Remembering ‘Black Wednesday’ in Penn Yan

Fifty years ago, in December of 1967, the Penn Yan community was looking forward to the Christmas season. The Chronicle-Express reported that the Walkerbilt company had been recently cited with an architect’s award for the library furniture that they installed at a school in Voorheesville, New York. It was announced that cable TV has been installed in the northwest section of Penn Yan and homeowners could apply for installation for service at $5.50 a month.

Trombley Tire on East Elm Street advertised Philco color television sets as low as $300 and promised to throw in a free year of cable TV. Loblaw’s on Liberty Street was advertising hamburg at 49¢ a pound. A.E. Covert’s dealership on Lake Street was advertising the all new Plymouth Roadrunner. Newberrys on Main Street was advertising the Veg-O- Matic (as seen on TV) for $7.77. As Christmas approached, Fire Chief John Banach warned the public that there was an increased danger of fire during the holiday season. How timely…

On Wednesday morning, Dec. 20, just after 8 a.m. Chief Banach was at his barber shop on Elm Street when he heard the fire alarm. He rushed to the firehouse on Main Street and was stunned when he saw the station itself was engulfed in flames. A few other volunteer firemen also responded quickly. One was able to reach inside the front door and pull the cord that allowed the air horn alarm to give one final blast. Another reached in the back door and pulled out a few lengths of hose before the heat grew too intense. The chief called the county sheriff to summon mutual aid from neighboring fire departments. Then all the Penn Yan firemen could do was helplessly watch their station burn while they had no equipment with which to fight it.

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