Love Our City.
Experience Buffalo.


Steve Cichon

From the earliest days of the internet, Steve Cichon has been writing, digitizing, and sharing the stories and images of all the things that make Buffalo special and unique. When you browse the blog here at Buffalo Stories LLC, you’re bound to not only relive a memory– but also find some context for our pop culture past– and see exciting ways how it might fit into our region’s boundless future.



Categories:

Buffalo’s Pop Culture Heritage
The essence of Buffalo Stories is defining and
celebrating the people, places, and things that make Buffalo… Buffalo. That’s Buffalo’s pop culture heritage-– and that’s what you’ll find here.

Buffalo’s Radio & TV 
Irv. Danny. Van. Carol. The men and women who’ve watched and listened to have become family enough that we only need their first names. Buffalo has a deep and rich broadcasting history.  Here are some of the names, faces, sounds and stories which have been filling Buffalo’s airwaves since 1922.

 Buffalo’s Neighborhoods
North and South Buffalo. The East and West Sides.  But how many neighborhoods can you name that don’t fit any of those descriptions? From the biggest geographical sections, to the dozens of micro-neighborhoods and hundreds of great intersections.

Parkside
There is a category for Buffalo Neighborhoods, but as the historian of Buffalo’s Parkside Neighborhood, and having written two books on the neighborhood’s history, giving the Fredrick Law Olmsted designed Parkside Neighborhood it’s own category makes sense.

Family & Genealogy
My family history is Buffalo history. All eight of my great-grandparents lived in Buffalo, including my Great-Grandma Scurr, who is among the children in this Doyle family photo taken in Glasgow, Scotland. Aside from Scotland, my great-grandparents came from Pennsylvania, Poland, and England. One branch of my family tree stretches back to Buffalo in the 1820s, and a seventh-great aunt was among the first babies baptized at St. Louis Roman Catholic church back in 1829, when the church was still a log cabin.

&c, &c, &C: reflections from Steve’s desk
While my primary focus for this site is sharing about things that make Buffalo wonderful and unique, sometimes I have other thoughts, too. I share those here, along with some of the titles from other categories which I’ve written about in a more personal manner.

Buffalo Stories Bookstore
Buy Steve’s five books and other special offers from Buffalo Stories LLC.

BN Chronicles
Steve’s daily looks back at Buffalo’s past from the archives of The Buffalo News and Buffalo Stories LLC. Weekly features include “Torn Down Tuesday” and “What it looked like Wednesday,” along with decade by decade looks at what Buffalo used to be– and how we got here from there.


By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

  facebook  linkedin  twitter   youtube  instagram

Kevin O’Connell makes Buffalo Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Kevin O’Connell

A Buffalo legend hung up his sweater vest after a quarter of a century last night.

Kevin O’Connell is certainly one of the people that makes Buffalo Buffalo.

“I’m not saying goodbye, just, ‘I’ll see you down the road,'” said O’Connell in a recorded message which aired during Channel 2’s 6pm newscast. He’s been the weather anchor on that show and the station’s lead weather personality for 25 years.

But Buffalo’s known O’Connell a lot longer than that. His media career started as a teen disc jockey at WYSL in the mid-60s, he eventually was the station’s program director.

He eventually made his way to WBEN Radio, where he hosted middays on the radio and was Channel 4’s main weather man during the Blizzard of 1977.

Among the innovations he brought to the Channel 4 weathercast was “Weather with A Beat.” He also hosted Channel 4’s “Disco Step-By-Step” show from Club 747 on Genesee Street.

In the recorded “goodbye” piece, O’Connell said that it was his final appearance on Channel 2, and that he wasn’t retiring, but that he did want viewers to know what he’s truly appreciated in his time at WGRZ-TV.

“Thank you very, very much for your loyalty and your viewership, and your comments both good and constructive,” O’Connell said. “The thing I think I’m most proud of– the millions of dollars that we were able to raise for charity. Not the Emmys or the Golden Mic awards, or the Edward R Murrow plaques, it’s the difference that we made together in our community.”

O’Connell is a 2007 inductee in the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame.


