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Robin Schkrutz
Blackout "Survivor"
5 August 1999

Interviewed by John Summers


A-In 65, I think that I was 16 years old, and, I mean, the only thing I remember about it is being on the phone–which I did a lot at that time–and I was talking with my friend Nadine, who lived in another end of Bayside, not really close, and, you know, I just remember looking outside and seeing all the lights go out. And probably--I guess it was probably like around 6pm or 5:30pm, and the lights went out in the house, and, you know, she said the lights went out in her house also.

Q-But the telephone was working.

A-But the telephone was still working; we were on, yeah, we were on the telephone.

Q-Did you find that strange--that the lights would be out, but the telephone would continue to work?

A-Not being a big science student, I guess I didn’t find it–and never having experienced anything like that before--I guess I didn’t really think about it too much. But I was in high school at the time--and I went to high school at ?? of art and design in New York–it must have been, yeah, I was in high school. 65? Yeah, I think I must have just started.

Q-November of 65.

A-Yeah, I think I probably just started high school at that time. Or was it in 64? Anyway, it was my second year. I remember people who, you know, did live in Manhattan talking about how they went out on the street and had to, you know, help direct traffic and things like that. But we...

Q-Did you have friends that actually did that?

A-Yes, actually there was a guy–James Brownie –I remember and he lived on the Upper East Side, and he was a big guy–probably about six feet–and he went out and directed traffic.

Q-And what area of the city did you live in?

A-Well, we didn’t live in the city. We lived in the suburbs. In Queens–in Bayside, which is sort of on the border of Nassau County. We had to take a bus to the subway. You know Manhattan at all?

Q-A little bit.

A-We had to take a bus to Flushing, and then take a number seven train into Manhattan.

Q-Do you remember hearing that the experience of the blackout was different in Manhattan than it was in your particular area?

A-I guess, you know, maybe people got a little more involved. I guess, where we lived–there was no reason for anybody to go out and direct traffic so much.

Q-Because it was a quieter place, less traffic.

A-Yeah, it was–you know, at that point, it was kind of suburban.

Q-Had you remembered experiencing blackouts before 65?

A-No, there weren’t any blackouts before that; that was it. And then, when the other one happened in 77, it happened that I was--I went with my aunt to Philadelphia, and we went to settle my cousin Bonnie into an apartment. She was a resident in medical school–you know, at a hospital then; an intern. So we went to help set her up, and turning on the news and just seeing that New York City was in a blackout. That was kind of a strange feeling. Not being there.

Q-Feeling like you were missing something.

A-Yeah, at that point I lived in Manhattan too.

Q-So your only memory of the 77 blackout was the fact that you weren’t there?

A-Exactly. And watching it from a hotel in PhiladelphiA-That was the only memory of that.


Q-If I could just ask you one more question.


Q-By the second blackout, were you surprised at the news? Because after the first blackout, there were lots of regulatory agencies put into effect and there was much made of the idea that this would never happen again; that this was an anomaly. Do you remember being surprised?

A-I guess that I never am surprised at any of those things that happen. I mean, you know, just–what was it three weeks ago, two weeks ago, in Washington Heights where they had a blackout? I mean, you know, you’re surprised that it happens. But, you know, you sort of expect it. (inaudible)

Q-So by 77...

A-If you’ve lived with having Con Edison as an electric provider, you know, you don’t–I don’t think you’re that surprised.

Q-Even back–what about in 65?

A-Well, then–you know, a teenager, I don’t think, you know, I was–it was just something that happened. Now, as a consumer I guess I have a different view of it. And it wouldn’t shock me terribly; especially with Con Edison. The years I lived in Manhattan–I was not terribly satisfied with them.

Q-You weren’t?

A-No. They always charged me–you know, I had a studio apartment which I paid–in the summer months I paid close to $200 a month for electricity, which is pretty much more than I pay now for; you know, now I have an old Victorian house with three floors and outdoor lights and, you know, every electrical appliance–and here it is, probably twenty years later, and I pay less electric to PSE &G than I did to Con Edison.

Q-And where do you live now?

A-In Jersey City; you know, right across the river from New York.

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jts{27 June 2000}