By Audrey Schiesser | Local Happenings
Stories Inspired From "The Story of Portsmouth" by Elmer Sword
In our eleventh and final edition of “Did You Know?” with local tales from our county’s history, we are taking a look at the “The Atomic Boom”.
In August of 1952 the Atomic Energy Commission selected a site in Pike county that was 20 miles north of Portsmouth for a billion dollar plant. This massive facility was constructed to produce uranium 235 by means of gaseous diffusion.
Two new power plants had to be constructed to supply the plant's annual requirement of 1,800,000 kilowatts of electricity. This was 25% more electrical energy than consumed by the entire state of New York.
This plant was completed in 1955 at a cost of slightly under one billion dollars to be operated by Goodyear Atomic Corporation, a subsidiary of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
Due to the close proximity of Portsmouth, much of the construction work was done here. This gave the local Portsmouth economy a very much needed boost.
Hundreds of temporary construction workers descended upon the Portsmouth area and large trailer camps sprung up almost overnight just north of the city.
This led to overflowing schools, crowded stores, and major traffic for our town. This became known as “The Atomic Boom” of Portsmouth. People were hoping this would last forever.
City of Silence
For 61 consecutive days, beginning October 16, 2956, 17,428 telephones did not ring in the city of Portsmouth or Scioto County, because of a union strike.
This began July 15, 1956, when Communication Workers of America struck against the Ohio Consolidated Telephone Company after two months of intense negotiations.
Just before this incident, the General Telephone company had acquired Ohio Consolidated, a company which for 14 years had operated under a union-shop agreement. Now the new parent company proposed that maintenance of membership and no-strike clauses be included.
The union shook its head about both of the proposals, but it was the union ship fight that was to prolong negotiations.
At first, everything was going smooth as dial phones were used which were kept in operation by automation and supervisory personnel. However, about a month later, the citation grew more dire.
At night, telephone cables were chopped, sawed, and burnt. Daytime repair crews were quickly losing their foothold. Police were unable to make arrests and more and more residents were unable to use their phones.
On August 16, the company closed two small county exchanges because of violence. By September 3, there had been 67 cable cuts and some lines even slashed three times.
By October 15, 290 cables had been slashed. That very night the telephone building was swarmed and windows were smashed.
It was at this time that Portsmouth switched into emergency mode. 23 auxiliary policemen were deputized to patrol city streets all night in their privately owned vehicles. Police call boxes, not used since radio had been installed, were examined for possible use. Four of them were still in operation.
A police car was stationed outside of Mercy hospital. When nurses needed a doctor, an ambulance, or a special drug, they ran outside, talked over the radio to police headquarters, where the message was relayed to patrolling city police, highway patrolmen, or sheriff’s deputies.
This was definitely a crazy time in our county’s history. We hope you have enjoyed this “Did You Know?” series and cannot wait to show you what we have next!