Oct. 22, 1974: WYSL DJ Kevin O’Connell gets a promotion

He’s been known for decades as the grandfatherly weatherman on Channel 2.  But before that, Kevin O’Connell was a news anchor on Channel 4, and even before that, he made “Weather with a (disco) beat” a part of WBEN-TV weather forecasts in the 1970s.

Aside from the decade he spent in Los Angeles as a local TV weatherman and national game show host, O’Connell has spent most of the last 50 years on Buffalo airwaves.

Before joining the staff at Channel 4, the son of Buffalo’s city comptroller had worked around Buffalo’s radio dial as a rock’n’roll personality on stations such as WYSL, WEBR and WBEN. Forty years ago today, the ’70s mop-headed O’Connell was promoted to program supervisor at 1400 AM, where he was also playing the hits as a disc jockey.


MORE:

Buffalo in the ’60s: The Gorskis and O’Connells; generations in the Buffalo limelight

The Pioneering Women of Buffalo Broadcasting

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This week we’re looking back at Pioneering Women in Buffalo Broadcasting.

Pioneering Women of Buffalo Radio

In the earliest days of radio in Buffalo, it was unusual to hear a female voice that wasn’t singing.

And when you did hear a woman coming through your speaker in the 30s, 40s, or 50s, she was usually talking about cooking or discussing “women’s issues.”

Among the earliest women announcers:

“Amanda,” whose real name was Dorothy Shank, hosted a show on WEBR, sponsored by AM&A’s.

MORE: WEBR’s “Today with Amanda” with tips from AM&A’s, 1951

 

World War II changed things briefly, but not a lot.

A memo from the executive offices at The Buffalo Evening News warned it’s radio broadcasters to NOT mention the name of a new female announcer– that despite the fact that Vera Holly was a very popular singer on the station for a decade.

Vera Holly was a singer, emcee, and announcer on WBEN in the 1930s and 1940s.

She had been a long-time regular on WBEN’s “International House Party” and had received top billing on the show, but wasn’t allowed to identify herself for the nearly six months she was reading station breaks and newscasts on WBEN.

A CBS gig on “The Jerry Lester Show” landed her in front of the same microphone as the biggest star of 1943– Frank Sinatra.

“I had a great kick working on the same show as Frank,” Holly told The Buffalo Evening News. “Confidentially, he really is cute. And much nicer than I expected.”

When she was picked up for a network show in 1946, she was called “one of the most promising young stars of radio. Holly went on to announce her own network programs on Mutual, CBS, and ABC.

Beverly, WKBW. 1978

Even as late as the 70s, women disc jockeys were an oddity.  A disc jockey known on the air only as “Beverly” was WKBW Radio’s first woman disc jockey, hosting overnights in the mid-70s.

As Beverly Burke, she went on to replace Oprah Winfrey in a local TV news anchoring job in Baltimore.

She’s also anchored TV news in Washington and Los Angeles.

The Cabbage Patch riots of 1983

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo News photo

Calling the Cheektowaga Police into the Walden Galleria to calm the crowds of 1,300 people clamoring for Build-A-Bear was reminiscent of another nationwide meltdown over a toy– 35 years ago this Christmas.

1983 ad

“You’d have to have been in hiding not to know by now that the phenomenon of The Cabbage Patch Kids is going through the country like a brush fire,” reported Connie Chung on the Today Show back in 1983, when the Cabbage Patch craze was in full effect for that year’s Christmas shopping season that year.

Inside a Wilkes Barre, PA store, a store manager was wielding a bat to keep pushing crowds back.

The manager of one Hills store said, “People were knocking over tables, there were people in mid-air… it got ugly.”

In the Buffalo area, one of the worst scenes was at South Buffalo’s Gold Circle store on Seneca Street at the city line.

A reporter was listening in as a Hills employee answered the phone on Black Friday in 1983, and before even letting the caller speak said, “There inst a prayer of your getting one.”

Child World spent the 1980s as America’s second-largest toy store chain, second to Toys R Us. The three Western New York locations of Child World made the biggest such chain in Buffalo. All three stores were in now-defunct shopping malls, including the Thruway Mall, the Lockport Mall and the Summit Park Mall. The Child World chain folded in 1990.
Long lines at the Walden Galleria for Build-A-Bear. WKBW-TV photo.

