1970-1980:A blizzard to remember
By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
It was the era of Kent State and Watergate.
The Iran hostage crisis.
Legionnaire’s Disease and the nation’s bicentennial.
But the thing people probably remember most is the snow.
The blizzard of 1977 was described, perhaps inaccurately, as the worst snowstorm to ever hit the area. Findlay was laid low by record-breaking cold and 12 inches of snow.
As it turned out, the real blizzard did not arrive until one year later.
January 1978 was a month plagued by storms.
Gusting winds whipped snow into drifts and created treacherous driving conditions Jan. 8-9. A second storm a week later dumped three more inches on the ground.
As the Findlay area attempted to dig its way out, a third storm arrived Jan. 20. Winds gusting as high as 39 miles per hour caused 5.2 inches of new snow to drift over area roads.
Less than a week later, the real blizzard hit with a vengeance.
A night of freezing rain preceded nine inches of snow. High winds, bitter temperatures and snow paralyzed the area for several days.
Roads were blocked. Power, water and phone service were disrupted. Neighbors banded together to battle the cold and share dwindling food supplies.
President Carter declared a federal state of emergency in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Ohio National Guard and U.S. Army troops were called on to help with recovery operations.
At least 12 people in Hancock and four area counties died from weather-related causes. The only Hancock County death was Otis Van Sickle, 81, of McComb, who suffered from frostbite after spending more than 24 hours in his unheated home.
Findlay officials estimated the storm cost the city more than $188,000, not counting another $80,000 to repair streets damaged by cold, snow and ice.
The decade’s severe weather was not limited to snow, however.
In 1973, a tornado touched down near the Findlay Reservoir, ripping trees out of the ground and the roofs off barns. Some 50 boats docked at the reservoir were overturned. A 12-year-old boy was cut by flying glass at his home on Ohio 37.
A year later, a flash flood caused the evacuation of 16 families at Greenbriar Apartments on South Main Street.
When residents were not battling the elements, they were busy making improvements in the city.
Ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held in 1978 to mark the opening of Findlay’s $1.7 million Central Parkway project. The four-lane roadway connected East Main Cross Street to the Tiffin Avenue-Blanchard Street intersection to help ease traffic flow between downtown and the shopping center.
The Findlay Village Mall was enclosed during the 1970s, and Tiffin Avenue was widened to make the area more accessible.
Hancock County 95 was extended, and extensive improvements were made to Interstate 75 around the western edge of the city and on into Allen Township. Findlay also started work on an $850,000 Trenton Avenue overpass project.
In business news, Whirlpool Corp. constructed a 550,000-square-foot distribution center just south of its North Main Street plant.
Centrex Corp. completed the expansion and renovation of its corporate headquarters on Western Avenue.
Jeffco Manufacturing Co. began operations in 1973 by producing a new type of beer can for testing by Stroh Brewery. The local firm later became the Ball Metal Container Group. A $14.8 million expansion was undertaken in 1978.
Hancock Brick & Tile Co. changed its name to Hancor Inc. during the decade.
In 1973, the Community Improvement Corp. (CIC) of Findlay/Hancock County reached an agreement to purchase 375 acres of land in Marion Township for the development of an industrial park. The property was platted as the Findlay Industrial Center.
That same year, Findlay Publishing Co. moved from Broadway into a new building on West Sandusky Street. The newspaper shortened its name from the Republican-Courier to the Courier in 1976.
Meanwhile, Gar-Wood Industries ceased production of the Buckeye Traction Ditcher machine in the early 1970s. Various versions of the machine had been made here since early in the century.
The city, which had grown to a population of 35,800, was recognized as “Flag City of America.” U.S. Rep. Tennyson Guyer of Findlay introduced the congressional resolution. It was the only designation of its kind in the nation.
Residents also helped finance an addition at the YMCA. The wing housed a new gymnasium, handball courts and a second swimming pool. The Y also purchased a tract of land 10 miles west of Findlay to serve as a park site for day camp programs.
The Hancock Historical Museum was founded in 1970. The association acquired the historic Hull House at 420 W. Sandusky St. The structure, which was built during the gas boom days, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The Hancock Recreation Center opened that same year on North Main Street.
The Findlay-Hancock County Public Library moved forward with plans to expand its facility, and the Hancock County Alcoholism Council was started.
The Hancock Regional Park District was developed in 1970 to provide for the community’s growing need for recreational space. City leaders also made plans to convert a former dump into a recreational area called Swale Park.
It was a busy decade for Blanchard Valley School with the construction of two buildings, including an adult activity center and a social services building.
The United Community Fund of Hancock County officially became the United Way of Hancock County in 1975.
Findlay resident L. Dale Dorney died the following year at the age of 90. Prior to his death, he established a $5 million trust fund through the Cleveland Foundation. Dorney specified that part of the yearly profits be distributed to nonprofit organizations in Hancock County. The first grants were awarded in 1979.
Several major fires occurred during the 1970s.
Calvary Baptist Church and Christ Church United Methodist were both damaged by fire in 1973. A 23-year-old Findlay man was later arrested and charged with malicious burning.
The north grandstand at the Old Millstream Fairgrounds was completely destroyed by fire in 1978. Arson was ruled as the cause.
Meanwhile, two firemen, Roland Smith and William VanAtta, drowned during a rescue attempt April 22, 1978. A memorial marker was dedicated near the site on the Blanchard River where they died.