On Tuesday, November 9,1965 at about 5:15 PM, the lights went out from New Jersey, through New York City and state, most of New England and up into the Ontario provinces of Canada.
It was the start of the Great Blackout of 1965.
In all, the blackout covered 80,000 miles and affected 30 million people. It lasted for 13 hours and was due to an improperly set relay. In other words, simple human error caused the great black out of 1965.
I was a ten-year-old living in the Naugatuck Valley when the blackout happened. Our father worked an overnight shift in New Haven in those days, so it was me, my younger brother and our mother at home.
My brother thought the blackout was the greatest thing since sliced bread, it was exciting. There was a full moon and the skies were clear and we lived high enough up on one of the hills to look down and across into the valley was in complete darkness.
We were baby boomers and had never known the fear of war or really, the want for anything. But my mother had lived thought the war and thought the blackout was ominous…maybe the Russian were behind it…maybe this was the start of the greatest war ever, nuclear annihilation. After all, it was the heart of the cold war. Te Cuban missile crisis had happened only two years before and the Berlin Wall had gone up just a year before that.
Our radio worked and as always it was tuned into WELI in New Haven, the “Voice of the Valley.” The station didn’t really know what was going on either but they kept use clued in with news updates. When the station reported that the FBI was on the case my mother shook her head in approval “They’ll get to the bottom of this” she said.
The great black out came and went and although it was the talk of the valley for several days, eventually it was pushed aside by the Christmas holidays and thatw as that. Down in New York there were only five reports of looting in all of New York, then a city of 8 million souls. It was said to be the lowest amount of crime on any night in the city's history since records were first kept.