Welcome to Steve Cichon’s Buffalo Stories LLC

Books | Roadshow | Tell Your Story

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 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.

The Buffalo Stories Blog
Not just Steve’s research and reflections on Buffalo’s pop culture history, but also acts as a repository for Steve as he finds pieces of his own past through genealogical research, and well as his memories and meditations on the people, places, and ideas which have shaped his perspective.

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.

Steve’s been posting the sights, sounds, and stories of Buffalo’s pop culture history on staffannouncer.com since 2003. This longtime favorite site is being slowly migrated to the Buffalo Stories Blog, where he continues to write about the art of communicating, the great people and places of Buffalo, and his family history.

Let’s tell some stories together. 

~Steve Cichon, Buffalo Stories LLC

716-479-3173 | steve@buffalostories.com

           facebook  linkedin  twitter   youtube  instagram

Gramps: Junk Food Connoisseur

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Buffalo, NY – I miss visits with Gramps… I’d call him ahead of time to make sure he didn’t have an appointment at the VA, and to ask if he wanted a hot dog (with sweet relish and slivered onions) or a couple of TimBits.

“A lil’bit of both would be good,” he’d say, cracking himself up with that laugh that makes me cry to think about.

As posted on Facebook, October 14, 2013: A nice hour and a half with Gramps today. He says hi to everyone. Facebook would accuse me of spam if I tagged everyone he said hi to... So "ha'lo, dere" from 87 year old gramps.
As posted on Facebook, October 14, 2013: “A nice hour and a half with Gramps today. He says hi to everyone. Facebook would accuse me of spam if I tagged everyone he said hi to… So “ha’lo, dere” from 87 year old Gramps.”

Like so many people of his generation, he grew up during The Depression without much to eat. He loved eating food and talking about food and sharing food.

In his years at the nursing home, our conversations usually involved what he had for lunch, breakfast, and maybe dinner the night before. He was always offering you the bag of chips that were on his nightstand or a piece of candy.

Visiting his house, you could barely get in the door before he’d read you the whole menu.

“Hallo dere son!” he’d yell out as you walked in, without pause adding, “Can I get you a sandwich? How bout a cold pop? You could make us a cup of coffee?”

I’d usually put on the kettle for a two cups of instant coffee for us, which he always seemed to enjoy– if not the drink, then the drinking it together.

There was always coffee, and there was always pop. Lots of pop. Too much pop. The first time she went to Grandpa Cichon’s house, Monica asked why there was so much pop. It’s funny the things you grow up with and don’t notice until someone points them out. The hall leading to the kitchen always had dozens of cans or bottles of pop stacked high. Like a store display. As one of ten with ten kids, Gramps always bought everything in bulk when it was on sale—whether it was needed or not.

While there was no greater connoisseur of junk food than Gramps, his junk food muscles were wearing out at the end of his life. He couldn’t eat more than 2 or 3 Timbits after lunch, and while he’d finish a hot dog, you could tell he was struggling to finish.

“My eyes are bigger that my stomach,” he said one time, “even though I’m blind.” Again with the laugh. All the junk food lead to diabetes which robbed Gramps of his sight for his last few years.

The loneliness he felt at the end of his life was painful to all of us. He was the last of ten kids still alive, nearly all his friends had died. Even a couple of his kids, my dad included, had passed away.  But Gramps kept plugging. His goal was to live longer than anyone else in his family. His mom lived to 87, his sister Mary to 89. He wanted to be 90.

Gramps finished in second place. He died peacefully a couple weeks after his 88th birthday. While he might have been disappointed to learn he didn’t make 90, I know he would have been satisfied with his final moments.

Because he was blind, an aide would help him eat lunch. Halfway through, she noticed he hadn’t moved in a while—and he was gone. Gramps died eating lunch, which makes me smile every time I think of it.

What also makes me smile is that first conversation in heaven with my dad.

“I just had a delicious lunch, son. I wish I could have finished it.”


October Surprise Storm 10 years later…

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY –  Ten years ago today. My wife shovels, I watch and take pictures. Hahaha.

The night before… we listened to what sounded like explosions– the limbs popping off trees in the park.

The storm was bad, the aftermath was far worse.

For the next two weeks, I was reporting during the day, and then was on the air doing live talk overnights on WBEN, keeping people company and being a voice in the dark to the cold and lonely.

People still mention to me that they listened on those nights. I remember the anguish and fear in some of the voices on the other end of the phone. I consider it my finest hour as a broadcaster and a Buffalonian to have helped a few people through a rather prolonged scary time.

Mr. & Mrs. James Scurr of Seneca Street, South Buffalo

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Buffalo, NY- I was three years old when Great-Grandpa Scurr died– But I have two distinct memories of him.

My aunt set me this great photo of my great grandparents... Mr. & Mrs. James Scurr of Seneca Street. He was born in North Shields, Tynemouth, England, and she was born Margaret Doyle in Coatbridge, Scotland... shortly after her family moved from Banbridge, Down, Ireland.
My aunt set me this great photo of my great grandparents… Mr. & Mrs. James Scurr of Seneca Street. He was born in North Shields, Tynemouth, England, and she was born Margaret Doyle in Coatbridge, Scotland… shortly after her family moved from Banbridge, Down, Ireland.

One, I was afraid walking up a dark staircase to his apartment at the corner of Seneca & Fairview, and however that fear manifest itself… (screaming or crying or whatever) made Grandpa Scurr laugh, as he was backlit and spooky, standing in the doorway at the top of the staircase. It was the same laugh that his daughter, my Grandma Cichon, had. It’s probably because of him that I laugh when little babies cry. Their liveliness brings me joy, just like it did him.

My only other memory of him, is visiting him in the hospital. I can even remember the shirt I was wearing… It was purplish-blue with a giant grasshopper on it. He had a tube in his nose, which kind of scared me, but his smile made me feel safe. He reached over and patted my hand. My dad was great about sneaking us kids into the hospital… Knowing that seeing little twerps is usually as good as any medicine they can feed you.

I was 11 or 12 when Grandma Scurr died… But I have no memories of her. She suffered from dementia for many years, and I know my dad had a hard time dealing with that– this woman who he loved so deeply was gone in mind as her body feebly lived on. I don’t think I ever went to visit her. I wish dad had taken us, and I wish I had the memory of making her smile.

An “Anti-Debate” on our future

If you are sick of the garbage on Facebook these days, don’t blame your friends and neighbors and cranky uncles and strange nephews.
Is it really our fault for buying into the horse$— that our leaders are trying to feed us? Especially when they do their best to put whipped cream, sprinkles, and cherries on it to make it look like something we’d want?
Most political debate right now doesn’t involve debate at all. Rather than having a discussion on common ground (ie, debate) both sides throw out carefully crafted facts meant to speak to their supporters… while ignoring most of the rest of what the other side says. Our country is having the opposite of debate, an anti-debate on our future.
Candidate A: The sky is blue and anything else is a lie!
Candidate B: The grass is green and anything else is a lie!
This election cycle has also resoundingly set aside the wonderfully American cornerstone that “we’re all Americans, exchanging ideas to the betterment of our country” and put into the mainstream the long-festering notion that “if you don’t vote with my side, you are a bad person.”
Candidate A: Blue sky and B has done horrible things!
Candidate B: Green grass and A has done horrible things!
Candidate A: B IS A TERRIBLE PERSON and so are B’s fans
Candidate B: A IS A TERRIBLE PERSON and so are A’s fans
Candidate A: YELLLLLL!!!
Candidate B: YELLLLLL!!!
This ginned up hatred makes it difficult for many of us to see the truth. When you hate something, you’re willing to believe anything about it, even outrageous nonsense.
After the debate, I wrote we get the leaders we deserve. This is true to the extent that if most of us thought a little more, with a little less hatred, we wouldn’t be in this nightmare.
But overall, I think the truth is more scary– our leaders are a reflection of us. Maybe a fun house mirror reflection sometimes, but a reflection none the less.
I do think that this will be the most important vote I have ever cast, and I do, very calmly, believe there is a better candidate among the two. I also think that anyone who sees this status as an opportunity to say “That’s why my candidate is better!” is part of the problem.

As he starts the “Run Jimmy Run” on Sunday, it’s more than just a celebrity appearance for Rene Robert

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY- It was nearly a decade ago that Jimmy Griffin lost his devastating battle with an aggressive rare form of dementia. It wasn’t Alzheimer’s– but the Alzheimer’s Association, WNY Chapter, provided information, help and comfort for the mayor’s family as they very quickly began dealing with a new reality.

The race begins at the Mayor Griffin Statue outside Coca-Cola Field and ends inside the ball park with a party in the Centerfield Pavillion, and tickets to the Bisons vs Syracuse Chiefs for race participants.
The race begins at the Mayor Griffin Statue outside Coca-Cola Field and ends inside the ball park with a party in the Centerfield Pavillion, and tickets to the Bisons vs Syracuse Chiefs for race participants.

Since then, the Griffin family has leveraged the mayor’s memory and legacy to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s and related dementias with the annual Run Jimmy Run Charity 5k.

Over the last three years, the race and party have raised more than $48,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, WNY Chapter. It’s also become a beacon of hope in the fight against the disease.

That’s why Sabres great and French Connection winger Rene Robert agreed to join the Run Jimmy Run team this year as honorary starter.

Rene Robert

“Alzheimer’s is a sad disease, and it’s effecting more and more people. I think we should be paying more attention to it than we have in the past,” said Robert, who like Griffin has a bronze statue at the waterfront and a family history with dementia. He watched his mother slowly succumb to the disease.

“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is putting my mother in a home,” said Robert.

“I was visiting her in Montreal and sleeping on the couch in her apartment one day when she woke up in the middle of the night hysterical. She had no idea who I was and wanted me out of there. It took a couple of hours for me to calm her down and go back to bed.”

The former Sabres, Maple Leafs, Penguins, and Colorado Rockies right winger is sad over the past and scared for the future for himself and his family.

“I have two kids. I have three grandkids. It frightens me.”

His family history, plus 744 games played in the NHL, leave him at greater risk for memory related disease. Robert says he’s been tested and shows no sign of disease, ”but the doctors say it could develop at any point down the line after 14 years of pounding as an NHL level hockey player. Practices. Games. It doesn’t have to be a hard collision, but your brain shifts with every hit.”

As someone who read voraciously about Alzheimer’s as his mother got worse, and continues to keep up on the latest on sports-related brain injury and links to dementia, Robert has valued the research and strides made so far, and pleased to join up with such a great cause.

“The city has revamped itself”

RJR runners tackle a downtown and waterfront course where the scenery has changed considerably during the four years since the first race was run. A lively and still blossoming waterfront was the dream of Mayor Griffin and hundreds of others through the years, including Robert, who credits Terry & Kim Pegula for caring about Buffalo in the same way Mayor Griffin did.

The French Connection statue, one of the new additions to Buffalo’s waterfront since The Pegulas came to toen.

“Terry saw Buffalo had potential, and saw something no one else did, because he invested a lot of his own money, and has made a huge impact on the city and the community. He’s done everything he said he’d do and more,” said Robert. “Ever since Terry and Kim Pegula bought the Sabres, this city has revamped itself. You can see it downtown– the hotels built, development, the atmosphere. The Pegulas really instigated the whole thing.”

If that’s true, we have Rene Robert to thank for our resurging Buffalo as much as anyone.

Pegula has often told the story of falling in love with hockey and the Sabres by driving around Western Pennsylvania in the mid-70’s, trying to find the best spot for WGR to come in on his car radio so he could listen to Ted Darling and Rick Jeanneret call the action of Robert, Martin, Perreault, and all the Sabres greats of that era.

“It has to make you feel good in some way. Maybe we helped Terry love hockey, but he’s the one who’s really moved the city in the direction that it’s going right now.”

Sign up for the Run Jimmy Run and support Alzheimer’s Assn WNY: http://runjimmyruncharity5k.com/

For more on Alzheimer’s and related dementias: http://www.alz.org/WNY

A generational satisfaction in the new Buffalo 

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Just driving where the roads took me, I wound up in the First Ward today, driving down the stunning new Ohio Street and looking across the dirt and weeds to the Chicago Street lot which was home to long gone ancestors.


My 3rd great grandfather, Miles Norton, was an Irish immigrant grain worker who died in the family flat over 64 Chicago Street when he was 45 years old in 1883.

1882 City Directory
1882 City Directory

The address is a shaggy looking vacant lot right now, but over looks all that is new and exciting in Buffalo.

As Miles and his big Irish family lived a pretty impoverished Old First Ward existence, it’s easy to imagine them looking out their back window at the stinking and dirty Buffalo River… And thinking of it as their lifeline and livelihood, as the means for a life better than the one left behind on the old sod of Eire.

In 1883, living above 64 Chicago Street was pretty much the end of the line. It was likely better than what was left in the old country, but the worst of Buffalo. Filth and poverty and hunger.

An 1893 Buffalo Courier story calls 64 Chicago a tenement.
An 1893 Buffalo Courier story calls 64 Chicago a tenement.

For the last half century, the view from that spot has showcased rotting industry and wasted waterfront… And was a view many could point to as ground zero for hopelessness and the slow death of Buffalo.

I wish ol’Miles could see that view now… And understand the newness and feeling of hearts-overflowing in the rebirth of the grounds which are forever stained with the sweat and blood of him and so many hundreds of thousands like him through the decades.

Looking at empty Chicago Street lot where Miles Norton's home once stood, and the view from the water just across Ohio Street.
Looking at empty Chicago Street lot where Miles Norton’s home once stood, and the view from the water just across Ohio Street.

As I stood in those weeds today at the corner of Chicago and Mackinaw, my soul glowed with happiness for my ancestors– that their toil won’t be forgotten and my descendants– that they will be able to live in and enjoy a rejuvenated and wonderful Buffalo.

Our future is built on our past. Our future honors our past.

Preserving Buffalo’s Medina sandstone street curbs

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

As with most things in life, the smallest details can make a great difference.

As our region’s rebirth and renaissance continues, more and more of us in Western New York are coming to better appreciate many of wonderful little oddities which combine to make Buffalo poised to use our uniqueness as a standout city for generations to come.

The things that “make Buffalo, Buffalo” should never be more important than they are now.

On Buffalo's Parkside Avenue, a road construction project shows the intersection of historic and unique with commonplace and less complicated.
On Buffalo’s Parkside Avenue, a road construction project shows the intersection of historic and unique with commonplace and less complicated.
I’m hoping to call attention to one small element in Buffalo’s unique character, which is easily overlooked until it’s gone.

For generations, when Buffalo’s Common Council ordered roads built, the call for Medina Sandstone curbs was written right into the legislation. Many of the red curbs of Buffalo have been in place since the time when it was horses, and not cars navigating between those curbs.

A decades-old piece of Medina Sandstone curb. The ridges on the flat surfaces show the old world stonecutting methods used in building Buffalo. This section will be replaced with white granite as a part of a road construction project.
A decades-old piece of Medina Sandstone curb. The ridges on the flat surfaces show the old world stonecutting methods used in building Buffalo. This section will be replaced with white granite as a part of a road construction project.


The oldest and most prevalent of these streetside chunks of stone still show the striations of old world craftsmanship, and serve as a citywide network of direct physical links to a time when Buffalo was one of the nation’s largest, wealthiest, and most modern cities.

Considered rare and beautiful and used sparing around the world in buildings like Buckingham Palace, Buffalo was lucky to be so close to the Orleans County quarry where the red rock came from that entire churches and buildings, and yes, even curbs were made from the stuff.

With great limits on new Medina Sandstone, especially for something as pedestrian as curbing, Buffalo has turned with greater frequency to the less exciting granite for curbs.

The gleaming white granite does the job of creating a barrier between the road and the sidewalk, but can we agree that it’s lacking in the spectacular and rich history and beauty of our uniquely Buffalo Medina Sandstone?

As roads are reconstructed with additional curbing for safety, and street/sidewalk intersections are being rebuilt to make them more accessible for those using strollers and wheelchairs, it’s understandable that our decades and centuries old red curbs might have to be replaced.

However, it’s my hope that now and in the future, a greater emphasis might be given in the consideration of reusing these materials whenever possible. Further, that if the nature of construction prohibits the reuse of the curbing at a particular site, that the removed curbing be saved for use at a future site where some additional curbing might be necessary to maintain the Medina Sandstone.

I love the look of the Medina sandstone curbs which have been in front of my house for more than 100 years, but if they have to be replaced, I'd love for the stone to be used in some other project so that the red curbs might be able to be saved there.
I love the look of the Medina sandstone curbs which have been in front of my house for more than 100 years, but if they have to be replaced, I’d love for the stone to be used in some other project so that the red curbs might be able to be saved there.


I would ask that the City Engineering and Public Works Departments move to create rules to this effect, and that the Common Council move to create law to make sure that it happens.

Too much of our city’s heritage had been lost to indifference and mismanagement.

Here’s a case where that doesn’t have to happen, and we can stop putting one of Buffalo’s unique features to the curb.

Fire, fireworks, and questioning how we survived childhood

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – The sounds of percussive fireworks on an Independence Day weekend inevitably leads me to wonder how exactly we survived childhood.

With the errant booms I’m reminded of being 12 or 13, when we’d duct tape 3 or 4 Matchbox cars to an M-80 and blow them to smithereens. Fun-wow! We basically built Al-Quieda style shrapnel bombs and lit them right in front of us. How did we survive?

And we weren’t even “the bad kids…”

We did most of our pyrotechnics “under the bridge,” in Smokes Creek, just a few hundred feet away from our back yard.

My ol’man used to drink Gallo wine in the big green gallon glass jugs, and we’d get excited when he’d finish one. Kids just don’t know what they are missing with cheap wine coming in boxes nowadays.

Heading down to our pyrotechnics lab underneath North Buffalo Street, we’d first take a beer bottle and make a Molotov cocktail. We’d light that sucker and toss it against the abutment underneath the bridge creating a wall of fire.

With the concrete blazing, we’d take the gallon glass jug– by now with just a little bit of gasoline in it– close up the top, shake it up to create some fumes and throw it against the flaming concrete wall.

It made a wonderful concussive, reverberating boom– but also sent glass shrapnel everywhere. No need to read between the lines here, I’ll spell it out– we were total effing idiots.

While we never ruined or broke anything or wanted to do so– we just liked acting like morons, apparently. Though not destructive, our antics were often enough to wind up in the Orchard Park Bee police blotter a couple times a month. “Loud noise heard near seven corners.”

That, and Dad always wondered why our lawn mower used so much gas.

But the Fourth of July wasn’t for us kids lighting stuff on fire, it was for watching adults blow stuff up. Two of my grandparents– Mom’s dad and Dad’s mom– shared a birthday with our country. Independence Day celebrations were great for us.

Aunt Kathy and Uncle Kevin would have a pool party for Grandpa Coyle’s birthday, and the Cichon kids would swim non-stop all-day, save the frequent breaks for cans of grape or cherry pop.

Around dinner time, we’d head over to see Grandma Cichon– sometimes at the cottage at Sunset Bay, or sometimes at home near Caz Park in South Buffalo.

For a few years, my uncles and my dad would all throw in some money, and drive to Ohio to fill a big old van with fireworks for their mother’s birthday.

My uncle had painted this van blue using a roller, and there was shag carpet hanging on the walls and ceiling in the back. During these momentous days, it reeked of gun powder.

The family would set up in the park near the ball diamonds, and our attention called to each piece of artillery not by the colors or that it might spin or even by the interesting names printed on these things in China.

With a beer in one hand, shouts of “Hey! Watch this one! It was 25 bucks!” were followed by the touching of the cherry end of a lip-dangled cigarette to the wick and a quick backward stumble away.

One year a shout of “SHIT! It’s the cops!” sent a good number of Cichons spilling beer as they ran into the woods. The friendly officer joined us to watch the display, and even turned his car lights on for us kids.

Another year, some guy nobody knew pulled up in a car and asked us if we’d ever seen a real Civil War cannon. It was a two-foot-long replica cannon, which he filled with three shot glasses of gun powder.

“Only supposeda do one, but it’s the Fourth of July!”

At least all that was the wide open park. When we’d celebrate Grandma’s birthday at the lake… 47 people would stay in a 600 square foot cottage, jammed in the midst of other families of 47 staying in similar sized cottages.

The fireworks displays would be smaller, but the cramped quarters certainly made them more dangerous– so of course, somehow, more fun for everyone.

With no room inside the cottage, we’d eventually sleep in the back of our Dodge station wagon– with permanent and satisfied smiles on our faces.

The only things I light on fire these days are the grill and the (very) occasional big fat cigar. Yet I own about twelve Zippo lighters. I guess you never know when you’ll have to fall back on those skills you learned as a kid.

Marie T. Cichon (July 4, 1928 – June 25, 1996)

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Grandma Cichon died twenty years ago today, but she’s still with me every day… She had a very different sensibility. Bullheaded but free-spirited. Artistic and cerebral but very well grounded in the realities of the day-to-day world of having ten kids.

steve and grandma cichon

She would have been the eccentric aunt on a 60’s sitcom— certainly not the mother in heels and pearls, although she played that role pretty well from her D&K sandals and housecoats.

She never said goodbye when someone would leave, it was always “Toodaloo,” with a smile and the knowledge we’d be seeing each other again soon.

Lately, I find myself laughing out loud in joy at the sight of animals and small children having fun. One of many mostly… um… flaky behaviors I cherish… and trace back to this lady.

I know I also trace back some of the things I like most about myself to her.

She exuded independence– not in a screaming 1960’s radical way, but just by being herself. Grandma instilled that quiet sense of independence in me.  She encouraged and foster my interest in politics and funny people. It was probably sleeping over at her house that I watched Carson for the first time—and saw the nightly combination of those two worlds. I wasn’t older than 12 when she told me that I would really enjoy David Letterman. Now, she didn’t exactly tell me to watch a TV show at 12:30 in the morning, but she kinda did. And I’m glad I did.

Grandma also treated me as an equal in our discussions about the world. She never discounted my thoughts or opinions. It was sitting at her worn out white formica kitchen table, with the little 13-inch black-and-white TV always running in the corner, drinking Red Rose tea or instant coffee that she showed me that way.

It’s a fantastic vantage point to live from—to try to find the common ground to build a bond, as opposed to finding or reverting back to your self-perceived superiority over someone else. Grandma showed me, by example, that just because I’m older or more experienced or smarter or whatever-er… that my opinion doesn’t count any more than yours.

As this 2016 Presidential campaign plunges on, I can only imagine the political discussions she and my ol’man are having over heaven’s version of that kitchen table set with instant coffee and chain-smoked cigarettes (His Parliament, hers Kool.)

Hahaha, I’m chuckling out loud at the thought. Just like grandma would have.


Road Trip: Selfies from San Diego to San Francisco

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – It was really the trip of a lifetime.

Monica and I flew from Buffalo to San Diego, and rented a convertible to drive from San Diego to San Francisco over ten days.

We didn’t have any expectations, not knowing what to expect…. But we had a great time.

I’ll mostly let the photos do the talking, but we ate plenty of good reasonably pricing food at interesting restaurants (as well as sampling the fast food joints we don’t have in Buffalo.)

I really liked that the trip was a great mix of nature, wonderful 1940s-60s buildings and signs along the Pacific Coast Highway, and a few “big things” to see. Perfect nature and world class cities.

These photos aren’t meant to show everything we saw… Just a sampling of the fun we had and an idea of what we like when we travel. (Plus, we took about 2500 photos. !?!?!?)

San Diego


Between San Diego & Los Angeles

Some nice breakfasts, a stay on the Queen Mary, and a visit to the Santa Monica Pier.

Los Angeles

In LA, I found myself recognizing street names from 80s game show ticket announcements. For example (from memory): If you’d like to see the Price is Right in person, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Tickets, The Priiiiice is Riiight… CBS Television City, 78-hundred Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles California, 9-double oh-3-6. OK Bob!

Also, I found myself looking for scenes familiar from watching every episode of Dragnet at least five times. Then I remembered about Randy’s Donuts, and we drove there.

In other words, it was a successful trip.

LA to SF

We went to the Reagan Library is Simi Valley… and then took the coast to San Francisco. The prettiest, most treacherous part of the trip. A stretch that was about 40 miles as the crow flies took about four hours on the winding, coastal mountain roads you see in the video and photos below.


San Francisco

Tom Connolly: Great Friend, mentor, broadcaster

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – For those who just knew Tom Connolly as the guy who said, “it’s midnight,” every night, seven nights a week for almost 25 years, its difficult to introduce you to the man. He was as unique as his voice– unequivocally one of a kind.

We both knew it was part goof, but mostly tribute. I put up a page on my Buffalo radio and TV history website about Tom Connolly.  He’s a shadowy figure who lurks just beyond the outer edges of radio….  He’s been around at Buffalo’s top radio station for parts of three decades, where he always prefers the soft glow of the moon to the harshness of the sunlight (and all that it brings.) Tom Connolly is the man with the answer to the question what time it is…. So long as the time is MIDNIGHT, I wrote in 2006. When I asked to take a photo for this page, but suggested I take the photo from behind, “to maintain his shadowy anonymity,” he got that look in his eyes and loved it.

