Editor’s Note: The New York Sun’s Francis Pharcellus Church penned this famous response to 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897.
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
115 West Ninety Fifth Street
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.
We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing
on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Editor’s Note: What a decade! Her friends and colleagues celebrated Manager Editor Libby Cudmore’s 10th anniversary among us on production day, Tuesday, Dec. 10, and agreed to write this memoir.
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special To www.AllOTSEGO.com
There’s a lot for Ian and I to celebrate in December. Our families do Christmas, Yule and Hanukkah, our original anniversary, the New Year’s Eve to cap it all off.
But this December, I realized that I had another anniversary to celebrate – 10 years with the Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and, most recently, AllOTSEGO.com. It’s the longest I’ve ever stayed with a job, but in 10 years, I’ve realized that it’s more than than a job – it’s a way to give back to a community that has welcomed me so graciously.
When I moved to Oneonta in May 2007, I wasn’t sure if I would stay. This was my husband’s hometown, after all, but I wasn’t sure that there was a place for me yet. But that changed when Jim Kevlin hired me as a freelance reporter in April 2009.
My first story was about a bridal fashion show at SUNY. My second was an interview with Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, who was playing at the now-defunct Oneonta Theatre, then re-opened and full of promise.
I was hired full-time that December, Monday the 14th, given a desk and the business cards I’ve been passing out ever since. If you look in your drawer, chances are you have one. If it was before 2017, it said “Reporter.” Since then, it has said “Managing Editor.”
Our new reporter, James Cummings, asked me: What’s the favorite story you ever written? How do you even pick?
But a few come to mind: getting to travel to Oneonta, Ala., and see the similarities (and a few differences) between our cities, and declaring actor Cuyle Carvin “Oneonta’s Heartthrob.” As an obsessive music fan, I still get giddy knowing that, at any time, I can pick up the phone and call Greg Harris, president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, for comment.
I love being able to support the good deeds at the Susquehanna SPCA, see the rise and revitalization of the Milford Methodist Church, to be a first-hand witness to all of the change in Oneonta as the DRI gets underway. I absolute agree that we’re “Onta Something.”
Of course, there has been plenty of heartache too. The sudden death of Mayor Dick Miller was when I felt it the most profoundly. I was tasked with not only covering the tragedy, but also processing my own grief privately. I had seen Dick that Thursday evening at the Future for Oneonta Foundation reception. He gave me one of those sideways handshakes I knew so well, the quick “how ya’ doin’” in passing. We’d had our disagreements over the years – par for the course in both our professions – but I respected and enjoyed him immensely, and still miss him.
The murder of 11-year-old Jacelyn O’Connor still haunts me. I’ve written about far too many brutal deaths in our county, but in some ways, I’m honored to do so, because I task myself not with writing about the killer, but letting my readers know who the victim was to their family, their friends, their community. They’re stories I wish that I didn’t have to write, but I am always honored when I get to speak with survivors like Jennifer Kirkpatrick and Erika Heller, to be trusted with their loved ones’ legacies.
I am always in awe of the support that the people of Otsego County continue to bless me with. From the packed house at the Green Toad for the launch of my debut novel, “The Big Rewind,” to the votes that came in for my guest conductor bid at the Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s cabaret concert. Many of you were there to cheer when Ian proposed to me in the 2013 Halloween parade, and some of you came to our wedding in 2015.
But you have also been with me in the darkest times to. In 2017, we lost MJ Kevlin, my dear friend and mentor. The outpouring of love and support from all of you was overwhelming, and if I didn’t thank you then, consider this a much delayed appreciation for the kindness you showed me, the grief we shared.
Recently someone asked me where I was from. For the first time in my life, I didn’t reply “Oklahoma City,” where I was born, or generic “Upstate New York” to compensate for a hometown I don’t particularly associate myself with. “Oneonta,” I answered without hesitation.
I didn’t grow up here. But if home is where you hang your hat (and, as you know, I wear many of them) then it stands to reason that your hometown is the town where your home is located – and thus, your hat hangs.
