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Countdown to the Millennium

1954

 Gowanda PennySaver - March 1, 1999

Day is done - As the whistle blows at 4:30 p.m. on June 4, 1954, workers at Moench Tanning Company waste no time leaving the building and leaving the daily grind behind. (Photo courtesy of Gowanda Area Historical Society)

by Mary Pankow
Staff Writer

Our journey has taken us well into the '50s. This week we visit 1954, the year Elvis begins his regal climb - he makes his first rock and roll recordings, recordings that launch his career and his reign as king.

This is a time of change, when regular broadcast of color television comes to pass. It's when the Brown versus the Board of Education ruling outlaws segregation in public schools and the Senate censures Joseph McCarthy. The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) is formed, encompassing these countries: United States, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Pakistan and Thailand. Private industry is permitted to “develop atomic power thanks to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower also signs the St. Lawrence Seaway bill. He appeals for a postal rate hike by which first-class mail would increase from 3 cents to 4 cents an ounce, and air mail would jump from 6 cents to 7 cents.

Word comes that 7,000 square miles of the Pacific have been irradiated by a Bikini Island hydrogen bomb test. The test contaminates Japanese fishermen.

On the lighter side (or temporarily without light), there is a total eclipse of the sun on June 30. The New York Giants take the World Series this time while the Minneapolis Lakers repeat their NBA championship. In a playoff, Sam Snead wins the Masters and the Stanley Cup victors are the Detroit Red Wings.

"On the Waterfront" is the year's Academy Award winner and Marlon Brando gets the Best Actor salute for his work in the film. Grace Kelly takes Best Actress recognition for her role in "The Country Girl." Ernest Hemingway is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Kicking off the year locally is the birth of Shirley Ann Palcic to Florence and Frank Palcic of Gowanda on New Year's Day.

One of the biggest headline grabbers of 1954 is the school bond issue. Early in the year, a $45,000 bond is passed and the Mackmer site is chosen for construction of Gowanda Central School. Months of discussion follow as details are ironed out; finally
the architectural drawings are on the board and residents have a visual concept of the proposed building.

The community experiences more newness as a new fire truck arrives; A LaFrance 750-gallon pumper, costing between $16,000 - $17,000, replaces the old truck that has been in service since 1923. The village offers the old truck for sale for $1,000.

A formal opening is held at the end of January for the Gowanda State Hospital bowling alleys. Also hospital related is the announcement that Dr. I. Murray Rossman, a former intern at Buffalo State Hospital, is appointed director of the Gowanda facility. The salary scale for directors-of state hospitals range from $11,329 to $13,667.

A bit of violent weather touches the area in June as a heavy rainstorm downs power lines causing a blackout, and creates some flooding and damage. A large tree is blown down on Jamestown Street. Chief of Police Norton Fluker and Jim Steel wield saws, cutting up the tree and limbs, while Harmon Stelzer uses his wrecker to remove all the debris. The street reopens to traffic.

Weather and icy road conditions also factor into another incident at the end of the year. A semi, loaded with 30,000 pounds of meat, attempts to climb Perrysburg Hill. Before long, the driver realizes the weight and glare ice are too much for the rig and his tires begin slipping and spinning. Setting the brake, he gets out of the tractor to assess the situation. Gravity takes over and the rig starts a downward descent - without a driver. Before the driver can jump in and settle behind the wheel, the semi has jack-knifed across the road, closing it completely to traffic. Finally, after eight hours, and plenty of manpower and equipment, Perrysburg Hill reopens.

People in the news in 1954 include Mrs. René Tschopp, who is named local civil defense head. Harry Whiting is chosen new director of the Bank of
Gowanda. The Gowanda Police Club elects officers  - Raymond Szymanski is the president, vice president is Louis Gerbec.

Fred Campbell is elected president of the Gowanda Business Association and Phyllis Wagenblatt is chosen to head up the Gowanda PTA.

Voters turn out to elect Ralph Schaack, Jr. and Fred Wonnacott as village trustees. Once again, Richard Straub is the head of the Gowanda Moose Club. James Galloway is elected Gowanda Volunteer Fire Department chief. Tri-County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary elects Mrs. George Lambert president, while Mrs. Norman Hogle is chosen to head the Gowanda Art Club.

Aside from a building project and bond issues, other school-related activities take place.

Student Bartlett Green receives first-place prize in the county finals of the American Legion Oratorical Contest. Jean Musacchio is valedictorian and Patricia Trombley is salutatorian of the class of 1954. Frances Sandy is crowned junior prom queen. Those chosen for Boys' State this year are: Bert Hawkins, Phil Palcic, Dick Stitzel, John Hubbard, Chuck Pulvino and Richard Derby. Ruth Leiker is selected for Girls’ State. It is announced that 90 teachers have been hired for the fall, beginning of the 1954-55 school year. Principal of GCS, Donald Wing, notes it is one of the largest faculties.

In business news, Storey's Jewelry Store on Water Street closes its doors in February. Merril Williams of Orchard Park buys the Western Auto Store from Richard Decker. James Deary opens the Pie Kitchen Restaurant at 1 Buffalo St., the former location of Ella's Kitchen. The Eaton Block is purchased by Fred Campbell. Campbell begins construction on an addition that will tie his furniture store and Eaton Building into one long building. Maxson and Thelma Gibbs open a wallpaper and paint store on Buffalo Street. The Gowanda Food Store is newly decorated and enlarged; owner Mike Ragona holds a grand opening celebration and awards the following prizes: bicycle - Chucky Markham, electric clock - Margaret Roussy, and bushel basket of groceries - Mrs. Paul Weborg.