We’ve all seen some movie or TV show where a kid goes to the dumpy basement closet to hang out with the school janitor– a world-weary and gruff, yet kind and brilliant guy, who gives great advice and does his sometimes rotten job like clockwork.

Overnights in radio are a lot like a dumpy basement… And while Tom was no janitor, he just did his work– and a lot of stuff that he’d do just because he thought someone should– quietly with no expectation of appreciation or praise.  He was like radio’s counterculture guidance counselor.

He loved and cared for each one of us kids who went through the station, and encouraged us to make our own role there, because no one else was going to do it for us.

The first time I was ever on the air at WBEN was with Tom’s guidance– make that his insistence. On a Sunday morning shift in 1994, the news guy never showed up.

It was with his passionate, insistent, and unmistakably Connollyesque advice that I began my on air career in radio.

What many people outside of radio might not realize, is that Tom worked overnights, seven days a week. For decades.

Again, that started in part because Tom cared about me personally.  There was a time when I was working 3-11 Saturday evening, then was back Sunday morning at 5. At this point, Tom had Saturday nights off– his one night off every week.

The guy who was supposed to work the overnight shift while I’d go sleep on the station couch for six hours didn’t show up two weeks in a row. Being a naive high school kid, I never told anyone… Until one day I let it it slip to Tom. He was already angry that “the man” was taking advantage of my eagerness to work by putting me on such a schedule.

But Tom had no love for the character who skipped out on that shift. The next week, Tom was working Saturday night — the start of his 23 year run of overnights every night. He also insisted that I forgo that soiled couch in the station basement and drive 45 minutes home for some real sleep. More than once that sound sleep ended abruptly with a phone call from the station.

“Tom here.”

“Sorry Tom, I’m on my way.”

“No problem.”

And he meant no problem. For five years, Tom relived me from “running the board” as the technical producer and operator of the station in the early 90s.

Most nights he’d walk in, fresh from Tops next door, with his arms filled with bizarro overnight snacks. The menu would change through the years, but early on it was a half-gallon of Tops Vim One skim milk, which he’d drink straight from the carton to wash down a bag of oyster crackers and a pound of M&Ms.

Often a minute or two “late,” he’d simply say, “Good evening. Vacate.”

In those years he wouldn’t take official vacation days or any time off– he’d ask me to cover for him, with the same request once a year, several years running.

“If it’s ok, I may be a few minutes late tonight,” he’d say— and I then knew what was coming next. “Weird Al Yankovic is performing in concert tonight, and I’d like to attend.”

The gratitude he’d show when you did him a small favor was as if it had been served on a golden platter.

Maybe a bit more mellowed, Tom was the same cat when I came back to WBEN after several years away.

No longer a (young) punk and having some radio management experience under my belt, I had an even greater appreciation for Connolly (which is nearly universally how we’ve always referred to him.)

He taught young people not only the craft of radio, but the reward in the drudgery of work just for the sake of your own pride in getting it done. He was the cool upper classman who knew all the tricks and was willing to share.

For decades, Tom would send home board ops and news people on Christmas… And work double duty for 36 straight hours so the people at the bottom of the totem poll could spend time with their families.

After his daily nine hours at Entercom, contributing to the success of WBEN, WGR, Star and Kiss’ morning show in his typical unheralded fashion, rarely receiving the credit or thanks he deserved, he’d head to his first radio love, WBNY, and work for free on a fantastic music show– again, acting as mentor and funky uncle to generations of Buff State broadcasting students.

If one was trying to be sensitive, one would say Tom was unique. He was unique enough to be comfortable with weird. Mostly a good weird. Mostly a weird like, “Who works that hard?” Or “Who helps people he barely knows like that?” Or “Who just does his job, seven days a week, always superior with no questions asked?”

Tom was one of the people who made working in radio different, exciting, and so much better than any other terrible, terribly-paying job on the planet. His work ethic, his weirdness, and his love and support for all of us will be greatly and forever missed.

Stars make “radio” for those who listen. Guys like Tom make radio for those who make radio.

Vamping: The forgotten film shot in Buffalo in 1983

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Buffalo welcomed plenty of Hollywood in the early 1980s.

Welcome to Buffalo, 1980s style. Still from the film Vamping (Buffalo Stories archives)
Welcome to Buffalo, 1980s style. Still from the film Vamping (Buffalo Stories archives)

“Hide in Plain Sight,” starring James Caan, was shot here in 1979 and released in 1980. In 1982, Goldie Hahn and Burt Reynolds spent some time in Buffalo’s Parkside neighborhood shooting “Best Friends,” and also watching history at the Aud — both were in attendance the night Wayne Gretzky scored a hat trick shattering the NHL record for goals in a season.

The most celebrated film ever shot in Buffalo, ‘The Natural,” was shot with much fanfare during the summer of 1983 and released the following year. Buffalonians celebrated that film’s 30th anniversary with the same level of hoopla a few years back.

But while Redford, Close, Brimley and the crew were here shooting a baseball flick, an actor just as well known in 1983 — “Dallas” star Patrick Duffy — was in town shooting a music flick.

Buffalo scenery in “The Natural” is much celebrated. War Memorial and All-High Stadiums, the old Parkside Candy at Main and West Oakwood, The Central Terminal, The Ellicott Square Building, and a handful of other locations are seen and immediately recognized by millions of fans of that epic picture.

But you might consider the Buffalo scenery in “Vamping” even better. It’s a look at every day Buffalo. It reflects the grittiness of a city in the throes of factory shut downs, economic crisis, and an identity crisis as well.

In the same way the driving scenes and beauty shots on Kojak show New York City as it was in the mid-70’s, and the same sort of shots show us Los Angeles in the mid-60’s on Dragnet, Vamping’s scenes are a great snapshot in time in Buffalo.

The Buffalo Stories studios recently dug up an old VHS copy of Vamping in our archives and digitally remastered it as best we could. Here are some stills showing some of the great Buffalo scenery in Vamping. We’ve also loaded this entire film onto YouTube, only because as far as I can tell, the film is not available for purchase anywhere… And I think many folks would enjoy seeing our city as it was in 1983.

Watch the film:

While now it seems to be the film that time has forgotten, Buffalo News Critic Jeff Simon filled the front page of “Life & Arts” with a look at “Vamping,” starring Duffy supported by a large contingent of Buffalo talent on the screen and on the crew.

“While Robert Redford and one of the finest assemblages of acting talent in current film were all over the city and environs filming the $25 million film “The Natural,” (local film director Frederick King) Keller and star Patrick Duffy … were scrambling around filming on a budget that wouldn’t pay for the gasoline in Redford & Co.’s Winnebagos.”




The Ol’man’s still pulling one over on the VA

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY –Been thinking about the ol’man today, so I’m wearing a pair of his pajamas… PROPERTY OF THE VA.


He made dozens of emergency trips to the VA Hospital over the last decade of his life, and was admitted for many of those times, and when he was admitted, there was often a conversation that went like this.

“Hey dad, so I’m going to bring you a Diet Spin (he loved the Tops generic diet cola) and an Autotrader… Do you want me to bring  you some clothes to go home in?”

“Nah,” he’d say, “They’ll gimme a new pair of pajamas.”

My ol’man loved getting one over on the VA, and loved leaving that place with another pair of pajamas hanging on his back.

He’d make a half-hearted promise to bring the pajamas back to an orderly who couldn’t have cared any less. “These babies are the best around,” he’d say climbing into my car, tugging on his new NOT FOR SALE emblazoned loungewear.

He had a pretty decent collection when he died– unbeknownst to one another, my brother and I both kept a pair.

“The VA is the best hospital around,” he’d usually say on the trip from Bailey Avenue to Orchard Park.

“Man, this car rides great,” he’d mention, inevitably followed by, “but I do hate riding on this 33. I don’t know how people do it every day.”

Dad had another saying that I think meant something different depending on his mood.

“I wish him well,” started the ol’man’s classic phrase, “but wish him well away from me.”

When he was ambivalent, it sounded like he was saying he has no ill will towards this person, he just doesn’t want to see them.

If it was said with a touch of the caustic rage my ol’man always seemed to have bubbling just below the surface in case he needed it– well then, it sounded like an empty felicitation and a hope that you get the eff away and stay as far away as possible.

I had one of each of those well wishes today, and I avoided driving on the 33 (although I did have to take that damn 290 during rush hour.) Somewhere,  Dad is smiling.

Adventures in Grandma Cichon’s kitchen

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY — A few years after it was published, when I was in grammar school, my grandmother gave me a copy of this amazing issue of The Buffalo News magazine. This cleaner copy is newer to the archives– I still have the well-worn one Grandma Cichon gave me more than three decades ago.

buffalo mag

This great 64 page work is filled with hundreds of historic photos and stories—so many of the great places, events, and people that were a part of Buffalo during The News’ first 100 years of publication.

Seeing the photos and getting my first glimpse at how Buffalo once was immediately triggered a love for and a desire to better understand, collect and share our area’s past when I first introduced to it by means of an old newspaper tucked into in grandma’s buffet drawer when I was in first or second grade.

Grandma’s buffet was piled high with every kind of crap imaginable, including, thankfully, old newspapers. The dining room buffet was only used for supper on holidays like Easter or Thanksgiving—even though she still called the evening meal “supper” when it was pizza from Pizza Shanty or fish frys from Trautweins on Seneca Street. That we’d eat in the kitchen off the Corelle “Butterfly Gold” brown-flowered plates which everyone’s grandma seemed to have in the 70s and 80s.

butterfly gold

She entreat us to leave the kitchen and sit in the parlor when it got too crowded out there, but mostly, Grandma liked people in the kitchen.  She sat in there smoking Kools, drinking instant coffee, and watching Channel 17 on the little black-and-white TV in the corner of the kitchen counter.

The problem was she had ten kids, and all kinds of grandkids and all their friends and they’d all be in the kitchen when she was trying to cook.

“Everyone into the parlor!” she’d say in her high, breathy, asthmatic voice… There were often so many people for dinner, she’d say “small bums on the board!” She had a piece of wood that she’d put across two chairs, and three or four of our tiny bums would fit on there.

We’d all sit there waiting for Gramps to get home from work– The front door was a straight shot to his seat at the head of the table. He’d walk in, put his coat on the banister, sit down and say the fastest grace ever– “BlessOLordgiftsboutreceiveChristLordAmen.”

It came out as one word, but it was prayer, and that’s how our meals were blessed at Grandma Cheehoyn’s house.

Paging through this old Sunday insert still leaves me with a great yearning to understand how things used to be, and why these old ways are important to us now and in the future. The News Magazine and its progeny have enlightened and inspired me for as long as I’ve been able to read, as have Grandma Cichon and all the other great storytellers who have been a part of my life…

And since thinking and writing about this, I’ve had the insatiable urge for instant coffee. Like I did for grandma so many times, I think I’ll turn on the kettle– but like at Grandma’s, I don’t think there’s anyone here who’s going to light a smoke off the gas flame of the stove as the water boils.


My ol’man lives on in the little things every day

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY — I could almost smell the Vitalis at Easter Mass this past weekend. The generations old tradition of tiny little boys with their hair slicked down to their heads for church makes me smile and melts away decades.

I have thick, wily hair, and the only time my ol’man ever cared about it not looking that way was on the way to church.

“Get over here,” he’d say, with clipped speech and some vague notion of annoyance… A Parliament 100 dangling from a corner of his lip.


One old hair tonic’s commercial told you “a little dab’ll do ya.” Dad must have never saw this commercial. After grabbing my forehead and shaking the life out of that bottle, the bathroom filling with the smell of slightly perfumed rubbing alcohol, he’d pull an ancient brush through my hair until it felt like my head was bleeding.

Potential scalp contusions aside, it’s really a great memory. The very way I was watching the slicked up little dudes and their proud young dads, was under the ol’man’s influence. Even phrases like “slicked up little dudes” and the quiet dry Cichon cackle that I couldn’t hold back as I watched were all Dad.

When I feel him living on, laughing when he’d laugh, smiling when giving a kid a buck, being a special brand of obstinate and crazy, it’s a great feeling. Especially when it’s been six years today since his heart stopped, he breathed his last, and he went on to his eternal reward.

We can’t help but remember our loved ones, and that can be sad. But when we bear witness to the little ways they live on, it’s beautiful. Love ya and miss ya, dad.

Remembering Van Miller’s last day on Don Paul’s last day

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY — It’s not every day that one of the giants in Buffalo Broadcasting steps away from the action… I’ve been thinking about Don Paul’s last day on Channel 4 today– and remembering back to the day when we were on the set together for the last show of another Channel 4 legend in 1998.

I wrote this on Facebook in January when Alan Pergament wrote that Don would retire:

I was just having a conversation with a friend about thinking back through our lives, and appreciating people who’ve given something of themselves to raise us up in such a way that completely changes our lives.

My first job in radio, as a 15 year old intern, was spending a few minutes in a small studio with Don Paul recording his forecast for WBEN Radio. His kindness to me as a high school sophomore, his encouragement of my career, and the words he offered to important people will always mean the world to me, and it’s simply not possible that I’d be exactly where I am without his friendship and guidance. His was one of many great examples I had very early in life and career about being a good guy, loving people, and trying to help when possible.

So thanks… and enjoy your next act, Don… There aren’t enough folks in any business just out there being a good guy— For as much as you’ll be missed on air, broadcasting will miss a good guy in the trenches. mmmMMMmmm how sweeeet itt ISSSSsssSSSS.

Steve & Don on Rich Newberg's last day at Channel 4, 2015.
Steve & Don on Rich Newberg’s last day at Channel 4, 2015.

Gramps’ 90th Birthday

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY — Today, February 14, 2016, would have been Grandpa Cichon’s 90th birthday.

Grandpa Cichon… or as he was better known…

“I told them, ‘Just call me Eddie Cichon.'”

Edward Valetine Cichon was the full English version. Some how I feel like I should be buying someone Skin Bracer or Old Spice on Valentines Day… even though Gramps is now smelling good up in heaven– no cologne necessary.

I’m blessed to have recorded about 26 hours of mostly stupid and fun conversations with my grandfather in the four years before he died.

There are plenty of great stories and fun moments in there… i have to make more time to share more of them.

Happy Birthday, Gramps! Sto lat!

George Richert is quietly one of the best people you’ll ever meet

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY — I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working with George Richert twice– both at WBEN, where he was a news man and I was a producer, and at Channel 4– where I was a producer and he was an assignment editor, then reporter.

WBEN's Newsday at Noon host George Richert interviews Broadcasting legend Ralph Hubbell, 1997.
WBEN’s Newsday at Noon host George Richert interviews Broadcasting legend Ralph Hubbell, 1997. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The world of news and TV news is suffering a giant hole in the wake of George’s leaving– not just because he’s an experienced voice of reason, not just because he is a tremendous story teller, not just because of the way he is able to cut through the noise of a situation to find and tell the best story– for all of which he’ll be missed.

George is just about the greatest human being that any of us might have the chance to meet.

His style as a reporter and guy is simple, bare bones, and really perfect. He’s compassionate without being sappy. He’s direct without being overbearing. He’s kind so quietly it often goes unnoticed.

George quietly and faithfully understands and appreciates all that goes on around him, holds onto the best in it, and  tries to let the bad slip away.

He very steadfastly, without drama or affect, does what is put before him. He works in the same way people of our grandfathers’ generation grabbed their lunch pail, went to work, let the work be their reward, and showed those around them that actions mean more than words.

One of the ways you can judge a TV reporter is by looking at a photog’s face when he or she finds out they are assigned to work together that night. Often the look is like someone waved dirty socks under the photojournalist’s nose. Sometimes it’s not the look as much as the straightened back– steeling themselves for spending the day with an arrogant jerk or weirdo… or even worse– an arrogant jerk weirdo.

When you’re assigned to work with George, your day brightens and a smile crosses your face.

As he walked off the set on one his final nights at Channel 4, the note George wrote to the photojournalists who’ve toiled along side him for the past two decades shows the kind of man he is. It was shared on Facebook by Channel 4 videographer Paul Ivancic.

“The Photographers Lounge” On Feb 12, 2016 11:18 PM, “Richert, George” <George.Richert@wivb.com> wrote:
Dear Photographers,

I don’t even remember who it was who first invited me to have dinner in the Photographers’ Lounge, but I want to thank you all for tolerating it.
I’ve tried to earn the right to be there because I think it represents a sort of brotherhood with our big sister.

It’s hardly a ‘Lounge’ at all…More like a simple table for the purpose of eating fast and getting back to work.
After all, that seems to be the life of a photographer.

You run from story to story, often times finding creative ways to make something out of absolutely nothing.
Yet, when the script finally comes in, your hard work still doesn’t usually live up to the high expectations of what’s written.

Reporters like me run around looking stressed out, when you have the ultimate deadline resting on your shoulders; the final minutes and seconds before a story or a show airs.
You’re usually the first to realize that a VO wasn’t shot at all, or that certain file simply doesn’t exist, and yet you’re expected to somehow “make it live”.
Reporters like me get to sit in the car while you stay out and shoot the b-roll we need or set up the LIVE shot.
You battle the elements and clock to make a dark LIVE shot look halfway decent, but often times the only feedback you get is to “iris down!”.

For you, I love the days when your creative talents shine through and you get a lot of compliments.
But I realize most days you must feel like masterpiece painter who’s only given two colors, and ten minutes to work with.

I want you know that you’re the UNSUNG HEROES and the backbone of this industry, and I will never forget you.
My favorite part of this job has been driving around with each of you and sharing the highs and lows of our lives each day.
Those are the lifelong bonds that I will miss the most.
From the bottom of my heart… Thank You.

With Love & Respect,


Good luck George… I hope the Bishop knows how lucky he is to have you.

Rediscovered: Irv Weinstein on PM Magazine… 1979, WIVB-TV

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY –There’s a lot going on in the 12 minute video I posted on YouTube today.

Oddly, iconic WKBW-TV news anchor Irv Weinstein was featured on the premiere of PM Magazine on WIVB-TV in 1979. Hosted by Debbie Stamp and Don Moffit, the show featured an in depth interview with Weinstein and his family, including son Marc Weinstein of Amoeba Records fame, with the rest of his “progressive rock group.”

Also featured are promos for Skybird 4, WIVB’s news helicopter, and a spectacularly ’70s promo for News 4 anchor John Beard, now with cross-town rival WGRZ-TV. How ‘70s is it? Suffice it to say, a fetching young woman mentions how much she likes John’s mustache.

At the end of the tape, another Buffalo pop culture treat– Glendora– known in here as a 1970s late-nite TV salesperson, but known around the country for her community access TV show “A Chat with Glendora” and activism in many arenas.

The stop and go of the tape capture two extra images as well—Danny Neaverth for Bells, and a Van Miller still. Arguably Buffalo’s three greatest radio and TV personalities all in one 1979 tape.

It’s classic Buffalo TV at its finest!

This tape was from Irv’s private collection. I dubbed it for him with a number of other tapes—including video from his wedding—about 15 years ago when I was working at the Empire Sports Network.

Still images from this video

Predating YouTube, I first posted a tiny, very low resolution version of this video on staffannouncer.com in 2006.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com


Cichon evolution: How CHEE-hoyn became SEE-shon

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Spelled Cichoń in its original form, my last name is Polish.

My great-grandfather, Jan Cichon, came to Buffalo from what is now Milczany, Świętokrzyskie, Poland in 1913. He soon changed his first name to John, but never changed the way he pronounced his last name.

He said “CHEE-hoyn” as a little boy in the tiny villages he grew up in near Sandomierz in southeast Poland, and said “CHEE-hoyn” as a railyard laborer for National Aniline in South Buffalo’s Valley neighborhood.

Before John’s son– my grandfather– died in 2015, one of the many hours of conversation I had with him was how CHEE-hoyn became SY-chon (which is how Gramps said it) became SEE-shon (which is how my dad and most of my family says it.)

So, here is Eddie (SYchon) explaining how CHEEhoyn became SEEshon.

Gramps says that his mother and father– both from Poland– always said CHEEhoyn. He says when he and his 9 brothers and sisters starting going to school, SYchon– the generally accepted German pronunciation– was introduced to them, and it stuck.

“You say SEEshon, right?” Gramps asked me. I told him that’s how my dad says it.

steve and gramps

“Well, your dad’s partly French,” Gramps said, cracking himself up so hard he started coughing.

I can’t find the audio– I recorded dozens of conversations with Gramps– but he also once explained that it was one of his sisters-in-law who started saying SEEshon. My grandma also said SEEshon, as did my dad, and now most if not all of the Cichons who are left in my family say SEEshon.

So that’s how my family has come to say SEEshon, although I answer to any other pronunciation from telemarketers who are just plain confused or from little old ladies wearing babushkas (or my Fair friend Jim!) telling me I say my name wrong.

Reflection on Dr. King’s dream, and making it my own

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY –Of course, Dr. King was talking specifically about race when he hoping for a country where we judge someone on their character– what is in their heart and how they let that shine forth– rather than the color of their skin. But my dream expands that a little.

What if we started to look into the hearts of everyone we encounter, instead of judging them by some group they belong to? If we want America to continue to be great, we have to stop thinking that because someone doesn‘t look like us, or doesn’t agree with us on an issue, that they are terrible and need to be crushed.

The country I want to live in, and the country I think Dr. King dreamed of, is one where we look past our racial, political, religious, geographical, and economic differences…

A place where we look into the hearts and souls of people of every race… every religion… every political, sexual, and economic persuasion… and we find good-hearted smart people to help us build a good-hearted smart America that brings together all of us into a place where anyone can succeed and feel welcome and not feel the hatred of another because of the color of their skin or the people they choose to love or the way they worship or the amount of money they have in the bank or the place they live or the political party they belong to….

Because this is America, you have the right to carry hate in your heart… but it’s not the best way. God Bless Martin Luther King and his dream for his people and all Americans and all humans everywhere.

–Martin Luther King Day (observed) 2016

Ten years without the I-190 tolls

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Ah Black Rock and Ogden, we hardly knew ye. The new year will mark a decade since the City of Buffalo had toll booths at its northern (Black Rock) and southern (Ogden) borders along the I-190.

For generations of Buffalonians, it was a bit of a sport to toss the quarter, and later two quarters, into the EXACT CHANGE baskets at the now demolished 190 toll booths.

The tolls were supposed to come down in when the highway was paid for in the late 80’s– but to the outrage of WNYers, you had to pay a toll to get to downtown Buffalo. The outrage built to a crescendo in 2006 when the toll booths were removed.

For some tollbooth memories we dip into the Buffalo Stories archives for these shots.


Its WKBW-TV Channel 7’s zany weatherman Danny Neaverth standing at the Ogden Tolls sometime in the early to mid 80’s.


This story was all about how fast people could drive through the “Exact Change” booths, and still get the coins into the basket.


Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Remembering Gramps on a Warm Christmas past

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

What a beautiful day outside.

Seeing small kids playing with someone who looked like their grandfather in Delaware Park just now takes me back 35 years to a similar scene in Cazenovia Park, on a similar beautiful just-before-Christmas day. The only difference— unlike these carefree kids, all was not right in my world.

Gramps  & me...
The first pic of Gramps & me…

It was a quick run across Seneca Street from Grandma and Grandpa Cichon’s into Caz Park, and Gramps loved taking us for a walk whenever he was not on his way to work at the track (Buffalo Raceway) when we’d stop over on a Saturday morning.

The walk part of the walks were longer in the winter, because our visits to Caz weren’t punctuated by a visit to “the swings, and the slides, and the horseys,” as Gramps always called the playground in a sing-song kind of way.

We’d come back to Grandma’s house from taking these walks nearly frozen by the harsh South Buffalo winter, and really having earned our hot chocolate with real marshmallows.

But this day wasn’t one of those days. Much like today, the grass was green and lush, the sun was shining, and instead of shivering we were probably sweating—unnecessarily overdressed in layers on a 50 degree day, for fear that the Blizzard of ’77 would quickly revisit Seneca Street while we were on our 90 minute hike.

And despite the beautiful weather, this day, there were no swings to play on—the city parks department was much more rigid about taking swings down in those days. It was by date, not by weather forecast.

Anyway, this day I’m thinking about, we were on one of our epic walks taking in most of Cazenovia Park from the ball diamonds to the ends of the golf course. I should have been enjoying the warmth—and not a flake of snow in sight, but I wasn’t.

There was growing concern in my Kindergartener heart, and I had to share it with someone I could trust. Gramps was the man, for sure.

“Grandpa,” I asked, probably with doe-like eyes fluttering, “if Santa’s sleigh doesn’t work because there’s no snow, how will he be able to deliver our presents?”

“Santa has a helicopter, son,” he said reassuringly without skipping a beat. I’m still warmed by his reassurance.

I don’t remember what I was hoping Santa would deliver that year, but I know I was excited to deliver to Gramps—no chopper necessary—a gift bearing the brand name Skin Bracer, Old Spice, or Hickory Farms. He always loved our presents no matter what they were.

Gramps was special because he had the mind of a man and the heart of a child. We should all be so blessed.

John Otto: Hold the Phone!

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

 This page first appeared on staffannouncer.com in 2004, and was last updated May 21, 2014.