Writing for the Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and AllOTSEGO.com has made me feel more a part of this community here than any career I thought I would have. Every week you welcome me into your home and your lives, you call me with good stories about graduations and strange collections and upcoming meetings, you allow me to lament with you when you send in obituaries and when we stand at the scenes of loss. It’s a position I do not take lightly, and I pledge to continue to my best to tell your stories accurately and honestly.
I’ve lived in a lot of places and I’ve traveled internationally and cross-country. But when I come off I-88 and turn onto the Lettis Highway, whether after a few days or a few weeks away, I always get the same feeling as the lights of Main Street greet me.
Not Slaves After All – At a meeting of the Women’s Franchise Association which was held in New York a few days since, the strong-minded women of the “divine sex” were addressed by some gentleman whose opinions were more truthful than palatable. One of these gentlemen, Mr. Freeman, the orator of the evening, took conservative ground upon the woman suffrage question and advised his fair listeners to move prudently. He said he was opposed to such expressions as calling husbands taskmasters and wives slaves. He didn’t think that women looked much like slaves, as they passed along Pennsylvania Avenue, decked in fine dress and jewelry. From the very fact of women wearing such finery and jewelry he would judge that men were the slaves, from the amount they had to furnish to
purchase such things.
125 Years Ago
Fire Loss – On Saturday night, October 27, at about 10 o’clock, the large four-story barn belonging to Adam Shaver, a prosperous farmer living one and one-half miles from Pepacton, was completely destroyed by fire. Eight cows, 90 tons of hay, 350 bushels of grain and all the valuable farming implements were destroyed with the building. The cattle were fed by Mr. Shaver’s son, at about six o’clock, after which none of the family went to the barn. By 10 o’clock, the family had all retired, and at about this time James W. Shaver was awakened by the crackling sound of the burning building. He hastily roused the family who rushed from their beds to work as best they could to save their property. There were in the barn 25 cows, a span of horses, and a yoke of oxen. With the exception of eight cows, all the cattle were driven or led from the building. It was only by the most heroic efforts that the house was saved. The most valuable farm implement was a new McCormick mower. The insurance on the barn and contents approximates $2,000 while the value of the destroyed property is estimated at $4,000. The origin of the fire is shrouded in deepest mystery.
100 Years Ago
Editorial Notes: “Is there any rebate if bottles are returned?” a woman in New York City is said to have asked her milkman the other day. It is the opinion of many milkmen in Oneonta, and in fact in all places where bottled milk is sold, that if a deposit were required the consumers would be more careful.
Mrs. William T. Hyde of Cooperstown, superintendent for Otsego of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, will give an address at 8 o’clock this evening at Municipal Hall. All Boy Scouts should be present, as it is one of the laws of scouting that scouts shall be kind to dumb animals. This year an active campaign is to be waged on behalf of animals and Mrs. Hyde believes that the boys can be of material assistance in this work.
80 Years Ago
H. Raymond “Red” Griffin, 27, of 30 Hudson Street, Oneonta, was fatally injured Wednesday morning when his car left the highway between Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs. Mr. Griffin, while away on a deer-hunting trip, is believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel. His Ford Coupe left the highway, knocked over two guard posts and somersaulted twice, landing right-side up off the road. The victim was seen emerging from his car and heading back to the highway when he dropped lifeless to the ground. An autopsy revealed death was caused by a punctured lung.
60 Years Ago
Oneonta School Lunch Menu: Monday – Baked pork slices with grazed apricot, sliced tomato, mashed potato, half pint of milk, bread and butter, apple sauce. Tuesday – Frankfurter on roll, green salad, milk, raisin and rice pudding. Wednesday – Meat loaf, Harvard beets, creamed potato, bread and butter, milk, fruited Jello. Thursday – Beef stew, cabbage and apricot salad; bread and butter, milk, ice cream. Friday – Baked tuna, macaroni and cheese, buttered Mexican corn, bread and butter, milk, and banana.
