Backtracking: The Early Years: Woodside Avenue neighbors banded together through the years

Mark SimonsonLooking south on Woodside Ave. on May 16, a barricade was put up here in late 1957, as parents and children were concerned about traffic and safety on the narrow street.

 

It’s a neighborhood that likes to be involved and get things done.

Neighbors in a new tract of housing off East Street in Oneonta didn’t care much for the name of their street. Brewer Avenue. It was the 1920s, and Prohibition came along.

They wanted a name change and they got it — Woodside Avenue.

Still a relatively young city street, the neighborhood became a showcase for a new, modern home. The Oneonta Star mixed news with advertising on June 3, 1939. Area residents were invited to drop by to look over 21 Woodside Ave., nicknamed “The Bride’s House,” over the next few days.

“During the day,” on opening day, “Roscoe C. Briggs of the Briggs Lumber Co., which sponsors the exhibition house, with the cooperation of the Oneonta Department Store, which decorated and furnished it, announced that the house was priced at $4,500, the greatest surprise of many the house aroused.

“And in the garage was a Chevrolet coupe that drew advancing looks from all of the visitors and the interested inspection of many, questions being answered by representatives of the Ohmeis Chevrolet Co., local agents.”

The Woodside Avenue neighborhood saw some changes after World War II, when the new State Teachers College upper campus was announced. New homes were built in what was called Eastland Heights, and access roads to the new campus were built, including Ravine Parkway and Bugbee Road.

The northern side of Woodside Avenue intersected the new Bugbee Road. Before long, it was found that Woodside Avenue became a convenient short cut from Old Main, at the corner of Maple Street and Normal Avenue, to the growing upper campus.

Woodside Avenue was a narrow street to start with, and with increased traffic, it brought on concerns of kids and parents, alike. So both did something about their concerns.

Star readers of Aug. 21, 1957, learned how, “The Woodside Kids” got recognition and official action, and they had a message on the city’s official stationery to prove it.

“They wrote a letter to Mayor Roger G. Hughes, asking for a sidewalk. The letter read, ‘There are about 30 of us kids that walk down Woodside Ave. hill to school. The hill road is so narrow we have no place to get to when cars come. Our mothers worry. Can you help us get room to walk?’”

Hughes wrote back to the kids, saying the city would look into the possibility of sidewalks.

Only about a week later, The Star reported on Aug. 28, “Forty residents of narrow, steep Woodside Avenue last night presented a petition to the Public Service Board, aimed at reducing the traffic hazards, especially the danger to children who walk to school.

“Thirty-eight of the residents expressed a choice for barricading the road at the top of the hill, where the old and new roads join, thus creating two dead ends.

“Two petitioners preferred one-way traffic. No request was made for a sidewalk.”

Between the “Woodside Kids” and adults, a point was made for safety. Common Council approved what was a temporary barricade. A lock and key would be provided so that the gates could be opened for snow removal and fire trucks.

Sixty-two years later, the barricade is still there, although there have been challenges through the years to have it taken down. For instance, when the new Oneonta High School opened in 1964, the city wanted to remove the barricade because of the increased amount of traffic in that area of the city. The SUNY Oneonta campus was also experiencing unprecedented growth at the time.

Through all those challenges, as late as the late 1960s, Woodside Avenue neighbors aired their concerns about their children’s safety — and got things done to keep it that way.

On Tuesday: Baseball, Ken Burns style.

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 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