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Countdown to the Millennium

1955

Gowanda PennySaver - March 8, 1999

Heavy-duty excitement - In October of 1955, a tremendous crash shook the countryside as 63 of the 120 cars from an Erie Railroad freight train left the track and dove into the Cattaraugus Creek, taking two trestles with it. The wreck, that is estimated at $250,000, occurred just after midnight and scattered debris over a quarter-mile-long area. Although railroad officials maintain that cause of the wreck cannot be determined, track-side witnesses note that the train was moving so fast down Dayton hill that the crossing arms at Palmer street were still in the process of lowering as the freight barreled through. In addition, the "Y-stick" upon which the orders are attached was still intact since the train moved too quickly to retrieve the orders. (Photos courtesy of Phil Palen)

by Mary Pankow
Staff Writer

As we enter 1955, several events take place that eventually impact the entire country.

In Montgomery, AL, a bus boycott begins after Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white person. The AFL and CIO merge, naming George Meany as its first president. The United Stated agrees to help train the South Vietnamese army and President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffers a heart attack, but recovers.

Also making headlines are these discoveries: fiber optics by Narinder Kapany, ultrasound to observe the heart by Leskell, the felt-tip pen by Esterbrook, stereo tape recording by EMI Stereosonic Tapes and the Hovercraft by Christopher Cockerell. Academy Award winners this year are: Ernest Borgnine for his role in "Marty," Anna Magnani as best actress in "The Rose Tattoo," and "Marty" is proclaimed film of the year.

The Brooklyn Dodgers win the World Series, the Syracuse Nationals are the NBA champions, Cary Middlecoff takes the Masters and the Detroit Red Wings repeat their victory by winning the Stanley Cup. Swaps runs like the wind around the Kentucky Derby oval and Bob Sweikert proves his car has what it takes at the Indianapolis 500.

The year 1955 opens locally with the birth of Donald Frank Robinson on Jan. 1 in Tri-County Memorial Hospital to Mr. and Mrs. Richard Robinson of Lawtons.

One of the events to break up the monotony of winter is the arrival of Aunt Jemima at the Market Basket. Those anxious to meet the icon of breakfast specialties can taste her delicious pancakes free on Feb. 4.

Thieves, also bored with snow and cold, rob the Frontier Service Station at 290 Buffalo Street. They get between $30 and $35 for their efforts. Not long after that heist, the Greyhound Bus Station is robbed of cash and merchandise totaling approximately $100.

More illegal activity takes place in March when Campbell’s Red & White Store is broken into. After cutting a hole in the metal roof, crooks remove $1,667 from the store’s safe. Like a contagious infection, Armes Drug Store is hit by thieves, and $18 and a variety of merchandise is stolen.

In less dramatic winter activities, Kenneth Beaver is elected Gowanda Business Association president. Tri-County Hospital releases financial figures for 1954 at its annual meeting - Income totaled $203,616.93; Expenses amounted to $202,699.20; Profit for the year was $917.73. It was also noted that 391 babies were born that year. The Village of Gowanda gives its annual report on parking meter collections - $7,226 from the 142 meters was collected in 1954.

In more business news, it is announced that Bank of Gowanda will merge with Marine Trust Company of Western New York in the near future. E. L. Gayvert
and Company of Gowanda is sold to Kendall Refining Company of Bradford, PA. Gowanda Leather Workers of Local 44 vote 311 to 1 to join the Leather Workers Organizing Committee of the CIO.

In pre-pre-season activities, Rod Griewisch is elected vice president of the newly organized Tri-County Baseball League. Gowanda Fire Department Drum & Bugle Corps enters its 20th year. In local elections, Norman Hogle is elected village trustee while Mayor George Maulbetsch and Trustee Charles Cocca are re-elected. Elric Timms is chosen president of the Gowanda PTA.

With the arrival of spring, Dick DiMaria, owner of the Palm Gardens Restaurant, is granted a building permit to construct a 14-unit motel. Henry Kelly is appointed building inspector. Sell-out crowds attend the senior play “Too Many Dates.” Frank Cocca enlarges the Gowanda Sport Shop and a fire of unknown origin completely destroys the kitchen of the Depot Hotel on Commercial Street.

At 18 Jamestown St., the Regal Restaurant opens featuring American and Italian foods. It is also at this location, the Leisner building, where Louis Leisner moves his dry cleaning plant and men’s store - the site where his old building burned down.

As snow melts, the ground hardens, and buds pop out on trees, Babinger Lawn and Garden Equipment Store opens at 60 South Water St. Groundbreaking also comes to mind as contracts are awarded on the high school construction on Prospect Street. John Cowper Company, of Buffalo, is the general construction firm at $1,362,250; G.A. Dyce, also of Buffalo, will install heating and ventilation for $171,820; San Corporation, of Jamestown, will do the sanitary work for $121,650; and Cortright Electric, of Ithaca is the electrical contractor at $143,323.

