realize, of course, that there is a war on, that becoming dresses are fewer, and girdles hard to get. But I also notice that drug stores still have ample stocks of cosmetics, probably due to the fact that scarcely any girls here use rouge or lipstick.

“As far as their hair, I can only say that beauty parlors and hairdressers must be starving to death for lack of business. The gals look like they’d just come out of a storm.

“Don’t blame it on the war. In a town not far from Oneonta the place is full of attractively dressed girls. Even in slacks they look smart. They know how to fix their hair, how to keep their faces well groomed, how to carry themselves.

“Maybe Oneonta girls have an excuse. Perhaps they are waiting for the boys to come back from the war. But someone once told me girls dress not to please boys, but to excite the envy of other girls. Whatever the reason, Oneonta girls are a dowdy bunch. Bachelor.”

At this point I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the blood of some women readers of this column is boiling, because it certainly had that effect in August 1945. For “Bachelor’s” sake it was probably good for his own safety that he remained anonymous.

Not only did editorial replies begin to arrive at The Oneonta Star office, then found on Broad Street, a few advertisers shot back.

“Same on Bachelor” was one display ad, seen on Aug. 1 from Baker Hardware, once found where the upper level of the Clinton Plaza is today on Main Street. In copy written by Oneonta’s Women in Business, a reply about women countered, “If you accuse them of being ill-groomed please remember that these folks come direct from hard toil on farms, from Victory Gardens, from War plants and often they have little time for catching the eye of a choleric bachelor.”

Another retort to Bachelor came in an ad from Wright’s Food Market, then found at 45-47 Main St., on the northeast corner of Main Street and Neahwa Place.

“Mr. Bachelor,” the copy read, “Wright Says You Are Wrong. For Downright Goodness, Or for Looks or Appearance, Women of Oneonta and Neighboring Towns of the Oneonta Area Rank First — Bar None.”

Letters were published for several days in The Star. The following was seen in the Aug. 3, 1945, edition from someone signed “Otego Grandma.”

“Girls, don’t let ‘Bachelor’ get your ‘goat.’ He made me laugh. Is or has he been a soldier?

“My daughter and I were on a train from New York City about a year ago. The car we were in was full of soldiers and sailors on furlough, and were they happy? They made a game of going from passenger to passenger, asking their job. When the girls answered ‘war work,’ they looked at their hands. If the hands were manicured, the girls got the ‘horse laugh.’ If they looked worn, they were O.K.

“So there, Bachelor! I know a lot of Oneonta girls are going to be O.K.’d by their soldiers, whether they get your admiration or no!”

Next weekend (as The Daily Star will not be published on Monday, Memorial Day): Oneonta needed some positive influences in the early summer of 1930.

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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