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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

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The heartache of man’s imperfection in God’s church

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The readings on Pentecost are my favorite readings. The message is wonderful and easily received, and I’ve always felt like it’s the one day in the Liturgical year where being a professional announcer was useful—being able to verbally make long lists into a story the people could better understand with my interpretation.

It’s with great sadness that it’ll likely be a long time before I’m able to use those skills which God gave me to help tell his story on Pentecost or any other day.

During my campaign for Erie County Clerk last year, I was relieved of all my ministries at my parish– sacristan, Eucharistic Minister, Lector, and altar server.

A two-word *political* stance printed in the newspaper apparently didn’t pass the *political* litmus test of The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, and without discussion and after an average of 18 hours of weekly volunteer work at my parish, I was stripped of my ministries via email.

On complicated matters of the heart– where questions of what is life and what is womanhood clash, I would expect more delicacy, understanding, and willingness to see good people trying to provide an environment where goodness and truth can thrive through better understanding and love.

That didn’t happen.

I am no longer able to use my God given ability to share His word or volunteer to unlock the doors for daily Mass. The way that happened has brought what has proven to be the greatest sadness of my life.

Some of the lowest points of my life have come sitting in Mass over the seven months, which is a painful contrast to the exuberance I have always felt in church.

Today’s readings– those favorite readings of mine– have brought me some comfort.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

Wrestling at The Aud: from The Hulk to Gorgeous George

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Hulk Hogan is going to be in Buffalo this weekend, and had some nice things to say about Buffalo Wrestling and the fans here. Steve Cichon has more from the Hulk and wrestling’s glory days in Buffalo.

Hulk Hogan is making an appearance at the Nickel City Con at the Convention Center this weekend, and he spoke with Mark Ciemcioch at The Buffalo News about his times in Buffalo.

He has great memories of wrestling in Buffalo, and like so many of us, Hulk Hogan has great memories of Memorial Auditorium.

Hogan traveled to Buffalo many times during his career, even having knee surgery here. He particularly enjoyed working the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium before it closed in 1996.

“I had some great matches in there,” Hogan said. “I’d hit people with a punch in the middle of that ring, and it sounded like a cannon would go off. The whole crowd would go along with it, (chanting) ‘Boom, boom!’ It’s a great wrestling crowd, a great city and a (I have) lot of fond memories of Buffalo.”

Hulk Hogan on ‘Hulkamaniacs,’ Buffalo and his biggest comeback yet

Wrestling, of course, goes way back in Buffalo– to big Friday Night sell out crowds through the 30s, 40s, and 50s, first at the old Broadway Auditorium (now “The Broadway Barns” and the home of Buffalo’s snowplows), and then Memorial Auditorium when it opened in 1940.

“This was a shirt and tie crowd,” said the late Buffalo News Sports Editor Larry Felser, who remembered when Wrestling at the Aud was one of the biggest events in Buffalo.

“Not that many people had TV sets back then,” remembered Felser in 2001. “People were crowding into Sears and appliance stores to try to see this thing on TV, because the place was sold out.”

And with all those big crowds, there was no wrestler who could draw them in like Gorgeous George.

“When Gorgeous George would wrestle, they’d pack the Auditorium for this guy,” said Felser.

“The Human Orchid,” as George was known, was the first modern wrestler, said retired Channel 7 sports director Rick Azar, saying he “changed the face of professional wrestling forever.”

As someone who called himself “Hollywood’s perfumed and marcelled wrestling orchid,” it’s clear that George knew how to make sure he set himself apart.

“He had an atomizer, and he’d walk around the ring with perfume, supposedly fumigating his opponent’s corners,” said Felser, who also remembered his flair for marketing outside the ring.

“His valet drove him around in an open convertible around Lafayette Square, and he’s got a wad of one dollar bills, and he was throwing money to people. It was a show stopper. He landed on page one. TV was just in its infancy then, but they were all over it. It was like World War III. That’s how big a story it was.”

Gorgeous George is credited with ushering in the Bad Boy era of sports– and even inspired Muhammad Ali, who told a British interviewer, “he was telling people, ‘I am the prettiest wrestler, I am great. Look at my beautiful blond hair.’ I said, this is a good idea, and right away, I started saying, ‘I am the greatest!'”

