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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About ten of these can be summarized by saying, “everybody’s got their own insecurities and you have to know that– and not let the manifestations of other people’s bad feelings about themselves change your life.”
I might have written that at 20, but probably thought that it was just something nice to say to someone who was struggling, and not necessarily completely true.
At 40, that notion is at the center of who I am, but it’s something I struggle with.
It’s mentally and intellectually easier to just be angry at someone than to be empathetic and try to understand or come to terms with why someone is being an asshole so that you can just get on with your own life.
Being angry is like setting the cruise control. Empathy and understanding takes work.
It’s exhausting, but it’s better for your soul than just assuming that everyone else’s life is sunshine, lollipops and rainbows… and you’re the only one with problems.
I’m glad I’m only 40, and in ten short years, I’ll have everything figured out by 50 like this lady. Hahaha.
Many of us are making plans for a three-day weekend, but in this run up to the Memorial Day weekend– we’re remembering the sacrifices made in Buffalo and by Buffalonians.
Striking a Memorial Day balance with the twin sister of a fallen soldier
On November 3, 2016, Andrew Byers, 30, a Captain with the Army’s airborne 10th Special Forces Group was killed in Afghanistan.
“Gone are the days of Memorial Day as the start of summer and worrying about whose barbecue we’ll be going to,” says Lauren Byers, Captain Byers’ twin sister.
For Lauren and the Byers family, Memorial Day is now more than ever about striking a balance.
“I think we’re all looking for that thing to do to honor him, but also not be frustrated when you see all the commercials and ads that say ‘splash into summer’ or ‘Memorial Day Sale’ and not feel that twinge of pain, that that’s not really what Memorial Day is,” says Byers.
“How do you choose something that’s meaningful and balance that with knowing that your family member would want you to enjoy your time together as a family.”
A Memorial Day holiday might involved a chat about the Sabres for Andy Byers, whose love of the team followed him all around the world in service to our country. But that service is something Captain Byers knew he wanted to pursue from an early age.
“Even after he passed, we went to his office at Fort Carson, where he had a Sabres coffee mug on his desk,” says Lauren. “But he knew when he was 15 that he wanted to serve.”
It took her some time to accept her brother’s choice of career, but now Lauren looks on her brother’s service and ultimate sacrifice with a mix of pride, devastation, and working to keep the memory of her brother– and all fallen service people– alive.
“I think for Gold Star families, the challenge is two fold,” says Lauren. “We don’t want out family members to be forgotten. We don’ t the lives they lead to be forgotten. He would say, ‘If not me, then who?’ Someone needs to do this job. I am capable, I will be the one to do it.'”
What would Lauren like to see people do on Memorial Day? Just remembering those who’ve given their lives for our freedom– including her twin brother.
“People remembering them, the choice they made, and how they lived their lives– and giving them the respect that they are do.”
Remembering WNYers killed in Vietnam
We’re looking at one man’s quest to make sure the memories of the 532 Western New York service members killed in Vietnam live on.
Promises of peace came and went several times during the decades that American soldiers were in Vietnam… Peace was fleeting, too, for many if not most of the men and women who returned home from Southeast Asia.
“I just didn’t want these men and one woman to be forgotten,” says historian and Vietnam Veteran Pat Kavanagh, who started a huge project and labor of love started with the simple thought.
“Come hell or high water, I’m going to try to find all the original obituaries of those from Western New York killed in Vietnam,” says Kavanaugh of the through that sent him on his quest. “Right from the start, it just became very emotional.”
Kavanagh visited dozens of libraries and sent all around the country for microfilms, but the greatest effect was in leaving a small town library, and knowing this is place where this man who was killed in action once walked and made plans for a future which never came.
“I thought I was a hard guy, but after reading and copying these obituaries, I’d get into the car, and I’d pass the street where he lived. I’d pass the school where he went. I’m saying, ‘these guys are only 18 or 19 years old, and they’re dead.’ They’d been killed so far away from home,” says Kavanagh. “This is the least we can do for them.”
It’s been years since he started the project and Pat feels the collection with remembrances of 532 WNYers killed in Vietnam is as complete as it can be.
The late Michael Accordino was a member of the 299th Combat Engineer Batallion on D-Day.
“For D-Day, we were munition men. We had to build the obstacles on the beach,” said then-Private Accordino in a 2011 interview. He and his mates were under heavy fire as they laid the way for infantry and artillery men to fight their way across and liberate Europe.
“There was a lot of firepower from the Germans up on the slope. Lots of machines guns, lots of mortars, lots of artillery as we were hitting the beach,” said Accordino. “We had to work in those conditions. One guy put it this way– imagine trying to mow your lawn, and your neighbor is throwing rocks at you. That’s what was happening to us.”
Accordino’s story is one of survival, but it’s a story he told often through the years so that people wouldn’t forget the sacrifice of the thousands who didn’t make it off of Omaha Beach.
The machine gun bullets were landing at my feet. I moved, and a guy raised his sights. He was going to get me, so I turned around and ran back to the obstacle. It wasn’t very big, maybe eight inches of protection.
I laid there, and to my right, there were these guys with a big spool of wire, and I wondered what they were doing with this wire.
They were about ten yards away from me, and I yelled over, “what are you guys doing there?”
All the sudden, they got hit. I seem them rolling, swaying back and forth. They got hit. I looked like someone threw a mortar in there.
I got up, I got the hell out of there, man. I got to the new line, and I just kept on doing my job.
–Michael Accordino, remembering the D-Day invasion, June 6, 1944
Mr. Accordino was awarded the Purple Heart after receiving shrapnel wounds on the beach at Normandy. I spoke to him on D-Day in 2011. He died in 2012.
Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers
First, it’s the story of Buffalo’s own Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. 300 US Army volunteers, buried in a mass unmarked grave in the middle of what is now the Delaware Park Golf Course.
About 300 soldiers, who came to Buffalo to protect our national border during the War of 1812 and died of hunger and disease as they spent the winter of 1814 in tents in middle of what is now Delaware Park– but what was then America’s frontier.
In 1814, The Village of Buffaloe was described by one visitor as “a nest of villains, rogues, rescals, pickpockets, knaves, and extortioners.”
But it was volunteer soldiers from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania who’d marched to Buffalo to invade British Canada and defend Buffalo and Black Rock from invasion.
When winter came, they stayed. Wearing light summery uniforms and no winter boots, they lived in open ended tents. It was a particularly brutal winter, and food was slow to make it to the Camp at Buffalo, which was literally the end of the supply line. The food that did make it here was never enough and usually rancid.
Soldiers were dying up to ten a day, and with the ground frozen, the dead were first buried in shallow graves, then eventually just left in tents.
What was left of the army left Buffalo when spring came, but not before paying for three-hundred coffins and for two local men to bury the 300 dead– which they did, in what is now the Delaware Park Golf course.
They remain buried there to this day, a bolder in the middle of the golf course marks the spot where the 300 nameless, faceless men, who died here protecting our country, were laid to rest 204 years ago.
Their sacrifice was remembered this way when that boulder monument was dedicated in 1896:
May their noble example and this tribute to their honor and memory prove an incentive to future generations to emulate their unselfish loyalty and patriotism, when called upon to defend their country’s honor, and if need be die in defence of the flag, the glorious stripes and stars, emblem of liberty, equal rights and National unity.
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.”
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.”
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!'”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“Buffalo’s my home,” said Harv, getting ready to play another song, sitting behind the mic at WECK.
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.
These are the only kinds of photos you get with Erich Weyant— accidental ones, while he’s busy at work.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.