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In These Otsego Hills

September 13, 2012

1986 comes to a close ... finally

CHERRY VALLEY — We ended our 1986 oral history of Cooperstown with the following:

“We have a modern village history trivia question to pose.  Who remembers the children’s museum and where was it located?  Does anyone recall the lovely doll house which was on display there a well as the three exciting dioramas of Cooperstown’s past, present and future?  Who was responsible for creating the dioramas and the doll house and whatever happened to them once the museum ceased to exist?  If anyone can help, please let us know.”

We suspect we referred to this particular topic as being modern, even though it hails from 1953, as it was something the he-we remembered.  There was no doubt those in 1986 who might have thought something from 1953 could be considered ancient history.  And we are positive there are those currently who know 1953 was ancient history.  Nonetheless, the response to our question follows:

“The Children’s Museum was jointly sponsored by the Women’s Club and the Cooperstown Art Association and was located on the first floor of the Village Library Building on Main Street.  According to the February,1953 edition of “Children’s Museum Spotlight,” kindly loaned to us by Kitty Sanford whose late husband John was most active in the program, ‘the purpose of the Children’s Museum is not to teach vocations, but to encourage hobbies.  Each member of the teaching staff is seeking to share his or her knowledge of a particular art or craft with children interested in the field...A great variety of subjects is offered and the curriculum varies from term to term, depending on the availibility of teachers the the students demands.’  We (the he-we) do remember going to Saturday morning painting classes and to the Story Hour held after school on Thursdays.

“Carlotta Harrison of Beaver Street called to tell us that the dollhouse came from Mrs. Joseph Campbell and to remind us of the “Chinese Funeral” which was housed in a case near the stairway.  The ‘Chinese Funeral’ was comprised of many figures two inches high and depicted exactly what the title indicated.  Mrs. Harrison does not know what happened to the Funeral, the dollhouse or the murals.  Incidently, speaking of murals, it is interesting to note that the children in painting classes must have done a Christmas mural each year.  We also thank Betsy Hawn who called to discuss the Children’s Museum with us.”

The discussion of the Children’s Museum continued with:

“Miss Anna Cunningham of Elm Street writes that the Children’s Museum was ‘something a hard-pressed, war-weary small community once did for its children...Miss Mary Cunningham, an imaginative and creative person, initiated the Children’s Museum program during World War II (and) it caught on instantly and received great support and co-operation.  The War Years were a time of shortages, of make do, of tight budgets.  It was a time when small town America, with clinched teeth, was toughing it out. Materials for the Museum were donated by townsfolk---lumber, paint and their labor.  Cooperstown in those days, even as it does today, seemed to have a deep reserve of talent to draw upon in time of need...Mrs. Folger (Dorothy Savage) Oudin, a trained and talented artist, joined early on.  Support also came from a corps of conscientious objectors to war who were then stationed in the area by the Federal government on a work program...many were artists...It was they who painted the wall murals depicting scenes of local history. The Children’s Museum remained in the Village Library Building after the War.’”

And thus we end our sharing of local history as originally presented back in 1986.  We greatly enjoy revisiting all these columns and many of our readers have also told us how much they enjoy reading what we consider to be oral history.  We do hasten to point out that we are never certain if what we learned was exactly correct and thus we have presented it for what it is, namely the fond memories of many people who dearly loved our fair community.  

And having finished with 1986, we can now turn to 2012 where we find ourselves facing the unbelievable reality that our son, Christopher, turns 38 today.  We are not exactly certain how this came to be.  It does not seem it was 38 years ago that we were rushing to Cottage Hospital in Grosse Pointe, Mich., to welcome our new arrival into our world.  And we suspect that at the time he had no idea as to just what he had gotten himself into. However, and we may be prejudiced about this, we were, and still are, very happy to have him, as well as his delightful wife Annie and his precious daughter Abby, as part of our world.  And although there were no doubt times when he would cheerfully have disowned us, we can but hope he too is happy to be a part of our world.

Happy Birthday Christopher...and remember, you are now nine years older than we are!

PLEASE NOTE:  Comments regarding this column may be made by mail at 105 Pioneer St., Cooperstown, N.Y. 13326, by telephone at 547-8124 or by email at


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