Blackout Of 1977: 34 Years Ago — A Sheepshead Bay Remembrance

Sales soared during the blackout inside Mother Bucka’s Ice Cream Parlor, West 8th Street, Coney Island. Source: Paul Hosefros/The New York Times

The Brooklyn Historical Society reminds us that today is the 34th anniversary of the New York City Blackout of 1977. Google “1977 blackout” and “Sheepshead Bay” and you’ll find little more than a passing reference in a NYT article commemorating the 30th anniversary of the event, which plunged all of New York City into darkness.

Ask anyone who remembers the infamous citywide power outage and they will tell you stories ranging from disgust at the subsequent looting and arson, as well as the terror stemming from the pervasive Son of Sam murders.

Ask my dad, however, and he’ll gladly regale you with his own “famous” Sheepshead Bay ’77 Blackout story.

I was 19 months old and we were living on Brown Street between Avenues Z and Voorhies. My parents were across the street, at the house of their best friends on the block, a couple with three children, the youngest of whom, a boy, was my own age, or thereabout.

Perhaps because it was a simpler time, or there was some other reasonable explanation, but my dad was barefoot that day. That’s just the way he rolled in the ’70s. So, we’re hanging out in the evening (I’m told, because I don’t remember any of this), and *poof* — all of a sudden, everything goes dark. I don’t know how much time had elapsed, but in his quest to determine what was going on, or perhaps to check on my mom, who may well have been in our house across the street, he got up, took me in his arms, and proceeded to walk across the street.

Now, in a city blanketed in complete darkness, both from the combination of it being nighttime, and there being no lights, my dad couldn’t see where he was going very well. Sure, he knew his way back to the house, just across the street, but he was also probably hoping that there were no jagged shards of glass littering his path.

Finally nearing the other side of the street, probably with as great a sense of relief as the ancient Hebrews felt when they safely reached the other side of the Red Sea, my dad, inexplicably, felt something warm and soft squish between his toes.

I’ll leave it to your imaginations what it was, but that, friends, is my dad’s famous ’77 Blackout story. And when we get together once or twice a year with these old friends from Brown Street, whose children are now grown and married, and have children of their own, he still tells the same story, every single time.

So, where were you on the night the lights went out in NYC? Share your memories in the comments.

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