Backtracking: The Early Years: Bigger and better was a local news theme in February 1940

FILEThis advertisement was seen in The Oneonta Star of Friday, Feb. 23, 1940.

It seemed as if everything was getting bigger around Oneonta in the early months of 1940 — from locomotives, to baseball and what was showing on the big screen.


In likely what was to be the last such enlargement to an already mammoth building in Oneonta’s railroad yards, some adjustments were necessary to it, as reported in The Oneonta Star of Feb. 22.

“Delaware & Hudson railroad officials have returned to Albany following an inspection of roundhouses on the Susquehanna and Pennsylvania divisions, it was learned yesterday.

“The visiting executives, in company with local officials, made an inspection of the roundhouse here this week and studied plans for enlarging the stalls in which the railroad’s new high speed mallet type freight engines are to be housed,” for maintenance and repairs.

“Delivery of the first of the new locomotives is expected to be made about the middle of June. The first ones received will be placed in service between Oneonta and Mechanicville. Later new engines will operate on the Pennsylvania division. When the necessary physical changes to the right-of-way have been made they will run also out of Wilkes-Barre.

This was one of the last large steam locomotives introduced on the D&H. After World War II a technology transition began to diesel locomotive engines. The roundhouse was no longer needed by 1954 and was partially demolished.


Star readers learned on Feb. 28, “A campaign to raise $5,000 to finance the Oneonta Indians in the Canadian American baseball league will be launched today by a committee appointed last night by J. Kenneth Yager, president of the Oneonta Sports Association, Inc.

“‘Several have purchased stock since it was announced that this city would be represented in organized ball this summer,’ said Mr. Yager, ‘and the response indicates that residents of Oneonta are behind the movement 100 per cent.’

“Many recall the publicity Oneonta received when it was a member of the New York-Pennsylvania league about 14 years ago and now believe the city will benefit considerably by the membership in the Canadian-American league, one of the leading minor circuits in the country.”

The team already appeared as a certainty because in the same Star edition, it was reported that Clyde D. Utter was awarded the contract for installation of floodlights at what was then called Neahwa Park Field.

A local player of interest was early to sign with the Indians, as The Star reported on March 9, “William ‘Baffler’ Burke of White Plains, a leading varsity pitcher at Hartwick college for four years, has signed his contract to play with the Oneonta Indians.”

The team name would soon be changed to the Red Sox, made in 1941.


Released in the big cities in January, Oneonta was up next for a much anticipated movie, and as The Star also reported on Feb. 23, “An epic of screen history, the greatest of all productions in sound and technicolor, is the general verdict of critics on ‘Gone with the Wind,’ which comes to the Schines Oneonta theatre for a week’s engagement starting Wednesday. The advance sale of tickets, reserved for the 14 matinee and evening performances to be given that week, has been large but because of the length of the run seats are still available for all performances, Manager Harry Rose announced last evening.”

Turnout, no doubt was excellent, and the associated advertising hype to the movie coming to Oneonta was highly visible in The Star. For example, any woman wishing to have a hairstyle like Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O’Hara) in the movie could get that “well groomed appearance” at Charles Hair Stylist, at 150 Main St. Or, if you planned to go to the show on Feb. 28, you could take in dinner beforehand, as the Oneonta Department Store’s Health Bar was serving a “real Southern-style dinner,” featuring Southern Creole gumbo, Southern fried chicken and Louisiana corn fritters. As the ad explained, “The South of yesterday, as portrayed in ‘Gone with the Wind’ inspired us.”

On Tuesday: The local business beat in March 1965.


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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