Backtracking: The Early Years: Theater, baseball fulfilled leisure time in Norwich in June 1921

FileCommunity talent made this production possible in Norwich, as seen in an advertisement in the Norwich Sun of June 1, 1921.

Norwich residents were hardly bored with their leisure time during June 1921.

While there were movies to watch at the Colonia on South Broad Street, for example, there weren’t many at that time.

Readers of the Norwich Sun on June 1 found out, “That between 2,000 and 3,000 motion picture workers in Hollywood … are actually starving.

“Following the feverish wave of wartime prosperity and high wages, has come the reaction which is being felt in the film industry as elsewhere, with the result that thousands of artists, helpers, clerks, etc. in the studios have been thrown out of employment.”

With new films in shorter supply, local residents made their own entertainment by becoming entertainers. Also seen in the Sun of June 1, “All is in readiness for the presentation of ‘Katcha-Koo’ at the Colonia theatre this evening, the Oriental fantastique to be given by home talent.

“The play, which is in two acts, is laid partly in India and party in New York city. It takes its name from that of an East Indian fakir, who in reality is an American aviator lost in Hunga, who by this disguise has put fear into the hearts of the natives.

“The scenic and lighting effects are unusually lovely, and the grand finale which is participated in by more than 100 children, is one of the features of the entire production.”

The Sun gave it a review the next day, saying, “A riot of color, of fun and of music, ‘Katcha-Koo’ proved to be a big surprise to many who attended, more to see their friends disport themselves on the stage than to witness a very worthwhile musical comedy. From the principals of the cast to the smallest one of the Yankee-Dixie girls, everyone did full justice to his or her role, and the audience voiced its enthusiastic approval time and again.”

While the motion picture industry was having its woes, those who did attend the silent films locally got a new surprise. The Sun of June 23 reported, “Norwich theatre patrons who attended the Colonia theatre Wednesday night heard the first organ ever installed in a local theatre.

“Large audiences at the two performances … thoroughly enjoyed the new music. It was the first time many of them had ever heard an organ playing with the movies and they were pleased.”

While some were enjoying the thrills of the theater, live or on film, others enjoyed sports.

For the players and spectators, news in the Sun’s June 24 edition told how, “The Norwich baseball club will have a new diamond. Work on it was started Thursday and will be completed by Saturday. The location, at the fairgrounds, has not changed.

“When completed, right field will be as good as center and left. The first game will played Sunday afternoon when the Bobs oppose the Oneida Community Limited team from Sherrill.” Bobs was apparently a nickname for the team name, Athletics.

To defray the expenses of the new diamond, the club held a dance at city hall on July 11, putting some fun into the fund raising.

As for the game, the Athletics lost to Sherrill, 11-6. As reported June 27, “Rain at intervals before the start of the game, hindered the attendance. The 1,000 or more fans who did witness the contest were surprised at the new diamond. It was more than they had bargained for. With the addition of a grass infield it would be big league, but as it stands now it is the best diamond the city has ever had.”

They probably didn’t like it, but employees of the David Maydole Hammer Company, one of the oldest of Norwich industries, joined the leisure life when it was announced June 23 that the plant would shut down for the month of July.

The Sun reported the next day, “Notice was given the 125 employees of the company Tuesday forenoon. Much like the motion picture industry, “Lack of business is given as the reason why company officials for the shutdown. It was stated by the management that the factory is expected to be closed during all of July, but that this is uncertain.

The forced leisure required Maydole employees to find inexpensive entertainment for a while.

On Wednesday: Various comings and goings locally during June 1976.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Wednesday 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 simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns/.

Ask Mark... 

Have you ever had a question about a history-making event or a prominent person in our area and didn't know where to find the answer? Well, we've got an expert who might be able to help you. Historian Mark Simonson has spent many years chronicling major local happenings, and he's ready and willing to dive into The Daily Star archives for answers, which will appear in this newspaper and online at www.thedailystar.com.

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

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