From rising crime in the city to thousands left without heat due to a gas shortage, from sounding off on the end of the Vietnam War to the Clinton sex scandal, here’s a look back on the week that was 100, 75, 50 and 25 years ago in this edition of Turning Back the Clock.
1923Jan. 26 — The repainting of the always-popular interior of the city lockup is in progress, the eight cells on the main floor being now completely overhauled and renovated. The floor is painted dark yellow while the cells are a spotless white. The work now being done on the cells upstairs. The cells are almost inviting in their spotless cleanliness, and police Chief Jack Dempsey is justifiably proud of the fine appearance of the lockup.
Jan. 28 — Since John Barleycorn bid a hearty goodbye to Olean thanks to the 18th Amendment, the number of arrests has never exceeded 106 until this month. This month has all former police records broken, according to the police books and Sergeant Richard Allen. To the present date, there have been 111 arrests from Jan. 1. The last high was recorded in July 1920, when 106 prisoners were taken into custody and arraigned before Judge Keating.
1948Jan. 24 — A supreme court judge ruled against East Aurora commuters seeking an injunction to stop the Pennsylvania Railroad from discontinuing “The Jerk,” a commuter run between Olean and Buffalo. Denial of the injunction means that the wheels of “The Jerk” — kept due to a federal request during World War II — will finally grind to a halt forever when the train pulls into Olean from Buffalo at 8 p.m. tonight. No ceremonies are planned, Pennsy officials reported.
Jan. 29 — Thousands of homes are without heat as gas pressure became so low that cooking stoves wouldn’t stay lit, and pilots went out on hot water heaters and furnaces. A North Union Street store making coffee took two hours to get the water to boil. Out of natural gas, Keystone Gas Co. said that its 7,000 customers in Olean and Allegany will see some relief as it activates its propane backup plant — which was also out of propane until today. District Manager K.C. Wilson said that the last time supply was so low was during World War I. Weather earlier this week dropped to minus 14, only exasperating the shortage.
1973Jan. 24 — The local reaction to President Richard Nixon’s announcement of a ceasefire in Vietnam was met with generally positive reaction. “I think the end of this war will open up a new era of peace and prosperity for our nation,” said an elated Olean Mayor William O. Smith. Derek Genesky, a Times Herald intern and potential draftee, said he was certainly glad the war was over but, “I think what counts more is the effects the end of the war will have on our country as a whole, like the economy and the labor market.” Guy Livingston, commander of the Olean American Legion, said, “Let’s see proof of the ceasefire before I’m overjoyed,” and, “Forget amnesty for the fellows who ducked serving when others had to.” The Paris Peace Accords would be signed Jan. 27 and see the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam.
Jan. 25 — Adam, Meldrum and Anderson, Western New York’s largest department store operation, will be the “anchor” tenant in the Olean City Mall. The 106-year-old firm, better known as AM&A’s, will serve as anchor of the $5 million to $7 million mall being developed by L’Alcove Castle Inc., with an 80,000-square-foot space being leased. The store, as its successor Bon-Ton, would remain open at the mall until 2018.
1998Jan. 23 — As investigations of President Bill Clinton lying about an inappropriate relationship with an intern grow, Oleanders are split on the issue. One resident said that “it’s a messy deal — he’s supposed to be leading the country. He’s showing kids it’s OK to lie.” Another resident said the probe was “a little too much, compared to what happened 20 years ago with Watergate. Everybody wants to get the jump on everybody else.” A more cynical resident said the issue was just a distraction. “We should be paying attention to other things — he’s a human being, just like the rest of us. As long as he’s doing his job, I don’t care.”
Jan. 26 — Olean Center Mall retailers reported they would like to see the Santa Claus Lane parade move to a different day, as the parade appears to gut store traffic after 6 p.m. on Black Friday. Parade organizers are now eyeing four options — the Saturday, Sunday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or continuing the parade on Black Friday. A Times Herald poll has been created seeking the public’s thoughts, and the real question is: is the parade a draw for retailers beforehand, or are they playing Scrooge and just coming for the parade on the biggest shopping day of the year?