Backtracking: The Early Years: Days of summer leisure got shorter in August 1924

Mark SimonsonSeen in 2010, the observation building atop Mt. Utsayantha in Stamford received big improvements in 1924 for a busy visitor season.

Leisure time was beginning to get less in August 1924 as school returns approached, so local residents of younger years were enjoying life at camp, playing tennis or time on a mountain top.


Having opened on Monday, July 14, The Oneonta Star reported Wednesday, “Camp Awenaga, the first thoroughly organized Boy Scout camp in this section opened … on Gilbert lake with a goodly number of Scouts from various parts of Otsego and Schoharie counties in attendance and with every prospect of a successful existence. The camp will close on August 25.

“The camp, situated on the shores of Gilbert lake … is excellently equipped in every particular and the staff in charge is both capable and adequate in size.

“The boys are housed in six pyramidal tents, furnished with iron cots. Two wall tents … are used for kitchen and dining room purposes. Two new row boats have been secured and a good sized dock is now being constructed. A flag pole 40 feet in height will be the scene of daily honors to the Stars and Stripes.”

Camp Awenaga wasn’t exclusively for kids at times, as The Star reported on Aug. 7, “An afternoon and evening of pleasure unalloyed was the reward of the 21 members of Oneonta Kiwanis who motored to the Boy Scout camp … yesterday at the invitation of the Otsego-Schoharie Boy Scout council. A delicious chicken dinner and an interesting program in sports combined to make the day one of much enjoyment for the Kiwanians and for the Scouts, who extended a brand of hospitality equal to the best Scout standards.


“The increased interest in tennis in the city,” The Star reported on July 21, “largely the result of the tournament now in progress for the city championship, has brought to the minds of many a realization of the need for better facilities for playing this interesting and healthful sport. In fact it is probable that the progress of the tournament will be retarded to a considerable extent because of a lack of courts.”

There were tennis courts at the Normal School, once found at the top of Maple Street and at the Oneonta Country Club, but use was restricted to students and members, respectively.

“The only public courts are those recently constructed in Wilber park,” The Star continued, “and considerable criticism has been heard concerning the method of construction and lack of upkeep. It has been suggested that while the asphalt gang is at work here and asphalt top might be put on these courts,” as the courts were dirt, but were only rolled occasionally to smooth the surface.

This wasn’t the first time interests in tennis had surged, as in the early 1890s four private courts were built around the city to meet the demand. Better courts in the parks evolved in the years ahead.


Star readers of July 23 learned that the tourist experience at the grand mountain top in Stamford was being enhanced.

“The tower house on Mt. Utsayantha now has a telephone. It has a lot of other new features. Carpenters and mechanics have been working there for several weeks getting the place in readiness for what promises to be a record-breaking season. The big building on the mountain top, in its new coat of white, stands out prominently against the blue sky and a great air of prosperity surrounds it.

“The road leading from Main street to the summit has recently been put in good condition for automobile traffic and more work on the road is contemplated. The first week the tower house was open for business 52 automobiles climbed the grade and the names of 148 visitors were registered.

“Sunrise, sunset and moonlight parties are going to be a feature of the mountain activities this season. Proprietors who wish to give their guests ‘something different’ and something that will leave a favorable and lasting impression of Stamford may have overlooked one of the village’s biggest assets — Mt. Utsayantha.” At that time, Stamford was still a thriving resort town.

On Tuesday: Changing electronic communications in August 1954. 

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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