Weekly vintage John Otto airchecks from buffalostories.com
Weekly vintage John Otto airchecks from buffalostories.com

In celebration of John Otto’s 85th birthday, and mindful that it was 15 years ago this year that your congenial co-communicator signed off, we introduce several hours of John Otto recordings unheard since the day they were first broadcast in 1998.

It’s truly one of Buffalo’s greatest broadcasters at his finest: John Otto, broadcasting live from the Tralfamadore Cafe on the night he was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

John talks with and interviews dozens of our city’s finest broadcasters, and they pay tribute to him– on the radio, on the telephone, at long last.

And the more to come sign is up– As we draw nearer the 15th anniversary of our-operator-on’s last show, we will present dozens more recordings from the 1950s through 1999 in this space. We’ll get to that in as soon as it takes to tell it– in the meantime, enjoy that Hall of Fame day broadcast below, and hold the phone.

John Otto played many of his own sound effects on the show… You could often hear him fumbling for the right cart as someone asked to guess the voice, or Joann the Just would call– of course, the trumpet was necessary to announce her presence. Here are a few of the sound effects “Your operator on” would play– taken directly from the broadcast carts which he himself used on the show.


John spent most of five decades on Buffalo radio, and his show was introduced by various jingles and production elements through the years. Several of these were given to me by the late Ben Bass, who aside from sending 30 years as a disc jockey himself, was also an engineer on the Otto show in the 1970’s.

Finally, here are some clips of the man himself– These were saved at the radio station by many of John’s producers through the years, including Mike Maniscalco, Brad Riter, Greg Bauch, Ben Bass, and others. They are mostly short, entertaining John Otto clips on pop culture and bad callers– others are just a taste of how John sounded on the air. The last clip is 46 minutes worth of a show– enjoy!

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

New: The Weekly Otto & Ben Bass Jingle of the Week

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

The holidays are bringing the first installment of several new features on Buffalo Stories.com. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll regularly be sharing from several categories in our expansive audio archive.

Weekly vintage John Otto airchecks from buffalostories.com
Weekly vintage John Otto airchecks from buffalostories.com

The first is “The Weekly Otto.”  With at least 48 hours worth of John Otto shows on tape, plus many more interesting audio clips from his own personal audio collection, there should be plenty of material to keep us going for quite a while providing regular audio looks back at one of Buffalo’s all-time favorite intelligent men of the people and most missed voices in the night, on the radio, on the telephone (at long last, don’t you know.)

Another soon-to-be regular feature is The Ben Bass Memorial Jingle of the Week.

Jingles from the collection of the late Ben Bass on buffalostories.com
Jingles from the collection of the late Ben Bass on buffalostories.com

Buffalo Radio good guy Ben Bass passed away unexpectedly in 2014. Ben was often irascible and difficult to deal with– but he had a heart of gold, and was always doing what he could for others. Aside from 40 years as a broadcast engineer, radio disc jockey, and ham operator, Ben was also a great collector of commercial and radio station jingles.

Upon his death, a handful of Ben’s friends got together to buy up as much of his jingle collection as possible– it’s a veritable history of Buffalo radio. This archive includes jingles, production pieces, and station IDs from the 1950’s through the 2000s from dozens of Western New York– many of which it’s almost certain that Ben had the only remaining copy. Stations big and small… Jingles good and bad… We’ll be offering regular segments from more than ten hours worth of jingles from Ben’s collection.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

We’ll also be repackaging classic Staffannouncer.com pages here on Buffalo Stories.com. I started working on Staffannouncer.com in 2003, at a time when many of Buffalo’s pop culture treasures weren’t even mentioned on the Internet.

It’s hard to imagine typing “Irv Weinstein” or “AM&A’s” into Google and getting no results, but that’s the way it was.  Staffannouncer.com was my way to fix that.

I built a great 2004 website from code, by myself. A dozen years later, the look and some of the information needs some updating. I’ll be taking care of both of those things as I migrate all of the still-relevant pages and information from Staffannouncer.com here to Buffalo Stories.com.

Connecting people and their memories: Micro & Macro

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

I spend a lot of time thinking about things that people like to remember and how to present those things in a way that make to not only make them smile, but also realize how those memories help shape how we got where we are today.

When I’m posting a blog post here or a piece on history.buffalonews.com, I’m usually thinking about the larger Western New York audience, or maybe a slightly smaller group or community– rarely am I trying to speak to a single person with a post.

It’s really gratifying, then, when i share something that we all love and remember ends up meaning something very personal and direct for someone who sees it.

That’s happened twice in the last week.

In one instance, a man who was featured in a 1970 news clip found the clip on YouTube and left a comment.

The video, shows a pro-Richard Nixon, “anti-antiwar” march on Buffalo’s City Hall in 1970. I interviewed WBEN/Ch.4 newsman Lou Douglas several times before his death, and each time he spoke about covering this march— and his fear for the safety of the anti-war counter protester he interviewed.  The young man– now a retiree– found the video on YouTube, and took the time to finish and add to the comment he couldn’t finish 45 years ago.


The other instance was a bit more lighthearted and fun. If you lived in Bufalo in the 80’s, it’s likely you can sing the line, “You’re gonna wanna…. Come to Lackawanna…” It’s all because of this commercial, which I posted on YouTube a few years ago.

The Ridge Dining Furniture Family– always featured in these spots which ran through the 80’s and into the 90’s– wrote to say they thought they’d never see one of these spots again.





I explained that I found this commercial on a newscast that I had recorded as a kid– but also that I’d be on the lookout now for any more that I find.

It’s fascinating and edifying for me to reconnect our city to its past– and when it means something extra special to a particular person or family– its even more rewarding.

Christmas in Parkside: Black Squirrel, Books & Beer at the PM

Parkside owned businesses are spreading holiday cheer with a true “shop local” event on Wednesday.


The neighborhood folks connected with The Parkside Meadow (owners Nancy Abramo & Len Mattie, Summit Ave.), Black Squirrel Distillery (co-founder Matthew Pelkey, Woodward Ave.) and Buffalo Stories LLC (owner Steve Cichon, Parkside Ave.) are joining together on Wednesday, December 16, at The PM, 2 Russell Street, for a Black Squirrel tasting and book signing by Cichon.

Buy one of his books, he'll buy you a beer! The signing at The Parkside Meadow on Wednesday, December 16th, will be Cichon's only time Cichon signs his five books this December.
Buy one of his books, he’ll buy you a beer! The signing at The Parkside Meadow on Wednesday, December 16th, will be Cichon’s only time Cichon signs his five books this December.

The warm “everyone knows ya” feeling of a corner gin mill and the selection of locally brewed beers on tap at The Parkside Meadow make it a great place for a couple of local boys to make their locally produced wares available as Christmas presents.

Pelkey will be lining up cocktail samples and special holiday gift packs from the spirit distilled a few blocks away on Elmwood Avenue starting at 6pm in the Parkside Meadow. Cichon will have his 5 Buffalo history books– including local volumes “The Complete History of Parkside” and ” St. Mark Parish: The Loving Legacy of Msgr. Francis Braun and Sr. Jeanne Eberle”– available along with his promise that if you buy one of his books that night, he’ll buy you a beer.

Mathew Pelkey will be offering Black Squirrel samples and gift packs.
Mathew Pelkey will be offering Black Squirrel samples and gift packs.

You also have the chance to give the gift of a great Parkside meal– that night and anytime, Parkside Meadow gift certificates are available in any denomination. The Parkside Meadow is quickly becoming the meeting place for folks in our part of North Buffalo– and there’s never been a better reason to stop by than to enjoy Black Squirrel samples and “buy a book, I’ll buy you a beer.”

Thanking dad for McCartney’s Buffalo show

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

It’s not unusual for dads to pass on their love of sports teams to their sons. It’s easy to see how it happens when a boy sees and gets caught up in his ol’man’s borderline religious fanatic devotion to not only games, but talking about and thinking about and clearly loving a team even when they aren’t on the field.

This is the way I became a Beatles fan. Our house was always filled with Beatles 8-tracks and albums with STEVE crawled in the sloppy ballpoint pen work of my ol’man. There were also albums from John, Paul, and George’s solo careers. Dad never owned a Ringo solo record, but he did name his last dog Ringo after Sir Richard Starkey, so I think it’s even.

The ol’man, listening to 8-tracks, somewhere in Asia as a Marine. I’d be willing to bet that’s a Beatles 8-track in there…

Before I say what I’m about to say, let me first flatly state there was nothing “cute” about my ol’man. The guy was a tattooed Marine. But looking back, dad’s devotion to this band was really almost cute. Seeing him sing (terribly, of course) or talk or even think about The Beatles offered us all a glimpse at what he must have been like watching John, Paul, George, and Ringo on Ed Sullivan for the first time when he was 13.

The clichéd notion of the cranky Vietnam era disabled vet might include an abhorrence of computers– but such wasn’t the case for my ol’man. He quickly realized that the online world offered him two amazing things– an unending supply of used cars for sale and an unquenchable supply of new Beatles facts, ideas, and photos. This meant at any given moment, any conversation could quickly turn to “There’s a great little Caddy in Ohio– only three grand!” or “Did you know John’s dad played the banjo?”

As sons often do, over the last 38 years, I’ve developed and nurtured my own love and appreciation for that which my ol’man had such a devotion. For my ninth birthday in 1986, I got a Walkman. (For the record, it was a knockoff GE cassette player from Brand Names, but it was a Walkman, dammit.) Anyway, for another present, my uncle took me to Gold Circle to pick out a couple cassette tapes to listen to on my sleek new machine. Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, The White Album. I was able to get an extra one because the older Beatles cassettes were cheaper than Guns N Roses or Huey Lewis and The News.

For the roughly 15 years that CDs were my music delivery method of choice in my car, Paul McCartney’s “All the Best” greatest hits album is the only one I ever had to replace– I wore it out playing it so much.

Dad never got to see any of the Beatles live. A few years before he died, my mom took the ol’man to see the Beatles tribute band Rain at Shea’s Buffalo. The way mom describes it, it might as well have been the actual guys up there the way dad was enjoying himself.

When I heard Paul McCartney was coming to Toronto, I was going. It was deeper than “really wanting to go,” it was about being in the presence of someone who has brought me untold joy from the moment of my birth. It was being in the presence of someone who helped bring so much light into the often dark life of my ol’man. It was fulfilling the wish, hope and desire that filled the last 47 years of dad’s life– to see a Beatle live.

Then the Buffalo date was announced. My sweet wife signed up for the chance to buy presale tickets online as a birthday present. A half-hour’s worth of refreshing a clogged webpage finally hit pay dirt with a pair of seats available. I would have been happy with nosebleeds, but the robot living in Paul McCartney’s computer only offered us floor seats. I cashed in my 401k, and got ready to see Paul McCartney.

Steve and Monica outside First Niagara Center, October 22, 2015.

What a show. Three hours’ worth of mostly Beatles tunes, with some great Wings stuff, and pretty good brand new music as well. Every single song sounded like we would expect it to sound, as it did on the album. McCartney is not bored with the music that made him famous and brought us all such joy for the last half century.  The only exceptions were his ukulele version of “Something” as a tribute to George Harrison, and extra audience sing along choruses of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Na, Na, Na, NaNaNiNa.” There was also a heartfelt and stunning tribute to John Lennon, which he introduced by asking for an ovation for “John,” and then encouraging everyone to not hold back the things they want to tell people they love. (You can watch highlights of all of these in the video below.)

He displayed tremendous energy keeping up with our 40 and 50 year old memories of how he sounded on our car stereos on the way to the concert. His voice was there, and he played an instrument– his trademark bass, one of three or four guitars, organ, or piano– on every song. He didn’t take a single song off and hit a surprising number of notes when any of us would have given him a pass.

As you might expect, Paul was charming, too. His talking between songs wasn’t just canned stuff from every concert. He played off the crowds. He played off the signs. He looked like he was having fun.  After playing “Back in the USSR,” he told about his first time playing in Russia. Doing a pretty decent ’60s spy movie Russian accent, he told the story of the Russian defense minister who shook his hand and told him, “The first record I ever buy was Love Me Do.” He said another Russian official said he learned English from Beatles records, “so I say Hello. Goodbye.”

While singing “Lovely Rita,” introduced as “a song about a lady who used to write me a lot of tickets,” he gave the best commentary of the night with his face.  While schmaltzing though the lyric “sitting on the sofa with a sister or two…” he very briefly offered up the same comical pained face that your favorite uncle might give in telling a similar story of sitting on a couch between a couple of sisters before a date. It’s clear that Sir Paul had been on that couch.

There was also the extra-worldly. From the moment I heard McCartney was coming, I knew this show was going to be a convening with my dad’s soul. Seeing Paul McCartney, standing in front of me, singing the songs my dad taught me to love reduced me to tears too many times to count.  A few times it was more the images being flashed than the music– during Band on The Run, the big screen flashed that album’s cover. Instantly I was flashed back to sitting legs crossed in front of my parents’ record shelf, trying to decide which record to play (and probably scratch the hell out of– sorry!) next.

One resoundingly smiley moment came as Paul lead 18,000 people in “All Together Now,” a silly song from the silly Yellow Submarine album. Dad was the biggest Beatles fan out there, but he didn’t discuss Yellow Submarine. When I made copies of all my Beatles CDs for him, he told me to skip Yellow Submarine. I think I actually heard dad say, “ooOOooh geeeez” when McCartney started the song during the concert last night. Dad would have been happy, though, that Paul resoundingly made fun of the song, saying something along the lines of “it was one of my more intellectual moments.” Paul actually agrees with Dad. Somewhere, dad’s saying, “I told you that song was stupid.”

An amazing concert musically. Tying up loose ends for my ol’man. And thankfully, it was loud enough where no one had to listen to my singing– because there was a lot of it and it was terrible. Just another way my Beatles devotion is like father, like son.

Here is a 12:30 video with some highlights I recorded at the concert.

Quick snippets from his 3 hour show in Buffalo, NY, at First Niagara Center on 10/22/15. Beatles and Wings classics, talks about John Lennon, George Harrison, playing in Russia, and more. Wobbily shot from floor seats on an iPhone6s.

What Labor Day means for me and my family

Both of my grandpas typify what Labor Day is about.

monic steve grandparents
With my grandpas Jim Coyle (left) and Eddie Cichon (right), and Grandma Coyle and my beautiful bride on our wedding day in 2001. The more weddings I attend, the more grateful I am that I had three grandparents there on my wedding day.

Grandpa Coyle was poor, and I think it’s fair to say didn’t have many prospects, until his boss at the Boys Club helped get him an apprenticeship with the Glaziers Union. After years as a glass worker, he ran Local 660 for decades.

gramps and glaziers
That’s Grandpa Coyle, in the center, next to the sailor, with the checked jacket and the rip in the photo. He was a glazier– a glassworker– and eventually spent a couple decades as the funds administrator for the Glaziers Local 660. This is from c.1953.

Grandpa Cichon started as a laborer at National Aniline, but learned a trade to become a tinsmith. He put in 40 years there.

gramps racing
Grandpa Cichon usually had no fewer than 3 or 4 jobs at a time, including regular work through the ticket takers and bet takers union at Memorial Auditorium, War Memorial Stadium/Rich Stadium, and Buffalo Raceway.

Both men’s willingness to work hard for better lives for themselves and their children is now also being enjoyed by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Sure, organized labor is about 40 hour, 5 day work weeks… But to me, it’s about building American families for generations.
Labor Day also makes me think of my time as a union member, when the company that owns Channel 4 locked out half of our NABET-25 bargaining unit.
Technicians (studio crew, engineers, master control operators) weren’t allowed to work through contract negotiations, while newsroom staff (producers, photographers, editors) were forced to work with (incompetent) replacement workers.

steve locked out
As someone who has only ever wanted to show up and do my job, it was a time I’ll never forget– when the owners of Channel 4 wouldn’t let some of its hardest working, longest tenured employees come to work to provide for their families.
I don’t always agree with every union stance, but whenever I hear someone say unions are past their usefulness, I pray that they never learn first hand how useful a union can be.

The 1,000th look at critical, mundane: What BN Chronicles is all about

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Every week, I read a week’s worth of The Buffalo News from some gone-by year, looking for articles, photos, and ads that shed some interesting light on our past, help provide some clarity to our collective community memory of the great people, places, and institutions of Western New York, and help explain where we are now.

Western New York historian Steve Cichon combs through old editions of The Buffalo News to gather material for BN Chronicles. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)
Western New York historian Steve Cichon combs through old editions of The Buffalo News to gather material for BN Chronicles. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

This week, The News will publish my 1,000th BN Chronicles look into Buffalo’s past.

We are all excited and thankful about the renaissance Buffalo is currently enjoying, but I think projects like BN Chronicles help us to remember — even amid all that is new and exciting — what truly makes Buffalo unique.

Every place has history, but few places have so much, so varied, so unheralded history as Buffalo.

In a city like New York or Boston or Chicago, there is likely at least one college professor who is an expert on every fascinating facet of those cities’ past. Books have been written that tell the complete stories of nearly every neighborhood, group of people, and institution.

Here, we are playing 50 years of catch up. For a half-century, as a community, we had a general self-defeatist attitude thinking that if it had to do with Buffalo or its past, it was probably not worth thinking about or keeping.

Now we realize our strength is in a future planted firmly in and building upon our past. The way to build Buffalo’s future is to collect and codify its past making for a deeper, richer experience not only for us, but also for the newcomers to our city who arrive daily.

It is the big things and the little things. Buffalo was suffering from a sort of mass depression, and many of the great moments of our pop culture history limped away and vanished unnoticed. Now that the depression is lifted, we are wondering what became of the way we have lived our Buffalo lives over the last 50 or 60 years.

In the ’50s and ’60s, we steamrolled our past with good intentions, expecting our city of 600,000 people to grow to 2 million. We wanted to build roads and giant skyscrapers to be prepared. In the ’70s and ’80s, the hemorrhaging of industry, jobs, and people left us reeling and wondering if the last person leaving Buffalo would turn off the light. The ’90s and 2000s saw more people realizing our resilient and friendly people were our strength, and seeds were planted to show off our assets and bring people back.

As the writer of the BN Chronicles, I enjoy taking the opportunity to share the snapshots in time that help tell us the story of how we got to the place we are right now. How our industries wound up decimated. Why the waterfront, Buffalo schools and Peace Bridge have been difficult puzzles to solve for years. But also the good news. The men and women who believed in this city when few others did. The sometimes terrible, but certainly well-intentioned and hopeful development that took place through the years. The people and places who through it all kept Buffalo the wonderful blue-collar spirited community it remains today.

But along with the heavy lifting, come some of the stories of our lives that have been lost to time. We are able to look at the city where you could not walk more than two blocks without hitting a corner gin mill, a firebox, and a milk machine. Maybe we are reminded to tell our kids and grandkids that when we did well in school, we took our report cards to Loblaw’s to get a free day at Crystal Beach.

Whether it is the earth-shattering headlines or the warm and fuzzy “whatever-happened-tos,” it is more than just nostalgia. The most important piece of what happens in the stories of the BN Chronicles is taking a step back and seeing how all these vestiges of our past have shaped who we are today. It is what makes us in Buffalo unique, and each story told adds to the critical mass that is bringing new life to our community.

This first appeared at history.buffalonews.com.

aaaBuffaloStoriesBNChronicles Watermark


The K-Mart Radio Network was my favorite radio station

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

I was 11 when we moved to Orchard Park.

We lived within walking distance of Taffy’s, McDonald’s, and K-Mart, and when we were bored, we’d shake the couch cushions (or make a small raid on Dad’s change bowl) for a buck or two and head to one of those places to waste some time and get something to eat. I laugh at the thought of me at 11– ordering a small coffee and a hamburger at McDonald’s because it was something like $1.24.

When we had no money– or a lot of money– we’d go wander around K-Mart for hours. Never causing any trouble, just browsing and wishing… Toys, bikes, camping equipment, records, tapes, CDs, electronics, tools, books… We spent A LOT of time and most of our money in there.

The store was about where the Lowes and Tops now stand on Southwestern Blvd. It looked like the K-Mart in this video– But all the K-Marts built in the 70s looked like that.

This K-M-R-T jingle used to play incessantly on the PA at K-Mart… along with the big voiced announcer reading specials and always ending with “Thank you for shopping your Orchard Park K-Mart.”

I snagged this audio clip from this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t5TYw2bkOk

Parkside’s community activist and community mom, Ruth Lampe

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo


Our community’s self-styled “Deputy Dog” and “Mother Hen” has succumbed after a long valiant fight against cancer.

Ruth Lampe was no-nonsense and tough as nails, but also loved her friends, family, and community with fierce and burning passion.

She was a force of nature and in a category all her own. Her style and sensibility was a beautifully complementary combination of Iowa farm girl, 1960’s style left-wing radical activist and motherly protector and influence to all who knew her.

In a society where most people like to meet and vote– or worse, just complain– when problems arise, Ruth roared and steamrolled for what she thought was right. And once she pushed her way to the front of an issue, she took command and was relentless and got things done.

After more than 40 years of community and civic activism in Parkside, she knew everyone– and knew most of their fathers, too. Widely accepted as speaking for the community and fair, her aggressive tactics were usually met with open arms by the powers that be– with the knowledge that having Ruth on your side was always a smart move.

But it wasn’t just about sweeping grand notions with Ruth– it was about sweeping up after events. And moving chairs. And helping at the ticket table. She was the sort of leader who lead by example every step of the way, and would never ask anyone to do something she hadn’t already done and wasn’t getting ready to do again.

All that is wonderful, but to really turn the rusty wheels of change– you inevitably rankle the comfortably accepting of the substandard or offensive.

You know Ruth Lampe was a hero by the number of people who wince– even decades later– at hearing her name. It may have happened during the city’s 1982 free paint program, but 33 years later, there are still those in Parkside who will snear, “Ruth Lampe made me paint my house.” She always made an impact. She sure did on me.

When my phone rang during lunch on two weeks ago yesterday, I smiled to see the name Ruth Lampe on the caller ID.

She’d been terminally ill with untreatable cancer, but I was thinking of how I’d been filled with joy when I saw a thin-but-healthy Ruth out on Hertel going to dinner with her husband David a couple weeks before. I was about to run up to say hi when a couple of little munchkins hop out of the car, too.

Selfishly, I stopped and enjoyed watching her be grandma from half a block away. I’m sure she would have enjoyed a hello and a hug, but I wasn’t going to intrude on grandkid time, and I really enjoyed seeing her in that element.

She looked great that day, and that was in my mind as I answered the phone.

With genuine excitement I hit the button and offered a “Hey Ruth!”

Without thinking, I followed with a “How are ya!” which I genuinely meant– but said without thinking given her battle.

My upfront question meant the call got right down to business. She talked about the next stage. Hospital beds at home, making final plans.

Ruth’s last great gift to those who love her is taking on the final project of her life with the bullheaded strength and tenacity she’s shown every project she’s ever undertaken. She was planning her own goodbye– one she knew was coming in a period of time that could be counted in days more than weeks or months.

It was a classic Ruth moment of organization– but of course it’s different. This isn’t fighting with mayors over stop signs or school boards looking for racial balance and equality in our neighborhood public school.

I don’t know that I ever heard this great woman resigned to anything– but she was calm, accepting, and willing to put her and her loved ones into the hands of the Lord. The peaceful beauty and dignity with which she faced this grand struggle is awe inspiring.

This final battle is for everything. We want to help, just like with every other battle we’ve joined her for– but no letters to the editor or picket carrying can help.

We always say, “Anything I can do,” which is always true. But I think we say it more to help ourselves through the thought of someone else’s pain. Someone in Ruth’s situation really doesn’t want to be handing out jobs, you know?

So, I’ve tried not to say that. Ruth and her husband David know it’s true– anything– but I try not to say it.

What I’ve tried to do, since back pain turned to cancer turned to just a matter of time, is just remind them both in little, hopefully unobtrusive ways that I love them both very much.

There are no more cliches. Just what’s real. What else can you really do but love and pray and answer the phone when it rings?

Which it did during lunch on a Friday two weeks ago.

And Ruth asked me to be a pall bearer. At her own funeral. Taking what she could off the plate of her soon to be grieving and devastated family, by fighting and loving the best way she knew how— by doing.

I have little right to be emotional as this incredible woman powered through what was the start of her final two weeks among us, but I can’t help but be moved to tears by the thought of it. This woman, our neighborhood queen and sheriff and mother asked me to do the honor of presenting her earthly remains to her friends and to her church and to their final resting place…. That someone who has meant so much to me as a civic leader, as a mentor, as a cage-rattling compatriot, as a friend– can even think of me at all as the sun sets on her beautiful life, but that she would so powerfully and personally offer me this honor leaves me just without words… Other than…

I love you, Ruth. The many many many of us you’ve touched, we all love you.

And we’ve all learned from you. The trail you’ve blazed in fighting for what’s right won’t grow cold so long as I’m here to battle forward with the gifts of knowledge and strength you’ve given us all.