Other springtime events include: Himelein & Company celebrates 40 years, F. Chester Woody is given an American flag from President Eisenhower for the letter he penned to Ike about the fine job he is doing as the country’s chief executive, Nagle’s celebrates 35 years of business, the Gowanda News buys the Fredonia Censor, Bob Hart is elected president of the Gowanda Tigers, Dawn Dabolt is crowned prom queen, and the Gowanda Exempt
Firemen’s Association elects officers: George Taggart, president; Louis Sipple, vice president; Arthur Adame, secretary; and Donald Dalrymple, treasurer.

At the tail end of spring, Allen Stuhlmiller is selected head coach of basketball and baseball at Dunkirk High School. Boys State selections include: Joseph Pellegrino, Bartlett Greene, Richard Harvey, Joseph Degenfelder, Robert Graves and Larry Dial. Gowanda Builders Supply and Coal Company holds an open house at its new building on Commercial Street. All-around athletes who earned four varsity letters in their senior year are: Phil Palcic, Virgil Seneca and Luman Dial.

As the heat of summer descends on the area, Kenneth Beaver and Robert Mesches of the Businessmen’s Association appeal to the village board to make North Water Street a one-way street from West Main to Center streets. Break-ins continue as Gowanda Motors is targeted twice within four days. One incident resulted in a joy ride in a new car while the other involved an ill-fated attempt to crack open a safe.

Joe’s Army Store also relocates to 22 Jamestown St. at this time. The Gowanda News is awarded the first prize in the General Excellency Contest as outstanding tabloid weekly newspaper in the United States. Gowanda Wee-Wash-It Launderette opens at 95 South Water St. The Gowanda Central School budget of $998,623.64 is approved. Richard Eden is named high school principal and some of the annual pet show participants include: Sandra Menshel and her dog, Spot: Dorothy Morris and her dog, Flipper; Henry Crouse and several kittens, and Sandy and Marci Steward with their kitten, Pretty, and turtle, Marilyn.

In midsummer, Gowanda places fifth out of 15 teams in the junior Olympics held in Hamburg. Marilyn Cole is first in the 75-yard dash and standing broad jump, and second in the softball throw. Donald Morehouse is appointed assistant manager of the Bank of Gowanda. Gowanda establishes a Planning Commission consisting of members Fred Wonnacott, Robert Mesches, Charles Tarbox, Ralph Schaack and Lee Vogtli.

An announcement comes from Mayor George Maulbetsch that Gowanda may get a new main bridge and secondary bridge over the Cattaraugus Creek north of the business district after the Erie County Board of Supervisors votes. While the adults mull the possibility of new bridges, the following children are proclaimed winners at the St. John’s Park Doll Show: Gerry Hewitt, Dick Matteson, Kathy Casey, Martha Kempf, Lizy Marble, Peggy Deneen, Deanne Cocca, Linda Jackson, Candy Matteson, Mary Ann Luce, Butch Peters, Judy Johnson and Mary Lou Malec.

As summer winds down, Jimmy Eddy and his purebred jersey heifer calf win the Best of Breed and Reserve Grand Champion at the Erie County Fair. Mayor Maulbetsch and Edward Cotton are named two of 14 directors of the new Cattaraugus Creek Watershed Association. Derby Lincoln-Mercury opens at the corner of routes 62 and 39. The Nitsch School of Dance offers dance lessons at the Hollywood Theater, featuring tap, toe, baton, acrobatic, modern, classical and modern or free-style ballroom. Gowanda Furnaces, Inc. is damaged by fire, losses total approximately $25,000. The Kiwanis Club awards chicken-raising project prizes to Jeffrey Merrill, Bruce LaQuay and Orianne Merrill.

With local children well established in the new school year, Melody Corner Restaurant opens on the corner of Buffalo and East Main streets. Carl Paul is the owner of the eatery.

The biggest headline-grabber of the year takes place on Oct. 11 as an Erie freight train derails on the Cattaraugus bridge at 12:40 a.m. Sixty-three of the 120 cars leave the tracks in the most costly wreck in the history of the Erie Railroad. Conductor of the train, en route from Meadville, PA to Buffalo, is William Theon of Gowanda. A mass of twisted metal and scattered debris, the freight had been loaded with heavy goods such as lumber, washing machines, food stuffs, coal and steel. As the leaves turn, Russell Benson is appointed police officer after Dave McAlpine tenders his resignation. Norman Dell’s Refrigeration and Appliance, and Jo Dell’s Beauty Shop open at 29 Jamestown Street. To stave off boredom, GCS offers these adult education courses: hooked rugs, Spanish, shorthand and typing, and ham radio.

