Backtracking: The Early Years: News was ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ locally in February 1930

FILE This advertisement was seen in The Oneonta Star of Feb. 3, 1930.

Wet and dry had a few different meanings in our area in February 1930. They applied to pools and laws.


“The swimming pool at the Oneonta Recreation building of Frank Lamonica, opening of which has been delayed due to leaks in the large concrete pool, 30 by 50 feet which holds 90,000 gallons of water, was inspected by nearly 5,000 people during the two day open house Saturday and Sunday,” The Oneonta Star reported on Monday, Feb. 3. This building is now home to the Green Earth Health Market, 4 Market St.

“The setting of the pool is an attractive one, and splendid facilities have been arranged. Surrounding the pool, which varies from two to eight feet in depth, is a railing with seats for the accommodation of spectators. Then there are separate dressing and locker rooms for men and women, with a few private dressing rooms for the accommodation of mothers and their children, or others who wish to use them.

“The bath department at the building which offers medicated and Turkish baths and the facilities of the Battle Creek System of Health building is also being formally opened at this time.

“Mr. Lamonica has secured David J. Cheneau as manager of the pool and his experience promises to be of unusual value to the operation of the pool. Mr. Cheneau is a member of the National Swimming Instructors association and is an examiner approved by the Red Cross.”

Within days, Star readers learned how the Red Cross met at the new pool to appoint a committee to organize a water safety league here. By Thursday, Feb. 20, it was reported that testing would begin that day, and continue through Saturday. A national headquarters representative of the Red Cross, Frank R. Hoercher, was in town to speak to local school and college students, the Rotary Club and Boy and Girl Scout troops. These meetings were held during the day, and each day at 4 p.m., demonstrations were given at the pool, followed by tests from 7 to 10 p.m.

Many Oneontans joined the nearly 160,000 swimmers in the United States who were given this instruction in life-saving skills, as the Red Cross’ goal was, “Every Swimmer a Life Saver.”


Prohibition laws were debated and discussed during the month. From The Star of Feb. 1 came news from Washington, D.C., “Representative Franklin M. Fort declared in the crowded chamber of the house today that economic pressure would never permit repeal of prohibition but that the law itself satisfied the American people by permitting the brewing of beer and making of light wine in the home.”

From Albany on Feb. 4, The Star reported, “Wet sympathizers had their inning in the legislative lobbies tonight. Last Monday night members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, wearing white ribbons, thronged senate and assembly chamber anterooms in support of a state prohibition enforcement. Tonight red ribbon bedecked members of the women’s committee for the repeal of the 18th amendment and men and women supporters appeared with signs ‘we vote wet.’”

On Feb. 8, Star readers learned, “Arraigning prohibition before a crowded house, Representative Beck of Pennsylvania today predicted destruction of the Republican party if it continued to lend itself to the dry cause.” Herbert Hoover was President of the United States at the time.

Area residents had a chance to weigh in on prohibition, as The Star reported on Feb. 24, “Consignment of ballots sent out by The Literary Digest to obtain a nationwide opinion on prohibition by a ‘straw’ referendum were received today at post offices throughout The Binghamton Press area.

“Twenty million voters in all parts of the country … will be polled. Tabulated results … will be published, it is expected about the middle of March.”

The mood of the nation was shifting, as a Web search found that 31 percent favored strict enforcement of the current laws, 29 percent called for ratification of permitting sales of light wines and beer, and 40 percent voted for the repeal of prohibition. Of the 20-million ballots distributed, 4.8-million were returned. The Eighteenth Amendment was finally repealed in 1933.

On Tuesday: a party school image begins changing locally in 1995.

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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Write to him at "Ask Mark," The Daily Star, 102 Chestnut St., Oneonta, NY 13820 or email him at

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