September 15, 2008


County takes trip through past

Bicentennial parade rolls down Main Street as history on display


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Madeline Koziol, 2, of Dryden waves to historical re-enactors on the Homer American Legion float Saturday during the bicentennial parade.

Staff Reporter

Two centuries of local history strolled down Main Street Saturday, reminding paradegoers of the Cortland County of yesteryear.
More than 100 floats from around the county, each showing a significant historical group, person or theme, participated in Cortland County’s bicentennial parade.
Brockway trucks, floats depicting historical characters, tributes to war veterans, horse-drawn carriages and tributes to local industries were showcased.
In addition, towns showed tributes to farming and other industries, adorning floats with hay, pumpkins, and one with a calf.
Despite overcast skies, the parade brought out  cheers from the crowd.
Jake Keep, 6, of Virgil said his favorite part of the parade was the racecars, and especially the free candy. He referred to the Mid-State Microd Club, members of which drove a group of the go-kart-like vehicles at the parade.
County Historian Jeremy Boylan helped organize the event with the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce. He said he was pleased with the outcome, especially since he had not seen any floats before the day of the parade.
“It’s really impressive, people put a lot of hard work into their floats,” he said.
Debbie Davenport and Sandy Janke were among several Homer American Legion members dressed as women from the Civil War.
“We’re just here to celebrate the history of this county and participate,” Janke said.
Davenport said the Legion helps soldiers overseas in many ways, including shipping them packages of various goods to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The sights of the parade reminded some residents of how much Cortland has changed over the decades.
June Christopher, a Cortland resident since 1957, said the dynamic of Main Street has changed a great deal.
Christopher recalled many more local businesses lined the streets, with busier traffic, when it was a two-way street.
 Over the past 30 to 40 years, she has seen many businesses come and go.
“My family and I would go to the Busy Bee restaurant and get a bowl of onion soup,” she said of a long-since closed business. “It used to be a lot busier here and Main Street used to be the main shopping area around here.”
Other older local residents agreed that over the decades, the growth of the college altered the feel of the town.
“Cortland is a great place, and as the college grew, more bars showed up,” said Mable Underwood, 77. “This was a major farming community.”
Underwood added that the 1960s and 1970s showed a major shift in the downtown businesses. The current Marketplace Mall and more college-centered stores replaced Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penney Co.
Paul Lee, 82, recalled how some things in those days seemed more efficient than today’s practices. For example, he said J.C. Penney had a unique change system at the register that sent a customer’s money through a tube to the upper floors. Once there, the people upstairs would send your change back down, he said.
“It seems like you wait longer now than you did back then,” he said.


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