ARCHITECTURE EXHIBIT – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. New exhibit ‘Building Blocks of a City: 100 Years of Architecture in Oneonta’ opens to public highlighting significant buildings, structures that represent the development, transformation of the city. Greater Oneonta Historical Society, 183 Main St., Oneonta. Visit www.oneontahistory.org/index.htm for info.
ONEONTA – The Oneonta History Center reopens at noon Friday, Executive Director Bob Brzozowski announced a few minutes ago. COVID-19 closed the center at 183 Main St. almost four months ago.
The GOHS has developed a Safety Plan to help ensure everyone’s health upon reopening. Attendance will be limited to 15 persons at a time. Masks and social distancing will be required. There will be regular cleaning and disinfecting of high-contact surfaces.
SCAVENGER HUNT – July 1 – August 31. Youths and families are invited to participate in 2020 Historic Oneonta’s Main Street Architectural Detail Scavenger Hunt. Search for architectural details on Main Street Oneonta and tell the Oneonta History Center about them. A great lead in to upcoming exhibit ‘Building Blocks Of A City: 100 Years og Architecture In Oneonta.’ Visit www.oneontahistory.org/upcomingevents.htm for info.
BENEFIT LUNCH – Noon – 2 p.m. Support Cooperstown Food Pantry at Empty Bowls Luncheon. Pick a unique bowl by a local potter to enjoy lunch of soup by local chef. Suggested donation $15. Parish Hall, Christ Church, 69 Fair St., Cooperstown. 607-547-2627 or visit cooperstownfoodpantry.org
HELICOPTER – 5:30 p.m. Army Reserve & NY Army National Guard collaborate with Cooperstown Graduate Program for military exercise featuring UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters landing at Bassett. Public is welcome to observe, tour once the aircraft are shut down. Please follow direction of military personnel to ensure a safe distance from the aircraft while it is in operation. Landing will be near Bassett Helipad, across from Clark Sports Center, Cooperstown.
ICE HARVEST FEST – 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Participate in traditional ice harvesting as was done 100 years ago (as long as ice is at least 8”). Also includes ice carving, fishing, hot soup buffet, exhibits by local businesses, more. Cost, $9/adult/teen. Children under 12 enter free. Hanford Mills Museum, 51 Co. Hwy. 12, East Meredith. 607-278-5744 or visit www.hanfordmills.org
There’s something special, James Mullen believes, about a Christmas card.
“Because there’s an exchange at the same time of the year, they’re a lot of fun to receive as well as to give,” he said.
And Mullen would know – the former dean of SUNY Oneonta’s Fine Arts Department, he has been making cards for 64 years. “I made 200 this year,” he said. “It’s the most I’ve ever sent!”
His cards are in the Archives of American Art in the Collections at the Smithsonian, including several in their book “Handmade Holiday Cards From 20th Century Artists,” and the subject of a recent show at SUNY’s Martin-Mullen Gallery that ended this week.
A Penn State graduate, he made his first card in 1955 as an assignment. “We had to use a Wrico Pen, which you filled with India ink and used it to draw freehand,” he said. “I did a stylized Mother and Child,” he said.
The pens were used for plastic lettering stencils, to allow duplicating in the day before Xeroxes.
And when he arrived at SUNY Oneonta in 1963, card-making was all the rage in the art department.
“Artists are unique to exchange with because they are sending something they consider to be so personal,” he said. “That exchange is always very special to me.”
He’s made cards with letterpress and etchings on zinc, relief prints and, most recently, in Adobe Illustrator. This year’s card, “Star-Rose,” was a lithograph carved in limestone and pressed at the Corridor Press Studio in Otego, then reproduced and printed at his home studio at Good Shepherd Village in Endicott.
Martin-Mullen Gallery Director Tim Sheesley reached out to him in June, and asked him to think about announcement cards. “I was making a lot of birthday cards, and rose is the birthday flower for June, so that motif became this year’s card,” Mullen said.
Fifty of the cards included an original lithograph of the Star Rose. “Last year I created a Santa Claus card, but I got so into the process that I created more than one card!”
He collects cards as well, including many from former students. One is Elaine Downey, who participates in the Artisans’ Guild and also studied with Art Professor Emerita Nancy Callahan, sent him a card.
“When I opened it, it was sublime,” he said. “Another student sent me one that’s a letterpress printing on rice paper. That’s the fun part of it. You never know what you’re going to get.”
Mullen’s late wife, Sally, is credited for the revival of what is now the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, and many of his cards are in the GOHS archives.
“A lot of people received Jim’s cards,” said GOHS Executive Director Bob Brzozowski. “And a lot of people, myself included, still do!”
GOHS also has more than a decade’s worth of former SUNY Art Department Dean Minnie Martin’s cards. “Minnie was my chair,” said Mullen. “She had experience in almost every kind of art – ceramics, jewelry, printmaking, and she made beautiful cards.”
In addition to the Mullen and Martin cards, GOHS has cards that Ronald Rowley, the former city judge, and wife Marjorie sent to friends, made from images of Otsego County winter life that the husband painted over the years.
“Christmas cards are true ephemera,” said Brzozowski. “People keep Christmas cards, and we still send them. It’s a very personal way of sending greetings at the holidays.”
ONEONTA — A quarter-century after Otsego County’s department store closed, the Magic of Christmas is still the Magic of Bresee’s.
Four of Bresee’s automatic elves plus two does – one ironing, the other mending Santa’s cap – are on display behind the Oneonta History Center’s plate-glass windows through Monday, Dec. 9, and “it’s been great,” said Bob Brzozowski, Greater Oneonta Historical Society executive director.
