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November 1, 2010
Which blackout(s) did you experience?
1965 (Great Northeast Blackout)
In your own words, tell the story of your experience in the blackout(s). Try to recall specific events and the people, places, and things involved; also include more general reactions, images adn last impressions?
I remember the night very well, but it wasn't until decades later that my mom explained to me that it was the great blackout of '65 that I had remembered.
I was a few months short of my 5th birthday. We were living in the east end of Toronto, Ontario, Canada near Dawes Rd. and Danforth Ave. I would learn later that it was the day of my mom's 25th birthday and there were about 10 or 11 other women in the house including my grandmother. Some of the women I had recognized from the neigbourhood, and others I didn't. I would learn later that my mom was having a "Sarah Coventry" jewelery party which explained why all the women were sitting on the couch and the kitchen chairs which had been brought from the kitchen. For those who may not be familiar, the Sarah Coventry jewelery company would have women hold parties very much like Tupperware did in those days. It was relatively early in the evening because I was still up, but facinated with all the goings on, as usual whenever company came over. I remember the women were all chatting away when all of a sudden I noticed the chandelier in the dining room was diming and blinking quickly for a few seconds and then were were all in the dark. Candles were soon lit and I remember my grandmonther coming down the stairs back into the group with a little brown battery operated transistor radio in a light brown leather case. She must have been listening to the news reports because the tv of course wasn't working. I remember the lights came on and then went out again a couple more times in the next little while then they stayed on. I had no idea until I was well into my 40's that that was the night of the blackout and that's what I had remembered all those years.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
At the time, as a small boy, I assumed it was a fuse that blew out which caused the lights to go out that night. I had no idea anyone else was affected let alone the entire North Eastern coast.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Well, in those days I suppose it was a faulty switch.
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Neither was significant
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I thought it was just a fun thing to happen to a small kid when the house was full of people! I was a little scared at first, especially when the lights were flickering because they didn't just go out black, they seemed to dim and become brighter in a rapid cycle for a few seconds and at the time my mom during the dimming and blinking was shouting "hey, hey, hey, heeeyyy, which I think startled me more because she seemed upset. Other than that once the lights were out I was fine. Lot's of people were in the house so it wasn't like I was alone.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I wouldn't learn or even hear about this blackout again for decades after. It's only been recently that I've looked at news reports and how it put's what I remember of that evening into perspective.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
I was living in Niagara during the last big one a few years ago. That affected me more because I was an adult.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Our power company in Toronto would have been Ontario Hydro at the time.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
Did not experience the '77 blackout, so have no comparison
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
How did the blackout(s) affect your daily reliance on electricity?
No effect / same reliance
This is how the story goes: In November of 1965 the lights went out in New York and crime rates temporarily dropped; there were widespread reports of extraordinary cooperation and trust between strangers caught together in the power failure. In July of 1977, little more than a decade later, the lights went out again in New York. This time, a devastating wave of looting and arson broke out. Does this story ring true to you? Explain why or why not:
There was alot of co-operation in Toronto, I was told. People seemed more civil and had more respect in those pre-demonstration days of the '60's.
Story #2184, The Blackout History Project, 1 November 2010, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/2184/>.
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