From cracking down on reckless drivers in Olean to unsafe boaters on Cuba Lake, from fruits of Olean’s labor heading to the moon to promoting green energy, 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.


July 15 — William Barnick Sr., who has never been sick a day in his 88-year life, is expected to not recover after grabbing the wrong bottle from the old family medicine chest. Hoping to cure a toothache with his late wife’s homemade remedy, he instead drank a bottle of diluted carbolic acid. The compound was then used as a powerful antiseptic, causing chemical burns when swallowed. When the old Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad had been built many years ago, he was in charge of pulling the stumps from Olean to Oil City.

July 17 — Olean Police Chief Jack Dempsey has asked the Common Council for an ordinance to fix the speed limit in the city, giving a sound basis for proceeding against the many reckless drivers on the streets. The governor’s office has responded to a request from S.C. Le Fever of Olean asking if state highway laws apply to city streets, and the state attorney general’s office reported the laws due in fact apply to non-state roads — much to the anger of many Olean drivers.

July 17 — Having survived the Great War in a machine gun company without a scratch on his person, Port Allegany’s William Knapp, 32, was killed while in the employ of the Olean Electric Light and Power Co. He was on a pole on West Henley Street opposite School No. 10 when it’s believed his arm touched a signal wire while his foot was on a 2,300-volt wire. A scream was heard, and he remained upright for a minute before plummeting to the ground.


July 15 — The explosion of film stock in the projection room of Friendship’s State Theatre claimed one life on a Friday night. As patrons filed out of the theater, a 7-year-old girl collapsed, believed to be caused by overexcitement. Firefighters were unable to revive the girl. A 16-year-old boy caught in a small anteroom off the projection room was overcome by smoke, but firefighters were able to revive him. At the time, motion picture film stock used a nitrocellulose base — the same compound used to make smokeless powder for bullets.

July 17 — The Olean Oilers moved into sixth of eight spots on the PONY League standings after winning both two games at Bradner Stadium over Erie. The first game on Saturday ended with a 7-1 victory on the back of pitcher Stan Spitzer, who allowed one single while fanning 12 batters. The Sunday game saw great pitching from Bill Harvey until the ninth when five hits and three runs brought old reliable Jack Banta into the game to quelch the uprising.

July 19 — Motor boat operators on Cuba Lake have been given a warning from the lake superintendent and ranger to follow the rules of the water. Row boat-voyaging fishermen report that motor boat operators have disregarded rules on speed and a regulation which requires motor boats to pass fishing boats at a reasonable distance in order to avoid cutting the fishermen’s trolling lines. In other news, commissioners created a post-war planning committee to look at the future of the lake and handle projects for after the war ends.


July 16 — At least four different products made in Olean are on their way to the moon on Apollo 11 thanks to Hysol. The television camera used to record the first steps used a printed circuit coating, a silver filled epoxy as part of the circuitry and a clear coating to protect the identifying markings on some of the components. Another insulating compound has been used extensively in the command module to prevent sparking — the cause of the Apollo 1 fire that claimed three lives during a routine test.

July 17 — American Indian pottery dating back more than 600 years has been unearthed along the banks of the Allegheny River by Salamanca’s George McKinley Jr. Unusual markings along the rim of the Glen Meyer oblique storage vessel identify it as belonging to Eiroquis from around 1350. The fragments are in the hands of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh for reassembly and inspection.

July 19 — Linda Trybus, Miss Amherst, has been crowned Miss New York during the annual pageant at Olean High School. “She’ll make a marvelous Miss New York. She’s not only beautiful outside, but inside as well,” said Pauline Holdridge, the Olean woman who hosted Trybus during her week in Olean leading up to the pageant. Trybus would place in the Top 10 in the Miss American 1970 competition that fall in Atlantic City, N.J.


July 17 — After scrapping the Friday launch over the weather, the 19th annual Great Wellsville Balloon Rally took to the skies in the early morning hours on Saturday. Another launch — in front of an estimated 22,000 spectators — took to the skies later in the day. However, the early morning Sunday launch was scrapped over heavy fog in the Genesee River valley.

July 18 — The Enchanted Mountain Stage Race ended Sunday in Olean, with most of the races decided by mere seconds. Eddy Gragus of Boulder, Colo., placed first in the Pro Elite Division by 23 second. He would go on to win the United States National Road Race Championships in 1996. Coming in second was four-time Olympian Graeme Miller of New Zealand. More than 400 riders representing 14 states and five countries participated in the event sponsored by the Olean Cycling Club.

July 19 — Cyrus, a 20-ton mobile green power generator constructed by Greenpeace, is helping power the Allegany County Fair this week. Officials hope to encourage President Bill Clinton to commit to reducing global warming emissions by 20 percent in the next decade. At the time, $32 billion was spent on fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, while only $1.5 billion was spent on all renewable energy sources combined. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, electricity generation in the United States in 2018 was 63.5% from fossil fuels, 19.3% from nuclear energy, and 17.1% from renewable energy sources.