WNY’s steel producing heritage- part of what makes Buffalo Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Our steel producing heritage—One of the things that makes Buffalo Buffalo.

We often talk about and remember Bethlehem Steel, and with good reason.

The Bethlehem Steel complex, 1984.

At one point, Lackawanna’s Bethlehem Rte. 5 complex was the world’s largest steel plant. At one point, the plant employed more than 20,000 men.

Just as amazing to think about is that there were nearly as many men working in other steel plants around WNY as well.

A DEC photo from 1967: Historic photo of the Buffalo River. The former Republic Steel plant is to the left of the river and the former Buffalo Color plant is to the right.

The Republic Steel Plant on South Park Avenue at the Buffalo River in South Buffalo was one of the biggest.

Now the site of the Elon Musk and Panasonic solar panel plant, but in 1950—the Cleveland based Republic Steel was making plans to increase the South Buffalo plant’s production to 900,000 tons of steel per year. Nearly a million tons of steel at Buffalo’s second largest steel plant.

The plant was closed and demolished in the mid 1980s and again, is currently the site for the state-funded RiverBend project.

Buffalo Evening News, August 3, 1950

More:

Torn-Down Tuesday: Signs of Bethlehem Steel along Route 5

Torn-down Tuesday: Bethlehem Steel from the air

Buffalo in the 60s: Bethlehem Steel builds Buff State

Buffalo in the 50s: South Buffalo’s Republic Steel aims for nearly a million tons

Buffalo in the 40s: Before SolarCity, there was National Aniline and Republic Steel at RiverBend

Buffalo in the 70’s: Steelworkers called back to work

 

 

Buffalo’s milkmen and their Divco trucks

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Remember when the milk man used to deliver the milk right to your back door?

Trucks like this restored Rich’s Dairy truck will be on display in Hamburg next weekend.

Well, the people who collect the trucks our milkmen used to drive are getting together in WNY next week.

Fischer’s Milk delivery in a Divco truck in the 1950s.

The Divco Club of America will be holding it’s 2018 convention in Hamburg starting next week, and their trucks will be on display at the Hamburger Festival on July 21st.

Delivering Fischer’s Milk in a 1930s Divco.

Divco trucks were seen all over WNY and all around the country starting in the 1920s, and used for milk and bread deliveries.

Amherst Dairy, 1942.

It was in March 30, 1982, that Carl Heim made one last era-ending trip through the streets of Buffalo.

Buffalo News archives

The cartons shown being loaded into this truck were the last home-delivered milk from Upstate Milk Cooperatives, the area’s largest dairy supplier.

Buffalo News archives

Upstate, which sold the Sealtest brand, was the last of the big dairies to end home service, though several smaller dairies vowed to continue.

Divco ad from 1949

The biggest factor in dropping service to Buffalo’s side and back doors was the growing disparity between the premium cost of delivered milk and the increasingly cheaper prices being charged by large grocery stores.

from a 1939/1940 Divco brouchure being offered in an eBay auction by autolit.com

Grain elevators make Buffalo Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Our grain elevators are part of what makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Simon Pure ad from 1949 celebrating Buffalo’s milling industry.

More than 15,000 men worked in Buffalo’s flour and feed milling industries in the 1940s and 50s.

No other city in the world processed more grain than we did in Buffalo.
Circumstances changed through the decades, and the grain boats stopped coming.

Those hulking elevator and mill complexes along Buffalo’s waterways served as reminders of what Buffalo had lost for decades.

Now the grain elevators that survive are being adapted to new uses, and serve as an example of how Buffalo can make it’s past– part of its future.

This video from fastimages.net features Buffalo’s lighthouse, waterfront, and various aspects of Buffalo industry.

Our grain elevators are part of what makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Holiday Showcase Restaurant: One of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Rather abruptly, the doors closed on a Buffalo institution on Sunday, July 8, 2018.

