AUGUST 20, 1959
NEW YORK—We in New York City had a really unusual experience on Monday night when in upper Manhattan there were breaks in the power lines and people found their air conditioners, their lights, their refrigerators and their stoves not working. Little by little, however, the breaks were found and the power restored, so that by 11 o'clock some sections were back to normal. Others were not so fortunate, though, and of course innumerable plans had to be cancelled.
Elevators were not running and I imagine many people who had not climbed many flights of stairs for years found themselves doing so in order to get to bed. The police, I am told, did a marvelous job in the portion of the city that was blacked out. One of my friends drove around for a while, because it seemed quite adventurous to be out in a blacked-out city, and came home with real admiration for the way the police were handling such a difficult situation.
Anything of this kind that happens in a big city makes one realize how dependent one is on modern conveniences. It really makes a big city helpless. If one must live under primitive conditions, it is far better to do so in the wilderness and have it all primitive. Modern plumbing without the equipment to use it, as well as our modern gadgets when they cannot be used, are more bother than if we could really live in the woods temporarily without them, as our forefathers did.
I discovered this a long while ago on Campobello Island when our water supply occasionally gave out, but I never expected to feel the same way about something that happened in New York City.
From what some knowledgeable people tell me, I gather that our trouble is that those who are responsible for planning for the future have not been willing to face the need for the extra expense of financing equipment which requirements of modern living have put on our power supply.
Air-conditioning uses much power, and there is more and more of it. And I am told that those who should know believe that we will have to double the capacity which we now have or else we are apt to have a repetition of the difficulties such as the city has just been through.
On Monday evening I attended a Democratic meeting for a couple of the reform candidates in Washington Square, where the electrical power did not go off. But a dinner that I was to attend on East 86th Street afterwards had to be given up, for it was being held in an apartment house that was completely blacked out. So, I was one of many who found themselves home earlier than expected!