The spirit you’ve kindled lives on… and doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

Looking back at Buffalo through matchbooks

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo


Today, marketing is a highly skilled and nuanced mix of artistry and science. It wasn’t so long ago that the most thought that most businessmen would give marketing is making sure people leave their business with a pack of matches with the business name on them.


Everybody smoked. Every business sold cigarettes. Everybody had a pack of matches in their pocket, and if they didn’t– they needed one. Everyone handing out matches was a win-win.

Matchbooks eventually became more that just a means for lighting a butt.

People might hold on to colorful, fun, or borderline pornographic (from a 1950s sensibility) matchbooks. Some became souvenirs of visiting a restaurant or a city.

Matchbook collecting became a serious hobby for many through the second half of the twentieth century.

eBay seller uniqueanteek has recently posted over 12,000 matchbook covers for auction, several dozen of which are from Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and the immediate area.

Especially for some of the smallest businesses, like neighborhood grocery stores, corner taverns, and storefront restaurants, these matchbooks are the sole surviving proof that these businesses ever existed.

Most of these matchbook covers date from the 40s and 50s, with a few as late as the 70s or early 80s.

Enjoy this unique, broad look at Buffalo’s pop culture history through the matchbook covers of uniqueanteek, and if the spirit moves you, head over to any of uniqueanteek’s auctions, and pick up one of these or any of the thousands of cool covers listed for sale.


If you have anything to share about any of these places, drop me an email: steve@buffalostories.com


Marker’s Gay Way was at 1321 Broadway.
Link’s Tavern 2715 Seneca St stood where I-90 crosses over Seneca near Harlem.
The Hotel Graystone on South Johnson Park was recently renovated into luxury apartments.
Jew Murphy’s Steel bar at 369 Pearl St stood in a spot now occupied by The Key Towers.

Teddy’s Beauty Shoppe, 3173 Main St. Today the spot is Slice of Italy pizza, next door to The Lake Effect Diner.
Salemi’s Club Rainbow was on Court St. behind Buffalo City Hall. The burlesque style entertainment was accompanied by 25¢ spaghetti plates.
Laube’s Cafeterias were all over Buffalo and “famous for food,” but the name “Laube’s” lives on in reference to “Laube’s Old Spain,” which outlasted the cafeterias for decades.
Curt’s Stop Inn , 1341 Kensington Ave. It’s still a bar, and still has a stop sign on the front– No word on Curt.
Pop & Freddie’s Call’s Grill, 140 Forest Ave. between West and Grant on the West Side.


Before there was Lombardo’s, there was Tommy’s Tavern– Tom Lombardo, proprietor– Michigan Avenue at East Utica.
Arkansas Bar & Lounge, 12 Grant Street. Stood where Rite Aid now stands near the corner of Hampshire.
The Friendly Inn, 844 Washington, looks like it would have been the corner of Washington and Virginia, one block west of Ulbrich’s.
Style Beauty Salon, 108 York St, at the corner of 17th on the West Side, about a block from Kleinhans
Casa Di Amici, 1066 Abbott Rd, South Buffalo. Now a doctor’s office at the corner of Carlyle.
Carrot Top Inn, 222 Katherine St, Old First Ward. at Hamburg St, today it’s Cook’s Bar & Grill
Little Harlem Hotel, Michigan Ave. One of Buffalo’s most famous/infamous jazz nightspots.
Tudor Arms Hotel, 354 Franklin St. Now apartments, half a block south of Edward.
Ryan’s Hotel Niagara, on Niagara St. near Niagara Square, was known in the 1950s as one of the first places in Buffalo known as a “gay bar.”
Ricardo’s Steak House & Lounge, 252 Delaware Ave. Was located in the recently demolished Delaware Court building at Delaware and Chippewa.
Western Auto, 1393 Seneca St., was located about where I-190 crosses over Seneca near Bailey.
Bison brand sausage. Also the makers of Buffalo’s classic Bison Dip.
The Park Lane at Gates Circle. One of Buffalo’s most elegant dining experiences for generations.
Mure’s Campus Restaurant, 1110 Elmwood Ave., home for decades to Mister Goodbar.
Merry time Restaurant & Lounge, 305 Oak St. Located about where Oak, Huron, Sycamore meet, one block east of the Electric building.
Leonardo’s Tasty Italian America food,                   386 Pearl St., just south of Chippewa. The site is now a parking ramp.






Jay’s Catering, 1257 Genesee St. Two blocks north of MLK Park. Now a vacant lot.
Maroon Grill, 382 Pearl St., same block as Jew Murphy’s and Leonardo’s, just south of Chippewa.
The longtime home of Theo Phillies’ Chippewa Liquor Store, 86 West Chippewa St. is now the home of the Emerson School of Hospitality (and one of the best lunch deals in Buffalo.)
Sterns Electric Equipment, 66 Broadway, near Broadway and Oak.
Kam Wing Law Chinese Restaurant, 433 Michigan Avenue. Michigan near William
Kenney’s Hotel and Grill, 605 Michigan Avenue. Michigan Ave at Sycamore


Looking for help in piecing together Dad’s USMC service

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Since I can’t find the appropriate venue in which to ask these questions, I’ll ask them here– and ask people to share this around so that I might get some answers for my family and me.

The ol’man having a smoke and wearing flip-flops, but no ribbons to help me identify his proper service awards.

In 1973, my father, an E-4, was honorably discharged from the USMC after 3 years 4 months 20 days of service because of physical disability. He spent time stationed in Camp Lejeune, Cuba, Panama, Okinawa and finally, Walter Reed before going home.

My dad always said he had three ribbons on his uniform as a Marine. His official transcript lists only The National Service Medal– but it also shows he qualified for the Good Conduct medal which wasn’t listed (It was one Dad said he got– but they just gave everyone who hung around long enough.)

The third one is a bit of a mystery. He talked about receiving some decoration after Nuclear/ Biological/ Chemical Warfare School (or maybe for some use of that training). The schooling is listed, but the award isn’t.

Does this sound plausible to anyone who’d know? What award might they have given for N/B/C training (or excellence in N/B/C training… or excellence in use of N/B/C training skills) in USMC in 1970?

The only medal listed on the ol'man's DD-214-- The National Defense Service Medal.
The only medal listed on the ol’man’s DD-214– The National Defense Service Medal.

Also, dad talked about being trained in parachuting… and also training others in the use of parachutes. Again, not mentioned on his DD-214… nor is his rifle expert badge, which he talked about proudly. Having been trained in parachuting, that would have qualified him for the parachuting badge, right?

Anyone know someone who might know these answers if you don’t? Internet research is vague and non-specific here, especially since I’m not entirely sure what I’m asking.

I’m also quite positive that “official channels” won’t offer many answers– I’d just like to ask these questions of someone who might have a good idea of what the truth is, regardless of the form that was filled out hastily and improperly 42 years ago.

Dad’s DD-214 is clearly incomplete– all he left the Marines with was the uniform on his back. All of his belongings were stolen when he was transferred from a base hospital to Walter Reed, from where he was honorably discharged. Because he was sick, he was never given the chance to review or sign his separation papers.

unsigned dd214
His separation papers, Form DD-214, was completed using whatever scarce information they had on Dad, at a hospital far from his unit and far from his belongings. He was so sick, he was unable to sign (and more importantly, verify all the information on the form.)

This is all to say, he never bothered trying to amend his records because he had no proof. His paperwork and medals were stolen with his camera, stereo, 8-tracks, and uniforms.

I’m not looking to amend his records– just for the ability to pay proper respect to his military service, and remember him for the commendations he actually received.

Dad-Marine-editThe few photos of him during his time in the Marine Corps don’t show him in regulation uniform— except his boot camp dress blues head shot, which was taken before any of the awards would have been earned.

He was proud of serving his country, but like many who did so, he didn’t like to talk about it much. I wish I had pressed a tiny bit more or taken better notes through the years.

Please feel free to email me with any insight– steve@buffalostories.com. Thanks.

Mom’s good scissors

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

When we were growing up, my mom was generally pretty steady and even keeled. Under almost every circumstance, she was very difficult to rile.

Unless you touched her scissors.

Sadly, in retrospect, it was a line we crossed regularly with laughter and impunity– we the other heartless bastards of her family.

Poor mom had very little to herself. By the time she graduated grammar school, she had six brothers and sisters. She married at 20 and had three kids by 26.

In all that time, as far as I can tell, the only gosh-darned thing she ever wanted for herself were those scissors.

Now we had scissors all over the house, at least half-a-dozen of those severe heavy steel ones with black handles.

The problem was that each of these pairs of scissors– with the gloss black painted handles– had issues. There wasn’t a perfect pair among them.

Some were dull, some had a loose pivot screw, some had tips broken off. None could zip quickly up wrapping paper like Mom’s could.

In our house, it seemed the best course of action for any cutting need was to rip out a piece of mom’s heart– and rip off her scissors.

These babies were beautiful.

fays measuring cup
The fact that I could find a photo of this exact obscure Fay’s Drugs glass measuring cup online  means that almost everything is on the internet.

Not just merely scissors, these were shears– orange handled shears– sticking out among the pens, pencils, and Emory boards in a Fay’s Drugs measuring cup on mom’s nightstand.

Of course, mom was well within her rights to be so protective.

We were like wild Neanderthals, just barely able to understand the proper use of a crude axe, and this pair of scissors was the precision tool of a seamstress, meant to be used with delicate cloth and thread.

While I’m still not convinced, that as Mom said, “Cutting paper with them will ruin them!”– I do know that something terrible happened to every other pair of scissors in the house to render them somehow useless, and she had every right to be concerned about the future of her scissors in our hands.

For one, my dad had no handyman sense, and it would have been completely plausible that he could have ruined these scissors trying to fix the lawnmower or a leaky drain with them.

Us kids inherited our ol’man’s lack of differentiation of tools, and any of us might have used the scissors to carve a point on a stick or to cut open a pop can like the guy on the Ginzu commercials.

ginzu can

Of course, we’d laugh and laugh when mom would lose her mind over HER scissors… but it’s understandable now, for sure.

Especially when my wife grabs for the kitchen shears out of the knife block to clip coupons.

Even when I hold my tongue, my blood pressure still rises because that’s what we bought those dollar store scissors for– clipping coupons.

It’s pretty much an incontrovertible fact that kitchen shears– meant for food prep stuff– are ruined by coupon clipping.

Just ask my mom.

What Van Miller meant to me

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

I’ve been grappling with what to say about Van Miller.

Steve and Van
Steve and Van, 2007

You don’t need a biography– Everyone knows, or at least confidently suspects, that he was the greatest broadcaster and entertainer to ever make a career in Buffalo.

Most people also know that he was a great story teller. I spent about 20 hours with Van after he retired from TV, recording all his stories getting ready to write a book that never happened. I still have those studio quality tapes– But maybe another day.

For me, when I think about Van, the Bills and the broadcasting– well, that’s only the half of it– as he used to say after two quarters of football.

I generally like to write about a person and their accomplishments and what they maybe should mean to you from a historical perspective. I just can’t with Van.

What I’m about to write is as much about me as it is Van, because I just don’t know how else to say any of this without making it personal.

That is to say (to stick an Ottoism in a Van piece), for as talented and amazing Van was as a personality— he was was never satisfied until he squeezed out every last bit of himself for every single person who watched and listened during his five decades in broadcasting.

I was 16 or so when I was working at WBEN and Van Miller became my friend. Really. My pal. I was working on the Bills broadcasts on the radio for a while before I became “The Game Day Producer” of the radio play-by-play. Van liked people who liked him, and I sure did like him.

steve cichon_van_miller
Van and Steve, Channel 4 sports office, 1998

He’d come down from the TV end of 2077 Elmwood Avenue and hang out with some mix of Chris Parker, Randy Bushover, Howard Simon, Rick Maloney and me in the WBEN Radio sports office, and those few minutes were always the highlight of each of our days.

Van knew that, and he liked it. Lived off it, I think. He knew the power he had in “just being himself” among people, and smiling and having a good time. And telling mildly off color jokes. And whispering swear words.

One of my occasional jobs back in those days was recording the religious and public affairs shows that would playback at 5 or 6am on Sunday mornings.

One day, with me at the controls and several Protestant ministers on the other side of the glass, Van came in, holding a pen and a reporters’ notebook, looking very serious. He importantly scrawled something on a sheet, ripped it off with a flourish, folded it and left it just out of my reach as he walked away quickly.

I rolled the chair back, opened the note and read:

Stevie, Those Protestants don’t know shit about bingo. -Van

He didn’t didn’t harbor any ill-will towards those men of God, he just wanted to make me laugh. At any cost. And I did. I’m also pretty sure that he was hoping that one of them would ask afterwards, “Ooh! What did Van Miller want! It looked very important!”

This was the highlight of my career up until that point, and still remains in the top 5. If my career ended that day, I’d have the story of the great Van Miller giving me a note mentioning shit and bingo. I loved it. And he knew it.

Van wasn’t just like this with me, he was like this with literally everyone he encountered. He loved that people loved him, and he loved them right back. He loved making tiny bits of trouble that he could always smooth out if it came to it, and he loved making personal connections with people. All kinds of people.

Every person.

My grandpa was a ticket taker at The Aud, and Van used to come through his door. He always said Van was the nicest VIP who’d walk through in his fur coat. He was generally beloved by all the technicians at Channel 4– no small feat for a one of “the big stars.” He treated the floor guys in the studio the same way he treated all the hundreds of athletes he’d dealt with over 50 years– with a friendly smile and with respect.

When I was working with Van at Channel 4, there was a severely handicapped guy named Stewart who used to call the sports office everyday with the same question… “What’s in sports today?”

I tried to be nice, but sometimes in the throes of deadlines and scripts to write and packages to edit and highlights to cut, it was easy for any of us to be short with Stewart– especially since no matter what we said, he’d mutter, “ok” and hang up the phone.

When Van picked up the phone, he did a fully embellished sportscast for good ol’Stewart.

“Well let me tell you,” he’d shout, in more of his Bills gameday voice than his Channel 4 voice, “The boys were practicing down at Sabreland today, and Wow! Did Pat LaFontaine’s knee look great— I think he’s getting ready to come back by the time the team skates in Hartford on Saturday. The Bills brought in three free agent linebackers today– trying to put the squeeze on negoatiations with Cornelius Bennett today… and a pair of hoemruns for Donnie Baseball today— Don Mattingly 3 for 3 as the Yankees destroyed the Red Sox 7 to 3. Rain stopped play at the Mercedes open… Michael Chang and Stefan Edberg will pick up their tied match right there tomorrow.”

He’d usually end the call with some silly rhyme or play on words or pun– something so bad he wouldn’t use it on the air.

“But I tell you what— the thunder clang won’t stop Chang… he looked like dynamite today— I’m predicting he wins the tournament handily.”

This was really almost daily. We’d all be laughing, Van smiling, and Stewart getting a daily dose of sports news. I don’t think anyone missed Van when he retired from TV more than Stewart.

Van loved being Van, and loved that other people loved him being Van. I learned that from him. Have fun being who you are– and enjoy other people enjoying it.

I owe a lot to Van Miller. I owe those memories, I owe much of my early career. I would have never been plugged in as the Bills Football producer on WBEN or hired as a producer at Channel 4 at the age of 19 without the backing of my Uncle Van.

And needless to say, Van Miller saying my name 427 or so times every week during Bills games in the ’90s made me a rock star at in high school. It made me a rock star in my family. No one was really clear on what I did at the radio station, but it sounded like Van Miller personally appreciated it– so it must be great!

I was special to Van– because everyone was special to Van. It’s a great gift Uncle Van gave to thousands of “nieces” and “nephews” through the years…

I think all of our lives have lost something with him gone. Despite the fact that I spend a lot of time celebrating institutions and people of the past– I am very rarely personally stirred by nostalgia. I find the past and how it relates to the present and future infinitely interesting, and even when I miss something, I rarely yearn for it.

But with that said, from inside my bones, I yearn for Van at one o’clock on crisp fall Sundays. I really love Murph– but the fact that it’s not Van has made it pretty easy to fall a bit away from Bills fandom as the team has declined. So much of what I loved about the Bills and football was the intangible greatness that Van brought to the play-by-play.

Tears are welling in my eyes thinking this could be the team… this could be the year.

Because I’m a Bills fan, I have no idea how great a Superbowl win feels. I do know, however, that it will never feel quite as good as it would with Van’s voice box popping out of his throat telling us the long wait is over.



After a decade, we want dangerous Parkside Avenue fixed NOW


After a decade and a half of band-aid fixes and half-met promises to correct serious structural and design flaws on Parkside Avenue near Florence, another promised completion date will come and go.

Residents are hopeful– but not entirely confident– that a soon-to-be unveiled plan will address concerns that neighbors have been advocating to see fixed for almost 40 years.


Promised work was slated to be ending now, but residents are only seeing preliminary plans for the first time this week.

It means another year where the safety of motorists, pedestrians, and residents is left in question by a slow moving bureaucracy which apparently needs reminders like this to act before tragedy strikes again.

This video, written and narrated by Parkside resident Steve Cichon, shows 40 of IMG_5107the hundreds of auto accident photos he’s taken within a block of his home near the corner of Parkside and Florence. The images come from 12 of many dozen different incidents over the last 15 years.

“I’ve pulled people out of smoking cars, I’ve played firefighter trying to stop flames from a car on my lawn from hitting my house,” Cichon says.

Kids on Bikes June 2015“My biggest fear, though, is that after being stunned into action by the horrific sound of an accident– that I might run outside to find someone who is beyond my help,” says Cichon. “People thought I was being melodramatic until the tragedy just up from Parkside on Ring Road. We all want this fixed before this, too, becomes a sorrowful ‘I told you so.'”

While Steve is lives at the center of the problem, he’s not alone in wanting it fixed. He’s also not alone in being ready to maintain awareness to make sure that happens.

Video text:
You might hear me joke around saying “stay off my lawn,” but too often there’s nothing funny about it.
The City of Buffalo has a responsibility to make sure that the problems which have led to the torrent of cars, into the dozens, driving across my lawn comes to an end.
The city’s own studies and own engineers have found Parkside Avenue as it approaches Florence– with its extreme undulations, extreme banking, and extreme curve– to be dangerous and unsafe. All this, while the city continues to sit on the federal monies awarded to fix the problem.
For the 15 years my wife and I have lived at Parkside and Florence, we have been chronicling the problems and watching them get worse as we advocate for a solution. As much as the accidents and traffic give me a headache, my concern is for the families trying to traverse danger to enjoy the park, and even for for the bad drivers I’ve seen hauled off in ambulances close to death on too many occasions.
Yes, the bad drivers who’ve totaled two of my cars (parked “safely” in my driveway) have been varying degrees of young and stupid, drunk and high, and just plain distracted.
But those same sorts of drivers sloppily plow down your street everyday. When is the last time a car burst into flames on your lawn?
car on fire on the lawn Aug 2014
These bad drivers are made exceedingly dangerous by a road that the city admits really isn’t too safe. They have received a federal grant to fix it. What the hell are they waiting for?
Buffalo News, June 14, 2013: Seeking to slow down Parkside speeders
Buffalo News, Nov. 2, 2011:   Living on a curve fraught with danger
Buffalo News, Nov. 4, 2011:   Residents have a right to a solution
Buffalo News, Dec. 31, 2005:  Parkside Intersection a hazard
Buffalo News, June 9, 2005:   Residents say Parkside is a speed zone
2005 article from the Buffalo Rocket
1976 Buffalo News article:
Parkside and florence protest
Contact: Steve Cichon 716-479-3173

Summer camp early morning swimming lessons felt like death

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Something about the damp crispness of this morning made me think of summer camp as a 3rd and 4th grader– and the year when we had swimming lessons in the lake first thing in the morning. The memory comes with a smile, but can’t shake the chill.

It was under the direction of the day camp’s fine 15- 17 year old counselors that I really learned how to swear. My language and discourse became so vile and curse laden there at the age of 8 or 9 that there was no turning back. My pal Jarin and I also became best friends as we skipped tennis lessons to sit in the woods and read aloud from The Truly Tasteless Joke book; memorizing and laughing at jokes we surely didn’t understand— but we knew sounded really adult and dirty.

Had it not been for summer camp, I might have stayed on the straight and narrow and become something important or won a Nobel Prize.  Instead, I can use the eff-word as at least nine different parts of speech and can tell you a litany of ethnic jokes so politically incorrect that I’m surprised I’m not being arrested for even thinking them.

And while I’m comfortable in the water and can move around OK, I still, after three summers, can’t really swim.

The 1930s South Buffalo vehicular tragedies in my family tree

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

I don’t think we always realize how much better we live these days.

Both Grandpa and Grandma Cichon had little siblings killed when they were hit by cars on the streets of South Buffalo.

The Buffalo Evening News’ morbid coverage of Grandma Cichon’s little sister’s death is incredible. Mary Lou Scurr was about a year-and-a-half old when she was run over while playing in a toy car in the street.


marylou2This photo was on the front page, above the fold, May, 1935. Grandma’s little brother Gordon—who was only hours before a witness to the accident which caused the death of his little sister– posed next to the wreckage of the accident. Judging by the description of the scene, it’s fair to assume this mangled car had blood and possibly other remains of his baby sister in it.

Sadly, Gordon Scurr’s next appearance in the news was 11 years later, while in high school, he died of a rare glandular disorder.


Two years later, Grandpa Cichon’s little brother was killed in a similar fashion.

Roman (also called roman3Raymond) Cichon was five years old and fascinated with trucks. He liked to go to the junk yard at the corner of Fulton and Smith Streets in The Valley to see the trucks in action.

His big brother, my grandfather, used to take him there. The way he told it, while Gramps was stealing an apple off a neighbor’s tree, Raymond was “mangled” by a truck. That word “mangled” was one Gramps often used with us in the hundreds of times we crossed Seneca Street to go from his house to Cazenovia Park.

In his 88 year life, the death of Raymond may have been what caused him the most sadness; even worse in some ways than the unbearable loss of 4 of his own children. As he talked about it, I could feel his guilt in not being right there to save his little brother. His use of the word mangle is the only hint of what the scene looked like—but frankly it’s enough.

roman1 roman2


In the end, it certainly wasn’t Gramps’ fault– and the truck driver lost his license. Raymond was killed when that truck bolted onto the sidewalk ran him over.

He was buried at St. Stanislaus cemetery near where another baby Cichon, Czeslaw (aka Chester ) was buried after he died from cancer as a baby.

Great moments of childhood, now tinged with hate

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

The item that was “The Red Ryder b-b gun” of my youth has now been branded as hateful. When I rode my “Dukes of Hazzard” big wheel around the streets of South Buffalo as a 6 and 7 year old, the Dukes stood for what is right and wonderful in this world.

That's me (left) with my Dukes of Hazzard big wheel, c.1982
That’s me (left) with my Dukes of Hazzard big wheel, c.1982. Note the rebel flag sticker just above the shaking hands.

The Dukes always did the right things, for the right reasons, the right way. (Except maybe climbing into their car through the window without opening the door– Copying that move in our old AMC Spirit got me in trouble a few times.)

I don’t think I gave much thought to the “rebel flag” that was clearly a featured emblem on their car “The General Lee,” and also, as seen in this photo, clearly a part of my big wheel. I really hope you don’t find it racist that I still harbor warm feelings for my big wheel and my one-time favorite TV show (even though you couldn’t pay me to watch more than five minutes of it now– not because it’s racist, but because it’s dumb.)

Of course, in the years since cruising down Allegany Street in the saddle of my orange plastic pride and joy, I’ve given plenty of thought to the meaning of that flag.

First I’ll say seeing it fly makes me uncomfortable. But I’ll also say, I’m certain there are many who have displayed that flag who are not racist. I’m also certain that not everyone who has displayed the flag has done so with the thought of doing so as emblematic of racism or a racist culture.

I honestly and earnestly believe that the familiar rebel flag offers many folks a feeling of connection to ancestors and a sense of pride in history. But when you fly a flag… or put a bumper sticker on your car… you are allowing a symbol to represent you, and symbols always have nuanced meaning for every individual under the sun.

Many of us all have a visceral reaction and likely pass immediate judgement about people who put those place oval stickers on their cars. What might be true of someone who likes Key West? The Outer Banks? Ellicottville? How about a Yankees bumper sticker? Or a Vote Bush sticker? Or a Vote Obama sticker? How about MD physician plates on a Honda Civic? MD plates on a BMW SUV? A rubber scrotum hanging from the tow hitch?

It’s fair to say that each of these different instances will cause different reactions in each one of us. It’s also fair to say that each of these reactions were created by someone making a choice on how to present themselves in public.

Generally, I know my reaction to someone flaunting the rebel flag is a negative one. Regardless of what the symbol means to that person inside, I wonder how they can offer that symbol up as representative of who they are– when we all know for so many people it means little other than backwards racism.

But here again, I understand the dichotomy, as I warmly remember the care-free summers I spent cruising around my neighborhood, my ride emblazoned with what is now an official symbol of hate.

WBEN’s calm, steady voice of intelligence and reason: Lou Douglas 1930-2015

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Pioneer announcer and journalist Lou Douglas has died. He was 85.

loudouglasheadshotThe Korean War vet came to WBEN-AM/FM/TV in 1957 and his unflappable, smart, level-headed approach to news anchoring and interviewing was part of the fabric of  the station for 30 years. Douglas was considered by most as the dean of broadcast journalists.