From after-movie meals to being destroyed by a tornado, The Holiday Showcase Restaurant is one of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Photo appearing on the Holiday Showcase website, 2018,

The Holiday Showcase opened in the front corner of what was then the Aero Drive-In in 1964.

The Aero Drive-In held 800 cars and featured playgrounds for the kids in the spot where Sam’s Club is today.

1950.

Around 1971, showed its last movie, but by then, the Holiday 1 and 2 theaters had opened. It was eventually the Holiday 6 by the time it was torn down to make way for the strip mall behind the Holiday Showcase, which served hundreds of thousands of meals to movie goers on the same property for more than 30 years.

1967.

From the beginning, specialties have included the HY-BOY, which a 1967 ad calls “a double decker hamburger sensation” and FRESH strawberry pie and shortcake.

The Hy-Boy.

Tornado

The infamous 1987 Cheektowaga tornado. This is the funnel cloud as seen from Dick Rd.

Whether they’ve eaten at the famous Union Road restaurant or not, it seems every Buffalonian knows that the Holiday Showcase was one of two businesses heavily damaged when a tornado ripped through Cheektowaga in 1987.

The sign is a classic piece of Roadside Americana on Union Rd in Cheektowaga.

The Holiday Showcase Restaurant… another one of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Conehead is one of the people that makes Buffalo… Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Conehead is one of the People that makes Buffalo… Buffalo.

Conehead serves up a beer at Pilot Field.

With his familiar shout, “Who needs a beer?” Conehead — known as Tom Girot when deconed — has been wandering the stands of Buffalo sporting events with ice cold beer since he poured his first beer at a Sabres game at the Aud back in 1972.

One of Buffalo’s all-time most popular sports personalities first donned the Conehead at a Bills game in 1977. It was a castaway from his wife’s Halloween costume that year, and it’s stuck ever since.

His all-time record sales day came at a Bisons exhibition game at the Rockpile. Fans tossed back 59 cases as the Bisons played the World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979.

“There’s nothing I’d rather do than vend,” says Girot. “I just love it.”

He’s poured millions of beers for thirsty sports fans through the years… but he hasn’t poured a warm one yet, because we all know the Conehead guarantee:

“You’ve got the Conehead Guarantee, get a warm beer from me, and you drink it for free.”

More: What it looked like Wednesday: Getting beers at Pilot Field, late ’80s

Steve Cichon and Conehead, celebrating Paul McCartney’s first concert in Buffalo at Keybank Center, 2016.

Buffalo in the 70’s: Steelworkers called back to work

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Just after Labor Day 1975, the Republic Steel Plant on South Park Avenue was finally starting to hum with the sounds of steel making again, after the plant had shut down in mid-July.

It meant a call back to work for about 500 steelworkers after a six week layoff. Another hundred were expected to be called back in the coming weeks.

New steel orders from the auto industry for the new 1976 model year cars was mostly responsible for the increase in steel production.

The photo below shows the build out of both National Aniline and Republic Steel in 1949. The single drawbridge at the top of the photo went over South Park Avenue. As you can see in the Google Maps image below, most, if not all of the buildings pictured are now gone, but new buildings with new jobs are coming up in their place.

Making Buffalo Buffalo: Bob Wells

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Among the things that make Buffalo… Buffalo is Bob Wells.

Bob Wells at the WEBR RCA-44, where his theme song was Gloria Wood’s “Teen Time.”

Bob Wells was the host of one of Buffalo’s most popular radio shows of the post-war era– the Hi Teen show ran on WEBR for 17 years, hosting as many of 2000 kids in the Dellwood Ballroom at Main and Utica every Saturday.

What kind of music did you hear on Hi-Teen?.

“I was probably the last disc jockey in America to play an Elvis Presley record,” Wells told Channel 2’s Rich Kellman during a late 70s interview.

Wells popularity with Buffalo’s youngest radio fans overlapped the rock ‘n’ roll era, but not by much.

Long after Hi-Teen was little more than a memory, Western New Yorkers continued to hear Bob Wells’ voice as the voice of Your Host restaurants.

WATCH: A Bob Wells-voiced Your Host commercial from 1977:

Bob Wells… and the Hi Teen Show.. just one of the things that makes Buffalo… Buffalo