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.


Thank you, WNY!

Buffalo Spree’s Best of WNY: Best Blogger

It’s an honor to have my work recognized, especially when it helps call to attention a very important topic.

READ: A brief memoir in depression and anxiety

 

As appeared in Buffalo Spree, August 2018

 


By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

  facebook  linkedin  twitter   youtube  instagram

Nine years after his death, the world needs Jim Kelley more now than ever

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Nine years ago today, I wrote:

My good friend and Hockey Hall of Famer Jim Kelley died today. When we last spoke a few weeks ago, he knew it wouldn’t be long. I told him I love him, and he said it back. I’m glad we had that conversation. I wish more friends could/would. God bless you Jimmy, and your family.

Jim Kelley, October 26, 1949 – November 30, 2010

I started out in the “real world,” with an adult job in an adult environment at the age of 15, surrounded by an amazing cast of people who made me think the world was made of great men like them.

There were many, but none was better than Jim Kelley.

He was a hockey writer, but more than that he firmly believed and professed that there was truth and falsehood. Further, he believed that anyone who tried to make gray out of black-and-white was probably up to something and as a citizen and a journalist, it was his job to figure out what.

I miss him personally as a friend, and more broadly as the kind of guy this world needs more of… now more than ever.

Cool Whip Jell-O, aka “I made the Jell-O”

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Despite it’s revered place at every major family dinner, there’s no real name for it except “the Jell-O.”

Just like her mother before her, my mother-in-law made this delicious side dish for each of the holy trinity of family “eating holidays”— Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

In 2010, Pam Martyna Huxley has newspapers spread to catch the spatter from mixing the Jell-O and Cool Whip. She was probably mad later when she found some spatter on her shirt.

Grandma Martyna probably found the recipe in the coupon section of the paper or on the back of a box of Jell-O some time in the 70s, and it’s been a beloved part of my wife’s family’s holidays ever since.

In the early 80s, the Martyna family gathers for a holiday meal– with a giant Corningware dish of Cool Whip Jell-O in front of Grandma Martyna.

Since my mother-in-law passed away, I have made it for every holiday, and it warms my heart to see that pink blob on just about every plate.

It can probably be served as a dessert, but at any Martyna family dinner, it’s always served as a side dish as a part of the main course.

Cool Whip Jell-O

2 packages of Strawberry Jell-O
8oz Cool Whip
2 cups boiling water
1.5 cups cold water

In a large bowl, add boiling water to Jell-O packets, stir until Jell-O is dissolved. Add cold water.

Refrigerate until 80-90% jelled. (Completely jelled is ok, but slightly less firm makes for a more thorough mix in the next step.)

In the largest bowl you have, combine Jell-O and Cool Whip. Use hand mixer on low, then high, until thoroughly blended. Be ready for this step to make a spattering mess.

My mother-in-law had a box she’d place around the mixing bowl.

Pour combined mixture into a heavy Corningware or Pyrex serving dish, and refrigerate to reset the mixture. Keep refrigerated until serving.

The ships that brought the Cichons to America, 1913

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Jan Cichon and Maryanna Pochec met at backyard party in Buffalo’s Valley neighborhood in 1913.

Jan and Maryanna Cichon, from two separate 1940s photos on Fulton Street.

All within a few blocks of that first meeting, John and Mary would get married, buy a house, have ten children, and work– he at Schoellkopf Chemical/National Aniline, and she as a bootlegger, boarding house matron, and homemaker.

Both arrived in Buffalo after long transatlantic journeys aboard giant ships.

Jan Cichon left Poland in February, 1913, aboard the German postal ship The Wittekind, which sailed from Hamburg, Germany to Portland, Maine.

The only surviving story of any of my ancestors journeys from their homelands comes from Great-Grandpa Cichon. He carried his cobbler’s tools with him, although shoe repair was never his primary work here. He also suffered from seasickness, which was helped tremendously by a Jewish man who had brought along garlic for just that purpose.

After a few months in Ontario, he crossed the border at the Port of Buffalo and never looked back.

The SS Wittenkind

The Wittekind was seized by the USA during World War I, and was used to bring American soldiers back and forth from France. It was decommissioned after the war in 1919 and scrapped in 1924.

The SS President Grant, later seized by the Navy and recommissioned the USS President Grant.