In his early years as a junior announcer at The Buffalo Evening News stations, television still played second fiddle to AM radio. Many of his early assignments were on Channel 4, including regular 6pm walks from WBEN’s Statler studios to The Buffalo Evening News’ building near the foot of Main Street. There, he’d read the 6 o’clock news as prepared by The News’ staff,  broadcast–as was announced at the beginning of each newscast– “From the Editorial Floor of the Buffalo Evening News.”


Douglas would continue to appear as a reporter, host, and announcer on TV through the 1970s, but he is best remembered for his work at WBEN Radio.

It was his voice that anchored coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Buffalo in 1962. He broadcast from inside the prison complex during the Attica uprising. Living in Kenmore, his home was closest to the WBEN’s Elmwood Avenue studios– which meant extended duty for Lou during the Blizzard of 1977.


He always sounded even-keeled on the air, and was the same way in the newsroom, where he was remembered for reading the Wall Street Journal and never being afraid to pick up the phone to calmly make the most outlandish and seemingly impossible interview requests for his afternoon and evening interview spots.

In spanning three decades, Douglas really had two separate careers; one as a staff announcer, and one as a journalist. Through the 1950s and 1960s, the people you saw on Channel 4 and heard on WBEN were announcers– and only announcers. Union rules dictated that they could not and would not write their own news scripts or conduct news interviews or gather information.

WBEN's staff announcers of the late 1950s. Douglas is second from the left, standing between Jack Ogilvie and Van Miller.
WBEN’s staff announcers of the late 1950s. Douglas is second from the left, standing between Jack Ogilvie and Van Miller.

By the mid-1970s, those rules had changed, and most of the “announcers” who had been bringing Buffalo news and weather since the ’40s and ’50s were gone. Not Douglas, though– his abilities as a staff announcer complimented his ability to gather the news, interview the newsmakers, and write his own newscasts.

Lou with the WBEN newsteam of the mid 1980s.
Lou with the WBEN newsteam of the mid 1980s.

He retired from WBEN in 1987, and spent a brief period at WWKB Radio a few years later before retiring for good.

The Courier-Express welcomes Lou in 1957.

In 2010, I spoke to Lou about his days in radio, and the possibility of the Statler building facing the wrecking ball. This interview wasn’t meant for broadcast, but is wonderful none the less. That interview, along with some career highlights, are listed for playback below. Please feel free to use any of the audio or photos in the celebration of Lou’s life in any media.

Steve with Lou Douglas, 2010:

in the WBEN newsroom, 1986

WBEN’s Election 85 coverage: Kevin Keenan, Lou Douglas, Brian Meyer, Mark Hamrick, and John Murphy

Election coverage, mid 1970s with Kevin Gordon
Election coverage, mid 1970s with Kevin Gordon

WBEN News with Lou Douglas, 1973. Attica uprising, will Mayor Sedita resign?

Lou Douglas (back) and Jim McLaughlin (through the window) hosting WBEN’s Newsday. Both covered the Attica uprising as radio reporters, Lou for WBEN and Jim for WKBW before coming to WBEN in the late 70s.

WBEN News with Lou Douglas, January 1977. The Blizzard of ’77.

Hosting on Channel 4

WBEN’s Coverage of JFK’s Visit to Buffalo, 1962. Lou Douglas live from Niagara Square.


For immediate release


Rum returns to the Historic Pan Am District

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Rum making Pan Am medal winners, as printed in The Buffalo Courier.

In 1901, there were few things more important to the economies and livelihoods of the Caribbean and parts of Central America than the export of rum. It would stand to reason, then, that when all of the Western Hemisphere’s countries got together in Buffalo for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, that rum would be a showcased product… and it was.

Exhibitors from Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Honduras all won medals for rum.

Cuba had as many as 13 different rum (ron, in Spanish) exhibitors, including one still famous gold medal winner– Bacardi & Sons of Santiago. The gold medal showing in Buffalo was one of the primary forces in launching Bacardi to international renoun.


Both Mexico and Cuba had their own large buildings at the Pan Am, and both had large displays for liquors and rums.

cuban rum display
One of Cuba’s rum displays at the 1901 Pan American Exposition
cuban building
The Cuban Building, 1901 Pan American Exposition, Buffalo, NY
American printer and lithographer
Pan Am Map, Buffalo 1901. “M” marks Mexico, “C” marks Cuba, “Squirrel” marks squirrel. Click to enlarge.

This map shows the Pan Am grounds between Elmwood and Delaware as they looked in 1901. If you were to try to find the site of the Mexican building today (marked M on the map), you’d look near Great Arrow Street towards the back of the old Pierce-Arrow complex. The Cuban building (marked C) was probably in the vicinity of where the Statue of David now stands near the Scajaquada Expressway.

Today, The Black Squirrel Distillery stands near the West Amherst gate on the old 1901 map, about where the hospital was during the Expo, right between Mexico and Cuba.

For more than half a century, the address was a drive-in restaurant and sandwich shop known by names like “Daddy Don’s Drive-In” and “Karen’s Restaurant.” Today, 1595 Elmwood Avenue is home to the copper still where Black Squirrel craft rum begins it’s life in small batches, bringing a bit of the Pan-Am back as the City of Light seems to be finding new light in new places these days.

And while most of Buffalo seems happy with having Black Squirrel in the neighborhood, it might not have been the case for the rum makers here in 1901… especially when the infamous Carrie Nation was in town.

carrie nation


“The Hatchetwoman from Kansas,” best remembered as the temperance champion who was arrested several times for smashing apart liquor bottles– and entire saloons– with her hatchet, told Buffalo reporters on one of her two trips to the Expo that “all rum sellers should be electrocuted and their shops destroyed.”

The best part is, she likely said those words as she boarded a streetcar downtown  to catch her train out of Buffalo… on the tracks directly across Elmwood Avenue from what is now Black Squirrel Distillery.

A big hunk of baloney

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

My dad was a great storyteller, and most of the stories revolved around some kind of villain cramping his style.

They were fun, but you could see that 30 or 40 or 50 years later, he was still POed at Hawkeye Hayden.

But the best, warmest, aggression-free memories for the ol’man usually revolved around food– especially free food.

His Grandma Scurr would give him a quarter for the show and he’d be able to get 5 or 6 candy bars and watch cartoons all day at the Shea’s Seneca.

The meat packing plant near his house on Fulton Street once had a neighborhood cookout with all the hot dogs and hamburgers you could eat.

His dad was a night watchman at Paul’s Pies for a while… and he would bring home enough day old pies that everyone would get full.

He was always so happy telling and remembering these vivid all-you-can-eat tales, and the stories of great face-stuffings into adulthood were always part of his repertoire as well. He wasn’t a connoisseur of good food, he was a connoisseur of food.

“Man, I love soup.” “Man, I love eggs.” “At Manny’s, they give ya a hamburger this big!” “That was a really good fish fry, REALLY good.”

Before moving to The Valley and Fulton Street near my Grandpa’s family (Down the street from the Swift Meat Plant) when he was five, the Cichons lived at 28 S. Elmwood Avenue, Apartment 3, almost directly behind City Hall.

Dad’s favorite food story from that era involved “Good ol’Joe the Butcher.” His shop was right around the corner from where dad lived, and he’d “always give ya a big hunk of baloney.” The memory would fade to black with a smile, and a final, “Yep. Good ol’Joe the Butcher.”

Joe the butcher 1957 Buffalo Stories versionJoe the Butcher was Joe Battaglia. He came to Buffalo from Italy at the age of 5 in the 1890s. He ran his shop at the corner of Elmwood and Genesee (nearest landmark now would be the post office near Channel 7) from 1901 until he died in 1957. In finally tracking down his location and name, and then this death notice, I found his only son died a few years later and had no heirs. My ol’man may have been the last living person talking about this kindhearted man.

I’m happy to have finally dug up the full story of good ol’Joe the Butcher. He reminds me that doing something as simple and almost meaningless as ripping off a hunk of baloney can brighten someone’s day and possibly even brighten the rest of a person’s life.

Here’s to good ol’Joe the Butcher and to us all finding ways to rip off hunks of baloney.

Piles of Existential Crises (or as you see it, books and junk)

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

It’s never been a conscious effort to replicate the junk piles of my ancestors, but even when I was young, I was fascinated by the grandparents who surrounded themselves with interesting stuff.

Grandpa Wargo’s house was a packed menagerie of wonderment, made even more special by the fact that everything was at least 30 years old and in like new condition. It was very neatly kept, but there was a lot of it, and much of it very exotic to my eyes. It was also the smell, which was something akin to, but not quite, anise-like. When we’d visit, he’d make me sit on the newspapers that he would pile up on the springy couch so that I could “flatten them out.” My dad and I painted his front railing once, and the can of black paint he procured from the basement looked like something he smuggled out of his job at Pratt & Letchworth in the 1930s.

For as tidy, new, and organized as Grandpa Wargo’s stuff felt, Grandpa Coyle’s was just as messy, piled, and chaotic. The 1880’s basement on Hayden Street was filled with old dishwashers, a ringer wash machine, my uncles’ old sporting equipment, and hundreds of scraps of wood, door knobs, bits of glass plate, and rusty tools. It really would have been a childhood paradise were it not for the healthy dose of fear created by the medieval looking rat traps hiding around most corners.

The moment you walked into Grandma Cichon’s front door, there was an overloaded, wall-to-ceiling bookshelf. It was in the little foyer between the screen door and the heavy door in the Seneca Street Victorian– in the place where most people might put coat hooks. It was an eclectic haphazard collection– one of many eclectic haphazard collections spewn throughout the old South Buffalo house. Our coats would go on the carved oak newel post.

Even though I admired the gargantuan clutter clatches of my grandparents, I fostered no plan to replicate them. Yet here I am.

Having lived in our own big old house for 15 years, I’ve collected enough rubble and detritus to make the junk-accumulating pioneers in my life proud. I don’t think the pride would come from the stuff, though– it’s the type of thinking the stuff represents.

How am I supposed to fix something when it breaks, if I don’t have a basement crushed to the gills with useless bric-a-brac which could one day be the missing piece in making sure the door knob stops falling off the front door? I’m sure people do it– fix without junk– but I learned how to fix stuff by watching Grandpa Wargo and Grandpa Coyle. Step one was always go stare at your junk for a while, and hope a solution jumps out at you.

A small portion of my basement work bench.

I would love a clean, sanitized basement without frankly embarrassing piles of mad-scientist/Rube-Goldberg-looking junk everywhere… But I’m afraid– and it’s a real fear– that I’ll lose some part of who I am without the stuff. How do I move onto step two in the repair process without step one?


I’ve been thinking about how to fix the door knob for weeks, and the answer is not in the basement junk. Both grandpas would be happy with my solution, I think… It’s going to start with the same long stare– not in the cellar, but on the “nut and bolt” aisle at Home Depot.

It seems to work more and more like that these days, with my rusty old stuff in the basement acting as more of a security blanket than as useful things. If I can continue to think this way, the upcoming basement clean out should be easier. (LOL.)

What started me writing today, though, is my books. I’ve always had books and always had a bookshelf. For as long as I can remember. When we bought our house, I built and stained immense wooden bookshelves on both sides of the exposed brick of the chimney in our office. I loved idea of being surrounded by books, and that one day I’d have those shelves filled.

Of course, now it looks like a ladies guild buck-a-bag sale in there. Books are piled on the floor and on the desk and, in a trick I learned in Grandma Cichon’s front hall, sideways on top of books properly upright on the shelves.

Most of the books I buy these days are Buffalo and Western New York histories and reference volumes. These are all keepers– Both old and new– all filled with information you can’t find online. Online. There’s the rub.

The first quarter-century of my book collecting came before the Internet and the e-Book. I have half a shelf of really great dictionaries, thesauruses (thesauri?), and wonderful language resource and reference books which have gone untouched for at least a decade. Wonderful history texts, too. Spine literally not exercised in ten years.

There are also the paperbacks which for decades I so vigorously foraged. Classics, interesting old biographies, best sellers of decades’ past– anything that might make for a good vacation or rainy weekend read down the line. Most are now dust-covered and more forlorn-looking than when I plucked them from a yard sale or library fundraising pile.

A gift from Grandma to Dad… the inside cover of a hardcover bound collection of Superman comic books.

The most complicated group of books are the ones that mean something to me. Not the stories; the actual books. Some are transplanted from that mythical shelf at Grandma’s… Some even have her writing in them. Plenty were Dad’s, annotated in his very heavy handed, unintelligible scrawl. With still others, holding the book takes me to the place where I read it. Physically, mentally, emotionally.

The problem with all these books are they are as much bricks as books. They are of little tangible use to me, and they actually take space away from my Buffalo book collection which I use quite vigorously and enthusiastically.

I know I won’t be using them as books– well, only insofar as anyone uses books as window dressing to look learned when their bookshelves are examined.

I’m not exactly happy with myself over this, but I’ve completely forsaken the smelly paperbacks with degrading paper for the tablet. A piece of me has died just writing that sentence, but it’s true. And there isn’t likely any going back.

And while I have warm memories of dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri?) in every room of my house, for better or worse, the World Wide Web is really a remarkable resource in these areas. I’m not sure what Grandma Cichon would have thought of this, but it’s the cold truth.

I sat down to write this tonight as I was having an existential crisis while trying to cull out the jetsam and flotsam of book collection. I don’t want to be someone without great books, but I don’t want to be a phony, either.

There will certainly be room for the Buffalo books and most of the meaningful ones, too– although I may have to find a less reflective day to decide where that meaningful line is drawn.

Each of these silly paperbacks are a tangible reminder of many things– including that I probably need some sort of therapy.

Maybe a box or two might make it to the attic for further reflection, but those smelly paperbacks (which believe me, I still love!) will likely be boxed up and shipped out for their next rescue. I’ll drop them off with the same hope that people have when they drop off dogs and cats at a shelter, but the reality will probably be the same.

I hope my paperbacks– some of which have made 4 or 5 moves with me– will find a good home on a good bookshelf somewhere. Maybe they’ll even be read on the MetroRail on the way home from work… or maybe they’ll be read as the big raindrops hit the window and the smell of percolated coffee wafts through the air inside the slightly muggy-but-now-cooling-off state park cabin.

But we know the truth. Anyone who wants to read Huckleberry Finn can either download it– or at least find a copy where the pages don’t disintegrate and break from the binding with each advance in the book.

I always loved that struggle, and felt somehow more high-brow in the low-brow of it all. Now I feel high-brow when I read great novels on my phone instead of cruising on Facebook.

It’s not better or worse. It’s the same and it’s different. It’s a soul crushing crisis.

New tours show Parkside neighborhood in different lights

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

I’m really excited to be offering the first of four new walking tours of the Parkside neighborhood this summer.  George Stock, who has been guiding neighborhood tours for over 30 years, continues with three new tours this summer as well.

Steve Cichon is the author of The Complete History of Parkside and four other books.
Steve Cichon is the author of The Complete History of Parkside and four other books.

At the start of the 20th century, Buffalo was one of America’s most exciting, fastest growing cities. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the Parkside neighborhood, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as a buffer between his Delaware Park and Main Street.

The wealth and new ideas that poured into Buffalo found a home and flourished in Parkside. The a wide sampling of the avant garde in architecture, art, and culture from Buffalo’s most exciting era remains mostly intact in what remains one of Buffalo’s finest neighborhoods.

The Parkside Community Association, in conjunction with the Martin House Restoration Corporation, have turned to historians and story tellers who live in the neighborhood to share the tale evolution from farmland to National Register of Historic Places.

The monthly tours, revamped and brand new for the summer of 2015, offer a series of unique glimpses into the elements that, more than a century later, continue to make Parkside one of Buffalo’s most sought after addresses. While each tour has a different focus, participants on any tour will get a more full understanding of Parkside and Buffalo.

June 13, 2015:    Parkside, The Park, and The Zoo | starts at 10am at Parkside & Russell outside the New Parkside Meadow Restaurant

Before there was Parkside, there was “The Park”– Frederick Law Olmsted’s original name for Delaware Park. Docent Steve Cichon offers a brief multimedia lecture before guiding a tour focused on how the park and the zoo helped shape the neighborhood while acting as the communal front lawn, as well as how both institutions were shaped by the neighborhood.

Tickets are on sale now at http://parksidebuffalo.org/walking-tours/


July 11, 2015:      FLW & Beyond: Arts & Crafts in Parkside | starts at 10am at Jewett Pkwy & Summit Ave

The aesthetic of the Arts & Crafts Movement is unmistakable, and Parkside was unmistakably one of Buffalo’s Arts & Crafts hotbeds. Docent George Stock guides a tour of architecture, architects, and art which have gained worldwide attention for Parkside, including the neighborhood’s two Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes.

Aug. 8, 2015:      The Parksiders Who Built Buffalo | starts at 10am at Jewett Pkwy & Summit Ave

As the 1800s begat the 1900s, the homes of Parkside were being built by the wealthy industrialists who were also building Buffalo. Docent George Stock introduces you to the printers, retailers, milliners, brewers, and other wealthy bon vivants who created the original sense of joie de vivre which remains part life in Parkside to this day.

Sep. 12, 2014:    Modern Conveniences: Home Life & Culture at the turn of the century | starts at  10am at Jewett Pkwy & Summit Ave

The homes of Parkside were built as oil lamps gave way to the light bulb and the horse and buggy gave way to the motor car. To this day, many Parkside homes remain a vestige of a world that had one foot in pre-industrial times and the other in the midst of the City of Light.  Docent George Stock highlights the manifestations of culture at the turn of the century in Parkside.

Each tour is approximately two hours. Admission is $20, $15 for Martin House and Parkside Community Association members. Complete ticket information at http://parksidebuffalo.org/walking-tours/ or 838-1240.

Hoping to better honor Buffalo’s Tomb of Unknown Soldiers

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

During the War of 1812, about 300-400 soldiers died on what is now the Delaware Park golf course.

an 1895 account of what happened at The Mound in the Meadow, and the scuttled plans of Elam Jewett for a memorial

There was no battle there, though the men were in Buffalo in defense of our nation’s borders. The soldiers, mostly from southern states like Maryland and Virginia, died as they wintered on the large open area that would become “the park meadow” and the golf course.

These soldiers came to Western New York to defend our nation wearing light summer uniforms and open ended tents. They took on the worst of Buffalo winter with few blankets, fewer boots, and very little food. Most of the food that did make it this far out to the American frontier was rancid.

“Camp Disease,” probably cholera or dysentery or a combination of both fueled by starvation and frost bite, killed this men in an unimaginable way.

Burial explanation, 1895

The ground was frozen, so the dead were buried in either shallow graves or simply piled in tents. When spring came, a large hole was dug… the dead buried in a mass grave.

Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknowns.

If you don’t know about this, you’re not alone. Through the years, many attempts have been made to call attention to this sacred site— the very reason for Memorial Day.

mound 1896 memory


If this were a Civil War mass grave from 50 years later, Delaware Park would be a National Park and it’s story known around the world. The War of 1812 isn’t as sexy historically speaking, so these men lie mostly forgotten.


Mound 1895 account-2A large boulder, placed in 1896, marks the spot of the grave. The fact that its in the middle of the golf course means, again, it’s forgotten.

It was hoped the monument could be dedicated on Remembrance Day in 1896, but it wasn’t ready– and was dedicated on July 4, 1896 instead.

Old Newspapers
Old Newspapers

Sadly, through the years, the site– and therefore the memory of the sacrifice it represents– has been stripped of more attention raising features.

A flagpole disappeared in the first half of the 20th century.

This 1955 article from the Courier-Express shows a pair of Civil War parrott rifles on either side of the stone marker and a historical marker pointing to the site from Ring Road. The cannon disappeared in the 80s, the marker some time before then.

More needs to be done to honor the sacrifice of these men who gave their lives and now are spending eternity in the midst of our city.

Can the historical marker be replaced? Can we as a community build awareness and try to bring more honor to this many times over forgotten sacred site?

Read more about the history of The Mound in the Meadow and our 2011 commemoration at the site: http://www.staffannouncer.com/meadow.htm

Lately not so much– but the Top Ten reasons I’ll love Dave forever….

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

My intense love affair with David Letterman started in our basement family room in front of the huge RCA console TV my dad bought at FWS in the Como Park Mall.

The volume was on the lowest possible setting with sound still coming out. This was the 80’s, and the set had fancy new stereo sound. I turned the balance to the right, and pressed my ear up to the single speaker that still had sound coming out so I could hear Letterman’s monologue and first bit before going back to bed to get up for school at 6:30.

I don’t think little 11 or 12 year old Stevie was ever caught watching Letterman at 12:45 as the rest of the house slept, but the exhilarating mix of fear and excitement are with me even now thinking about it. So that’s number ten. Dave was my rebellious stage.

I think all that points to how Dave and I might have drifted apart. In the mid-80s, he was a goofy overnight bad-boy TV host with bad hair, and I was a little kid who loved people who loved to make me laugh– but lived in fear that my mom would kill me if the sound from the TV woke her up. Also, my haircut came from Tony “The Barber” Scaccia on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.

Thirty years later, and we’ve both changed. Dave is richer than Rockefeller and late night royalty, but still with bad hair. I’m now a lumpy middle aged guy who loves people who love to make me laugh– but I live in fear that my wife will kill me if the glow of my iPhone wakes her up. Also, my haircut still comes from Tony “The Barber” Scaccia on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.

On to number nine–Grandma Cichon. It was my crazy-in-mostly-good-ways Grandma Cichon who put me onto Letterman when I was about ten years old. I think we were sleeping over at her house one night, when I first saw Johnny Carson’s monologue. It changed my life. It was like the news (which I loved and watched with my dad everyday), but it was funny. Jokes about the people in the news. Incredible.

I’d stay up (or more likely sneak up) and watch Carson whenever I could– the monologue and first bit, anyway. The only person I could to talk about the great, hilarious things I heard from Johnny was Grandma. My parents didn’t watch Carson– Dad turned off the news after the news part (he didn’t need weather and sports.) There weren’t many of my 6th grade friends watching Carson either.

So, when I’d regularly ride my bike from Orchard Park to Seneca Street in South Buffalo to visit with Grandma Cichon, Grandma Coyle, Gerry at the Paperback Trading Post, and Tony the Barber– I knew I’d be able to talk Johnny with Grandma Cichon. One day, she told me I should watch Letterman, and I was never one to disobey my grandmother. And so it began.

The number eight reason I’ll always love Letterman: I always enjoy a lovely beverage.

Number seven… for better or for worse, his TV persona has always been a reflection of who he really is. He’s an old crank now, and we see that on TV. Was Carson (who Dave is always seemingly compared to) better because he faked being a nice guy really well, and viewers might not have known that he was an abusive drunken womanizing bastard?

While I don’t really like this cranky old Dave, I think I’d like it better than having a cranky old man pretend like he was having fun running around catapulting meat products against the sides of buildings every day for a month.

The number six reason I’ll love David Letterman forever: Cigars. Big fat ones. For those who don’t remember, back in the old days, Dave used to come back from commercial breaks taking a last puff or two on a big cigar. Not so much long, but thick– a big ring gauge.

Two of the funniest people in my world were Dave and Groucho Marx, so I guess I thought smoking cigars would make me funnier. The great part is, in 1988, literally no one under the age of 80 smoked cigars. At 12 or 13 years old, I could walk into a drug store and buy cigars without a second thought– unless the thought was, “How nice that this young man is buying cigars for his Grandpa.”

The first one I smoked, I found in a drawer at Grandma Cichon’s house. The first pack I bought was at Rite Aid at the McKinley Mall (sorry Mom, I wasn’t going to a movie. I was going to the mall to smoke cigars.) I always wanted to find a fat one like the ones Dave smoked, and that took me on my bike up to Smoker’s Haven– which is still on Union Road in West Seneca. Again, as a 15 year old, I’d buy the big fat (cheap) Te-Amo cigars there without question.

I still smoke one or two cigars a year, maybe one on vacation. I was in the cigar store the other day, and still– thirty years later– found myself drawn to those fat 60-ring gauge monster stogies.

So I had Dave’s cigars as a young man, and at number five you’ll find another fashion trend I borrowed from Dave– double breasted suits. The first four suits I bought by myself were double breasted. They are still sharp, but it’s hard to look casual in a double breasted suit. And once you add a bow tie to your double breasted ensemble, it’s really hard to look avoid looking like you stepped out of 1947.

Senior photo, double breasted suit, trying to look serious.

Number four– my senior yearbook quote. Twenty years ago right now, I, along with the rest of the Orchard Park Class of 1995, was getting my senior yearbook. I think most of what goes on in high school is completely asinine, but believe it or not, that stance has softened greatly since the time I was actually in high school.

One thing I really thought was stupid was this general notion among many that “this was this best time of our lives,” and “we’ll never have more fun or be more happy,” blah, blah, blah.

Again, I have softened a bit on that through the years, but I can also say confidently that I was right: for me the best was yet to come. I still feel that way today.