With autumn well under way, Doyle and June Van Cise purchase the Gowanda Hotel from Phil and Anna Pericak. The Businessmen’s Association elects new directors: Allan Wallace, John Andolsek, Jr. and Richard Gabel. Gabel Brothers Furniture and Gowanda Hotel join forces to present a premiere showing of CBS color television. Cost of the set is $1,000.

Nationally, President Eisenhower proclaims Dec. 1 Safe Driving Day. Locally, Maulbetsch names Charles Cocca chairman of the day. In a pre-holiday season announcement, Postmaster Paul Christenson of the postal department reminds consumers that unsealed Christmas cards can be sent third class for two cents, but they cannot be forwarded to a new address and, if not deliverable, are disposed of. Otherwise senders have the option of using first-class postage at three cents.

Early in December, a murder rocks the community as Pauline Brunacini is found dead at Gowanda Hotel. Her husband, Samuel Brunacini, is indicted for manslaughter. Over $10,000 in vandalism takes place at Pine Hill Cemetery and a tractor-trailer loaded with 26,000 pounds of butter skids, the trailer topples over and the rig jackknifes at the underpass on Dayton Road. Slick road conditions are to blame for the mishap. It takes many hours and the use of two wreckers to reopen the road to traffic. Dave Hannah is chosen chairman of the board of directors for the newly organized Gowanda Country Club. By the year’s end, over $27,000 is pledged for the links.

As 1955 comes to a close, Mrs. Burt Bury wins the 1956 Plymouth given away by Fred and Don Campbell. Mrs. Ralph Korbar wins the $1,000 color television set given away by Gabel Brothers Furniture.

Some of the specials advertised by the merchants during 1955 include: Gowanda Builders Supply and Coal Company - Benjamin Moore Paint Package (one gallon of Benjamin Moore wall satin rubber-base wall paint, one roller and pan set, one oval sash brush, one box of spackle, one package of sandpaper) for $7.26; Pie Kitchen Restaurant - Every weekday noon luncheon special (meat, homemade rolls and butter, potatoes or substitute, choice of desserts, coffee or tea) for 75 cents; Hartman’s Bakery - hot cross buns, 45 cents a dozen; Western Auto Associate Store - bike basket 79 cents, pliers 29 cents, 16-ounce hammer $1.35, Wizard deluxe car battery $9.95; Gowanda Sport Shop - Golf specials: five Rivalist or Miss America irons and two Rivalist or Miss America woods, all for $35 (clubs have Persimmons heads, five step-down shafts, Golf Pride grips).

Himelein and Company offers Gloria Swanson In Paris Fashions - dresses are $10.95. Campbell's Furniture advertises a three-speed radio-phono with new 45 rpm spindle and 45 rpm record library for $59.95. Some of the artists and their tunes are: Eddie Fisher - "I'm in the Mood for Love," "You'll Never Know," "Hold Me," "Everything I Have is Yours." Perry Como - "Prisoner of Love," "Because," "When You Were Sweet Sixteen," "Far Away Places." Eddy Arnold - "I'll Hold You in My Heart," "Anytime," "A Heart Full of Love," "Texarkana Baby."

Hogle's Drug Store is featuring Tussy Permastick lipstick for 50 cents. Farner and Parker spends many weeks announcing to its customers, "At last! - A disposable milk bottle with a built-in pouring spout," as closable paper cartons come to Gowanda.

Some of the automobile deals of the year are: Einar Wheel Motors, Inc. advertises the new 1955 Dodge customer Royal Lancer with three-tone styling; the dealership also offers a 1952 Nash Rambler Station Wagon with overdrive, clock, heater, defroster, radio, good tires, original black and wood-grain finish for $795, or $295 down and $30 a month. Witt-Anderson Motor Company touts the benefits of the "motoramic" Chevrolet - visored headlights, louvered high-level air intake, sweep-sight windshield, distinctive dip in belt line, fender-high taillights, and tasteful two-tone color styling.

Finally, for a relaxing moment, the Hollywood Theater shows these films: "There's No Business Like Show Business" with Ethel Merman, Donald
O'Connor, Marilyn Monroe, Dan Dailey, Johnnie Ray and Mitzi Gaynor; "Young at Heart" with Doris Day and Frank Sinatra; Walt Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" and "Rear Window" with James Stewart and Grace Kelly.

After months of events and noteworthy activities, Gowandans prepare for 1956, the year we visit next week. Until then...

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