See some photos of Gorgeous George and read more about his career:
Buffalo in the ’50s: ‘Gorgeous George’ arrives in Buffalo, perfumes his room
Buffalo in the ’50s: Gorgeous George brings showmanship to the Aud

Buffalo, 1913: Ike Slept Here

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s the kind of story that plays out even today, more than a hundred years later.

You’re a college kid getting ready to make the couple-hour trip home for Christmas, when you realize one of your football teammates isn’t going to be able to make the two day trip back home to be with his family—so you invite him home, knowing there’s always extra room at the table.

West Point football, mid-1910s.

A Buffalo version of this story happened in 1913 when Louis Byrne, a cadet and football player at West Point, invited his fellow cadet and football teammate Ike—Yes, that Ike– home for Christmas.

Byrne’s late father was Col. John Byrne—a former Buffalo Police Commissioner and Commandant of the Pan American Expo Police Force. As a somewhat prominent Buffalo family, their comings and goings were fodder for the society pages of the newspapers.

Col. John Byrne being driven around the Pan-Am Grounds.

Cadet Dwight D. Eisenhower’s visit to the Byrne residence on Summit Avenue in the Parkside neighborhood was written up in both The Buffalo Evening News and the Buffalo Morning Express.

Buffalo Evening News Society Page, 1913

Eisenhower’s next visit to Buffalo came 39 years later, when then-General Eisenhower made a speech in the run up to his election as President in 1952.

President Eisenhower in a Packard convertible at the Broadway Fillmore intersection, 1952.

In his later years, one of Byrne’s favorite stories involved bossing Eisenhower around at West Point. A version of the story even made a nationally distributed Associated Press article.

Louis T. Byrne was an upperclassman at West Point in 1914, and one day was giving a plebe a “going over.”

“I suppose you expect to become a general?” Byrnes asked.

“Yes, sir I do, sir,” replied Dwight D. Eisenhower, the plebe.

You can visit the House where Ike stayed… by the way… on this weekend’s Parkside Tour of Homes— It was later owned by Mathias Hens of Hens & Kelly fame.

More on the Tour of Homes: www.parksidebuffalo.org

Harv Moore & Brandy: The Boy Next Door makes a hit record

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Disc Jockeys are known for telling a lot of stories and taking credit for things, but in the case of WECK’s Harv Moore, he doesn’t have to take credit for a hit song we all know because the band is the ready to give him all the credit in the world.

“Brandy” was a big hit for Looking Glass in 1972.

The New Jersey bar band had recorded an album for Epic Records and the first single released from the album flopped.

Eliot Lurie was a member of Looking Glass and the group’s primary songwriter.

After that miserable showing of the group’s first release, he didn’t think there was any chance for his “Brandy.”

“That probably would have been the end of if, had it not been for a disc jockey in Washington, DC named Harv Moore,” Lurie told “The Tennessean in 2016.

Hear the full interview with Eliot Lurie of Looking Glass

Harv Moore was the morning mayor on WPGC in Washington DC from 1963-1975.

Harv at WPGC in 1971.

A promoter for Epic stopped by the WPGC studios with a test pressing of the Brandy single.

“I listened to it and said, ‘Wow, this is a smash. A home run.'”

Harv started playing it once an hour on his show, and then the station, and then all of Washington loved the song– and it was bound for number one on the Billboard charts.

Hear Harv on WPGC from the Cruisin’ series

“After two weeks, they told us the record would be number one, and it was,” said Lurie.

It’s not often in a career– even a 60 year career like Harv’s– to be able to play a part in making a hit.

“I always felt I had a pretty good ear for music, hearing new stuff. It was a big thrill to see that go to number one in Billboard Magazine, it was a nationwide hit,” said Harv. “I got a nice gold record from Epic Records for it.”

Just a few years later, in 1975, Harv followed his boss at WPGC to WYSL in Buffalo, and he’s been here ever since.

Harv Moore, WECK, 2018

“Buffalo’s my home,” said Harv, getting ready to play another song, sitting behind the mic at WECK.

 

Cichoń grave clean up 2018, St. Stan’s Cemetery

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I will never forget the satisfied, heart-filled smile Gramps gave me when I told him that I cleaned up his parents’ grave. I didn’t know it, but not being able to tend to his family’s graves was one of the things that weighed on him when he was in a nursing home, the last of ten siblings still alive.

