From helping Hornell hold back the floodwaters to a well-deserved rest for a twice-shipwrecked sailor, from a national honor for Olean’s poet laureate to the mystery of the dead alligator, here’s a look back on the week that was 100, 75, 50 and 25 years ago on this edition of Turning Back the Clock.

1919

Dec. 2 — On the heels of the city of Olean wrapping up a large flood-control project along Olean Creek, the city of Hornell has reached out to Olean officials on how to fight back against flooding. “We have flood troubles here, and we are very anxious to get to them shortly, and any information or help that you can give us in this connection will be greatly appreciated,” writes Albert Mundorf, executive secretary of the Hornell Chamber of Commerce. For decades, floods struck both cities with shocking regularity as abatement projects continued. Hornell would struggle again, like Olean, in the Flood of 1943, but Hornell officials performed so much work afterward that the Maple City was virtually untouched by the Flood of 1972 despite devastation downstream at Corning and Elmira.

Dec. 6 — St. Bonaventure’s basketball team will play one of the most important parts in the history of the athletic association of the institution this year, said team manager Eugene McMahon, who has set 22 games for the season. Coach McLaughlin has picked 15 men from the top 40 candidates. The schedule includes some familiar names to current St. Bonaventure fans, including games against future Atlantic 10 teams Fordham and Duquesne, as well as bouts against future Division I teams from Canisius, Seton Hall, St. Francis and Albany.

1944

Dec. 2 — Three hundred fans packed into the St. Bonaventure Gymnasium to watch as the Brown Indians lost 46-34 to an older, heavier Ithaca College squad in Bona’s season opener. While Eddie Ostrom, captain Frankie Lynch, Dock O’Connor and Buddie Lester played beautiful ball for the locals, Pat Fiore, 25-year-old semi-pro from Rochester, proved the undoing of the locals. Despite the loss, it is believed that the squad can still provide the fans of the Brown and White with happy and exciting moments this winter.

Dec. 4 — Machinist’s Mate Walter Kosinaki is home on leave with his parents on East Forest Avenue. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for him while serving in the Navy Reserve, having survived 16 battles and two ships sinking under his feet in 33 months. He was on board the Yorktown-class carrier U.S.S. Hornet during the Battle of Midway, as well as when the ship sank in October 1942 during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. He later served on board the U.S.S. Princeton, a light attack carrier which sank Oct. 24 at the Battle of Leyte Gulf during the liberation of the Philippines.

1969

Dec. 2 — Part-time Olean resident Robert Lax of 215 Madison Ave. is awarded $500 from the National Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for his poetry “The Journal of Robert Lax,” which appeared in Voyages magazine in the spring of 1968. Lax, born in Olean in 1915, returned to town for graduate work at St. Bonaventure University. He is best known today for his association with Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who taught at St. Bonaventure. Near the end of his life, he returned to Olean. He died in 2000.

Dec. 4 — Despite warming up with the same color balls, there were no similarities as St. Bonaventure University unleashed its stars on Detroit College in a 106-54 romp in front of a packed house at the University Center. All-American Bob Lanier commanded the court, racking up 36 points despite sitting the last five minutes while displaying an arsenal of shots. The easy going gave coach Larry Weise a chance to experiment with zone and man-on-man defense, as well as getting many of the sophomores into the game for some experience in front of the big crowds. Sitting at 19 in the preseason AP poll, the team would climb its way to a Final Four finish.

1994

Dec. 2 — OK, who left the dead alligator along Route 417? Bill Putt reported finding the carcass of a 4-foot dead alligator near Portville Concrete Wednesday while heading out hunting. The dead reptile, according to DEC wildlife biologist Dave Kiel, could have been the one spotted in Olean near the South Union Street bridge over the summer. “The history is anybody’s guess — where it came from and how it got there,” Kiel said. “More than likely somebody had it as a pet and it got too big for the bathtub.” He advised residents to not buy such animals as pets — “these things aren’t cute and cuddly, they’re actually wild animals.”

Dec. 5 — The Buffalo Bills provided some fireworks in the annual trek to Miami. Coming back from a 17-7 deficit at the half to a 42-31 win over the Dolphins, the team left the almost 70,000 spectators shocked on a rainy, lightning-punctured evening. A pick thrown by Jim Kelly in the last play of the first half made it appear the team’s goose was cooked, but the team came out and racked up 21 points in the third quarter — the most in a quarter against Miami all year. Guards Mike Devlin and Jerry Ostroski were instrumental in the win, as was third-string tight end Lonnie Johnson.

 

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