We publish this week on “Black Friday,” the day in the calendar year when the nation’s retailers would sell so much merchandise to Christmas shoppers that their operations for the entire year would stop running in the red and move into the black.
It really is not the busiest shopping day of the year — these days, that comes a couple of days before Christmas itself, when all of us wake up and realize that we’re almost out of time. But “Black Friday,” with its traditional-as-Turkey doorbuster sales now beginning weeks before the actual day itself, was such a great marketing brand that Internet merchants jumped at the chance to corner the start of the following work week as “Cyber Monday.” And it worked: that’s the day that all of us, while we’re supposed to be hard at work at our desks, are instead using office time to go to this-or-that-dot-com and load up.
We salute the Cooperstown Central School’s varsity boys’ soccer team for a 2021 season that was a resounding success, a joy to witness, and a giant step forward on our slow walk ‘back to normal.’
We send that same salute to the Cherry Valley/ Springfield boys’ varsity soccer team, Cooperstown’s girls varsity swimmers, Oneonta’s boys’ varsity cross country runners, the Head of the Fish and Head of the Charles rowers, and every other school team and athlete who got out there and played your game.
Take a bow, too, you coaches, assistants, volunteers, parents, teachers, bus drivers, car caravan coordinators, and anyone who guided and supported players along their ways, then made sure the sports stepped aside for homework and other school duties.
Ah, the autumn colors. Beautiful to view, harbingers of cozy nights indoors, and, let’s face it, quite good for our local economy.
And then they start to fall. We could debate all day long about whether it’s right to pick them up or let them be over the winter months, but let’s face it: come next spring, we’ll want our lawns to look good again for the summer to come.
We also could debate all day long about exactly how we’ll pick them up.
We love Major League Baseball’s World Series, even when it’s not “our” team playing in the Fall Classic. It always is a joy to see visitors traveling to and walking around Cooperstown just for the opportunity to watch the game on television in a restaurant in The Home of Baseball.
This year’s television and radio broadcasts, though, border on the unwatchable. Not because the quality of play is any less intense or expert. Not because it’s the Houston Astros once again vying for the title — Manager Dusty Baker has single-handedly restored dignity to a franchise that just a year ago was almost shamed out of existence thanks to its bang-on-a-can, signal-stealing controversy.
It’s not even because Joe Buck sometimes rattles on a little too much about statistics that sound like some of the most arcane trivia one could ever imagine.
All politics is local, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said in the 1980s.
So it’s a mystery that we call it an “off-year” election when local races fill our ballot, and an even greater mystery that biennial apathy replaces voter interest. We are voting to fill the offices that affect the fundamentals of our county, towns, and villages, choosing the people to whom we’ll entrust our local tax dollars as they weigh the merits of differing projects and priorities.
Granted, these local issues might not be as headline-grabbing as global warming or foreign policy. But they’re often the things we complain about when we’re talking with our friends and neighbors about the state of affairs on our streets. These races are all about local direction, development, public safety, road repair. We’re voting for people who build local relationships with state and federal officials who, in turn, exert certain measures of control over available resources.
The Freeman’s Journal, our village’s venerable newspaper of 213 years — and one of the oldest continually published weeklies in the country — has a long and complicated history, both of news and of ownership. It has chronicled the workings of our town and the opinions of our residents through the country’s wars, holidays, prohibitions and depressions, as well as through the state’s droughts, blizzards, elections, floods, tragedies, surprises and celebrations.
The Freeman’s Journal is our newspaper of record, printing legal notices, death notices, opinions, letters, events, culture, and all matter of news and amusements. It has been known to publish the weather reports and the temperatures and the amount of rain or snow that has fallen over a given week. In fact, the Journal is a true and unbiased document that reveals — and archives — the fascinating and varied story of Cooperstown. Not every village or community can boast this.
A legendary member of the Otsego Lake community has bid us farewell this week. Ownership of the Chief Uncas, the 55-foot electric launch that has continuously plied these ancient waters for just fewer than 110 years, has been transferred to the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, in Wrightsville, PA, a not-for-profit organization focused on the cultural and natural resources of the Susquehanna River and the communities along its shores.
The Chief Uncas arrived on the lake June 15, 1912, delivered to Adolphus Busch, founder of the Anheuser Busch Company, who had just eight years earlier purchased Uncas Lodge, the large house and farm at Three-Mile Point. And so began the storied history of a remarkable craft and the loving family that cared for her.
This week, as we watch the forests magically change their colors, wave fond goodbyes to the squawking flocks and ponder the stillness of the lake in its reflective glory, Susan Fenimore Cooper comes to mind. And while we were planning to offer our own reflections on the beauty of the changing season, Cooper’s enchanting treatment of the subject would be hard to top, so we let her speak for herself. It was in 1850 that her book, “Rural Hours,” was first published, and in its pages we can confirm that rather little has changed.
“October 2nd … The day was perfectly still, the lake calm and placid, the reflection of its banks more than usually lovely in its clearness, and accuracy: the changing woods, each brilliant tree, the hills, farms, and buildings were all repeated with wonderful fidelity, and all the sweetness of the natural landscape.