Chosen for their “morals, scholastic ability, personality and skill in sports,” seventeen Oneonta High School girls have been elected to the “Girls’ Leaders Club.” They are Joan Wood, Rose Zummo, Betty Oliver, Denella Chamberlain, Connie Cooper, Betsy Jester, Joyce Catella, Linda Hamm, Nancy Hall, Linda Vieweg, Martha Latcher, Jean Stevens, Dorothy Roe, Donna Loucks, Cheryl Bordinger, Kathleen Rogers and Lynn Nelson.
40 Years Ago
Senator Edward M. Kennedy declared Wednesday he will seek the presidency in 1980 because President Carter has failed to provide leadership to a country that is “willing, even anxious to be on the march again.” The last of the Kennedy brothers and heir to a modern political dynasty made his announcement in Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall, listing what he called stark failures of the Carter administration’s domestic policies. Kennedy said that before the last Presidential election, “we were told that Americans were honest, loving, good, decent, and compassionate. Now the people are blamed for every national ill and scolded as greedy, wasteful and mired in malaise.
10 Years Ago
On a breezy but comfortable Saturday afternoon at the National Soccer Hall of Fame fields, the second-seeded Yellowjackets dominated top-seeded Owego in a 3-0 victory, clinching their first sectional crown since 2003. “We definitely thought it was possible,” said sophomore Dan Joseph, who scored Oneonta’s first two goals, the first coming with 24 minutes, 11 seconds left in the first half. The Yellowjackets (16-2-1) await the winner of the Section III championship game with Marcellus and Skaneateles.
For several decades our nation’s environmental policies have, for the most part, been driven by emotion or what “seemed,” according to popular opinion, to be the “right” thing to do. As a result, many of those policies lacked a scientific basis and the unintended consequences are, like lost chickens, coming home to roost.
New York State’s ban on fracking may well be such an example. There are some in the environmental community who use natural gas to cook or heat their homes, yet they demand that gas not come from fracked wells in Pennsylvania. Let’s take a closer look at what that means to the release of carbon and the impact on climate change.
The gas they demand comes largely from the Gulf of Mexico, about 1,200 miles to the south of New York. It is transported from the Gulf of Mexico to New York via pipeline at about 800 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure.
To maintain that pressure inside the pipe the gas must be run through large reciprocating engines or turbines that compress it. This gas compression is done about every 40 miles along the pipeline at compressor stations and, guess what, natural gas is the fuel that powers the engines or turbines used to compress the gas to increase the pressure in the pipe.
In other words, not all the gas that enters the pipeline from the wells in the Gulf of Mexico arrives at the other end of the pipeline – much of it is burned as fuel to maintain the pressure inside the pipe and move the gas along the pipeline.
To maintain the pressure along the 1,200 miles the gas is being moved, it takes about 30 compressor stations. To move the gas from Pennsylvania to New York, a distance of about 80 miles, it would take two. Therefore, if we divide 30 by 2, we can quickly see that it takes about 15 times more gas for fuel to power the engines/turbines to move the gas in the pipeline from the Gulf of Mexico than it would take to move it from Pennsylvania to New York.
The people who oppose using the fracked gas from Pennsylvania are contributing to the 15-fold increase of released carbon by demanding we burn more gas than necessary to transport the gas they are using and thus are driving climate change. How’s that for irony?
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest utility, has announced it is utting off power to about 1.5 million Californians. How can that be, and what drove them to do that?
We’ve all read about California’s catastrophic wildfires, but how many of us understand what triggered them? It was a combination of things, including population growth and home construction being allowed in a fire-dominated ecosystem. However,
good intentions may have been the primary cause.
Every time the U.S. Forest Service, the state’s Forest Management Agency of PG&E, attempted to manage the forest and brush by reducing the fuel load, they were sued by a well-intentioned advocacy group. That too went on for decades allowing the accumulated fuel of dead and dying wood to build up.
When fire came, and that was certain to happen, it came with a vengeance. Entire communities were consumed.
As a result, PG&E was sued as a spark from one of its electric transmission lines may have ignited one of the fires. The groups that sued PG&E to keep the company from removing that fuel were, however, not held to be responsible. That may change going forward.
A year has passed and we’re now into another fire season. To avoid being held culpable for any fires this year, PG&E made a pre-emptive move. They cut off power to about 1.5 million customers. The lack of science-based forest management policy has indeed come home to roost for those affected Californians.
