It has been quite awhile since between 25,000 to 30,000 visitors descended upon Delhi on a single weekend. That’s quite a turnout, considering that the normal population of Delhi in 1957 was about 2,400. The 2010 census showed those numbers at just under 3,100. Such a throng came here in early September 1957 for a celebration called “Your Armed Forces on Parade.” It was an opportunity for area residents to see a huge array of equipment used by the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.
The two-day event took place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8 and 9. It was reported in The Oneonta Star on Sept. 4 that preparations had begun for the massive display, as “Large tractor trailers were moving through the village yesterday, loaded to the gills with mammoth tents, tent pins, jackhammers for driving the pins in the ground, and compressed air pumps to furnish power for the driving operations.” This equipment was brought to the American Legion Park, where 16,000 square feet of tenting would hold all the exhibits from the four military branches.
The 137 members of the Donald W. Gleason Post 190, American Legion, sponsored and planned this gigantic celebration.
The celebration began Saturday morning with a massive parade. The line formed “on and in the vicinity of the Delhi Agricultural Institute,” today’s SUNY at Delhi. As described by the Star, it proceeded north on Main Street to American Legion Park via Page Avenue. “Upon reaching the park it will march around the race track, giving those in the grand stand and on the grounds an opportunity to see it in its entirety.”
“Practically every business place on Main Street, as well as the county buildings, are bedecked with red, white and blue decorations and streamers across the street the whole length of the parade route.”
While the parade marched up Main Street, three military helicopters hovered overhead. A reviewing stand was located on Court House Square. Ann Sommerville of Sidney, attired in an Uncle Sam outfit and mounted on a dashing steed, was parade marshal. The first band was the First Air Force Band of Mitchel Air Force Base, Long Island, with many more bands and floats following.
Upon arrival at American Legion Park, those in the grandstand and on the grounds heard a few addresses by high-ranking personnel from the military groups. Delhi resident and nationally known author and news commentator John W. Vandercook was the master of ceremonies.
Gen. A.C. O’Hara, commanding general of the 27th Division of the New York National Guard, praised the members of the Gleason Post saying, “The acquisition of such an array of military equipment and display in a town the size of Delhi is nothing short of a miracle.”
In addition to the speakers, the Sherburne American Legion Post Drill Team staged a precision exhibition which received tremendous applause from the jam-packed grandstand. The First Air Force Band gave a brief concert.
Immediately after the introductory event, the parade marchers were served lunch in the cafeteria of the Delaware Academy and Central School, which was no small task. “Mrs. E.A. Smith, who was in charge…reported that 1,577 meals were served.”
For the rest of Saturday and Sunday, there were crowds looking at displays, or taking in demonstrations. On Saturday afternoon there was an assault on a pillbox by a detachment of Marines. On Sunday there was a concert by the U.S. Military Academy Band from West Point. At one point during the program, four jet planes flew over the park as a salute to the armed forces.
This weekend: Oneonta was blitzed in a campaign of thrift in 1917.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.