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When the Sky Went Black-1950

Milestones Vol 24. No.3

By James Reynolds of the Valley Tribune

Strange objects often fall from the sky - things like huge blocks of ice, fish, worms, frogs or stones and rocks - and sometimes planes vanish from the sky for no reason and with no explanation.

And, sometimes, the sky can turn black in the middle of the day like it did in Beaver Valley on Sept. 24, 1950.

It was a Sunday and it started innocently enough. It was a pleasant, sunny morning and those on their way to church enjoyed temperatures in the mid-60s.

But, by the time church let out, the sky was hazy - a strange haziness that wasn't clouds or a muggy appearance, but strange nonetheless.

By early afternoon, I decided to go to the movies with my Grandma, who was a great movie fan. I was only 9 years old at the time and lived over the old Regent Theater with my parents who worked there.

The matinee began at 2 p.m. and shortly before the hour, my Grandma and I went downstairs and were stunned to see a yellow sky.

The sky and all the clouds were pure yellow as though a filter had been passed over it.

It was more than a little frightening. We went to the show and during the course of the film, I would go into the lobby and glance outside.

I grew more and more frightened as the yellow faded into a dull blue and then into a pitch blackness - a heavy, enveloping blackness that was terrifying in its suddeness.

I wondered if the end of the world was upon us.

The blackness was still in force when the film was over. We went upstairs to my parents apartment where they were silent and nervous and the atmosphere was tense.

Fortunately by 5 p.m., it was obvious the darkness was receding and the sickly yellow cast was again over the heavens.

The next day everything was back to normal but I would never again look at the sky and feel quite the same. I stillremember.

The day caused a lot of fear and panic on the local level.

City streetlights weren't turned on and cars were forced to travel at an extremely slow rate of speed.

The darkness was responsible for the death of a pedestrian in Tyrone, PA, as he was struck while trying to cross the street in that city by a driver who never saw him.

In Pittsburgh, at old Forbes Field, the Pirate-Cincinnati doubleheader was played under lights while in Erie, at an American Football League game, lights were also turned on.

Two racecar drivers at New Kensington were injured, stores closed early as employees ran home, Bell Telephone Co. reported an overload of 8,000 calls as panic-stricken residents called family and friends.

Chickens and farm animals went to sleep, thinking night had fallen.

Local police were swamped with calls for information.

To this day, no one knows what caused the blackness. The official story is that a vast forest fire in Canada was responsible and that the blackness was only high, drifting smoke.

However, at the same time the smoke was drifting, eastward winds were blowing. So much for the experts.

Does anyone remember the day the darkness came to Beaver Valley?