“You’re a good guy for doing that, son,” Gramps said to me. It rang in my ears and filled my heart today when I stopped by the cemetery to look after my great-grandparents’ grave, and the graves of Gramps’ brothers who died in childhood.

Roman was hit by a truck and killed, Czesław (Chester) had Leukemia and died at three months old. Chester didn’t have a stone– they couldn’t afford one– Gramps’ older brothers cast a cross in concrete, which eventually wore down and was toppled. But he was right next to the fence, Gramps said. There are other makeshift headstones nearby which survive.

It’s deeply gratifying to honor my grandfather by honoring his parents and brothers.

May they all Rest In Peace. Spoczywaj W Pokoju.

Steve at the entrance to the old part of St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Cheektowaga, NY.

The hardest working man in politics is also the nicest

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

These are the only kinds of photos you get with Erich Weyant— accidental ones, while he’s busy at work.

While Steve shakes hands at a parade, Erich Weyant looks on with camera in hand,

But especially on his birthday, I think that it’s important the world get a good look at one of the most decent, good natured, kind human beings I’ve ever met.

My friends, my family, and anyone who supported my bid for County Clerk should also know that the only reason we came as close as we did was this guy right here.

He’s truly the only person who completely understood my reasoning and vision in running for elected office, while also sharing a commitment to that vision with the same amount of drive, drive, and determination that I had.

For that, I’ll never be able to repay him. (Except by embarrassing him in posts like this on his birthday.)

“The Drury goal” and the elevator dent

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

One of the most memorable moments in Sabres History,  11 years ago today. Game 5, Sabres and Rangers. Jay Moran had already announced, “last minute in regulation time” over the PA. The Sabres were down by a goal.

Then this happened:

“The Drury Goal” made for one of the my most memorable moments in covering sports.

I was in HSBC Arena covering the game, but I didn’t get to see the goal live.

Reporters have to be down in the dressing room/interview room area when the game ends, so we start leaving the pressbox and getting on the elevators with a few minutes left in regulation.

Especially for a playoff game, there are maybe 30 people crammed onto a cargo elevator with a little TV in the corner with the game on. I happened to be jammed next to two of the Rangers players who were scratched from the lineup.

As the elevator very slowly groaned down the five or six levels, I was close enough to hear them talk about their plans for visiting with friends and family during the next round of the playoffs. The win was about to put the Rangers up 3-2 in the series, with the teams heading to New York City for Game 6.

But that quickly changed.

When Drury scored that goal, the elevator shook with the rest of the building. There’s no cheering in the pressbox, but there was an audible bleat of excitement as Jeanneret’s amazing mindless call blared out of the tinny speaker on the tiny TV in the corner of the elevator.

The only noise that wasn’t excitement came from the foot of that New York Rangers player, whose body pressed up against mine when he made the motion to backwards kick the wall of the elevator with his heel– leaving a dent that was there at least through the following season.

That little dent made me smile every time I saw it. The Rangers didn’t make it to the next round of the playoffs. One of my favorite moments in 20 years of covering sports.

Sabres #23 Chris Drury goal with #19 Tim Connolly, during the third period of their game at the HSBC arena in Buffalo, Friday May 4, 2007. (Buffalo News photo/ Mark MULVILLE)

Dancing, swimming, and of course the rides: Highlights of a trip to Crystal Beach

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

If you’re over 40 and grew up in Buffalo, chances are pretty good you didn’t need an ad in the newspaper to entice you to beg for a trip to Crystal Beach. Yet from Memorial Day to Labor Day, from the 1940s to the 1980s, those ads were there, almost every day.

Here’s a look back at a few of those ads.

1944:

The “100 thrilling midway amusements” were among the most highly touted aspects of a visit to Crystal Beach during the years of World War II, but even more than the rides– in bold letters, bathing and dancing were the kind of fun that must have spoke to the throngs of WNYers who’d make the regular trip to Canada.

Today, we make that trip across the Peace Bridge– and some did it that way in 1944, too. But the “extra special, grand” way to get to Crystal Beach was a 50¢ ride across the Lake aboard the Steamer Canadiana.