Richard and Robert Gabel open a furniture store in the Sipple building on Main Street next to the bridge. Povhe's Grocery, 103 Beech St., goes out of business. In addition to the Seneca Heights location, Peter Pan Flower Shop opens on the corner of East Main and Buffalo streets; Ruth Clees is named manager. Don Campbell closes his Red and White Store for three days in October to remodel. Automated checkout counters and self-serve meat cases are added.

Harry Whiting sells National Sales System to Russell Stratton. Einar Wheel Motors is the new Dodge/Plymouth dealer at Main and Water streets.

This is also the year Sweda's Grill is robbed of $700 and the door of the iron safe at Gowanda Builders Supply and Coal Company is pried open; thieves
only net less than $30 for their efforts. Gowanda Liquor Store is hit hard, though, as criminals rob the establishment, taking 20 cases of liquor.

Some of the tempting buys of the time include the G.E. Rotary Ironer at Campbell's Furniture. The machine features a "large, 26-inch ironing roll, convenient knee operation plus fingertip control, two dial-the-fabric temperature controls and end shelf for storing finished pieces." Regularly priced at $181.95, it's on sale for $149. The store also offers a three-piece Adirondack set for $29.95.

Beaver's Department Store is featuring Princess Peggy "Eyelet-Iced Beauties in suds-loving cotton prints" dresses at $2.98. They also advertise sunsuit sets for children for 79 cents and ladies boleros for $2.19. Armes Brown Bilt Shoe Store runs specials on shoes. Children's sandals are $1.94, misses’ sandals are $2.22, men's and boys‘ Keds are $3.33 and "Air-Step" Spectators are $6.88. Himelein & Company also has shoes on sale. For $4.95, customers can have their own pair of saddle shoes.

Farner-Parker, Inc. offers Green Spot orangeade for 16 cents a quart and Sunkist lemonade for 22 cents a quart. Nagle's features "Back-to-School togs;" McGreggor "Rah-rah" sweaters are $6.95. Nagle's has another big merchandising moment as the store begins stocking Levi's at only $3.95 a pair. A season-end clearance is taking place at Iroquois Gas Corporation, 23 Buffalo St. Servel gas refrigerators are "as low as $199.95." Himelein's features "Spatter" Armstrong linoleum at $2.95 a square yard.

Readers of the "Gowanda News" are reminded to "Buy from Gowanda merchants and save S&H Green Stamps." Those participating include Hiller's,
The Fashion Shop, Dahm Hardware Store, Gowanda Laundry & Cleaners and Super Service Company.

As Christmas approaches, Campbell's Furniture offers these toy specials: Slinky train - $1.98; regular Slinky - 98 cents; electric iron - $2.69; Tom Thumb cash register - $2.98; Hubley sports car - $1.49; Hubley trailer dump truck - $3.98; Hubley farm set -
$2.98; Hubley Motor Express moving van - $3.95; and Little Lady electric range - $6.95. Hiller's features authentic Roy Rogers Frontier boys' shirts - $2.95; black Western hat - $1.95; lined cowboy jeans - $2.98; and double two-gun holster - $3.95.

One of the biggest sale events of the year is Pioneer Days. Ronald Willett, of Lawtons, sets up an all-night vigil in front of Campbell's Furniture Store to be the first in line to win a Stromberg-Carlson TV set. Willett, on a 30-day leave from 32nd Air Division at Hancock Field, Syracuse, is awarded the TV and claims it will help keep his wife and two young daughters from being too lonely while he's away.

Other participating stores have lines of people by 8 a.m. during Pioneer Days to take advantage of the giveaways and incredible sale prices.

Other newsmaking activities in 1954 happen not just locally but country-wide and nationally as well. Plans are completed for the first polio vaccinations in Cattaraugus County. Over 3,000 children are immunized during several clinics held.

The New York Telephone Company's Telemobile comes to Gowanda in August. On display inside the mobile museum are: advances in telephone communications, the Morton tube, the transistor and key pulse equipment. Chuck Healy, of WBEN-TV, is emcee for the Harmony Harvest concert. Meanwhile, on WBEN Radio 930, these shows are aired daily: Arthur Godfrey Time, Make Up Your Mind, Rosemary, Road of Life, Young Dr. Malone, House Party, Wendy Warren and the News, Aunt Jenny, Romance of Helen Trent, Our Gal Sunday and Curt Massey Time.

A big moment arrives for Bill Glazier as he lands one of the largest muskies at Chautauqua Lake. The 52-inch, 36-pound fish attracts more than 100 visitors to Glazier's home on West Main Street to see the monster. Other creatures also attract attention as their owners are awarded prizes at the playground pet contest: Martha and Marilyn Wagenblatt, Marty Schultz, Jack Schultz, Renée Rose, Chuck Markham, Tommy Oger, Danny Greer, David Wagenblatt, Serena Sager, Dorothy Woodruff, Henry Crouse, Dale Dutton, Nancy Palcic, Karen Valentine, Bonnie Vogtli, Donna Carnes, Gloria Skeates and Stacy Bull.

Although many more memorable moments take place, it is time to move on. Next on the agenda is 1955.

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