Maryanna Pochec, Grandpa Cichon’s mother, was my only ancestor to pass through Ellis Island.

She came to America aboard the President Grant a few months after her future husband in 1913.

Originally an ocean liner, the German-owned ship was seized by the US government during World War I. Used as a transport ship, more than 37,000 Americans returned home on the Grant after the Armistice was signed ending the war.

After further service in World War II, the ship was sold to Bethlehem Steel for scrap in 1952.

After nine years of living and working around Elk and Smith Streets, the Cichons had saved enough money to by 608 Fulton St, which remained in the family until Mary Cichon died in 1980. John Cichon died in 1967.

Grateful is not always joyful

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This print used to hang in Grandma Cichon’s kitchen. I was mesmerized by it as a toddler, and am still enchanted to this day.

A print of Bradford Boobis’ “Silent Prayer” hang on the wall of Grandma Cichon’s kitchen.

Part of what it shows is… Grateful is not always joyful.

Gratitude is a beginning, not an end. It‘s about having a profound understanding of a path that was laid out for you, about the things other people have done to lighten your load or create space for you to flourish.

Reflecting on and feeling true gratitude inspires appreciation— but not necessarily joy.

Sometimes acknowledging gratitude for things of long ago conjures up pain for the way things are now, as much as thanks for what once was.

Allowing yourself to be truly grateful for all that you’ve been given and by all who have given of themselves for you isn’t all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, but I think understanding and owning the complicated and uncomfortable feelings of thanks are just as important as the warm, good feeling ones we acknowledge with relish and smiles.

The first step in gratitude is allowing light into your life, even if darkness feels more comfortable.

My prayer for you today is that you can bring the light of gratitude in some dark place in your life, while still celebrating with smiles and warm hearts all the unbridled joy that makes your life worth living.

Today, I am truly grateful in every way imaginable. Happy Thanksgiving. Go Bills.

Grandma Coyle, the saint, died on All Saints Day

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

June Marie Wargo Coyle
Jan. 14, 1931- Nov. 1, 2005

Her love for all of us was unconditional and ever flowing… And that love just made her so happy. I loved watching her on holidays– that love filled smile would fill her face every time one of her kids or grandkids or their spouses walked through the door. The radiance of her heart made the world a better place for the time she was here, and it continues now– Her heart lives on in all of us who she loved.

The love that radiated from her smile every time any of us walked in the room left no question that there was a beautiful woman who loved you with every fiber of her being. I’m blessed in that just the thought of that smile fills my heart with love enough to share in the way she taught me.

Here are Grandma and Grandpa Coyle outside of their new home on Hayden Street, South Buffalo, in the late 50s.

 

Sabres Goalie Andrei Trefilov offers Russian greeting

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When he was the Sabres primary back-up goalie, Andrei Trefilov was a funny guy.

One day, I was covering the morning skate and a bunch of us reporters and media types were waiting for all the guys to leave the ice.

Not too long after Dominik Hasek roughed up Buffalo News reporter Jim Kelley, Trefilov came pounding off the ice with an angry look on his face, scowling at the assembled media.

He stopped, narrowed his eyes as he looked at us reporters and growled, “F**K YOU ALL!”

He then waited a moment, smiled, and said, “That means ‘Good Morning’ in Russian!” and walked away laughing. Hahaha.

Jacquie Walker: Record setting class

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

No one has anchored Buffalo’s TV news at a single station longer than Jacquie. She’s been at 4 even two years longer than Irv was at Channel 7.

It’s an incredible record, especially because in so many ways, she’s the anti-Irv.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, child, closeup and indoor

If you had to describe what you love about Irv in a word, you might say brash or gritty. Jacquie, you might say is kind and genuine. And it’s true. She is kind and genuine– but still as gritty a journalist I’ve ever worked with.

It’s a great honor to call Jacquie a friend and for 36 years, it’s been a pleasure to watch her work her genuine kindness and journalistic grit each night in my living room.

Thanks, Jacquie, for making Buffalo a kinder, classier place.

Ticket taker Gramps let us into Rich Stadium with a matchbook ticket

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

My “new” old Bills sweater is the exact same one Gramps used to wear as a ticket taker at the stadium. Gramps would let us into Bills games— I remember going to a Baltimore Colts game during the 1982 strike.

