Retro Travel Travel Info & Reviews

The Night the Lights Went Out

The following is a tale from our guest writer, Yvette.

Just a normal night after work.

People are rushing to catch their trains, buses or whatever their mode of transport to get home. Mine was the subway. New York’s subway near Central Park in Manhattan. After being on the train for a few minutes, the train stops and the lights blink. Then total darkness. Nothing new. Maybe the train ahead was switching tracks. So, as usual, you continue your thoughts or whatever else you normally do on your way home. This is 1965, so there were no cell phones to keep you occupied. As you wait past the typical pause in your journey home, you suddenly realize this pause is longer than ordinary.

Is something really wrong?

You begin to wonder if something is really wrong. Everyone waited until someone asks, “How long have we been on the train?”. An answer out of the dark says, “Just 20 minutes, and three hours!” Something definitely was wrong. Shortly after, we were informed that there had been a black-out in a large portion of the Northeast coast of the United States and parts of Canada.

Now things get interesting. In a friendlier time of yesterday, someone offers cheese that they have. Most people have not eaten since lunch time. After our ‘meal’, we were told we would be escorted by a railroad worker, one by one, out of the train up to the surface (the sidewalk above ground) by means of a ladder in the subway tunnel. Any New Yorker will tell you that that was a terrifying thought. We all feared the dreaded ‘third rail’, the one that could electrocute you.

In high heels?!

If it were a few decades later, women would have on, or at least had in their tote bags, a pair of sneakers or comfortable walking shoes. Not the case in 1965. Coming from work, especially in Manhattan, woman wore high-heels with dresses or skirts. This was going to be a remarkable feat to climb down the train ladder, walk along the tracks and then up the ladder leading to the street above. But we did it! It was a memorable occasion as crowds of people ascended to the street and formed a line outside a bar. Yes, a bar that had the only phone available to try to contact our families who had no idea where we were. Remember, 1965, no cell phones. We will always remember, the night the lights went out!!


  1. I was at home in my apartment on the 6th Floor (on Derry Road in Mississauga, ON), when the lights went out and what we took for granted was gone in a split second. An abnormally loud bang told me that this was out of the ordinary. My first thoughts were, “Oh my goodness! No elevator!!”
    However, there was enough food in the refrigerator to last a couple days. But not much longer. After all, this was mid-summer and things could go bad real fast. How long it would last was anybody’s guess–“the night the lights went out.”.

  2. I can remember the moon was very bright. So although there were no artificial lights, every place was lit up. Most of all people were truly friendly. A different time.

  3. I remember that night. It is fuzzy in my mind because I was about 6 or 7 years old. Mommy and I was out looking for my sisters. I think Jill was in art class?? I don’t know. Nah it was really a fog in my memory. But yes Yvette was always in heels and a dress. Thanks for the “eye witness” review.

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