This was no mere boat ride. Hopping aboard the Crystal Beach boat at the foot of Main Street (in a spot behind Key Bank Center in today’s geography) was where the party started, lead by live music by such popular Buffalo bands as Harold Austin’s Orchestra (who was also very popular at The Dellwood Ballroom during Bob Wells’ Hi Teen dance program on WEBR Radio.)

When it came to dancing to live music on the rollicking waves of  Lake Erie, getting there (and back home) really was half the fun of going to Crystal Beach when you took the Canadiana.

1960:

The excitement of 5-cent rides at Crystal Beach was almost too much to bear. You paid per ride at Crystal Beach back then, and hearing that 24 rides cost only a nickel sounded like just about the most fabulous way anyone could think of to spend the last few days of summer.

That is, of course, until you read the small print — and realized your roll of nickels might not take you as far as you thought.

Nickel Day applied to 24 of the parks “riding devices.” The best rides were still cheaper than usual — but only half-price. The Comet, the Giant Coaster, the Wild Mouse, Magic Carpet, The Roto-Jet, Scrambler, Auto Scooter, The Old Mill, even roller skating — those more popular thrill-inducing rides were going to cost you more than just 5 cents.

But at least the bathhouse and beach equipment rates were also at half price, too.

1975:

Buffalo’s most fondly remembered amusement park broke down exactly what made the place great in this ad published July 1, 1975– likely prompting some last minute begging to do what came only naturally to generations of Buffalonians– spend our nation’s birthday in a foreign country eating sugar waffles and drinking loganberry.

The Comet Coaster— towering 105 feet– one of the top 10 in the world.

24 major adult rides— featuring the twirling TWISTER, the fantastic FLITZER, the mighty MONSTER, and the swinging CHAIR-O-PLANE.

12 rides for the kids— try the all new AUTO SKOOTER and GLASS HOUSE.

And… Dr. Miracles’ Wondercade, the Shootin’ Shack, Cafe International.

Swimming— 1/4 mile of clean, patrolled beach and sparkling water.

Free Picnic Grove— Covered sheltering for 3,500 people.

Games, Bingo & Souvenir Boutique

No admission charge— Ride what you like, like what you ride. 60 ways to be alive in ’75.

Happy Birthday, Tom Donahue!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

We’re celebrating my WECK Coffee Club cohort Tom Donahue’s birthday today…

Tom Donahue, some time before this morning.

Of course, I do that with a look back into the Buffalo Stories archives!

 

Buffalo in the 70’s: Everyone seemed to love The Ground Round

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Through the 1970s and 1980s, The Ground Round was a popular casual dining spot with locations at Seneca and Thruway Malls and on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Created by Howard Johnson’s, it may have been the first place you threw peanut shells on the floor and kids ate for a penny a pound on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

The Seneca Mall Ground Round was two years into its run when the Bills opened Rich Stadium in 1973. Many fans sought ways to avoid having to drive into Orchard Park– Ground Round offered a park and ride solution. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Buffalo’s first Ground Round opened outside the Seneca Mall in 1971.  “The Ground Round,” explained General Manager Burton Sack, “is a fun-type family restaurant featuring a player piano, nostalgic wall decorations from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, free peanuts on all tables, beer by the mug and pitcher, and free toys and games for the youngsters.”

Buffalo Stories archives

Five years later, The Howard Johnson’s restaurant at Sheridan and Delaware in Tonawanda was converted into a Ground Round, as was the Cross Bow Restaurant on Sheridan Drive in Amherst.

Buffalo Stories archives

In 1989, there were 215 Ground Round restaurants in 22 states– six in the Buffalo area. Those local stores were located at 3545 Delaware Ave. in Tonawanda; 208 Seneca Mall in West Seneca; 8529 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Niagara Falls; Thruway Mall and 1445 French Road, both in Cheektowaga; and 3180 Sheridan Drive and 7566 Transit Road, both in Amherst.

The Seneca Mall location was the first to open and the first to be closed– and then bulldozed– as the Seneca Mall was demolished starting in 1994. By the end of the year, half of the  remaining stores were sold to become the home of Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken restaurants.

This photo shows the last Buffalo area Ground Round location on Niagara Falls Blvd. in the Falls in 2004. (Buffalo Stories photo)
Buffalonians love to remember The Ground Round, but fish fry from a national chain? (Buffalo Stories archives)