To most, anti-war protests on college campuses and communities are thought of as generally happening in the late 1960s and early '70s, or perhaps as recently as 2003, when the Iraq war began. However, efforts to keep peace and be neutral in world affairs were alive and active in 1935.
Italian and Ethiopian troops had been skirmishing for a few months while Adolf Hitler had introduced military conscription in Germany in the early months of that year. The U.S. was watching and hoping to not get involved in what was looking to become a major world war.
Around the nation on Friday, April 12, 1935, thousands of college and high school students raised their voices in protest against war, walking out of classes and marching in their communities. Not everyone liked this idea and gathered to counter the demonstrations.
In Oneonta, students at Hartwick College participated in the national demonstration. Students at the Oneonta Normal School did not, and were critical of what they called their "friends on the other hill."
Sticks, stones, eggs and stench bombs were hurled on some protesters in other cities, but for the most part, Oneonta's demonstration was very calm and orderly.
"Despite wet streets and a steady drizzle of rain from 11 until 12 o'clock yesterday," reported The Oneonta Star on April 13, "a turnout of nearly 100 per cent of the students of Hartwick college participated "¦ The group assembled at the college building at 11 o'clock. Coming down Oyaron hill to West street, the marchers proceeded down Center to Church, from Church to Chestnut, then to Main street. On Main the group proceeded to Elm street and turned up Elm to Center, where it crossed to Maple and continued to the Normal school "¦ After a rousing cheer the group returned to Center street where it disbanded exactly on the stroke of 12 o'clock."
There were about 300 students marching in the parade. Others drove floats that had been constructed by the students. Officials of Hartwick had sanctioned the event and dismissed classes just before 11 a.m.
"Occasional cheers, patriotic songs and school songs, and occasional blasts on the horns of the automobiles at the end of the line were the only audible evidence of the demonstration."
Debate regarding the demonstration, however, carried over in both the Hartwick and Normal School publications.
The Pen Dragon, Oneonta Normal's publication, on April 29, 1935, took a shot at Hartwick's participation in the nationwide event, calling it ""¦ a brave, perhaps commendable, probably futile gesture, instigated by a group of centralized idealists in the supposed interest of humanity."
The publication took exception to a sign carried in the Hartwick parade that said, "To Hell With War."
"With that charming naivet our friends-on-the-other-hill indict the god of War, forgetting that Mars is immortal. We wonder how many of the paraders were marching because of deep-seated, carefully thought out pacifistic convictions "" and how many were there merely for the fun of it,' or because it was a good way of getting excused from 11 o'clock classes."
Oneonta Normal School students were not excused from classes that day.
Hilltops of Hartwick responded in its May 17 edition, poking fun at the fact that the Pen Dragon was running full color advertisements for tobacco products on its back covers.
"The whole piece of literature' was under a Bolshevikish drawing of Mars, forever supreme "¦ It is indeed a pity that the taxpayers of this state must pay good money to educate those who have a kink in their minds that enable them to scoff at our participation "¦ to do away with the senseless slaughter of millions for the benefits of a few unscrupulous men.
"But if we do have to have war, it is no more than right that those who jeer at efforts to secure peace be the first to go."
Efforts to enhance peace continued later that year in Oneonta, as peace bonds went on sale at most city churches and businesses, sponsored by the National Council for Prevention of War. The bonds went on sale for the first time on Monday, Dec. 9.
Many citizens expressed their interest in the venture. According to The Oneonta Star, "It was pointed out that, while these citizens did not all agree on the best means at arriving at world peace, they were all deeply interested in the final achievement of this end."
On Monday: The dedication of Unatego High School, a long time in the making.
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 about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at email@example.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com.