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    • 2013.10.08 Tuesday
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    Explanations for a dark day experienced by many back in 1950 - China Food Additives Emulsifiers

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      Holy Week was observed this year at St. Peter's Episcopal Church inWestfield from April 1, Palm or Passion Sunday, through April 7,Holy Saturday. During this week, the theme of "darkness" prevails,particularly on Wednesday in the Tenebrae Service of Darkness andagain on Good Friday at the crucifixion of Christ, "It was aboutthe sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth untilthe ninth hour," from Luke 23:24. Participation in these servicesof Holy Week always seems to remind me of a day in 1950 during mychildhood when on a Sunday, just past noon, the sky began todarken. In April 2009, I wrote the following BeeLines, "A historymystery from almost 60 years ago, explained," about that day.

      "Back in early fall of 1950, I - Marybelle, age 9 - was outsidewith my family, dad Don Blackburn, mother Fran Blackburn and mybrother Ranny, age 6, at 169 North Portage Street, Westfield, wherewe had lived for less than a year since moving from the farm onPersons Road. It was a Sunday afternoon in late September, about 1p.m., or so, and we noticed that the sky was becoming dark, butwith a strange color, a yellowish or greenish or even orange-brown.Having been to Sunday school and Church that morning, my brotherand I wondered if the 'hell-fire and brimstone' preacher had beenright about the impending end of the world. Mother and daddy, beinga bit more aware of the larger world and its escalating politics ofthe Cold War with the U.S.S.R, atom bomb tests and so on,speculated it might be some sort of horrible weapon or bomb testperpetrated by the Soviets. By mid afternoon, it was as dark asmidnight and even the streetlights had been turned on.

      Radiosseemed to have no information, and it wasn't until some days laterthat the truth of the matter was published and broadcast." Until I was researching another, totally unrelated topic last year,I'd almost forgotten about the day, until I found an article from a1995 Jamestown Post Journal, written by Norman P. Carlson, a localgenealogist and historian from Busti whom I know from theChautauqua County Genealogy Society, of which we are both members.His article was headlined, "The Dark Day, September 24, 1950."Carlson starts off his article from a similar perspective as mybrother and I had experienced - that the darkness had something todo with the "wrath of God" - as he quotes several bits of Biblicalscripture from Moses in Exodus and from Luke's crucifixion story.According to Carlson's article, "Most (people) remember theofficial explanation: high altitude smoke from Canadian forestfires. A large majority formed and still holds skepticism aboutthat explanation. Their suspicion is sustained by the absence, thenand since, of additional information backing up the forest firestory." However, Carlson continues a thorough explanation from muchresearch into newspaper articles from that summer and fall in 1950.Apparently, on June 1, a manmade fire started about 20 milesnorth-northwest of Fort St. Food Acidulants

      John, British Columbia. Since largerfires were already burning in neighboring Alberta, demandingimmediate attention, the British Columbia fire was allowed tocontinue to burn as it was in an area slated for deforestation foragricultural lands. The summer was exceptionally dry, and Septemberwas hot in Alberta. During week before the "Dark Day," a peatmuskeg fire that had been smoldering for years 75 miles north ofEdmonton was activated by high winds. China Food Additives Emulsifiers

      The smoke from this firejoined more than two dozen other fires burning in Alberta and otherfires burning in British Columbia over the next several days.Temperatures were in the high 80's and winds of over 40 mph weredriving the fires over more and more square miles of westernCanada. At some point the fires cut off the Alaskan Highway andtelegraph connections with Alaska. Planes were unable to landand/or were forced to use oxygen masks over the greater than 60,000square miles of burning timber and brush lands. Locally, people shared interesting and novel accounts of theirexperiences as the huge accumulation of smoke boiled high into theatmosphere and was carried eastward to Hudson Bay and thensouthward toward the Great Lakes. China Surfactants and Detergents

      Streetlights came on about 2p.m., in Chautauqua County cities and villages, but by 4 p.m.,daylight returned and the lights were extinguished. According toCarlson's researched account, "A Warren, Pa., drive-in movieactually scheduled a matinee for 4:30 but had to cancel it becauseof returning daylight." Some of the funniest stories tell of peopleawakening in the midst of the darkness and rushing off to workhours early, or of chickens and roosters hurrying in to roost andthen a rooster crowing that it was morning at 4 p.m., in WattsFlats. The New York Times, on Monday, reported that the huge smoke cloudhad extended up to 14,000 to 17,000 feet, and over Detroit and NewYork City, and as far south as Tennessee. Over our area, the smokecell was about 200 miles wide, 400 miles long, and three milesthick.

      Carlson not only thoroughly researched this particular "dark day,"but went on to describe similar daytime darkness episodesresearched by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD, as well as amore modern bibliography of strange phenomena researched andpublished by William Corlis and articles in Scientific American,American History Illustrated, The Edmonton Journal, and theNational Review, to name some of his sources. Note: Norman P.Carlson, of Busti, makes a hobby of local history, and is a formerTown of Busti Historian. Recently, an article in the Westfield Republican of Sept. 27, 1950,"Phenomenal Skies Turn Day To Nite," "came to light" in thePatterson Library microfilm archives.

      "Probably Sunday's phenomenalskies will long remain in the memory of residents. Nothing like ithad ever been experienced before. A weird darkness began to descendaccompanied by a light copper hued pall ... in an hour it was blackas night ... Some wondered if the world was coming to an end ...Soon after, the weather bureau reports on the radio stated that theunusual darkness was caused by terrific forest fires in Alberta,Canada, and the smoke had spread as far as Iowa and south to WestVirginia ..

      It was the first time in history that Cleveland hadplayed baseball under the arc lights in the daytime at the stadiumthere ... Cars proceeded on all highways with full lights on. Manywere parked on the Oxbow watching the strange skies during theentire time ... In Jamestown there were so many calls coming intothe telephone office that a taxi was dispatched for nine operatorswho were off duty ..

      for the emergency calls.".

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        • 2013.10.08 Tuesday
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