The bright, beautiful Harvest Moon, come to shine on our tired fields and woodlands, has passed. The leaves have begun to turn, the temperatures are dancing about, deciding which way to go, and we are, this very week, heading into the New York state hunting season, a few months of search and shoot for the many hunters of our county. They hunt not only white-tailed deer, but also other fur-bearing and feathered animals: bear, coyote, fox, opossum, weasel, bobcat, small game, migratory game birds, waterfowl, wild turkey, and they hunt with bows, crossbows, muzzleloaders, handguns, shotguns and rifles.
Last year in Otsego County, 3,088 white-tailed bucks were taken, 2,627 does, and 709 fawns, with 253,990 white tails taken in all throughout the state – the most on record – up from 224,190 in 2019.
Deer hunting is not new, although as a sport it is relatively young. Artifacts found in Germany reveal evidence of hunting 350,000 years ago, while the cave paintings in France date from 30,000 years ago. It was during the mid-Paleolithic period (the Stone Age) that early man developed the tools — of stone, bone and wood — to kill, and the age of the hunter/gatherer improved upon that of the previous gatherer/scavenger.
Back in the mid-20th century, Cooperstown was a thriving local village, taking great care of its residents and neighbors with a Main Street riddled with all manner of shops and cafés, hardware stores and markets, a gas station, a car dealer, a bank or two and a movie theater, built in 1920, to fill up empty evenings and afternoons with glorious cinematic amusements. The Freeman’s Journal and The Otsego Farmer were on Main Street. too, welcoming all who had anything to say.
Today, with tourism now the major breadwinner for the village and high rents threatening, Main Street has changed. Many of the businesses that took care of our immediate needs in the past have rethought their uses and provisions, others have retreated to other, less central, outposts, and still others have closed their doors, their wares exchanged for Amazon boxes and envelopes outside front doors.
With the news this week that the Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville was going to “pause” operations of its maternity services because of the resignations of several members of that department who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the not unexpected consequences of the recent New York state and federal mandates for healthcare workers suddenly hit very close to home. While it is certainly difficult to envision both the future of these workers when no other work options exist under the circumstances and the potentially disastrous impact of the mandates on a notoriously understaffed profession, one cannot help but wonder what possible reason these workers have for surrendering their professions by refusing a vaccine that has been well proven as safe and effective, and is without question saving millions of people from a devastating disease and a gruesome, untimely death.
More joy came to Mudville this week, as the three talented baseball players — Derek Jeter, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker — who were elected to the Hall of Fame in 2020, journeyed to Cooperstown for their COVID-delayed, toned-down inductions. Marvin Miller, the first director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, who died in 2012, was also inducted.
It’s no secret there is a significant labor shortage in America at the moment and we are seeing its effects clearly here in Otsego County.
Help wanted signs are everywhere. While the problem touches most businesses, local restaurants appear to be particularly affected. Many have been forced to close multiple days per week; some have closed permanently. One local food service has become a food truck because of a lack of employees.
At the end of June, there were about 9.3 million U.S. workers on the unemployment rolls at the same time as U.S. businesses were looking to fill 9.2 million open positions.
Summer has come and almost gone here in Cooperstown, and there have been more people visiting us than in 2020. The streets are abuzz with eager baseball fans, casually swinging their newly made bats, avid bike riders waxing eloquently about their explorations of the hills and valleys of Otsego, and lake lovers fresh from a full day on and in the water. The shop owners, lodgings and restaurants have seen an uplift in sales from 2020, and the village has begun to feel a return to post-COVID life. That was then; now, alas, we are in the throes of returning to that COVID life, as the Delta surge runs through us.
If we are lucky though, this, too, shall pass.
Another interesting note is the increase around town of electric vehicles, both locally owned and from afar. The parking lot of the Otesaga is a good place to find them, as are Doubleday parking lot and, until this week, the Dreams Park and the trolley lots. Sleek, somewhat new and multi-colored, the out-of-towners have brought their owners here for a tour of the Hall of Fame, a week at the Dreams Park, some good productions at Glimmerglass, a round of golf, some lake fishing and a visit to the Fenimore Art Museum and Hyde Hall, and they have come from as far away as New York City and Washington, traveling over routes laid out in their respective maps that display the whereabouts of recharging stations along the way.
On its editorial page over the past few weeks, The Freeman’s Journal has commented on, among other important issues, the fog-like haze that was smoke from the western wildfires that fell on the lake and village, leaving the air heavily dangerous for long periods of time, and the latest COVID surge that is gnawing, for the most part, on our unvaccinated and younger residents — children — as well as causing new concern among our older population. None of this was any good and all of it is sad and, no doubt to some, depressing.
However, for us here in Otsego County, this distant, remote upstate almost-forgotten (or, perhaps, not yet discovered) place, there is a special glimmer; something that can bring a smile; something to lighten our load and keep us on a happier track. Otsego Lake.
Nine miles of clear, deep water that laps endlessly on steep tree-lined shores and often reflects the changing sky and clouds and forest, the lake is a home to myriad fish and feathered wildlife, a reservoir for the village of Cooperstown and a summer and winter playground for boaters, tubers, swimmers, sailors, rowers, paddlers, divers, fishermen and water, and snow-skiers. Glacier-created during the last great Ice Age, and spring-fed as well as stream-fed, this superb natural resource is the headwaters of the Susquehanna River. In the past it has played a variety of roles in the Leatherstocking novels of James Fenimore Cooper, who called his – and our – beautiful lake The Glimmerglass.