MASSENA — At 4:59 p.m. July 17, 1958, Geza M. (Gerry) Orosz flipped a switch and the New York Power Authority began to deliver power from the new St. Lawrence-FDR Power Plant in Massena.
On Friday morning, 60 years later, retirees who worked on and in the facility, along with family members, gathered at the Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkins Point Visitors Center to reminisce about their days with the Power Authority.
Mr. Orosz, who immigrated from Hungary in 1930 at the age of 7, died 20 years ago this month. But his wife, Martha, 91, was on hand for the informal get-together that included the viewing of a movie detailing the history of the power plant.
Mrs. Orosz can still remember the day her husband stood in the spotlight as he flipped the switch.
“It was a very special day,” she said. “He started in the control room and worked his way up to chief operator.”
“He took as many night classes as he could from Canton and Clarkson colleges, working his way up to be head of the operating department,” said Susan Orosz Parisian, the couple’s daughter.
Mr. Orosz worked for Alcoa in Massena for 15 years and was urged to apply for a job with the new Power Authority of the State of New York, which he did successfully. It was a 50-cent cut in hourly pay, but it didn’t matter.
“He made the right decision because he loved his job at the Power Authority,” Mrs. Parisian said.
“My husband loved working there. The crews he had were wonderful,” Mrs. Orosz said.
Meanwhile, she stayed home and raised the couple’s five daughters, along with her sister’s son.
“It was wonderful. All the ladies would get together once a month for lunch,” Mrs. Orosz said. The Power Authority still plays a role in her life. Her son, Kip Orosz, works for the Power Authority, as does her grandson, Jordi Parisian.
Mrs. Orosz remains active, volunteering twice a week at Madrid-Waddington Central School to work with students in kindergarten and special education. It’s something she’s been doing for 17 years.
She recalled one student who couldn’t write his name when she started working with him.
“In two weeks he could write his name,” she said.
Plenty of stories were shared among retirees and family members during Friday morning’s gathering, and also in the video that detailed the history of the Massena power plant. Legislation was signed on April 27, 1931, to establish the Power Authority of the State of New York, but it wasn’t until the summer of 1953 that the facility-to-be was licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory commission.
The $335 million price tag came at no cost to federal or state taxpayers, and builder Robert Moses said it would be completed within a five-year timeline and within the amount of money that had been borrowed. It was, and construction began in 1954, with laborers toiling through the hot summer and bitter cold winters.
“The place was alive with people and workers,” recalled John Lenney.
But they enjoyed the work, according to another retiree.
“It wasn’t hard to get up in the morning and go to work. You jumped out of bed and went to work,” Roger Bennett said. “Today, looking back, it was a fantastic opportunity.”
New York Power Authority Community Relations Association Karen White said a community celebration of the organization’s 60th anniversary will take place on Aug. 24, culminating that evening with a concert by the Fort Drum Band and fireworks.