Massena man uncovers old photos of workers honored at Alcoa, power house in 1950s
Sunday, January 29, 2012 - 5:40 pm


MASSENA – A Massena man has uncovered some half-century-old photographs about his father’s life and work at Alcoa and at the power station the aluminum company ran on the St. Lawrence River.

Bill Kennedy has recently been going through old photographs, and he came across several interesting shots of the men and the work at Alcoa.

One photograph is of an award “Presented to the Men of The Power House (St. Lawrence River Power Company) for working more than One million man-hours without a disabling injury, commencing June 13th, 1942,” and apparently through Dec. 2, 1954. It was presented by the “Smelting Division, Massena Operations, Aluminum Company of America.”

The St. Lawrence River Power Company was a part of the Alcoa operation at Massena that produced hydroelectric power for smelting before the Moses-Saunders Dam went into operation in the late 1950s.

“The turbines have been removed, but the steel remnants of the old power station are still there,” Kennedy said.

Of the roughly 50 men pictured in the award, “I knew most of these people, very few still alive,” Kennedy said.

Bill Kennedy’s father, Hartley Kennedy is in the center photograph on the award plaque.

Bill Kennedy himself worked from 1958 through 1986 for the New York Power Authority, which runs the American operations at the Massena dam.

Another photo he sent us was of his father in an old-style diving suit with a big metal helmet, being helped by a couple of other men.

Among his father’s duties at the old power station, “he used to dive and clear debris and the ice frozen against the racks.” The racks were grates which kept logs and other large debris from entering the turbines.

“They called that ice ‘frazee,’” he said, probably akin to “frazile ice,” crystals that will build up in turbulent water like that at the rack.

Debris wasn’t all that Hartley Kennedy cleared from the grate.

“He would find these big walleye and carp in the rack. Some of those carp had scales bigger than a half-dollar,” a coin more than an inch in diameter.

Kennedy said it was during the depression, and those fish did not go to waste.