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.
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.
“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.”
Our steel producing heritage—One of the things that makes Buffalo Buffalo.
We often talk about and remember Bethlehem Steel, and with good reason.
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.
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.
Remember when the milk man used to deliver the milk right to your back door?
Well, the people who collect the trucks our milkmen used to drive are getting together in WNY next week.
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.
Divco trucks were seen all over WNY and all around the country starting in the 1920s, and used for milk and bread deliveries.
It was in March 30, 1982, that Carl Heim made one last era-ending trip through the streets of Buffalo.
The cartons shown being loaded into this truck were the last home-delivered milk from Upstate Milk Cooperatives, the area’s largest dairy supplier.
Upstate, which sold the Sealtest brand, was the last of the big dairies to end home service, though several smaller dairies vowed to continue.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Among the things that make Buffalo… Buffalo is Bob Wells.
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
Approximately 100 people gathered in Gettysburg Tuesday to honor the last men to die in the line of duty on the battlefield.
Those deaths occurred not in 1863, but on June 26, 1922, when a plane piloted by a World War I hero crashed near Steinwehr Avenue.
A new historical wayside marker now stands a block off Steinwehr at the intersection of Johns Street and Culp Avenue. It tells the story of U.S. Marine Corps Capt. George W. Hamilton and his passenger, Gunnery Sgt. George R. Martin.
I was proud to bring my story to the floor of the Erie County Legislature yesterday.
Legislator Patrick Burke launched “Important Conversations,” a series of monthly meetings to provide a public forum for difficult issues confronting our community. The first topic was suicide awareness and prevention. Speakers included Erie County Mental Health Commissioner Michael R. Ranney, Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski, author Steve Cichon, Crisis Services CEO Jessica C. Pirro, LMSW, and Suicide Prevention Coalition Coordinator Celia Spacone, PhD.
The Testimony of Steve Cichon, June 26, 2018
This is entirely new to me— bringing out into the light the darkness which has silently been an exhausting part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I’m not here to speak for the third of Americans who’ve dealt with depression or anxiety… or the 5 percent of Americans who’ll have severe depression or panic disorder symptoms this year.
I can only talk about my own experience– with the knowledge that the only way to defeat darkness is with light and with the hope that my story helps people who don’t suffer understand.. and the hope that it helps people who do suffer realize that they aren’t alone and there is a way out.
In the two weeks since I first published my brief memoir on Depression and Anxiety, on an immediate level, my hopes have been realized.
As one person telling my story, I’ve heard from family members of those suffering from or having succumbed to mood disorders that they better understand what might be going on in the mind of a loved one.
I’ve had perfect strangers and people I’ve known for decades approach me and ask how I started down the road to better mental health.
Knowing that I’ve been able to turn the wretched consternation which is never too far away into something positive– something that can help others– has been a great relief and comfort to me… And it’s why I’m here again today with those same hopes for telling my story… even though it’s really not easy.
It seemed to strike a chord with some people when I wrote about how living with depression is like trying to move under a heavy wet blanket. It’s possible— but it’s exhausting and miserable, and sometimes it feels like just too much.
I’m up at 4am to read the news at WECK– and while I love my job, it’s sheer misery every time that alarm clock goes off in the darkness. I know I can’t hit snooze… and it takes every bit of everything I have to throw myself out of bed and start my day.
It’s a perfect analogy for the mood disorders I suffer from…
Depending on the day or the hour or the minute… sometimes it takes everything I have to throw myself into whatever small task presents itself next.
The analytical smart-enough, public face and mind I present knows full well that stopping for a haircut or a car wash on the way home from work makes perfect sense… but sometimes it’s just too much. A lot of times.
And those little defeats build– and it can be a constant onslaught. All from inside my own head. It begins to be unbearable when those choices made in the grips of anxiety and depression start to effect other people.
None of it makes sense.. but its there and its a constant fight.
But it is a fight. And it’s one I take on… and millions of people take on every day.
I’m not a depressed person. I’m a happy, sunny, hilarious, industrious hard working guy… who happens to suffer from Mood disorders.
It’s a chronic illness which I refuse to allow to define who I am. One way to do that is to not publicly acknowledge it– and in some ways that might have been easier… but I’m doing my part to chip away at the wall of stigma that exists with mental illness.
Light is the only way to defeat darkness… and the more light we shine, the more darkness disappears.
People ask, How can I help… Be more understanding. For many years, as a closeted mood disordered person, I’d remind people constantly that WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN STUFF, whether you realize your neighbor does or not.
Being understanding means just being a nicer person. Smiling more and meaning it. Making eye contact and human contact and meaning it. Whatever you’re dealing with– trying to make room for compassion for other people dealing with their things.
Bringing light to the world. In many cases, its all we can do. It’s not a cure… but when there’s more light in the world, there’s less chance that someone is going to slip into the darkness.
Be nicer… and be educated.
That’s one way this body can help… Education usually takes money– and for the number of people who are affected by mood disorders and mental illnesses, the funding is woefully short.
The way I told my story was unique, and the unique message touched some people. The more unique messages mental health professionals can put into the world, the more people who will see more light in their day… and that’s all just about any person suffering wants– its some way to realize that there’s a way to find light.