For New York to fulfill its rush toward renewable energy sources, including solar and wind, it must think about how to avoid having the “chickens” come home to roost. The “chickens” will be the expanded electric transmission lines that will
be needed to move the electricity generated by all the new wind and solar farms.
What new unintended consequences will we be asked to face as a result?
This column is titled, “We are all in this together,” but it doesn’t always appear to be so.
The U.S. economy is the world’s largest – our GDP will exceed $21 trillion in 2019. Our GDP represents 20 percent of total global output, is larger than China’s GDP, and is projected to grow 2.5 percent in 2019. Our GDP per person is seven times the world average while we have 1/20th of the population. We are the richest nation on earth, and you’d think we would all be doing well. But – according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – we have the second highest poverty rate of the OECD nations and the worst income inequality rate. How can this be?
In 1960, an average American couple with two kids lived on a single income. With saving and planning they bought a modest home. Unless they were big city residents they owned a serviceable automobile. They saved for their kids’ educations. While it is true that many African Americans, Native Americans, and others were often excluded from these opportunities, it was still the case for many Americans.
Early 1960s corporate-CEO-to-employee pay ratio was an average of 20:1. In 2018 it was almost 300:1. Since 2006, corporate profits grew 30 percent while household income grew only 4 percent.
According to one Federal Reserve Bank study, the share of the national income that workers receive has fallen to its lowest level since World War II, even as worker productivity has gone up six-fold. Workers fuel the success of the companies but executives reap the rewards at increasing levels of inequality. This money grab deprives company workers of a fair share in what they help create.
What does this mean in Otsego and Delaware counties? We are a microcosm of the nation: What we see here is happening everywhere. At least one Fortune 500 company operates here; in fact, Walmart has been #1 on the Fortune 500 list for six years running. Their CEO was paid $22.8 million in 2018. That’s 1,188 times the $19,177 median wage of employees. In just two hours of one week he made more than those employees made in a year. An average Walmart has 280 employees who are paid around $20,000 each.
With a payroll of $5.6 million a store typically brings in around $46.7 million in revenues. The majority of these Walmart revenues leave our area and go to Walmart’s corporate coffers: to highly compensated executives, to pay dividends to stock holders and Walton family members, and to support a $500 million private art collection and museum.
This flood of money makes the Walton family the richest in America, with assets of over $160 billion in 2018.
Yet the average Walmart employee makes around $20,000 per year. The corporate starting wage is $11 per hour. Fifty percent of employees are approved only to work part-time, which curtails benefits and opportunities for raises and advancement. Employees are cheap to hire and fire. They are intentionally disposable. It is also known that a significant number of Walmart employees depend on food stamps to feed their families.
If this is how the wealthiest company in America treats its employees everywhere, including here, what model does that set for other employers? I do not mean to pillory Walmart alone. This is the model under which American businesses currently operate.
From the largest to the smallest businesses, many working people are treated poorly, and this keeps or pushes many into poverty. As a business problem, a political problem, and a social problem it is crucial to fill this vast income gap. As a nation, if we expect those who struggle to be able to escape poverty, income inequality must be addressed.
The Fero Trial – The testimony in this exciting case was concluded Thursday afternoon and summed up by Mr. Smith of Albany, on the part of the prisoner, and the prosecution by the Attorney-General for the people. Court adjourned until 9 o’clock Friday morning, when Judge Balcom charged the jury, occupying about an hour. The jury retired, and at 12 o’clock brought in a verdict of not guilty. The case excited a great deal of interest, particularly in Davenport, where the murder occurred. The courtroom was crowded with spectators during the eight days of the trial. We should judge from what we have heard, that few women enjoyed a greater degree of respect and esteem than Mrs. Fero did in the community where she resided. It is not therefore surprising that her sudden and cruel death should create a strong feeling which may not be entirely allayed by the verdict of the jury. In fact, it is rumored that there were some noisy demonstrations around the house where Mr. Fero stopped the night after he returned to Davenport, and he was notified to leave in three days.