“You see people stopping, or doing a double-take,” said Brzozowski.
Bresee’s magic is wrapped up in community and family, said Marc Bresee, who worked in the store during its final days.
Bresee’s was open late one night a week – Thursday, he said – and the Christmas display was installed only a week or two before The Big Day, so Yuletide Thursdays would be particularly brisk, he said, with 700 meals served.
After supper, everybody – young and old alike – would trek upstairs to visit Santa Claus, surrounded by his mechanical entourage.
The department store, which opened in 1899, closed in 1994, although Marc Bresee continued to sell furniture in part of the building. The building changed hands in 2003, and on Dec. 11 of that year the contents, including the Santa paraphernalia, were auctioned off at Lettis’ Auction on the city’s east end.
It was the first auction after Kevin Herrick bought the business, and since it was such a significant – even historic – local event, auctioneer Jim Lettis, a former Oneonta mayor, wielded the gavel with the new owner’s concurrence.
Most notable, Herrick remembers, were the mechanical horse – feed it with a nickel, and get a ride; same thing with mechanical Rudolph. The giant Crayola crayon – sold! – and giant dice.
Of the total, 14-some mechanical elves and figurines were sold to a couple in the Town of Davenport, and in 2010 they donated their collection to St. James Manor, Executive Director Kathy Clarkson recalled the other day, as she helped a crew of five put up the History Center installation.
Later, Marc’s wife Elaine donated additional elves that had been in their garage. “I thought I would put them on the porch at Christmas,” the husband said. “But we never did.”
Another member of the crew was John Pontius, who happens to be both a St. James board member and GOHS incoming president, (succeeding Corinne Bresee Smith, Marc’s daughter.)
“It came to my mind lots of people would like to see them,” Pontius said, adding he had been introduced to the Bresee’s Christmas legacy when he and wife Andrea moved their family here from Waterloo in the early 1980s. Clarkson was raised in the Town of Davenport, and Bresee’s was part of her family’s holiday routine.
While the figures were being installed, who showed up but Kelly Rogers, a one-time intern at St. James, now with Catholic Charities, who had darned the elves costumes when she was there. She and Clarkson examined the figurines, which are wood frames enhanced with papier mache limbs.
The limbs are powered by electric gear motors, Model F, manufactured by Bevel, and are tough to find, said St. James Building & Grounds Superintendent Tom Hornbeck, who said they date from the 1930s or ’40s, when the Bresee’s display was put together.
To keep the little motors from overheating, Brzozowski said, they are only being run about 10 minutes per hour. “We want to make sure they will be around for other people to enjoy in years to come,” he said.
The conversation during the installation turned to where all the pieces might have ended up.
The History Center has the mechanical Santa, which was installed at 183 Main St. over the weekend, as well as the mailbox where kids would post their letters to the North Pole. They were brought out over the weekend to join the St. James’ group.
Carla Balnis has a mechanical skating rink.
For years, the popular Rudolph was in the hands of Greg Noonan, Cherry Valley, who said he sold it to a local Rudolph enthusiast who is building it a new saddle, and has added a cape.
Marc Bresee reflected that the department store installation, in these days of sophisticated video games, may not be as appealing to the young as the young at heart.
“It’s the older generation that remember them from the windows at Bresee’s,” he said.
See them while you can. The History Center display will be in place during the city’s Santa Parade at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, followed by the community tree-lighting at 5:30 p.m. in Mueller Plaza.
The following Monday, the does and elves will be returned to St. James for residents there to enjoy through the rest of the season, and replaced by winners of the city’s annual gingerbread contest.
Hand-sewn quilts, sterling silver tea sets, maps, furniture and more were all up on the auction block at the 13th annual GOHS Auction held at the Quality Inn Friday evening. Above, Marcella Drago, left, and daughter-in-law Kathy Drago look over a Bible from 1847 that was part of the silent auction. At right, Grace Smith and Claire Smith show off some Hitchcock chairs to the crowd after the main auction got under way. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
BENEFIT AUCTION – 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Find hundreds of items including jewelry, gift certificates, art, more available at live & silent auctions. Refreshments available. Support Greater Oneonta Historical Society. Quality Inn, 5206 NY-23, Oneonta. 607-433-2452 or visit www.oneontahistory.org
HAUNTED HOUSE – 6 – 10 p.m. Get your heart racing as you explore house filled with terrifying creatures, specters, more. Recommended ages 12+. Admission, $2 or donation to Toiletries Closet. Oneonta Teen Center, 4 Academy St., Oneonta. 607-441-3999 or visit www.facebook.com/oneonta.teencenter
PRE-CHRISTMAS SALE – 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Find gently used holiday decorations including lights, undecorated wreaths, ornaments, tableware, more. Also enjoy goodies at bake sale. Proceeds benefit mission programs of United Methodist Women. Cooperstown United Methodist Church, 66 Chestnut St., Cooperstown. 607-547-9515 or visit www.cooperstownumc.org
Fr. Kenneth Hunter welcomes viewers to the opening night of the Philo Vance film series at GOHS with a showing of “The Green Murder Case” from 1921. The film features William Powell (of ‘The Thin Man’ fame) during a turning point in his career, as Philo Vance. The film was also the first detective movie to feature audio dialogue as pictures moved away from the silent film era. Paul Jensen, right, a retired professor, was on hand to give a little background on Powell’s career before the start of the film. After reading an article in a Hometown Oneonta article about the local house owned by S.S. Van Dine, the creator of Philo Vance, Fr. Hunter felt inspired to create the film series to introduce more locals to this famous local author. The next film will be Tuesday, Oct 22, followed by third Oct 29.(Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)