Mark Simonson

Mark Simonson

It must be the colder weather that puts people into a corresponding mood. In the warmer months, people have things to do, so I don't hear as much from readers at those times. Lately I've gotten some interesting items by snail-mail and electronically. Some solve mysteries, others are great pictures I've never seen, and others are just good stories to share.

I wrote a column back on Feb. 9, 2009, titled "Strange visitors to Oneonta." It is archived on The Daily Star website. It spoke of Joseph Mikulec in 1909, a man from Croatia who was walking through Oneonta on a wager that he couldn't walk 25,000 miles. Bresee's Department Store took a picture of Mikulec and sold it as a post card.

I always wondered if Mikulec made it back to Croatia. Not long ago, I got an e-mail from Nenad Goll, from Zagreb, Croatia, who read my column and wanted to let me know what happened. Goll is writing a book called "Croatian Spirit of Adventure," which includes a story about Joseph Mikulec. Reference to The Oneonta Herald will likely be made, as Goll was seeking press clippings about Mikulec.

Goll called Mikulec "our Croatian globetrotter." Apparently Mikulec won his wager, as he wandered around the world for more than 30 years, as Goll has his travel log, a book of 1,244 pages full of autographs of famous people from that time. Mikulec died in Genoa, Italy in 1933.

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Martin Ackley of Otego was kind enough to send some photos I've never seen in my years as historian and columnist. I've never written a full column about the Happy Hour Theater, which was once found on Broad Street.

From Edwin R. Moore's "In Old Oneonta," Moore said that the Happy Hour opened sometime after 1907 on Main Street where the walkway to the parking garage is today. In 1911 it moved to Broad Street, where it remained a theater for a number of years. The building was last used as Ender's Furniture before the entire street was demolished as part of an urban renewal project in the early 1970s.

According to Ackley, his great-grandfather Granville Ackley ran the theater, as well as a nearby pool hall.

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Mary Bookhout Wolcott of Jacksonville, Fla., wrote not long ago and sent a menu from Molinari's Grill while cleaning out her mother-in-law's apartment. I met Mary in Florida a few years ago while interviewing her father-in-law, Robert Hawkins for another column. (April 14, 2008)

The Molinari's menu had no date but appears to be of post-Prohibition vintage. Molinari's was once found on South Main Street. The most expensive item on the menu was a "Porterhouse Steak" for 75 cents. One half of the inside menu is food, the other half lists adult beverages. The "Bonded Whiskey Highball" and "Brandy Egg Nogg" were the most expensive drinks, at 45 cents.

I chuckled at cocktails called "Boop-Oop-a-Doop" for 25 cents and a "Mae West" at 35 cents. One has to wonder what was in a "Molinari's Special," at 35 cents.

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More recently (Feb. 14, 2011) this column featured a Greene bride who wore a wedding dress made out of a silk parachute used in World War II. Apparently this happened more often than I thought.

Homer Osterhoudt of Cooperstown wrote how he was in the Army Air Corps in 1945, and spent time in Australia and the Philippines repairing aircraft.

Osterhoudt said in a city called Lingayen, on the island of Luzon, Philippines, he was at one building that contained several hundred parachutes. Just as Robert Adams of Greene had done, he sent a parachute home as a souvenir.

"When I decided to get married to Marion Potter of Worcester, N.Y.," Osterhoudt wrote, "we decided it would be nice if a dress could be made from it, and that's what we did. We were married on June 14, 1946."

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To Nenad, Martin, Mary and Homer, thank you for getting in touch. From Zagreb to Jacksonville, or Otego to Cooperstown, there's always something new to be learned.

On Monday: Speaking of learning, it's the 20th anniversary of Oneonta's Dollars for Scholars.

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 simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.

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