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15 years ago: Americans look to the Amish amid Y2K fear

It's 15 years since the new millennium dawned and CBS News is taking a look back
It's 15 years since the new millennium dawned... 01:50

Has it already been 15 years since the new millennial dawned? Remember the fears of how computers would come to a grinding halt when the dial turned to year 2000? In a three-part series, CBS News looks at how Americans were coping with the big change. This report looked to the Amish for how to survive in a technological meltdown. Other reports looked at fear mongering by gun marketers and fears about Russia's YSK preparedness.


The hype around Y2K had some interesting effects on commerce. Take for example, the Amish community in Kidron, Ohio where many people shun modern conveniences.

As CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger reported, the town's hardware store, Lehman's, had the right stuff at the right time. Everything Lehman's sold was non-electrical and at the time most of the customers were non-Amish

"Y2K has definitely affected our business, we have a lot of new people in the store that we've never had in before," said a Lehman's store manager.

The customers came in to buy hand cranked flashlights and other back to basic items. One woman said she wasn't scared about Y2K but was shopping just to be prepared.

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A customer tests out a hand cranked flashlight CBS News

Although there were never any signs of serious hoarding, people did flock to stores. If you think they did this out of their own concern, you'd be wrong. The government had suggested Americans be ready.

"Maintain enough food or water for perhaps a long weekend for yourself and your family," advised FEMA's Robert Adamcik. "Make sure you have batteries in your portable radio, batteries for your flashlights."

Schlesinger reported an increase in sales for basics like bottled water. And to avoid slight problems the British had with credit cards, the U.S. banking system made sure it had an extra $50 billion in cash on hand in case there was a rush on ATMs.

Schlesinger met two men who showed him a wad of cash - the money they withdrew from a New York bank "just in case."

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A New Yorker shows the cash he withdrew in December 1999 out of concern that ATMs may not work in the year 2000 CBS News

But they turned out to be the exception, not the rule. Despite fears of hoarding, the majority of Americans appeared to treat Y2K as more of a milestone, than a menace, reported Schlesinger.

And that's the way it was on Thursday, December 28, 1999.

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