Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rant #371: In the Dark

Do you remember the Northeast Blackout of 1965?

A series of power failures left 30 million people in seven states, including New York and stretching into Canada, in the dark for as many as 13 1/2 hours before full power was restored.

Today is the 45th anniversary of that occurrence, and for those who experienced it, it was something that they would never forget--even though they were in pitch black at the time.

The event became so famous it was made into a movie. And yes, birth rates went up in cities that were effected by the power outage. Thus, lots of babies were born in August 1966 because, well, in the dark, what else are two people gonna do?

Anyway, here is my experience, as I remember it, during this blackout.

It was not typical of people living in New York City at the time.

I don't remember what we were watching, but the whole family was watching the TV in our living room, an old black and white Dumont.

Suddenly, the lights flickered, but did not go off entirely. It was sort of a brownout more than a blackout.

We had some power because our community, Rochdale Village, had the foresight to have its own power plant, which did not rely on Con Edison for power.

It effected us, but not to the extent of other communities.

Anyway, I just remember that everyone on our floor--there were seven apartments on the floor--opened up their doors at about the same time. We could barely see, since we had a brownout, but we all expressed surprise at what was going on.

As it stands, Rochdale Village was one of the few places on the East Coast that had power. As the story goes, pilots used Rochdale's glaring lights as a beacon as they approached nearby Kennedy Airport. Without our lights, the pilots would have had a much tougher time landing their planes.

I know that this was something the community was so proud of in its early years. The founding fathers of the development, not wanting to rely on Con Edison, built the power plant so that we would generate our own power. Little did anyone know how valuable that idea became 45 years ago today.

We've had major power failures since then, but there was nothing like this first big one. Everyone who experienced it remembered it. People were trapped in elevators, cities were thrown into chaos--nobody had ever witnessed such an event, so few knew what to do.

But I lived in a place that, perhaps unwittingly, did the right thing.

P.S.: Just as a side note, during the week of Nov. 9-15, 1979, or 14 years after the blackout, the number one single in the country was ...

"Dim All the Lights" by Donna Summer!


  1. I remember that blackout vividly. I was attending classes at Claremont Secretarial School in Manhattan and working part time at the Woolworth on W34th across from Macy's. Something told me not to go to work that night. I never took off for no reason, but this time I did. Good thing I did! I lived up in the Bronx at the time on Bruckner Blvd (not far from the Parkchester subway station). Was in my room doing homework when the lights started to flicker. My brother came in and told me to look out on Bruckner Blvd - our bedrooms overlooked it (we were on the 6th floor). Traffic lights were going nuts and then everything went black. My brother and his friend were helping people navigate the stairs with their flashlight since the elevators weren't working - 22 story building. Sure could have used a full moon that night! But of course it wasn't.

  2. It's funny how these things stay in our minds forever. I remember it like it was yesterday. Thanks for your comments.



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