The leisure life of Oneontans got some major improvements in 1928. If you liked to shop, play golf or baseball, swim or go to the movies, that year ushered in changes to the quality of life in Oneonta for generations to come.
Paydays used to fall on Thursdays at the D&H Railroad. As sure as the daily sunset, the downtown stores were crowded on Thursday nights. Shoppers in February were introduced to some bigger and better stores.
On Feb. 9, the Oneonta Herald reported that the new J.C. Penney store was open. That was where a Resnick's mattress store recently was at the corner of Main Street and Ford Avenue. Penney's had relocated from a smaller store on the south side of Main Street, in the area across from Bresee's. This new store had a balcony over the main floor, which was office space. Many recall how when a sale was made, the money was placed in a basket by a sales clerk and raised up to the business office.
It was reported on Feb. 16 that Bresee's had opened a new annex to the department store, adding 15,000 extra square feet of display space. The most notable addition was the new furniture department, which occupied the entire second floor of the annex.
The moviegoing experience took a step upward at the Oneonta Theater in May. It had been reported that the Schine family had invested $25,000 in improvements, including a new sound system, featuring an enhancement called Vitaphone. The premier presentation was on May 14 with the showing of "The Silver Slave," starring Irene Rich. It was a story about a high society matron who prevented her daughter from marrying into money, as she herself had done. The Vitaphone voices and music were well-received by Oneontans, said the Herald.
Only a week later, the Herald reported, "Oneonta will have a modern, aquatic and athletic salon if the present plans of Frank LaMonica, wholesale fruit dealer, are carried through." The plans were pursued, and the building now occupied by the Green Earth store on Market Street became reality. There was a pool in the basement at one time, and bowling alleys were on the main floor. There was also an assembly hall, where many a boxing match was viewed. Later, bowling alleys were installed where the pool was. The final games at LaMonica's Recreation Lanes were rolled on Saturday, Aug. 26, 1978.
Over in the West End in May 1928, there was construction under way for nine new holes on the golf course of the Oneonta Country Club. The officers of the club had authorized $19,000 in subscriptions to acquire additional land and get the construction going in April. Len Raynor, golf professional and architect of the Cooperstown Country Club, supervised the construction of the addition. Target for completion was Sept. 1.
Preparations were also under way that spring to form a Junior Baseball League under the auspices of the American Legion in Oneonta. A.J. Pedrone was in charge of the organization of the league. Any teams wishing to join could stop by to see him at Wilber National Bank. The first team to join was sponsored by St. Mary's, coached by Joseph Scanlon. Seven or eight teams were expected to join in the inaugural year. Games were played in Neahwa Park.
If you loved to swim, 1928 was an outstanding year. In addition to the plans at LaMonica's, a swimming pool opened in Neahwa Park in July. This wasn't a pool as we know today, as it was in the main channel of the Susquehanna River. The Herald said it was "known to the boys of the city for years as the high banks.'" It was described as being on an island of about 50 acres of land. The banks had been built up to prevent them from being washed away. "A chute, four feet higher than the one at Wilber Park, has been erected and a new diving board built," the Herald said.
An indoor pool was announced in September, as the directors of Oneonta's YMCA voted to build a $30,000 pool at the facility, then found on the former Broad Street. It was funded by public subscriptions.
On Monday: Area residents joined a boycott of meat at supermarkets in 1973.
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.
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