100 Years Ago
Military Training – All boys 16 years of age and not over 19 years of age will receive military training as arranged by the Military Training Commission. This year each boy who registers for training and receives weekly drill will have a card which will be punched each week and show whether the boy has attended or not. Employers and teachers should require each boy in their employ or attending school to exhibit their card to them each Monday to see whether the boy received the military instruction the previous week. The requirements of the law are such that a boy between the ages of 16 and 19 may not work or attend school who is not receiving the military training under the supervision of the Commission.
80 Years Ago
Residents of this vicinity who read the Saturday Evening Post were surprised to see in an advertisement on pages 66 and 67 of the September 30 issue a photograph of R.J. Warren of the Oneonta Sales Co. It appeared with six other automobile dealers from all parts of the country in an advertisement for “The Country Gentleman,” another publication of the Curtis Publishing Company, stressing the vast markets which are embraced in the shopping areas of communities like Oneonta. Mr. Warren was recently recognized by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. as its largest accessory dealer in the world. “With the wholehearted support of the student body, there will be two additional buildings on Oyaron Hill within two years,” said Dr. Henry J. Arnold, president of Hartwick College. One building, which will contain a dormitory, chapel and facilities for various departments of extracurricular activities, will be erected within a year. The second building, which will be called a student center, will be erected through efforts of the “Brick-a-Week” campaign. This structure will house a drill shed and other equipment of the physical education department.
60 Years Ago
If you aren’t registered, you can’t vote this fall. In rural areas, it is the function of the election inspectors to see that all qualified residents are listed on the elector’s roll so they may vote. Even then, this Saturday and next, election inspectors will sit at the polling places so that any new residents who have moved in, or any voter who has come of age, may make certain that his or her name is properly on the rolls. But in the City of Oneonta, personal registration is mandatory. If you haven’t already registered during central registration, you must visit your polling place this Friday or Saturday, or Friday or Saturday of next week to sign the voting register. Failure to do so will result in your being barred from casting a ballot for county and city officers, or voting on important amendments to the state constitution.
40 Years Ago
Catskill Symphony president George Silvernell announces that Mrs. J. Burton Hulbert has been elected to the symphony’s board of directors for a term of two years to fill an existing vacancy. Mrs. Hulbert is the daughter of John L. Wilsbach who took over and revived the Oneonta Community Orchestra in the 1930s. He held that position until 1940. The orchestra was the forerunner of the Catskill Symphony which began a non-stop series of performances in 1953. At the time John Wilsbach was chairman of the Music Department at the Teachers College in Oneonta. Mrs. Hulbert is a long-time devotee of classical music. Mrs. Hulbert is also president of the Board of Trustees of Fox Hospital.
20 Years Ago
A five-year fund-raising campaign by the State University College at Oneonta that capped off in June
has netted almost $6 million. The Campaign for Oneonta collected $5,986,406, or nearly twice its initial goal of $3 million set in 1994. The college’s endowment more than tripled from $4 million to $12.8 million during the campaign. Money from the campaign has been used to fund scholarships and research grants, renovate the Goodrich Theatre and provide support for Milne Library. The college’s next major fund-raising goal is to raise $1 million by 2002 to fund an endowment for the new Alumni Field House.
10 Years Ago
The Oneonta Yellowjackets will induct eight alumni and one former coach into their Athletic Hall of Fame in a ceremony that starts at 9 a.m. Saturday. “It’s a good mix with some recent graduates and some old-timers,” said Vince Foti, chair of Oneonta’s Athletic Hall of Fame. The Class of 2009 honorees spans 63 years of OHS athletics. Frank Super, who died in 2007, graduated from Oneonta High School in 1935. Also honored will be Lee Gill (Class of 1964) and George Kershaw (1944) posthumously. Tiffany (Hurley) Carr is the most recent OHS graduate (1998) to join the Hall, which also has spots reserved for 1997 graduate Quame Patterson and Leigh Irwin, Kevin Burnsworth (1982), Don Jester (1953) and former football coach Loyd F. Baker. Baker served as head football coach from 1956 to 1964 compiling a record of 51 wins, 16 losses and 2 ties.