From the loss of Olean’s oldest industry to stumping for a new airport, from wondering what school to build to fighting to stay in America, here’s a look back on the week that was 100, 75, 50 and 25 years ago in this edition of Turning Back the Clock.
Feb. 14 — Olean’s oldest industry, the Conklin Wagon Works on the East Side — one of the pioneer manufacturing plants of this section — was destroyed by fire overnight. Up to $175,000 — almost $3 million today — in damages were reported by owner FL Gleason. Leveling the plant built in 1892 after a previous fire, the blaze began in the center of the three-story wooden building at the core of the plant. In minutes, fire spread beyond the control of the responding Chemical Company No. 1. The sky was saved for miles away due to the E-shaped wood structure, 300 completed wagons, and piles of parts. Meanwhile, hundreds of spectators remained on the scene overnight watching the conflagration.
Feb. 20 — Burglars made off with $25 in cigars and tobacco from the billiards parlors of Mike Bager on North Union Street, police said. A door was forced open, and they expected to pick up the yeggs in short order. mr. Bader lost $28 in a theft a few days ago to a young man employed during lunch time going into the till. It is believed the newest theft may also be an inside job, as police said the persons involved were familiar with the store and the surroundings.
Feb. 16 — Oleanders showed plenty of love for their fellow man on Valentine’s Day weekend, as the Olean Campaign for the Relief of Poland reached its climax. Donors left over 20 tons of clothing and tinned food cans on their doorsteps for collection in the early afternoon. Eighteen trucks were employed to haul the goods to North Olean for sorting and inventory by Father Joseph Rydz, general chairman of the campaign. Still recovering from destruction during World War II, Polish officials report many are living in homes made of rubble with barely any fuel to keep warm and little food for their bellies.
Feb. 19 — “The town which is off the airline will gradually take a back seat, as did the towns that were not on the rail lines,” said Olean Airport manager Kenneth Guinnip, encouraging the city to apply for federal aid for a new airport. Pointing out the inadequacies of the grass strip currently in service, Guinnip joined the Chamber of Commerce in asking the Common Council to seek the funding. “Industries will move, and with them people will have to move to communities that have full transportation facilities.” It would be more than 10 years before a new airport opened in the town of Ischua and offered commercial air travel. However, the service would end in 1972 — 13 years later.
Feb. 14 — St. Bonaventure’s men’s basketball team made it 12 wins in the last 19 games with a 98-82 demolition of the Providence College Friars, considered the class of East. Bona hit the boards, with Glenn Price and Carl Jackson absolute standouts as the controlled both ends against the bigger Friars. Price had 15 rebounds and 26 points, while Jackson had 14 and 19 points. The key to the win was the all-round work of senior captain Paul Hoffman, with Hoffie racking up 27 points and eight assists, all while breaking up the Friars’ full court press.
Feb. 18 — Will it be a new junior high school or senior high school on Wayne Street? That’s what will be decided next week in a referendum on a proposal to Olean school district voters. A new high school would be more expensive — at $4.3 million to $4.08 million — but both will see a similar tax impact for whatever gets built on the site of the former Thatcher Glass site to the north of the senior high school. Arguments for and against each have been thrown around — junior high counselor Paul Venable notes that investments to make the Sullivan Street building a senior high means that a new junior high should be built, while some visitors note a senior high makes more sense to alleviate parking .
Feb. 15 — The family of Irish national Noel Gaynor said they will fight a deportation order as Gaynor tested before Congress about his situation. Gaynor, a former member of the Irish Republican Army, said his 1977 conviction for allegedly murdering a British security officer was a trumped-up charge. He spent 14 years in an Irish prison for the crime before seeking political asylum in the US Since 1993, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has been trying to deport him — but would not let him return to Ireland in December for his father’s funeral because Gaynor was released on bail. Gaynor’s case would receive a reprieve from President Bill Clinton later in 1997.
Feb. 18 — A brutally tough St. Bonaventure defense was credited to a squad with something to prove. Topping Colgate, 70-55, at Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo, Bona freshman Tim Winn said the team was hurting after an embarrassing loss at home to an 8-13 LaSalle which was winless on the road. “We had something to prove. I wanted to get back out there as soon as possible to prove the team you guys saw the other night wasn’t the real St. Bonaventure.” The Bonas forced 10 turnovers in the first nine minutes and got off to an 11-point lead. A 16-3 burst from Colgate left the Bonas hungry at the half. In the second half, Bona forced 20 turnovers and held Colgate to just four field goals and 17 points.