We weren’t allowed to acknowledge or say hi to Grandpa, and we had to give him a matchbook to rip and hand back to us in case the bosses were watching. 

Paid attendance at Rich Stadium: 80,080. Non-paying Cichons: 3,347. Hahaha

Thirty years goes by in a flash…

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

“Wanna feel old? My bar-mitzvah was 30 years ago today.”

My oldest friend JJ sent me this text tonight.

We’ve been brothers, more or less, since third grade.

Two idiots, a few years before the bar mitzvah.

As brothers, he shared his special night with me. This Catholic kid even helped him practice the prayer he had to read in Hebrew at the big event.

Prayers aside, I was excited because since this was the ceremony where a Jewish boy becomes a man— that night, in this spectacular ballroom with a giant crystal chandelier, we were going to be able to drink rum and Cokes.

With bartenders holding back giggles, we hammered down “drinks” one after another,  as the mixologist made splashing as little rum as possible look as dramatic as possible to a pair of 13 year old eyes.

Our friendship has endured mostly because we were a couple of old souls, a fourth-grade Statler and Waldorf. Our mutual weirdness and sense of humor was forged together.

In our case, very specifically, even early in grammar school, it meant we both loved the boom of 40s, 50s, and 60s nostalgia which seemed to be everywhere in the 80s.

We just about wore out a VHS tape of A Christmas Story, which we watched some part of almost every day, while eating peanut butter Kudos bars and drinking Coca-Cola Classic (none of that New Coke crap for us) out of ceramic mugs with radio station call letters on them.

The Wonder Years was another seminal element for us in understanding our friendship, but by the time the show had debuted, our families lived a couple hundred miles apart. Still, together we watched and loved the show— talking about it briefly over long distance phone calls.

In different ways we were each equal parts Kevin and Paul. While living in the lousy 80s didn’t seem to capture our imaginations like the 60s might have, I think we both knew we were living out The Wonder Years in so many ways— even if we couldn’t fully understand what that meant.

All that seemed to be cemented when only weeks before JJ’s Bar Mitzvah, Paul had a Bar Mitzvah on The Wonder Years.

I don’t think there are any photos of JJ and I together at his Bar Mitzvah that night, but the screen-grab of Paul and Kevin is just as much us as an actual photo would be.

A few years later, JJ and I took a teenaged road trip tour of the Adirondacks, Quebec, and New England.

Of the dozens of great memories of that trip, one stands out tonight— visiting and spending the night at JJ’s grandparents near Lake Winnipesaukee, NH.

A night of free lodging was great for a couple of 16 year-olds on the road for a week, but it came with some weirdness.

Such characters were JJ’s grandparents, they could have walked out of a sitcom.  Well, except that his grandmother was wound half-a-turn too tight to get laughs.

Every word she spoke was saturated with anxiety and disappointment, whether it was the excessive use of ranch salad dressing or the accommodations in the guest bedroom.

“Oh Irv,” she said in her breathy and unmistakable voice, “it’s too bad we still don’t have those long beds that we had for (JJ’s dad) for these tall boys. They were beautiful beds.”

Sitting in his barcalounger, barely looking up from the TV stocks crawl on Financial News Network, JJ’s grandfather said with a smile and a solid New England accent, “Maaahgo, that was FAAHTY YEAAAHS AGO!”

“Forty years ago” seemed like an impossible concept that night almost 30 years ago, when we piled into Irv and Margo’s white Lincoln Town Car for an early bird dinner at Hart’s Turkey Farm.

But it all happened in a blink.

At the time, I thought that Grandpa Irv was smiling because his batty wife was almost making a scene over pining and longing for furniture that had been thrown away four decades earlier.

But now I know, some part of that smile had to be just how fast those “faahty yeaahs” had gone.

Most things cook better in an old cast iron skillet

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Both of my grandmothers had great cast iron skillets that they used daily for everything.

I was probably 9 or 10 years old when I saw this pan at the Salvation Army on Seneca Street, for probably $3 or $4.

It’s been my favorite pan for more than 30 years, but I don’t remember ever trying to look up its provenance before. It’s a Wagner pan, made in Sidney, O. sometime between 1895 and 1915.