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Post-World War I Town of Homer

Ford Model A Sketch
1929 Ford Model A

Town records make no mention that the United States was involved in the Great War in Europe from 1917 to 1918, other than permitting the Red Cross to use the Hall free of charge and noting that it was “impossible to buy stone on account of the war.” The Academy prepared a long list of names of the faculty and students who went off to serve in the war. Some never got to graduate because they dropped out to serve their country and “to make the world safe for democracy.” On February 11, 1919, the board was authorized to purchase a “Soldiers Honor Roll Register” and “to register all returning soldiers and sailors as requested by the War Dept. at Washington.”

This mandated list was to be compiled by a newly mandated position. Every city, town, and village in the state was required to appoint a municipal historian. Mabel B. Hyatt was the first to hold the appointed post of Homer Town Historian. There was a long period of time when no one filled the post at all. Interest renewed in 1974. Since then, the post has been held by Miss Ella Perry, Mrs. Josephine Brown, and this writer.

In the 1920s, Frank Kinney was contracted to build a vault with a steel door and frame in the northwest room in the basement of the Hall “to store the Town Research at a cost of $285.” The Town archives are stored there today, and the Village has a separate vault in the same room. Town historians operated out of their own homes until 2007 when space was provided in the Town Hall.

“Doughboys” returning from “Over There” may have thought the Town Hall would be a fine post-war site of entertainment. After all, the Homer Academy’s Centennial Ball was held there on the evening of June 27, 1919. In December of 1919 the Homer Band was permitted to rent the assembly room for roller skating and dancing. However, the next month the skating was terminated because “the skates were splintering the floor.”

Once women in New York State finally got the right to vote in 1917 and across the nation in 1920 upon the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women in Homer started holding such positions as poll inspector, tax collector, and overseer of the poor. However, no woman sat at the Board table as “councilman” until the year 2000. Mrs. Frances K. Armstrong holds that distinction. She was appointed January 5, 2000, to fill the post vacated by Donald Ferris upon his election as County Treasurer, and then she became the first woman to be elected to the Town Board. She is still active in civic-minded organizations today. Amelia Jenks Bloomer would be pleased.

The 1926 Senior Class of Homer Academy left its mark on the Town Hall — literally. A three-act play, “The Mummy and the Mumps,” was performed there on April 22 and 23. The cast left their names on the stage walls where they still remain, along with the graffiti of other townsfolk of a bygone era, making a rather interesting archaeological artifact.

The “Roaring Twenties” saw an increasing demand for the “horseless carriage,” in particular Henry Ford’s Model T and Model A. It is no surprise, therefore, to find the Town Board focused in the 1920s on road repair and bridge building. For example, in 1922, the Board authorized the expenditure of $2,000 for construction on Clinton Street of a bridge 30 feet in length to handle traffic over Factory Creek (just west of the present Homer Intermediate-Junior High School). In addition, a resident of Spafford submitted a wish to start a bus line between Homer and Skaneateles, using the Scott Road.

Other matters taken up in the ‘20s included repair of the ceiling of the Town Hall. The interior was to be re-varnished and redecorated and the exterior repainted. Two 2 & one-half gallon fire extinguishers were bought, and the exits were marked with red lights. The allowed capacity was set at 336 persons, a number determined by the width of the existing exits. A Brockway truck, manufactured in Cortland by a company that had first begun in Homer, was to be leased for $1775. The Cortland County Traction Company and the New York Power and Light Corporation were contracted to supply electrical lines for “light, heat, and power” along the town’s highways. W. J. Stafford provided coal to heat the Hall for the budgeted amount of $40.12, and on June 17, 1929, William E. Burdick was appointed the first “Enumerator” to make a list of dogs in the town. Truant officers were to be paid $3 per call to round up students “playing hooky” (skipping classes for no legal reason). In 1930, the title was changed to “attendance officer.” Do we need to bring that job back? As today, during the next decade unemployment was a major concern.