Oneontans were probably happy to turn the calendar to the new month, October 1921, after a doozy of a storm that hit the area on the last day of September. The city cleaned up and prepared for a Columbus Day celebration. Residents were closely following the World Series, and bracing themselves for a possible strike in the D&H Railroad yards.
Compared to the 2011 deluge by Tropical Storm Lee and the roaring winds of Irene, what hit Oneonta on Friday, Sept. 30, 1921 seemed like a purring kitten. Not to totally downplay it, the windstorm had cleanup crews scurrying about on Oct. 1.
"Although of brief duration," reported The Oneonta Star, "its violence not lasting over ten minutes, the wind storm which struck the city about 2:30 yesterday afternoon was one of the most severe of recent years. Trees were blown down in nearly every section of the city and considerable damage was done to telephone and electric wires." Trolley service and the D&H Railroad traffic were interrupted for a short time.
"A gang of men under the supervision of City Engineer Gurney was at work all afternoon clearing the streets of limbs and branches and in some cases whole trees, many of considerable size. Fortunately no one was injured, probably because the deluge of rain accompanying the wind drove most pedestrians to shelter."
All was cleared and cleaned up in time for Columbus Day. This is when it was actually observed on Oct. 12. The Italian-American Citizens Club of the city organized a significant celebration. There were hopes to have a parade and field day in the afternoon, but a lack of funding put those activities on hold. What funding was raised was sufficient enough for a great display of fireworks "on the plateau near the flag pole in Wilber park." Bad weather postponed this event to Thursday, Oct. 13.
Two fireworks companies competed against each other for a prize to determine who put on the best display. With an estimated 5,000 people in the area of the park, the Empire Fireworks Co. was determined the winner in the contest, dazzling and deafening spectators from 8:15 to 10 p.m. The Company G band provided music during the evening.
Many at the fireworks display were likely still celebrating a World Series championship. Just as it was in 2000, the 1921 classic was an all New York event. The National League's New York Giants defeated the mighty New York Yankees -- with Babe Ruth idled due to injury -- in the eighth game of the series played on the "Polo Grounds" earlier that day.
Giants fans in Oneonta, if they could break free from work, congregated in front of the Oneonta Star offices, then located on Broad Street. Bulletins were sent from the Polo Grounds to The Associated Press, which relayed the information to The Star. Scores were read to the people on site a few minutes after the end of an inning. Three operators were answering phones throughout the game from eager baseball fans.
While there were celebrations and joviality in Oneonta in October, there was tension growing in the D&H Railroad yards in Oneonta and across the nation.
Strike orders were issued on Wednesday, Oct. 19, by representatives of the Brotherhoods for the railroad system. The strike was set to begin at 6 a.m. Nov. 1. The railroad workers wanted better wages while the railroad sought wage reductions.
The D&H wasn't about to shut down, so readers of The Star found sizeable display ads, like the one at left, placed by the railroad, seeking workers to replace those who went on strike.
The crisis was averted, as reported on Saturday, Oct. 29, with a settlement reached. The solution was short-lived however, as a strike was called for in June 1922. The walkout began in July and continued for a year.
On Monday: Frank Malzone Day in Oneonta.
City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at email@example.com. com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.