October 15, 1989: Amazing Winds in Ithaca

Today was the last day, I believe as I write this eighteen years later, of a long weekend “camping” trip to Cayuga Lake with the Brick Presbyterian youth group from Perry, New York.  After all of these years I remember very little about this day in particular although I do still remember the camping trip itself and the boy scout cabin that we stayed in.

This camping trip was the first time that I got to visit the city of Ithaca where I would later live and my first time boating (canoing in this case) on the water of Cayuga Lake which would later be a major location in my life.  I believe that it was this morning in particular that Nathan Parker and I did some canoing out on the lake.

This evening the whole youth group, bundled into several cars, and drove through the city of Ithaca.  I have no idea what the idea for the trip was for.  But we were in the city when high wind warning too effect and the place became increasingly dangerous.  I was only thirteen but I remember the people driving the cars becoming very worried as the winds got going so fast that they couldn’t control the vehicles anymore.

It was one of the windiest days that I have ever seen.  The sky was so dark and the wind was fierce.  Some of the kids rolled down the windows of the Dodge Omni that I was riding in being driven by Earl Hobbs, my friend Amy’s father, and debris from the storm was shooting straight through the car!  I have never seen anything like it since.

We took shelter at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.  Our youth group leaders, the Stoddards, had both graduated from Cornell and knew Ithaca and the campus well.  So we went inside and got a tour whilst we awaited the storms departure.  We got to see the grotesque museum of animals that had died with massive deformities and mutations.  Horrible, horrible accidents of nature or scientific experiment.  Really sick stuff.  It still bothers me eighteen years later.

Years later I found the New York Times report on the high wind storm that hit Upstate New York this day.  At the time the tornado was not confirmed or denied but being investigated.

February 27, 1985: Honor Roll

I found this article in 2013 and decided to fill in a little gap in my history.  Today I make the honor roll at Pavilion Baptist School and it was printed in the Warsaw local newspaper.  I’m sure that that newspaper has been gone now for a very long time.  I am, at this time, currently in the last half of my third grade year at Pavilion Baptist School in Pavilion, New York where I attended from kindergarten through eighth grade.   I turned nine just two days earlier.

January 26, 1982: I Repeat, This Is Not A Test

Growing up south of Rochester, New York, one of my regular childhood memories is of the tests of the Emergency Broadcast System.  I would hear these on a very regular basis over the radio as well as on television.

Today, for the only time during my childhood, the Emergency Broadcast System sounded with “This is not a test, I repeat, this is not a test.”  As a child I did not really understand the importance of the system.  I was not yet, at the age of six, acutely aware of how close we were, throughout my childhood, to serious war with the Soviet Union (USSR.)  This alarm was not because of a military warning.  This was an alarm triggered by a steam leak at the reactor at the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario, New York just east of Rochester.

The leak at Ginna lasted only for 93 minutes but, for many of us, the event would stick in our memory.  I had not been aware before today that there was even a nuclear power plant in the Rochester area.  It is not something that I would forget.

At nine this evening, President Ronald Reagan delivered his first State of the Union Address which I would have been allowed to stay up to watch.  My memories of the State of the Union Addresses always make me think of the Reagan years when they were really worth watching.

October 25, 1981: Riding the Arcade and Attica

Arcade and Attica Railroad Steam Locomotive in 1981Today my family went down to Arcade, New York, in the southwestern corner of Wyoming County, to ride the historic Arcade and Attica Railroad.  Today was my very first time ever riding on a train and it was a real, working steam engine.

We rode the railroad with our friends the Hobbs.  Amy Hobbs is one year older than me and we pretty much grew up together.  I was five and she was six when we went on this train ride.

The ride on the train goes through a very rural piece of western Wyoming County.  It is actually not far from Buffalo but far enough out that the route is nothing but countryside.  You can learn more about the railroad on the Wikipedia: The Arcade and Attica Railroad.

Scott Alan Miller and Amy Hobbs Disembarking TrainIf I remember correctly the train still traveled up to North Java at the time that we road in in 1981.  It is 2009 as I write this “Looking Back” and I am not sure how far the train ran in my childhood.  Today it runs only to the very first station only a few country “blocks” away to Curriers, New York which is nothing but a country crossroad with an old train depot sitting along the tracks for the tourist excursions.  The train no longer even runs between two villages for passengers which is quite sad.  The line stopped running between Arcade and Attica in 1957 due to flooding so even though Attica is in the railroad’s name the village itself has not seen the train arrive in fifty-two years (in 2009 and twenty-four years in 1981.)

The line is still used for freight today hauling mostly agricultural products from the Arcade area up to North Java where it hands them off to Norfolk Southern to take out of the county.  The line was first formed in 1917 and was only used for freight until 1962 when passenger excursion service was begun.  So in 1981 when I first rode on the ARA line it has been taking passengers for only nineteen years.

The steam engine, shown above, is ARA #18 and is an ALCO 2-8-0.  In 2002 it would be taken out of service but returned again in 2008 on Memorial Day.

April 14, 1981: Columbia Lands for First Time

This afternoon I was glued to the television to watch the news as America’s first space shuttle, the Columbia, landed at Edwards Air Force Base in Calidornia.  This was the first ever reentry and landing of a space craft and quite a significant event.  The Columbia touched down, without incident, at 10:21 am, local time which was 2:21 pm on the east coast from where I was watching.

Today we knew for sure that the space shuttle program was successful and American’s presence in space was reaffirmed.  The 1980s were to be America’s decade in space.