Anyway, that notion of “greatest time ever” is reflected at it’s peak in senior statements/thank yous/quotes. I knew I really wouldn’t remember 5th period science or intramural basketball “4-ever,” so I decided to thank a list of funny people, politicians, news personalities, and radio stations– including of course Letterman.

I was mad that they misprinted the middle initial of NBC’s bow tie wearing newsman Irving R. Levine. I mentioned him even though he wasn’t in my senior study hall.

I acknowledge that my list is just as stupid as any other of the few hundred in that yearbook, but it was resoundingly substantive for me then, and it was also something different.

And the intention was to make you smile, if not at the joke, than the stupidity of it. That’s a Letterman trademark, and leads into the next on the Top Ten Reasons I’ll Always Love Dave…

Number three: he showed me the path to a great mix of intelligence and stupidity. I try to be really good at both of those things. I may have figured it out on my own, but having a little help at 12:35 every night didn’t hurt.

Number two is more of a technical appreciation that I’ve come to as a long time journalist and broadcaster. Being a good interviewer isn’t easy, but Dave generally makes it look so because he adapts in many, tiny nuanced ways to put his guests in the best light possible. Sometimes this means taking charge, sometimes taking a backseat.

Especially with the greats, Dave not only played his role, but relished it. No one can keep up with Don Rickles. Too many try. Many others laugh, which doesn’t really help Rickles. Dave knows how to let Rickles be the best Rickles.

Even now, while he might seem like grandpa interviewing some flavor of the week starlet, I think he does the best, most prohibitive-while-still-friendly interviews around.

And the number one reason I’ll love David Letterman forever… Three words: Larry Bud Melman.

Great Grandma Wargo: South Buffalo’s hard working washer woman

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Grandma Coyle and her grandma
The caption was written by Grandma Coyle’s father… my Great-Grandpa Steve Wargo.

My great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Wargo, holds my grandmother, June Coyle. Lizzie came to America from Hungary in 1906… 10 years and six kids later, she was widowed in a foreign land. Working as a wash woman, she earned enough money to feed her kids and buy the home she’s standing in front of– 527 Hopkins Street in South Buffalo.

I’ve been looking at this photo pretty much my entire life. It was in the big blue photo album that grandma had in her sewing room.

I remember the awe I felt when grandma said something along the lines of “that’s me with my grandma.”

For all the time I spent studying this photo and a few others which were probably taken the same day almost 85 years ago, I never once noticed the outfit– the uniform– my great-great grandmother is wearing.

Wargo Elizabeth 1930 census

She was a domestic servant. The 1930 census says she was a “laundress” with a “private family.”

daisy downtonIn essence, she was one of the downstairs people on Downton Abbey. Right down to the shoes, her dress looks like something you might see Daisy wear on Downton.

Looking at this photo of my grandmother and her grandmother, and thinking about her hard work and sacrifice swells me with thanks.

All that is beautiful in our lives is the result of so much sacrifice by generations of people who couldn’t even imagine us… It’s really humbling. This tough little immigrant woman fought through life for me.

When you get to know your ancestors, it’s hard to take credit for anything. Realizing the generations of sacrifice offered so that I had the opportunity to live the life I do is the ultimate exercise in modesty.

Where did the wonderful 33 daffodils come from?

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Daffodils along the Kensington Expressway and Youngmann Highway are one of those things that make our City of Buffalo great.

I scared my wife pulling over abruptly on the 33 to get these photos on a beautiful spring day. April 18, 2015.

Of course, as Buffalonians, our usually dark and cold winters trigger a primal yearning and desire for warmth and springtime. Winter can leave our souls and psyches wounded to the point where we really aren’t even able to fully grasp what May will do to our dulled senses.

The drawn-out beginning of spring helps us slowly power up our appreciation for things outside the man-made walls of home, work, and car.

No matter how many times we’ve experienced Buffalo springs after Buffalo winters, we still count dozens of childlike moments– overcome with sudden joy– when, seemingly out of no where, the glow of the sun warms our face or the smell of a spring rain fills our nostrils.

Where there were just black and gray piles of salt-caked snow and ice– suddenly dots of yellow first appear along the 33 and 290, first few and far between.

Within a week, we’re again overcome by the vibrant and varied yellows of the flower that’s even more special to me as it was my Grandma Coyle’s favorite.

The beautiful, fleeting, first sign of spring brings smiles to hundreds of thousands of motorists every year, but where did they come from? Didn’t they just seem to appear and spread over the last decade or so?

Well, yes. In 1999, Erie County Legislator Judy Fisher gave money to The Green Fund,  through which City Director of Support Services Jim Pavel bought 50,000 bulbs and organized a mass planting by volunteers young and old. The number of bulbs bought and planted doubled the next year, and had totaled 1 million by 2004.

From 2000 to 2004, Lamar Advertising was also in the bulb-planting game. The folks who own many of Buffalo’s billboards and most of the billboards along the Kensington– spent $600,000 planting 2.7 million daffodil bulbs.

Sixteen years later, those roughly 4 million bulbs have split and spread. Now countless millions of yellow blooms remind us, as we drudge along the expressway, that spring is here– and that maybe it’s a good time to roll down the window and enjoy the fresh air.

If the wind is blowing just right as you cruise along the 33 close to downtown, maybe you’ll catch a whiff of Cheerios as you enjoy the sun-kissed daffodils. Welcome to Buffalo.


Buffalo’s Medical Campus, The Iroquois Brewery, and a branch of my family tree

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Most of us who were born and raised in Buffalo feel strong ties to this place, and a feel a terrific bond whether we live here or not— and whether we particularly like it or not.

In most cases, it’s a generational thing, too. If we think at all about our roots, we think about our fathers and grandfathers who worked in dangerous plants to provide better lives for us. We think about the loving homes and families managed by our mothers and grandmothers. We think about how of all the places in the world our ancestors could have come after long voyages over the sea, they chose here.

All four of my grandparents were born and raised in Buffalo. All eight of my great-grandparents lived in Buffalo. Some were born here, some traveled from Pennsylvania, some from Scotland and England, some from Poland. In all, dating back to the 1820s, I have 37 grandparents who have called Buffalo home.

Knowing my family’s history, and seeing it in virtually every Buffalo neighborhood, only underscores my love and appreciation of our great city, the way it was, and the exciting imaginings of what is to come.

I enjoy seeing my family tree reflected in the great new things happening here, and it’s fun to trace. One adventure started in the 1906 Buffalo City Directory.

from the 1906 Buffalo City Directory

My mother’s mother’s mother was Jeannette Greiner-Wargo. Her great-great grandparents (and one third-great grandfather) came to Buffalo from the tumultuous Bas-Rhin area along the French-German border in 1827 and 1830.

Catherine Greiner, my fifth-great aunt, was among the first babies baptized at the newly-built log-hewn St. Louis Church in Downtown Buffalo in 1832.

Anyway, I know I am related to a handful of the folks listed on this city directory page, but Joseph P. Greiner is my third-great grandfather, and his son, Fred W. Greiner, is my second-great grandfather.

I had never heard of the streets on which they lived, so I started in on some research– which took me to Buffalo’s promising new home of medical research.

Burton Street once continued through the area now occupied by Trico Plant #1, the Trico parking lot, and government housing between the plant and Michigan Avenue.


09 sep 1928 CE Trico expands Burton Alley
Buffalo Courier-EXPRESS, 1928.

Joseph and Mary Greiner lived on Burton Street, which in 1906, ran from Main Street to Michigan Avenue, one block north of Goodell.

A portion of Burton Street was deeded to Trico to expand its now historic Plant #1 in 1928.

Later, urban renewal ate up the rest of the ramshackle housing along Burton Street to create government-subsidized housing on a new streetscape.

Today, Burton Street exists only as an utterly useless single block with no front-facing buildings from Main to Washington.

Jospeph Prentis Greiner and his wife Mary Atkinson
Joseph P. and Mary Greiner


neptune alley
Buffalo C-E, 1955. Neptune Alley was called Ketchum Alley until 1893.

In 1905 or 1906, Frederick W. Greiner married Jeanette Loewer and moved a few blocks north of his parents to Neptune Alley. What a great street name!

Neptune Alley ran north/south between Carlton and High Streets, and was deeded to Roswell Park Memorial Institute to make way for a parking lot in 1955.

The Greiner family only lived on Neptune Alley for a very short time. They soon moved a few blocks away to 67 Maple Street, which stood on a block which is now a parking lot for St. John Baptist Church.

Frederick William Greiner
Frederick William Greiner lived on Neptune Alley– now the site of Roswell Park Cancer Institute– before moving to the East Side to be closer to his work as a bottler at the Iroquois Brewery. He died in 1949.

To be closer to Fred’s job as a bottler at the Iroquois Brewery, they then moved to 67 Adams Street between Peckham and William. This neighborhood still stands, but the house is gone.

In 1940, they lived at 414 Madison Street between Jefferson and Sycamore, and a few years later, 481 Hickory near Sycamore.  They moved around quite a bit.

My grandmother remembered her grandmother as living in a house with a wrap-around porch on a corner near Sycamore and Jefferson Streets.

Grandma Coyle’s grandma was 4-feet, 11 inches tall and she used to chase the neighborhood kids off that corner porch with a broom.

At 5-foot-2, Grandma Coyle would mention her grandma’s height every time we would make fun of how short she was.

grandma coyle and her grandma greiner 1944
Thirteen year old Grandma Coyle and her Grandma Greiner, 1944. In the backyard of Grandma Coyle’s childhood home on Tifft Street.

I love family history and I love Buffalo’s history. It’s really exciting for me that they are one in the same.

Five years later, I miss my Ol’Man to the moon and back

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Intellectually, I know there is no time or space in heaven, so today is just a glorious, random day in an eternity of glorious random days.

I further know in heaven, we have no need for our earthly contrivances, because in spirit we are perfection.

Intellectually, I know these things. It doesn’t mean I can truly comprehend what they really mean.

My dad went to his eternal reward five years ago today. It’s a wonderful blessing to firmly believe that our loved ones die from this life into a more beautiful forever.

In our perfectly human struggle to understand and explore what we can’t grasp, we often try to define the undefinable with comparisons to other undefinable things we’ve thought about a little bit more.

In 2006, Americans sent nearly 38 billion plastic water bottles to landfills. If laid end to end, that’s enough bottles to travel from the Earth to the Moon and back 10 times.

For some reason, an inconceivable number like 38 billion is easier to comprehend when we say it could make 10 round trips to the moon. This is silly, since most of us don’t really have a firm concept of how far away the moon is, besides really, really far away (which is where I would imagine 38,000,000,000 stacked water bottles would take me anyway.)

Sometimes it’s helpful for me– and any of us, I imagine– to picture our loved ones in perfection in heaven. Since we can’t understand perfection, we put it in earthly terms that we know aren’t even close to how things really are up there.

So my ol’man is in heaven. Five years today. He was recently joined by my mom-in-law there.  I smile that they are there, and that they are there together.

These two were a lot alike in their earthly lives, but one way sort of flashed at me this morning. They both loved cigarettes. In fact, they both smoked Parliament, until after years of being badgered by medical professionals and family, they both gave up the habit. But neither ever stopped thinking about– or talking about– smoking and the pleasure it brought them. It’s an eerily similar story for both.

I know if either one had been able to create their own version of heaven, it would have included a cigarette vending machine in the corner and an endless supply of quarters.  It also would have a kitchen table with ashtrays, mugs of coffee, and swirling smoke.

dad and pam smoke
The whole notion of these two smoking in heaven is ridiculous, and might even make someone mad. But it’s what flashed in my head this morning, and it fits. I love and miss them both.

I know heaven brings them the joy of smoking without even thinking of a puff, but some how for me, picturing them happy is easier with a butt in hand– like stacking bottles to the moon.

So today, I imagine Dad and Mom-in-law sitting at that heavenly kitchen table. They are talking and smiling, sharing a pack of Parliaments, and enjoying their heavenly life to the fullest, looking down upon all of us who love and miss them, their hearts full with the knowledge that we will all be together someday.

For us here, talking about how much you miss someone who is a piece of you is trying to put into words the indefinable. Dad’s been gone for five years, Pam for 16 days.

The yearning and sadness feels like the like the moon and back in both cases, but at the same time, the everlasting love from each is always as close as my heart.

Previous writings about My Ol’Man:

  • My Ol’man and Me: My dad died at age 58. I’ve really become accustomed to dealing with grief by writing about the people and things I love, and what it is and why it is that I love them. Written in the weeks following my dad’s death on Palm Sunday, 2010. The story of his last week alive, and a reflection of our relationship and time together. Read it here, and download it as a free e-book.

Remembering wonderful Depew weirdness: Mannequins

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

For as long as I can remember, the front window of the old red house at the four-way stop on the corner of French and Cornell in Depew always had an epic display in the front window.

You can make out the outlines of the mannequins in the full-length windows in this Google Street View image from 2011.


Mannequins. 1960s or 70s looking mannequins. Right in the front window. Usually wearing some sort of lingerie, usually themed for whatever holiday or season was upon us. Santa hats and red silk teddies were always a yuletide highlight.

Heading east on French Road towards Transit at Cornell Drive. The former mannequin house is to the left. 2011 Google Street View image.


I never knew the story– there must have been a story– but it was always enough just to drive by and smile at the kind of interesting nut who’d fill his full-length parlor window with racy mannequins.

Driving by this past week, I noticed the mannequins were decommissioned and the house was up for auction.

The sad passing of another instance of wonderful, unique Western New York weirdness.


Parts of this story have been trickling in from social media. The homeowner passed away last year. Facebook friend Joy Carr shared this 2005 article from Lancaster/Depew Bee.

Astigmatism, My Ol’Man, and Leonard Nimoy

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

I got glasses in seventh grade. My vision was really bad and I didn’t really know. I remember looking at a pine tree out our front window, and being marveled by being able to make out the needles; not just seeing a big green blob.

Sixth grade was a mess. We moved to Orchard Park late that summer, and as a late add to every class, I sat in the last seat every time. I didn’t realize it was unusual, but I couldn’t see the board at all.

It’s because of all this, I taught myself the most memorable skills I learned in middle school.

As my grades suffered in Social Studies and Math because I was blind and sitting in the back, I figured out how to do two Mr. Spock moves: make my hand make the “live long and prosper” sign, and make one eyebrow go up while the other one goes down.
These are both actions which take some muscle memory, and had someone realized I needed glasses a year earlier, I might not have had an entire academic year to train those muscles.

Star Trek was one of those shows I watched with my dad a lot growing up. It always seemed to be on, which made him selective.

There were “dumb ones,” episodes Dad thought were stupid and didn’t stand up to the standards he set for the show.

We wouldn’t watch the dumb ones, but the good ones, my dad laughed at the jokes and cheered when they won every time like it was the first time he’d ever seen it. He especially loved Spock, and was lovingly amused at his different ways in the same way Captain Kirk was.

Spock was someone we could always agree on. He’s a great character. He’s forever denying his humanity; which, ironically, is one of humanity’s most prevalent traits.

Nimoy’s calm demeanor and resonant voice brought the best of Spock with him no matter what else he was doing. Dad and I loved him on “In Search of..” as well.

Not many people can specifically remember something striking they learned in sixth grade.

I learned to be a little more Vulcan, and therefore a little more human. And grew a little closer to my dad.

Thanks Leonard Nimoy. Rest in peace.

1960s Buffalo in Glorious Color

By Steve Cichon |steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

eBay user soon2bexpat has a treasure trove of more than 300 vintage color slides posted for sale today, and many of them are from Buffalo and Western New York.

Glorious, full-color glimpses of the way life used to be around here, mostly from the late 1950s through the early 70s.

Many are labelled as from Buffalo, but many more are apparently snapshots of day-to-day life on the Niagara Frontier in a bygone era.

All of the “certain” and a good number of the “safe to assume” Buffalo images follow. As of print time, many of these remain for sale from soon2bexpat  if you are interested.

If you can help better identify any of the people or places in any of these images, please drop me an email: steve@buffalostories.com

IMG_2626One of several shots taken in various Buffalo basement bars… Genesee and Iroquois lights hang on the wall on this one, pointing to a pretty clear Buffalo connection.

IMG_2624A similar-but-different bar features cans of Buffalo-brewed Stein’s beer stacked.

IMG_2616Beers in the basement.

IMG_2609Church hall? VFW? One thing is sure, that’s Buffalo’s own Simon Pure beer in the can to the left.

IMG_2606The only thing more Buffalo than sitting in the garage drinking a beer, is sitting in the garage drinking a beer while your friend plays the accordion. Extra points for white belt and argyle socks with shorts.

IMG_2627This could be a Polish-American wedding anywhere given the accordion player, but since the slides were mostly from Buffalo, I’ll guess that we can claim this one, too.

IMG_2604This one looks like a more honest-to-goodness gin mill, with at least four Iroquois signs on the wall.

IMG_2620I don’t know if her name is Mabel, but she quite clearly likes her Black Label.


IMG_2625There were several Purina mills and elevators in Western New Yoek, including one in The Valley. Can’t say for sure if this is one of them or not.

IMG_2611Again, it’s likely a Buffalo image, but I can’t say for sure. I can say it’s a Lehigh Valley snow plow…
IMG_2623UB playing at Rotary Field on Bailey Avenue. That’s the VA Hospital in the background.



IMG_2612The Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks at Memorial Auditorium. Number 3 for the Sabres is Mike Robitaille.



IMG_2613This Sabres line is the French Connection– Rick Martin, Gil Perreault, and Rick Martin. The defenseman, number 2, is Tim Horton.


IMG_2614It’s a New York plate, so Buffalo is a good guess. It’s a great car either way.


IMG_2615A different New York plate– a different great car. This could be any one of a dozen neighborhoods in Cheektowaga.


IMG_2617The Daughters of Charity were responsible for the operation of Sisters’ Hospital. It appears that they are in a ballroom at the Statler Hilton.


IMG_2618The Isle View has been a Tonawanda landmark since Prohibition, and still is to this day– Doesn’t look too much different, either.

IMG_2610Wanda & Stephanie– Buffalo’s famous Mother/Daughter polka duo, were known as “America’s Polka Sweethearts.”

IMG_2608Random scene: Could be WNY or not…

IMG_2602Location not clear, but could be a lake boat…

IMG_2607Burger Basket, Sweeney & Payne in North Tonawanda. Home of the 39¢ Mr. Big.

IMG_2599Buffalo trucking concern.

IMG_2598Fire at Ann’s Restaurant. Almost certainly in Western New York with the Rich’s Ice Cream sign… There was an Ann’s Restaurant at the corner of Main and Virginia– it’s now a parking lot. Could be this place…

IMG_2605A possible Western New York storefront…

IMG_2597A ship docking in Toronto…

IMG_2594Buffalo Airport

IMG_2596Parade on Niagara Square


IMG_2621Firemen’s parade, downtown Buffalo



A cardinal sits among bishops in a City of Buffalo (CHESTER KOWAL, MAYOR) parade shelter

IMG_2600A Buffalo Police captain, as priests look on…

IMG_2601A parade in front of Lakeshore Tire…

IMG_2585St. Patrick’s Day on Main Street in Buffalo in the late 1950s or early 1960s.


IMG_2587 IMG_2588 IMG_2589 IMG_2590

If you can provide any more information on any of these photos, feel free to email me: steve@buffalostories.com.



Before it was the old AM&A’s building…

There is buzz and tempered excitement over the purchase the old AM&A’s department store building on Main Street.

The building was last occupied in 1998 by Taylor’s, a short-lived high-end department store better remembered for its dress code (no sneakers!) than its offerings.

In 1995, Bon-Ton closed what was the flagship store of the Adam, Meldrum, and Anderson Department Store chain. Bon-Ton bought AM&A’s in 1994.

The building is now best known as the AM&A’s building, as it was from 1960-94.

For the 90 years previous, AM&A’s was directly across Main Street from that location, in a series of storefronts which were torn down to make way for the Main Place Mall.

For most of the 20th century, the building we call AM&A’s was the JN Adam Department store. Adam was a mayor of Buffalo and the brother of AM&A’s co-founder Robert Adam. In 1960, JN’s closed, and AM&A’s took over the building.


This photo, probably from the very late 1950s, shows Woolworth’s (which remained in that location until the chain dissolved in 1997), JN Adam, Bonds Men’s store (famous for two trouser suits), Tom McAn Shoes, the Palace Burlesk at its original Shelton Square location, then the Ellicott Square Building.

All of the storefronts between JN Adam and the Ellicott Square building were torn down for the M&T headquarters building and some green space.

Buffalo’s Summer Fun spots of the 1970s

In 1971, Big E Savings Bank offered members of its “Money Managers Club” a bundle of coupons to some of Western New York’s great summertime locations.

30 bucks of savings
“The Big E,” once Erie County Savings Bank, became expanded and became Empire of America in the 1980s. The Buffalo-based bank was one of dozens around the country which was liquidated amid the Savings & Loan (S&L) scandal.

carrollsCarroll’s Drive-Ins are no longer serving hamburgers to Western New Yorkers, but the Syracuse-based company is now the world’s largest Burger King franchisee.

fantasty islandFun? Wow! Now known as Martin’s Fantasy Island, the Grand Island amusement park still welcomes thrill seekers every summer, although the once iconic main gate pictured above is no longer as majestic.

fun and games parkFun ‘N Games Park in Tonawanda just off the 290 was a smaller amusement park in the area generally occupied by Gander Mountain. As much as the rides, kids loved driving by–if not through– the whale car wash next door.

patsIn the 1970s, a person wanting a hot dog on Sheridan Drive had a footlong’s worth of options. Ted’s first store away from the Peace Bridge was opened on Sheridan in the 1940s when the road was still mainly rural. Pat’s Charcoal Hots (and Whopper Ice Cream) was a big hang out for a couple generations’ worth of Tonawanda kids, although some switched allegiances and switched over to Scime’s across the street when Pat’s was sold.  Long gone now, Pat’s was located where Walgreens now stands at Sheridan and Parker.

Big E

Dontcha just miss a good ol’fashioned milk machine?

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo


This is a scene that played itself out over and over on streets all over Buffalo for much of the 20th century.

It was tough to walk a block or two without hitting a neighborhood tavern or a milk machine.

Though far fewer in number, of course there are still neighborhood gin mills, but the milk machines have gone away.

The machines began popping up in the city in the mid-1950’s. By the mid-1990s, the milk machines were all but extinct, with the last ones gone just after 2000.

The one I remember more than any other was next to B-kwik on Seneca Street, across from St. Teresa’s.  The milk machine stood outside against what was the back wall of B-kwik– That spot was built out and is now Tim Hortons.

Although Grandma Coyle, who lived a block away on Hayden Street, had milk delivered from the milk man, occasionally she’d still have me go buy more from the milk machine. Grandma Cichon, who lived further down Seneca, would send me to Fay’s in the old Twin Fair Plaza to buy milk. It was cheaper there, but i can also remember having to take back a carton or two because it was expired.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa Cichon

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Today is Grandpa Cichon’s 89th birthday in heaven…

gramps and aunt mary

I imagine him wearing a leisure suit up there cutting a rug to celebrate… just like here– dancing with his sister Mary (who, along with her twin Olga, was also born on Valentine’s Day, four years before Gramps.)

It’s a good deal that the man with the biggest heart ever was born on Valentine’s Day.

Fill ‘er up, Buffalo– 1960’s style

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Six or seven years ago, The Buffalo Broadcasters threw out a bunch of 16mm newsfilm that had begun to degrade and could no longer be played. I garbage picked it, and pulled apart the reels to look for the good frames here and there.

I scanned a few of them in… Here are a couple of late 1960s Buffalo area gas stations from a reel labelled simply “GAS.”

Buffalo Gas Stations (1)

Buffalo Gas Stations (2)


There was no brick oven pizza, flat screen TVs, or lattes at these gas stations. You got gasoline, maybe some oil, from a guy with a workingman’s filth under his nails. You paid at the pump when you gave him five bucks and told him to fill’er up and keep the change.

It’s different now. Not better, not worse– a mix of the two, for sure. It’s more fitting to just say “different.”

There is plenty more of this “garbage film,” and in some a bunch of cases, even a few seconds of good video was pulled from it. In a few cases, the grisly look of the film that was tossed was no indication that it actually played back well.

The more to come sign is up, here.

Hollywood features Buffalo on TV’s Route 66

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com |@stevebuffalo

Flipping through the channels we get over the air without cable, and I saw black & white video that looked like Buffalo’s Central Terminal. Turns out, it was!!

The opening five minutes or so of a 1963 episode of Route 66 was shot inside the New York Central Terminal, with some looks at the surrounding area as well.

Great East Side views!!













The Central Terminal part of this episode was also posted on YouTube some time ago.



The scary sounds of Halloween on WKBW: 5 hours worth of K-Big talent on display

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – In the 1960s and ’70s, Buffalo’s WKBW Radio billed itself as “one of America’s two great radio stations.” Never was that more on display than on Halloween night.

