Baldwinsville History Mystery: April 19, 2017
Question: When natural gas was first struck in Baldwinsville, on June 27, 1896, the drillers were really trying to locate oil. That first well was located on the Munro farm, which stretched from the north side of East Oneida Street from Oswego to Tannery Creek. The well was just to the west of Tannery Creek near where the large bus garage is now. This photo is of another well. Do you know where it was located and can you also identify the businesses seen there?
Last week’s answer: The man in last week’s photo was not looking to have a good time by sliding down the chute. He took what he was doing very seriously, as it was practice for possibly saving his life. He was a worker at the New York Ordnance Works during WWII. This was located on what is now the Radisson community. This plant made Dinitrochlorobenzene (Explosive D) for armor piercing shells. All aspects of the operation were highly secretive and extremely dangerous. This man is demonstrating the escape chute, the quick way out of the explosive-producing buildings, located on the site.
Safety regulations were highly restrictive. To work there employees had to adhere to quite a number of rules. Since gasoline was rationed, getting to work wasn’t easy. The public bus schedules didn’t coincide with the second and third shift times, so a Share-the-Ride program was instituted. The vehicles were parked in a lot near the administration area, where today’s Radisson sign is located. Then the employees had to board buses to reach their workstations, unless they were within walking distance.
Everyone entering the plant was searched. Those going into the so-called Critical Area where the production facilities were contained had to go through a shakedown, right down to the pant-cuffs. No matches, cigarettes or even mechanical pencils would be brought in. (This area was on the west side of Willett Parkway near the Historic Marker sign.)
Three change houses were located near the six picrate lines. Employees had to disrobe completely, even their underwear, then don long johns, a white “powder suit,” gloves, skull cap and special shoes with soles that conducted away any static charge, preventing accidental explosions.
At the end of the shift, a worker would leave all this apparel in a laundry box. He had to pass through a shower to reach his street clothes — no choice, the shower was mandatory. A laundry working around the clock maintained the supply of clean work clothing.
Workers who got sprayed with the acid very quickly ran to a safety shower and pulled the cord. It’s been said that the moment the water hit the person, the clothes would start to fall off.
Both Jim Gillespie and Thomas Disinger correctly identified the photo.
The New York Ordnance Works provides a fascinating glimpse into our very important involvement in World War II. If you would like to know more, there is much to be found. Visit the Baldwinsville Public Library and the town of Lysander and pick up a flier of the materials that are available. Also, Bonnie Kisselstein, Baldwinsville Public Library local history librarian and the historian for the town of Lysander, will be speaking on the topic at the Friends of the Library meeting at 10 a.m. April 20. All are welcome.
Thanks to the late Alan Baker, former Messenger editor, for much of the information in this History Mystery. One of the items available for circulation is his series published in the Messenger in 1981. It is located on the shelves at 355.82 BAK and also in the Local History room.
Reminder: the annual library budget vote is from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 27.
Contact Editor Sarah Hall at email@example.com or leave a message at 434-8889 ext. 310 with your guess by 5 p.m. Friday (please leave the information in the message; we are not generally able to return calls regarding History Mystery responses). If you are the first person to correctly identify an element in the photo, your name and guess will appear in next week’s Messenger, along with another History Mystery feature. History Mystery is a joint project of the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse and the Baldwinsville Public Library.