This blurb appeared in a Geneseo newspaper during the week leading up to Halloween in 1968. The masterful promotional folks at KB knew that by sending out this warning--with hope of it being published, that people would flock to hear, as Jeff Kaye puts it in the intro to the 1971 version of the dramatization, "what all the hubhub was about." It's the 1960's version of "don't click on this link." (Buffalo Stories Photo)
This blurb appeared in a Geneseo newspaper during the week leading up to Halloween in 1968. The masterful promotional folks at KB knew that by sending out this warning–with hope of it being published, that people would flock to hear, as Jeff Kaye puts it in the intro to the 1971 version of the dramatization, “what all the hubhub was about.” It’s the 1960’s version of “don’t click on this link.” (Buffalo Stories Photo)

While Program Director Jeff Kaye might be best remembered for that deep resonant voice which he used like Horowitz on a Steinway, he was also perhaps the greatest producer and writer– that is to say, the greatest radio mind– of the generation.

He found superb vehicles not only for his own talent, but also put the stars of KB in situations where they could shine brightest. These Halloween productions are brilliant examples. The writing and production stands up almost 50 years later, and gives the listener a true sense of the talent that went into “playing the hits” on KB.

Most of these recordings played several times through the years, starting in 1967 and running through the late 70’s.

You hear the voice, writing and production of Jeff Kaye; the engineering and production of Al Lafler, Dan Kreigler, and many others; the voices and writing of Dan Neaverth, Jim McLaughlin, Don Berns, Stan Roberts, Sandy Beach, Jack Armstrong, Shane Gibson, Joe Downey, Ron Baskin, Henry Brach, Jim Fagan, Don Lancer, Irv Weinstein, and others.

Three different versions of the war of the Worlds appear. The primary difference in each is the news guy, disc jockey and the music at the start of the show. Sandy Beach was in the original broadcast in 1968, Jack Armstrong was in the 1971 version, and Shane in 1973. In 1974, Jeff Kaye became the afternoon drive host on KB’s competitor WBEN, effectively ending any future reworking of the “covering of the invasion” half of the show– which remained mostly unchanged through the different broadcasts.


Jeff Kaye, Dan Neaverth, Stan Roberts and the K-Big DJs added gasoline to the “Paul is dead” fire with “Paul McCartney is alive and Well… Maybe?”

Jim McLaughlin introduces Halloween 1973, and reminds you…Don’t turn around.

Dan Neaverth narrates People… places… things.

Jeff Kaye narrates with the KB Players in The Darkness.

Dan Neaverth narrates The Bed.

Jeff Kaye narrates with the KB Players in The Monkey’s Paw.

Jim McLaughlin narrates Vampires.

War of the Worlds 1968: The original broadcast featuring an intro by Dan Neaverth, Joe Downey-KB Radio News, and Sandy Beach- KB Radio Music.

War of the Worlds 1971: The broadcast featuring an intro by Jeff Kaye, Joe Downey-KB Radio News, and Jack Armstrong- KB Radio Music.

War of the Worlds 1973: The broadcast featuring an intro by Jim McLaughlin, Ron Baskin-KB Radio News, and Shane!- KB Radio Music.

Read the coverage of the scare created by the 1968 and 1971 broadcasts from the Associated Press, as printed in the Lockport Union Sun-Journal.

The home owners enjoy as much as the ticket holders: The 16th annual Parkside Tour of Homes

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – “I love to be a part of busting open any preconceived notion.”

Devon Karn thinks when she and her husband Kevin open their home for the 16th Annual Parkside Tour of Homes (Sunday, May 18, 2014) that a handful of assumptions about the neighborhood and its homes could fly out the stained glass art window.

Over the last 15 years, hundreds of Parkside homes have opened their doors to tens of thousands of people from all over the globe for the annual Parkside Tour of Homes. This year’s self guided tour of ten homes shows the wide array of architecture in the neighborhood, from a modest, half-furnished bungalow to glimpse of the work Frank Lloyd Wright considered his finest. (Photo by Steve Cichon/Buffalo Stories LLC Archives)
Over the last 15 years, hundreds of Parkside homes have opened their doors to tens of thousands of people from all over the globe for the annual Parkside Tour of Homes. This year’s self guided tour of ten homes shows the wide array of architecture in the neighborhood, from a modest, half-furnished bungalow to glimpse of the work Frank Lloyd Wright considered his finest. (Photo by Steve Cichon/Buffalo Stories LLC Archives)

“Parkside is known for the big, beautiful, sprawling majestic homes,” says Karn, “but interspersed among them are smaller, slightly more accessible homes that are like ours– a comfortable bungalow.”

The young couple hasn’t even lived at their Parkside address two years yet– there’s a long to-do list, but she says there’s no shame in showing off a home that’s a work in progress. In fact, from her perspective, that’s a bit of the charm. “It doesn’t have some of the grandeur of some of the Victorian homes, but we do have some of the interesting details– the leaded glass, the woodwork, the central fireplace– they all make for very comfortable homes.”

Comfortable and lived in homes of all shapes, sizes and styles, just like the people of Parkside.

“I wanted to put our little, comfortable, humble bungalow on the tour, to offer that no-holds-barred, open door approach that exemplifies the Parkside attitude,” says Karn. “The people in this neighborhood are the most open, most inviting– It’s one of the most participatory neighborhoods in the City of Buffalo. It’s not an exclusive neighborhood. It’s so open, so welcoming. Come as you are. The fact that we will have our not quite-perfect, yet still intriguing space on the tour is a testament to the community.”

And while her little sliver of the Frederick Law Olmsted designed neighborhood offers one perspective, Karn loves the tapestry woven by all the parts blended together. “Part of the beauty of this Home Tour,” says Karn, “is the variety people get to see.”

The variety will be underlined for tour goers who walk the half-a-block from Devon’s humble bungalow to the imposing Arts & Crafts American Four Square home of Ken Wells and his wife, Phyllis.

Once the home of a Congressman and later to a family of 11, the beautiful brick, original woodwork, wrap-around porch and historical past occupants offer a bit more grandeur, but it’s still simply a family home.

“In the spring, summer and fall we live on our front porch,” says Wells. “The backyard is our oasis. It is the main gathering place for parties and just hanging out.”

Showing off is part of the fun, and it’s why Pat Lalonde is back on the tour again this year.

Five years ago her home was featured, but one new project she knows will be the envy of many people who live in older homes. “For the first time in the 30 years I’ve lived here, I now have a first floor half-bath,” says Lalonde, who also has a new screened-in back porch and new room configurations to show.

The cleverly configured bathroom might inspire folks to finally build the powder room of their dreams, but Lalonde admits: Putting her home on the tour again is as much for her as the hundreds of people who’ll be coming through.

“I had a blast the first time,” says Lalonde. “People were so nice; they said so many wonderful things about my house. I was thinking my house isn’t all that special– there’s no Arts & Crafts style or the natural woodwork… But all the great comments made me realize that my house really does have some really interesting features.”

The event is the biggest annual fundraiser for the non-profit Parkside Community Association. They hope you’ll stop by May 18, and find out why so many people are passionate about the homes that are like none other, as well as the community of people that is like none other.

For more information, including buying tickets, visit the 2014 Home Tour page on the Parkside Community Association website.

Get your dupa dyngusing: Making the most of Easter Monday in Buffalo

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY- I have had dozens of people ask me what to do and where to go to make the most of Dyngus Day… So I collaborated with a few Polish princes, and came up with a pretty good list of ideas to get your dupa dyngusing:

Everybody is Polish on Dyngus Day, and those of us who are already Polish, are even more Polish!
Everybody is Polish on Dyngus Day, and those of us who are already Polish, are even more Polish!

DYNGUS MORNING (10a-Noon): Start early. The first Dyngus parties in WNY begin at 10am. The Polish Villa 2 (1085 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga) is known for its “Bloody Mary Breakfast” with live polka music.

NOON: Join me as I emcee the kielbasa contest at the Broadway Market…. If you are looking for other family friendly activities, try the Kid’s Smingus Dyngus Day Party at St. Casimir’s Church Social Hall (1388 Clinton Street) or attending Dyngus Day Mass at Corpus Christi Church (199 Clark Street). No kids? Begin Polish tavern hoping in the Polonia District with a stop at the famed R&L Lounge (23 Mills Street) where you can grab a plate of pierogi and a bottle of Polish beer…or Genny Cream Ale!

EARLY AFTERNOON (1-4p): Explore Kaisertown…the fast growing Dyngus area of Buffalo. Experience live polka music at Ray’s Lounge (2070 Clinton Street) and at the Firehouse Bar & Grill (2141 Clinton Street). In walking distance of both venues is Porky’s Tavern (2028 Clinton Street), a wonderfully restored “shot & a beer” gin mill. Just down Clinton Street you’ll find Potts Banquet Hall (41S. Rossler at Clinton) featuring live polkas with John Stevens Doubleshot Band.

PRE-PARADE (3-5p): Head back to the Polonia District, park at the Broadway Market and hit the pre-parade parties at Corpus Christ Athletic Club (165 Sears Street), the Adam Mickiewicz Library (612 Fillmore Ave.) or the Pussy Willow Park Party Tent (Memorial Drive @ Peckham Street). Make sure while you’re there, you head over to the St Mark concession area, and pick up a sausage and support a great parish school. You might also want to stop by the Polish Cadets (927 Grant Street) in Black Rock which will feature live polka music in its legendary upstairs hall.

DYNGUS DAY PARADE (5p): The highlight of the Dyngus Day Buffalo experience. Best places to watch the parade are in front of any Dyngus Day Party venue. For a family friendly spot, grab a curb near the Broadway Market or St. Stanislaus Church on Fillmore. The rowdiest and wettest location to experience the parade is near Arty’s Grill on Peckham Street across from the Pussy Willow Park Party Tent. For a full parade map visit DyngusDay.com

POST-PARADE POLONIA: (6p-8p): Staying in the Old Neighborhood? Head over to the St. Stanislaus Church Social Center (Fillmore @ Peckham) for live polka music and Polish food prepared and served by Nuns.

POST-PARADE SUBURBS: (6p-8p): On Dyngus Day, Buffalo is transformed into the largest polka music festival in the world…and you’ll find some of the greatest bands in America at large, suburban festival halls. The Leonard Post VFW (2450 Walden Ave, Cheektowaga) features Lenny Gomulka & the Chicago Push, Polish Falcons (445 Columbia Ave, Depew) features Phocus and the Millennium Hotel (2040 Walden Avenue, Cheektowaga) features Freeze Dried.

DYNGUS DAY FINALE: (8p): If you never experienced Dyngus Day with the band Those Idiots, than you NEVER experienced Dyngus Day in Buffalo. This year the band will be the headlining act at the Pussy Willow Park Party Tent in the Polonia District. After the Those Idiots Show, stop at the G&T Inn (58 Memorial Drive) to hear Geno, the World’s Only Polka Singing Bartender

DON’T LET THE PARTY END: (10p-3a): Come back to where we began in the morning. The Polish Villa 2 features live polka music with the Piakowski Brothers at 10pm. Historically, the party ends earlyTuesday morning as musicians who have played all day end up at the Villa to finally unwind. It’s a who’s who of polka greats with the occasional jam session breaking out.

CAN’T PARTY ON DYNGUS DAY? (Wednesday-Sunday). You’ll find Dyngus Parties with live polka music every day of the week between April 23rd and April 27th. The best post-Dyngus party? Catch live polka music with Tony Blazonczyk at Potts Banquets on Saturday, April 26th at 6pm.

Of course– keep Dyngus Day safe and select someone as a designated driver.

As serious as kielbasy: Discovering what drew out the serious in Gramps

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Anyone who knew my Grandpa Cichon knew there was a certain joyfulness in his voice– always. His heart was always smiling, and that showed through in his voice. I might count on one hand the exceptions in the 36 years I knew him.

Gramps trying to look serious in a photo for his Harness Racing Commission license.
Gramps trying to look serious in a photo for his Harness Racing Commission license.

One notable time was when the full service gas station guy screwed him on the amount of gas he pumped into Gramps’ car. Gramps probably asked for $5, which he figured should have about filled up the tank. We barely got a block up Seneca Street when Gramps threw on the brakes and made a hard u-turn back towards Petro USA.

“You goddamn horseball!,” Gramps screamed out the window, as my brother and I barely contained our laughter, sitting on the red plush seats in the back of the black 1985 Pontiac Bonneville. We’d never seen Gramps like that, and I think that’s pretty much the only time I ever saw Gramps really mad. Again, it was also one of the few times I saw him more serious than filled with joy.

Now gramps was blind, and didn’t around well for the last few years of his life. Some men in that situation would want, say, booze snuck into the nursing home. Not Gramps. Donuts or hot dogs with slivered onions and sweet relish were all he wanted. I’d usually bring him one or the other, sometimes both.

Over the course of 90 minutes, I’d hand him 3 or 4 timbits. Once I made a joke or said something stupid about donuts. Again, one of the few times I ever heard him this serious. “Son,” he told me with the tone of life and death at stake, “Donuts are as good as gold.” I was satisfied there was nothing greater I could do for him than visit and bring chocolate timbits.

The “beautiful” food they served was always a topic of conversation. Food was Gramps’ all-time favorite subject, perhaps a left over affect of growing up in the Depression when there was never enough to eat. The last time I visited with Gramps, he was talking about how they’d served kielbasy that afternoon. Kielbasy is the Polish plural of kielbasa, and we’ve always called Polish sausage (ka-BAAS-ee) in my family.

I wasn’t sure what to think, though, when Gramps’ tone turned a bit hushed and he got somewhat serious, maybe as serious as I had heard him since he bawled out the South Buffalo gas station guy almost 30 years earlier.

“Now son,” he started, with a gravity which set me on the edge of me chair, straining to get close and make sure I didn’t miss anything. “Son, what’s your favorite? Do you like the smoked or the not smoked?”

The most serious conversation I’d ever have with my beloved grandfather, the man who my Uncle Tom called “the best polack who ever lived,” was about “kielbasy.” Polish sausage. Good ol’ Edziu wanted to know my freaking Polish sausage preference. It’s really about the most marvelous thing ever, really.

“I usually take one of each, Gramps,” I said, telling the truth, but also not wanting to really show my hand and potentially disappoint Gramps in something that was obviously so important to him. But then I gave up the goods. “If I had to choose one though, I’d probably take the smoked.”

“Me too,” Gramps said to my relief. “Know how I like it? Burned up a l’il bit, with horseradish mustard on rye bread. My ma used to make it the big pan with the lard for the pierogi. She made the pierogi big, and cooked ’em in lard, not butter.”

With Easter upon us, there’s been plenty of social media talk of Polish sausage. All I can think about is Gramps’ favorite– kielbasa on rye bread with Weber’s mustard. I’m doing it this Easter. I’m bringing the rye bread and Weber’s just to make sure.

I’ll bite into that Old World combination of flavor, and think happily of Gramps. The hunk of kielbasy won’t be fried up in lard, but that sounds like something maybe to look forward to sometime soon.

Moving pictures that will move Buffalo: Pathe posts entire newsreel collection on-line

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – It’s an amazing treasure trove.

Pathe (pronounced {path-AY’}) News, one of the leading producers of the newsreels shown in movie theatres around the world from the 1920s through the 1960s, has posted it’s entire 85,000 video clip collection on YouTube.

Dateline: Buffalo! The old Pathe newsreel service posted 85,000 news and lifestyles films to YouTube, including ten showcasing some part of life in Buffalo. These newsreels, featured in movie theatres before the feature shows, were the “evening newscasts” of the time. (Buffalo Stories screenshot from “British Pathe” YouTube Channel video)

Think of the ways the world changed in that time, and know that you can easily watch clean, first generation videos of those changes as they happened, online. It’s an incredible digitization effort, and it’s even more incredible that it’s available to the world for free.

While the scope of the project is impressive, my parochial interests took me not in search of the Hindenberg, the liberating of Paris, or the first manned space flight. I, of course, searched “Buffalo.”

Many videos came up in the search, but there were ten relevant items which prove to be flabbergasting glimpses into Western New York’s past.

What follows here are links to those videos, with brief descriptions and screen shots taking a look back.

The Dodgers! A Prohibition Sidelight From Buffalo (1931)

Border police inspecting cars, looking for “the good stuff” at what appears to be the Peace Bridge, but I’m not sold on that– Booze smuggling was a growth industry in our border town while the US was forcibly on the wagon during Prohibition.

Buffalo, US (1939)

Curtiss Aeroplane test pilot Lloyd Child hits 525 miles an hour, faster than man has ever gone before, while testing the French Hawk pursuit plane.

Blizzard In Buffalo (1937)

Three people were killed in what was, at the time, the worst December snow storm in history. Great snow footage and scenes from around Buffalo.


Skiing Behind Plane Buffalo (1938)

The Red Jacket Ski Club does what looks like water skiing… But on snow instead of water, and a plane instead of a boat. Wacky!!

President Johnson’s Quick Tour Of New York & New England (1966)

President Lyndon Johnson visits Buffalo. The first scene is great– people at the Buffalo Airport, then a Niagara Square rally for the President. From there, it’s on to Lake Erie, where LBJ, surrounded by local dignitaries (like Mayor Frank Sedita and Deomcratic Chairman Joe Crangle) is shown a pail of filthy, contaminated water from Lake Erie. It would become the beginning of movement in the efforts to clean up the lakeshore in Buffalo.

Us Women’s Golf Championship (1931)

With The Country Club of Buffalo in Williamsville as the backdrop, beautiful flapper women vie to become the US womens golf champion.

Snow Scenes In States (1962)

A perefct example of the over-the-top writing and delivery that has become associated with newsreels. Snow swept across two-thirds of the country, including many places that usually see little snow. The whole two minute piece is fun to watch, but there are a few quick shots of Buffalo starting at :46.


Striking Schoolteachers U.S.A. (1947)

Buffalo Public School teachers shown on strike at schools across the city… Also featured: The smiling faces of dozens of children, happy to be out of class.

Bell Helicopter (1944)

The brand new Bell helicopter on display inside the Buffalo (Connecticut Street) Armory.

Oh – This Spring Weather (1926)

Cold and snow hits Buffalo during the brutal spring of 1926, when we had a freakish St. Patricks Day storm. This is video from all of the ships paralyzed in Buffalo Harbor.

Giant responsibility: Herbeck feels the weight of generations with recognition

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – This one will be a little different on Friday.

Buffalo News Investigative Reporters Lou Michel (left) and Dan Herbeck (right) are being honored by the Buffalo History Museum as "Giants of Buffalo" for their work in journalism with the Buffalo News. Together, they wrote "American Terrorist," the biography of Niagara County native and admitted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh his role in the 1995 bombing in an exclusive jailhouse interview with Michel. (Buffalo News photos)
Buffalo News Investigative Reporters Lou Michel (left) and Dan Herbeck (right) are being honored by the Buffalo History Museum as “Giants of Buffalo” for their work in journalism with the Buffalo News. Together, they wrote “American Terrorist,” the biography of Niagara County native and admitted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh his role in the 1995 bombing in an exclusive jailhouse interview with Michel.
(Buffalo News photos)

Audiences at the “Giants of Buffalo” series at the Buffalo History Museum have been treated to spectacular trips down memory lane.

Danny Neaverth, Sandy Beach, Stan Roberts, Shane Brother Shane, and Joey Reynolds gave a glimpse of what it was like inside what was “the most happening spot” in Western New York 50 years ago– WKBW Radio.

Irv Weinstein, Rick Azar, and Tom Jolls shared their unlikely formula for success in television news, what it meant for them personally, and how it almost certainly couldn’t happen the same way now.

This Friday, when he and Lou Michel take to the stage, Dan Herbeck wants people to understand that when he’s talking about working hard at chasing good stories– and telling those stories in meaningful and relevant ways– he isn’t talking about some bygone “glory days” era of journalism.

“Professional journalists are still needed,” says Herbeck. Maybe now more than ever. What passes for “news” in many circles in 2014 is actually blogging and talking about news that was unearthed through the grind-it-out determination of a journalist–probably a print journalist– somewhere else along the way.

Because readers don’t have to buy a physical newspaper anymore, Herbeck is concerned that people don’t value the work that goes into putting a story a few clicks away. “People have the false impression that ‘it’s easy to get news,” says the 36 year Buffalo News veteran. “It’s not easy to get news. There are people at the front end (of those clicks), people who work hard to get a story.”

Herbeck says he learned and expanded his story-telling skills as he watched and worked with dozens of other story tellers. He wrote a book with Michel, but the veteran scribe says he spent even more time working side-by-side with longtime News reporter Mike Beebe. “It got to a point where we could read each others’ thoughts,” says Herbeck of Beebe, who retired in 2010 after three decades with the Buffalo News.

It’s Beebe and other dogged newspaper men like Gene Warner and Lee Coppola who Herbeck will have on his mind as he is honored as a “giant” in journalism. “They’ve scrambled and scratched and stumbled their way to good stories over the years. I take it as a real honor that they picked us to do this,” says the semi-retired journalist, taking a break from the weeks-long pursuit of another story. “I feel like we’re representing the hundreds and hundreds of newspaper reporters over the last 200 years here in Buffalo.”

Along with Lou Michel, Dan Herbeck says he stands honored and ready to represent “the likes of Mark Twain and beyond.”


Death is never what It seems: Gramps, Dad, and how their passings changed things…

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – With Ralph Wilson in the news, today I was talking with a few co-workers about death and dying.

The Ol'Man (my dad, Steve Cichon), Me, and Gramps (dad's dad, Edward Cichon). Just hanging out at the Msgr. Nash K of C Hall, South Legion Dr, 2008.
The Ol’Man (my dad, Steve Cichon), Me, and Gramps (dad’s dad, Edward Cichon). Just hanging out at the Msgr. Nash K of C Hall, South Legion Dr, 2008.

I’d found myself in the same situation as Mr. Wilson’s family over the last few weeks. While I had hoped that my grandfather would live forever, or at least til he hit a birthday worthy of a Willard Scott mention; the truth is, Gramps was 88, and had been in slowly declining health for over a decade. It was a mix of great hope and sad acceptance in thinking about Gramps for a long time, until he did pass away March 4th.

I grieve the loss of a simply beautiful man, but equally feel some satisfaction in accepting the simply beautiful long life he lived.

As is often the case with death, it’s not quite that simple. We’ll all be attending a service for Gramps on Friday, which is also the anniversary of my Dad’s death a few years ago.

In our little conversation around the coffee pot about Ralph Wilson and death, I was about to mention something about about Dad’s death, when I realized I didn’t know without thinking how long it had been.

I just barely controlled myself, with the thunderpunch of a thought that Dad died so long ago I can’t immediately remember.

It was four years ago. And four years later, that thought that I had to do math in order to remember how long it had been since I sat with dad, laughed with dad, talking with dad, yelled at dad… It was as if he’d just right now died all over again.

But having a Mass for Gramps on the anniversary of dad’s death is somehow appropriate for me.

Losing a father is a complicated, awful, inward, outward emotional mess. Dad was very sick, and for a long time, I had tried to steel myself for the inevitable– but there’s no way to prepare. Especially when the most difficult part of it all was completely outside of me and my control.

Gramps. Spending 3 years and 11 months talking with Gramps about my dad and the fact that he’s gone while trying to keep it all together was emotionally difficult beyond words. My dad was more than Gramps’ son, they were best friends. In his own illness, my dad thought more about Gramps’ well-being than his own. He called him 3 or 4 times a day. They kept each other smiling, and kept each other in line.

My dad’s last mission in life was doing what he could to take care of his dad. My dad never asked for much for himself, but I know if we would have had the opportunity to talk heart-to-heart with me before he died, dad would have told me to take care of Gramps. I did my best, which sometimes wasn’t good enough. A call to Gramps could be crushing, and frankly, I wasn’t always up to it.

It was generally heart breaking talking with Gramps. Four or five times in the course of a 90 minute visit, he’d talk about how much he missed my dad. I sat through it, discussed it, even encouraged it– despite those thoughts ripping the heart out of my chest and leaving me drowning in emotion every time. But of course, what ever pain I have dealing in the death of a father, I can’t even imagine the pain and emptiness of dealing with the death of a son.

Once I mentioned that I had some recordings of my dad. Gramps almost started to cry, his voice shaky. “I’d love to hear his voice again, Son.” I have not and cannot listen to the hours and hours of Dad I taped through the years. I just can’t bear it. I found a short conversation I recorded when my dad called me at work one time to wish me a happy birthday. It’s dad happy and full of life… which in his last few years wasn’t always the case. Still, most of the dozens of times I played the one minute phone message for Gramps, tears uncontrollably streamed down my face. A few times I felt nauseous. Gramps often cried too, but it was therapy he relished.

Despite being blind and practically immobile, I’m sure Gramps knew until his last breath exactly how long he’d been without my dad. If Gramps was still here, I’d have called him on Friday, the anniversary of Dad’s death. “Hi Gramps, It’s Stevie.” “Hello, son. You know your dad died 4 years ago today?” “Yep, I know,” I’d have said, trying not to sound too sad. “Wanna hear the tape?”

For four years, my mourning has been wrapped in the context of completing Dad’s last mission and being there for Gramps in sharing his pain and loss.

Right after he died, I wrote about what a perfect grandfather Gramps was to us when we were little. Now that he’s gone, I’m realizing pretty strikingly that once again, Gramps was helping me far more than I could have ever helped him in talking about and thinking about my ol’man.


Buffalo’s Blizzard of ’77: Newspaper, radio & TV broadcasts bring the storm back to life…

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

 – It was the benchmark storm by which we measure all storms in Western New York. In killing 29 of our Western New York neighbors and cutting us off from the world (and heat, and food) for a week, this storm also gave Buffalo a greater dose of respect for the power and cruelty of what winter can bring; it’s a lesson that has become a part of our DNA. While we scoff at snow and predictions of snow, deep down, we know what’s possible.

We haven’t had an event like the  Blizzard of ’77 since, and we are nearly certain to never repeat it. While we’ve been striken with weather with elements of that watershed snow storm– a blizzard in 1985, 7 feet of snow in 2000, The October Surprize storm– we as a people and a society learned from that first one and each successive one. Our civil authorities, police, fire, road crews, public weather forecasters, commercial forecasters– everyone is ready to make sure that we remain safe during potentially deadly winter weather events.

BEN31jan77This page is being published as the snow is beginning to fall during “Winter Storm Vulcan,” which has prompted the NationalWeather Service to issue a Blizzard Warning for Western New York. We don’t use the “b-word” lightly here. While it’s the second blizzard warning of this unusually snowy and extremely cold winter of 2013-14, this winter marks the first blizzard warnings in 20 years.

With today’s snowfall in mind, if Jimmy Griffin were with us today, he might modify that famous advice he gave during the Blizzard of ’85. Sure, he’d still encourage us to stay home and grab a six-pack, but he might also encourage us to enjoy some time online, remember some long-gone names, faces and names, and remember that it could be much worse that what we’re experiencing today.

From the Buffalo Stories audio vault:

For this tremendous collection we are indebted to longtime radio enthusiast Tom Taber, who spent the night of January 29, 1977, tuning around the radio dial at his home in Albion, NY. Much of the audio is scratchy and fades in and out, but I think that helps paint a better picture… of sitting in your bedrooom, playing with the radio while watching the snow pile up outside the window.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Niagara’s Talk Pioneer: John Michael, CKTB/St. Catharines & CJRN, Niagara Falls, Ontario

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Known for being both smart and a smart-aleck, his often raw evaluations of the truth often put him at odds with the management and even the Canadian Government, but never with his loyal listeners.

John Michael
John Michael

CKTB’s John Michael was one of of kind, with as big an audience in Buffalo as he had in the Niagara Region.

Western New Yorkers embrace and appreciate our proximity to Canada in a variety of different ways. We drink Tim Hortons, Molson, and Labatt, we love hockey, we remember our summers at Crystal Beach, we enjoy world class Toronto being an hour away.

Of course, Canadian broadcasting has long been a part of who we are in Buffalo, too. From Mr. Dressup and Uncle Bobby, to Hockey Night in Canada and spending weekend afternoons trying to figure out curling, we are, for all intents and purposes, part Canadian.

Aside from being able to pull $7 in Canadian change out of the seats of my car at any moment, I like to think my inner Canadian runs a little deeper with my long term appreciation of Canadian AM radio.

I remember Rick Jeanneret as a morning DJ on CJRN in Niagara Falls and loved listening to the CBC on 740AM (The CBC, now on 99.1FM, can be a little crunchy in “clean” stereo.)

One of my all-time favorites—regardless of nationality– bounced across the border at 610AM.

Listening to John Michael’s mid-morning talk show on CKTB in the early 2000s was one of my great joys as a fan of good radio.

He was smart, a smart ass, funny, opinionated, a great showman, and a great broadcaster. What a wonderful, rarely-found set of skills and characteristics. It was the timeless sort of show that, as a long time broadcaster and broadcasting manager, I’m sure dozens of producers and program directors and consultants “tried to make better.” But the show was him. That’s what made it great.

He could trip over himself being respectful to an elderly sounding woman, while making a dirty joke at her expense at the same time. And you bought both the respect and the humour–(well, it is Canadian humor, so I’ll add the U).

I loved hearing about his family, his garden, his life. He told a great story once about how, as a young DJ in Niagara Falls in the 1960s, he made a joke about the Mafia and the infamous Apalachian meeting, mentioning a few of the alleged Mafiosos who were collared by name.

He had no idea that one of the guys he mentioned lived only a few minutes from the studio, across the gorge in Lewiston, and was well-respected (and maybe feared?) among the many of the station’s sponsors. He was urged to apologize for the comments.

In the 1980s, he was fired by CJRN after the station was censured when Michael made “generalizations about native peoples,” and said, in part, “what these people forget; and this is what annoys me, is that these people believe that the world revolves around their own penises and it does not.”

From his obituary in the St. Catharines Standard:

“On a few occasions, he was reprimanded by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for comments made about groups such as native peoples and French-Canadians.

In a September 2003 interview with The Standard, Michael said “there’s just certain people and certain groups in the world today that if they don’t agree with you, they want you fired.”

Michael told the reporter he was actually shy and felt “hurt” when listeners personally attacked him.

He said his gruff radio personality is part of an on-air “schtick” developed over the years. His purpose was also to entertain, Michael said.”

Here in Buffalo, during a radio station clean out, I was given a box containing some contents of John Otto’s desk drawers from the time right before he died.

I was excited to find among the several cassettes, was one of the John Otto show with guest John Michael… talking about the bum steer of what amounted to the Canadian Government getting him fired. Listen to that late 80’s program, and two others from 2004 before from the links above.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Remembering the Everyday with Gramps: The perfect grandfather because in his heart he was one of the kids

Edward Valentine Cichon 1926- 2014

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Valentines Day was the perfect day for him to be born, as he was in 1926.

Gramps and me, standing on Fairview Place, in front of my parents 1977 Mercury Monarch, 1978. Gramps always had a baby in his arms or a kid's hand in his hand whenever possible. He spent a lifetime working hard, usually 3 or 4 jobs to provide for his brothers and sisters, his own ten kids, and his 16 grandkids (and now untold numbers of great grandkids.)
Gramps and me, standing on Fairview Place, in front of my parents 1977 Mercury Monarch, 1978. He always had a baby in his arms or a kid’s hand in his hand whenever possible, and spent a lifetime working hard– usually 3 or 4 jobs to provide for his brothers and sisters, his own ten kids, and his 16 grandkids (and now untold numbers of great grandkids.)

To say Gramps had a big heart isn’t telling the whole story. Nor is it enough to say his heart was pure.

Edward Valentine Cichon had a childlike heart. He was filled with goodness and optimism. He was filled with giving and generosity. He was filled with happiness to know that you were happy.

He was the perfect grandpa. He’d walk us over to Caz Park, getting us jazzed up about “the swings… And the slides…. And the horseys…” It was the same sing-song order he’d mention them every time.

But first we’d walk through the park. Occasionally, that meant filling our pockets with chestnuts from the trees just past the St. John’s parking lot.

Sometimes that meant sitting for an inning of softball or baseball. Gramps usually had a couple of apples in his pocket for us, sometimes a banana. He taught us how to shine up the apple on our pant legs.

Also in his pocket was the handkerchief, which kept our noses in check when it was chilly. To keep our bladders in check, if it was just us men, we’d be pointed to some trees. If we had ladies with us, we were told not to touch anything in the Caz bathrooms, unless you were using your foot to flush.

Then we’d cross the bridge, throw a few of those chestnuts in the creek, and continue on through “the jungle,” as Gramps called the path on the Abbott Rd side of the path along the creek.

We’d look for “the lions… The tigers… The monkeys…” The same list every time, said with the same cadence as the other list, except this one was often enhanced with Tarzan noises. OoOoAaaahah.

“I saw a monkey in that one last time,” he’d say pointing at the same tree every time.

Finally, we’d get to the playground, and Gramps would sit on the bench until we were done. Sometimes longer, if he didn’t feel like moving yet.

“Go catch grandpa a bird,” he’d say, encouraging us to sneak up quietly behind a robin or a swallow so we could scoop ’em up. I don’t remember ever catching one.

Not every time, but sometimes, we’d stop by the deli at the corner of Seneca and Duerstein for a nutty buddy or an ice cream sandwich, so long as we remembered, “Don’t tell grandma.”

Almost every time we’d stop at Quality Food Mart, Gramps’ explanation to grandma would start “But Huns! The kids were hungry…” but it would quickly trail off.

We didn’t tell, but our ice cream smeared faces and shirts did all the talking necessary.

Good ol’Gramps. I bet there is monkey in his tree right now, and he’s happily pointing it out to all the kids.

The late, great B-kwik Food Stores

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – In the 1950s, grocery shopping was done primarily at what we’d now consider small-to-medium-sized grocery stores like A&P, Park Edge, Mohican, Red & White– along with small neighborhood corner stores, many of which had been in operation for decades.

As the suburb helped create the supermarket to replace the smaller stores, many of the more successful smaller scale operators became players in the Buffalo supermarket business. The owners of Super Duper, Bells, and Tops all had years of grocery experience before opening the larger stores.   The same is true of Wegmans, which didn’t come to Buffalo until the late ’70s.

The only Buffalo name to last is Tops. Tops Friendly Markets grew into a Western New York institution by expanding through franchising, first with Tops Markets, then with B-kwik markets, then with Wilson Farms stores, bringing three different levels of grocery service to Western New York.

Tops had only been on the scene for 6 years early in 1969, when Niagara Frontier Services took out a full page ad in the Courier-Express, looking for new franchisees, and bragging about the new stores that had been built in the previous few months.
These are the photos of the Tops, B-kwik, and Hy-Top Pharmacy stores which were built in the second half of 1968, along with the brief franchising pitch.
B-kwik Delavan Ave at Humber

B-kwik Main St, Delavan NY

B-kwik Delevan Ave
B-kwik Delavan Ave at Humber



B-kwik, Ensminger Rd, Tonawanda


B-kwik, Seneca St. This store was on the corner of Kingston Street. It moved to the current Tops location several years later when B-kwik took over several area “Food Arena” stores.


B-kwik, Walden Avenue, Buffalo


B-kwik William St, Buffalo


Hy-Top Pharmacy, Main Place Mall


Hy-Top Pharmacy, Maple at North Forest


Tops, Chalmers Ave, Buffalo. Across the street from the Central Plaza


Tops, Clinton Street, Cheektowaga. Current site of Consumers’ Beverage


Tops, Lockport-Olcott Rd. Currently Family Dollar, across the street from current Tops.


Tops, Maple at North Forest. Was VIX, now vacant.


Tops, Medina, NY

NFS nfsgrowing pitch
This post originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com



Worst. Sports Card. Ever.

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – They just look dumb. The 1970-71 Topps basketball cards look stupid for a few reasons.

DonMayThese cards are “tall boys,” which is good news if you’re talking about Old Milwaukee, but just looks dumb for a sports card. When Topps jumped back into basketball cards in 69-70, they decided that longer cards– to mirror the stretch physiques of basketball players– might make them more interesting.

Also, the outfits are weird. Legend says a clause in the players’ union contract said that players couldn’t profit from images of themselves wearing the team name or logo.

The solution is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. Players wore their jerseys backwards. Or their shoot-around warmup gear (sometimes backwards.) Or they wore plain jerseys. Or they wore white t-shirts.

The team name does not appear on cards, either. Just Boston, no Celtics. Just Baltimore, no Bullets. Just Cincinnati, no Royals.

My interest in these very odd offerings is in the first basketball cards marked Buffalo (but not Braves.) 1970-71 was the year the NHL and the NBA expanded to include Buffalo, and that makes the cards only weirder for Buffalonians.

There is no Braves feel to any of these first Braves cards. The photos are not only of guys wearing backwards jerseys, they are all wearing the backwards jerseys of other teams.

Dick Garrett, coming off a rookie of the performance for the Lakers before being taken by the Braves in the expansion draft, is wearing a crisp white t-shirt.

Worst ever sports card. Nate Bowman 1970-71 Topps Basketball. He only has 1.5 armpits.
Worst ever sports card. Nate Bowman 1970-71 Topps Basketball. He only has 1.5 armpits.

But perhaps the worst sports card of all time has bothered and intrigued me since I bought it for 25¢ almost 30 years ago.

Nate Bowman played one season for the Buffalo Braves. He came here from the 69-70 champion Knicks, but you already knew that, because he’s wearing a backwards Knicks shirt.

While you’re looking at that shirt, look at the armpit on the right side of the card. It might be easier to be judgmental about terrible photo edits in this modern day where Photoshop flawlessly fixes anything, but holy freakin’ cow. Half of dude’s torso is missing.

It looks a lot like the guy who was editing the cards was working on this one right before lunch, and when he came back, he accidentally put it on the done pile.

How could someone only give a guy half an armpit and think that’s ok?

Worst. Sports Card. Ever…. among plenty of bad 1970-71 Buffalo (Braves) Topps cards.

This story originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

The Barcalounger: Buffalo-made laziness & sloth

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Maybe the same grandmother who always called the living room “the parlor” also referred generically to any recliner as a “Barcalounger.” The big comfy chair was originally built here in Buffalo, as a product of the Barcalo Manufacturing Company on Louisana Street.

During World War I, the company bragged that their forgings were battle tested (see below.) For years, they made tools, beds, and lounge chairs in the Old First Ward until the late 1960s when the company filed for bankruptcy.

The name lives on, on chairs produced elsewhere, but when– with the pull of a handle– a man can go from a seated position to a relaxing nap position, he can thank hard working men from the Ward for blazing a new trail in family room sloth.

1952 Barcalounger ad
The Barcalo Manufacturing plant in 1918.
The Barcalo Manufacturing plant in 1918.
Buffalo-made Barcalounger, 1952
Buffalo-made Barcalounger, 1952
Encouraging children to use hammers.
Encouraging children to use hammers.

Encouraging abandoning your child in a Buffalo-made cage, 1910s.
Encouraging abandoning your child in a Buffalo-made cage, 1910s.

This post originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com.

Wild & Vicious 1960s Cheektowaga Street Gangs

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Seriously.  In September, 1960, Western New York faced a new kind of problem, namely Cheektowaga street hoodlums.

“Let this serve as a warning to other rowdies… we’ll throw them in the pot.”

This story originally appeared on TrendingBuffalo.com

Happy Birthday, Roby…

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – For many, February 12 is the day we honor Abraham Lincoln. Let ’em. For me, February 12 a date set aside for celebrating a different kind of statesman on his birthday.

Mike Robitaille first came to Buffalo 45 years ago as a member of the 1969-70 AHL Buffalo Bisons. He’d return a few years later as a Sabre, and a few years after being traded to Vancouver, he’d return as a broadcaster.

Sometime during the handful of years I worked with him at WNSA Radio and Empire Sports Network, I started to save the audio clips of all the amazing things he’d say. A couple of times, I compiled them for playback on his birthday, and here are a few of those put together for a several minute Best of Roby MegaMix.

I especially love hearing the great laugh of the late Jim Kelley throughout this piece… RIP Jim.

Mike is one of the great talents ever to grace Buffalo radio and television. His persona and personality are unique, and no one works harder at putting together what you see on the air, and making it look flawless, than does Mike.

He’s very humble about it, and if you press him, he’s just as likely to start talking about the sacrifices his family  made for him and his career as being the youngest of a large family in Midland, Ontario. Some guys want you to see how hard they work, but Mike works hard so you can’t see the work he’s put in.

Sabres hockey will be lacking when he retires at the end of the year.

This post originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com.

Even Old Buffalo Looking New: Ch.4’s 1960’s Buffalove

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – My friend Libby wrote something the other day which made me think. She was talking about the cold and the gray and the snow, and how we don’t even realize how the darkness of it all creeps into our personality.

“Honestly do not even realize I am depressed, until the sun comes out and everything is sunshiny and I feel the depression lift!”

I read this amidst my going through my collection of old radio and TV trade magazines. In the late 50s and early 60s, these magazines were filled with ads from local radio and TV stations looking to appeal to national advertisers. They talk about how great the station is, but also how wonderful the city and it’s people are– a great place to sell your stuff.

There are plenty of great ads from Buffalo stations. It’s like a Buffalo version of the wacky creative efforts you might see from the guys on Mad Men.


I’ve used these old magazines as a resource for years. Decades even. This time, however, the feeling was different, and Libby’s exaltation helped me put my finger on what made some of these ads better than they were the last time I looked.

These ads look better and more interesting, because there is hope and brightness in Buffalo like we haven’t seen here since the late 50s.

These ads, from 1958 and 1964, show WBEN-TV’s excitement for Buffalo and what is to come, and are meant to showcase the “just-over-the-horizon New Buffalo” that was on it’s way.

These ads feel fresh and great, because while there was a 60 year lag, that New Buffalo really is just around the corner this time.


When we were filled with gloom and darkness about our city, we would look and read these, and point to the empty, rotting grain elevators as a vestige of a vanished industry.

We’d look closely on the Skyway image, and see the beams marked with the logo of Bethlehem Steel. It was a bridge built to get 15,000 men from the city to their jobs in a plant that’s been cold for 30 years.

We imagine what Buffalo would have looked like if we didn’t build highways and downtown office buildings for 2 million expected Western New Yorkers, and we lament the buildings that were lost because too much of downtown was torn down too quickly for the wrong reasons.

But now, with the sun out here for the first time in generations, we look at these images and see progress and what’s to come. We now recreate under the Skyway, with promise of more to come. Grain elevators and malt houses are becoming the avant-garde, up-and-coming spaces that the next generation of Buffalonians realize are incredibly unique to us alone, as moves are made to re-imagine and re-purpose what makes us unique.


And with cranes and scaffolds up in dozens of places around the city, the thought of “new building” isn’t necessarily followed by “oh no.”

As the sun shines, and us Buffalonians feel the depression about our city lift, we’re beginning to figure out how to make our dynamic past, part of our dynamic future.

And we’re getting excited about seeing how the same ol’stuff starts to look different with some sunshine on it, warming the face and the soul.

The unfairly maligned drive-thru– It’s worse inside, baby

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – The notion that you always get jobbed in the drive-thru is now thoroughly ingrained in our culture.


Joe Pesci has one stupid rant about a drive-thru in a movie 25 years ago, and it’s now become fact for a large segment of Americans. “They always $%# you in the drive-thru!,” he said about 87 times in Lethal Weapon II back in 1989.

With all due respect to Mr. Pesci, the fact is– in 2014– the drive-thru is always better.

Why? Because the incompetence you imagine as you sit in your car pales in comparison to the incompetence you actually see unfold inside.

It’s always a rough adventure. If I am choosing drive-thru food, it’s probably a busy, jam-packed, semi-homicidal, annoying day already. To watch the circus it takes to get my order made, in the bag, and handed to me, usually just makes it worse.

That isn’t to say that all fast food workers are terrible. Quite the opposite. If it weren’t for the 20% who work their tails off and do 90% of the work, the fast food industry would collapse. The other 80%, however, put on a moron ballet so perfect in its incompetence and imperfection that Baryshnikov couldn’t compete.

Let’s look at the facts. Getting baseline acceptable service at a fast food joint is a 50/50 proposition at best. In your car, at least you’re listening to your own music, relaxing in your own seat, in control of your own surroundings.

Inside the store, there’s a pretty good chance you are watching at least one employee doing some facet of his/her job poorly, and ruining the whole flow for fellow employees and customers.

Also inside, add into the equation the loud-mouthed jerk in line, who won’t shut up about how utterly shocked he is by the shoddy work going on, and that it’s an outrage. It’s as if the last time this guy got a burger was at some gleaming Arnold’s-like drive-in. It’s also pretty clear that this jackhole has never worked hard at anything other than acting indignant.

While fly-away hairs stick to the poor manager’s worry-and-hardwork moistened forehead, and every other customer in line tries to avoid eye contact with this guy who is yelling –UNBELIEVABLE– over and over again; some conniving opportunistic disease with legs cuts in line, acting like she’s done nothing wrong. She’s also ready to tell you that your were standing in line wrong, if you are looking to pick a fight.

All this, or you can sit in the car and wonder what the hell is taking so long– but at least listening to your favorite book on tape.

Either way, the chances are pretty high that your anger will turn to rage when you find the wrong items in the bag. Maybe you should just start carrying a big bag of apples in the car.

This post originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Old Blizzards, The Comet, and Staying Warm, Buffalo

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY- So sure, it’s freezing. This is a prolonged cold snap like many of us in Buffalo can’t remember, especially in light of a couple of really mild winters.

Now you’re thinking, so what does Cichon have for us today? More on the anniversary of the Blizzard of ’77?

Well, if you want that, here’s a copy of a Channel 4 newscast from just after the Blizzard. When I worked at Channel 4, I garbage-picked a 1977 copy of this tape when a newer copy was dubbed in the late 90s. This tape is very interesting, if you want to wallow in cold.

But me, I’m wishing for warmth. So instead of the 37th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’77, I’d rather talk about another upcoming anniversary: It was 25 years ago this year that the last cars groaned and creaked along the shores of Lake Erie on the Comet.

It’s been a quarter of a century since we spilled across the Peace Bridge to be greeted by delicious all-day suckers, Paul Bunyan, and that creepy piano playing guy in Laff-in-the-Dark.

If the thought of a quick PSSSSHT of air up your shorts in the Magic Palace or the sound of the talking garbage can thanking you for keeping the park clean doesn’t warm you up today, there might not be anything that will.
If you’re old enough to remember, watching this 30 second TV spot will warm your heart if not your skin today…

It’s the 25th anniversary of Crystal Beach closing this year, and it’s also the 10th anniversary of my Buffalo pop culture website, staffannouncer.com. All year long, I’ll be sprucing up some of the pages that have been there for a while, and creating a bunch of new ones that I’ve been meaning to create for years.

This post first appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Terribly Wonderful 50s Clip Art

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – One of the great things about doing research and looking through old newspapers is finding interesting things to put into collections.


I look for patterns so I can put things together, and make it an interesting group. Such is the case with clip art.

Nowadays, you can have full-color beautiful photos and detailed artwork printed in most newspapers. In the time before even sharp photos were able to be replicated in newsprint, ads often relied on clip art style drawings to help get their messages across. These days, of course, clip art is best known for (annoying) memes on Facebook.

Here are some of the pieces of art I’ve clipped from Buffalo area newspapers from the late 40’s to the mid 60’s.

If any of these inspire a Buffalo-themed meme (or any meme, I guess–), I’d love to see it!


bus cameraman car-music checking-account checkout
garbage mixing-drugs nurses party sneeze

If you use any of these to create a meme, please email, tweet, or Facebook me a copy so I can share it (if it’s not terrible.)

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

The Anatomy of a Viral Post… Was it Worth It?

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

If you do anything online, some part of you hopes it goes viral, right?

One week ago, at this very moment, I was sitting at my desk, looking around at my mountains of stuff, trying to find something to write about for my Tuesday post for Trending Buffalo, when my eyes locked in on a pile of 1991 newspapers I’d been meaning to go through.

radioshackad-218x300I wrote about a Radio Shack ad that was just about right on top of the pile. Virtually all the technology in the ad for “America’s Technology Store” had been replaced in my life by my iPhone. So I allow words to vomit-forth from my fat fingers onto keyboard for a half hour or so, and I have a blog post.

A couple of days later, I got an email from the Huffington Post. They “want to sign me up as a writer,” and they like my Radio Shack blog, and want to repost it on their website. “All they need is a brief bio and a photo” to get the ball rolling. I was intrigued, but I also speak the language of modern media. They wanted my work for free in exchange for internet fame. OK.

Later that afternoon, just before starting to make a pan of gołąbki (Polish cabbage rolls), I quickly scrawled the following bio: Steve Cichon is a writer, historian, and “retired” radio newsman in Buffalo, NY. He has worn self-tie bow ties since the ’80s, written three books, and has turned his borderline unhealthy obsession with Buffalo’s pop culture history into a career. More from Steve at BuffaloStories.com.

Along with that, I sent a photo my wife took of me while we were having breakfast at the Lake Effect Diner one Sunday morning a few months ago.

Then it was back to boiling cabbage, browning onion, and mixing raw ground beef with my fingers. By the time I got the pigs-in-a-blanket in the oven, a friend had seen my blog post on Huffington and posted it on Facebook, tagging me.

By the time I went to bed, it had been shared by over 1,000 people on Huffington’s Facebook page.

Early the next morning, I got several texts and Facebook messages that the Today Show was teasing a story about my blog. They wound up doing a lengthy segment, using my Radio Shack image, a few of my one-liners, and my math. They used my story, didn’t add anything to it,and didn’t give me any credit.

It's really something to wake up hearing Al Roker using your jokes on the Today Show.
It’s really something to wake up hearing Al Roker using your jokes on the Today Show.

My friends got mad, but as I wrote on Facebook, “I’m glad people are offended for me, I guess because as a long time radio/TV producer, you get used to other people presenting your work. To be honest:: If I was reading this on the radio… I probably would have credited the Huffington Post, too. Maybe the author— but maybe not. I’m really not too broken up about it… or broken up at all, really. But its nice to see friends have your back, you know?”

The story of a viral blog, unattributed, made its way around the Buffalo News newsroom, and reporter Jill Terreri talked to me that day for a piece in “Off Main Street.” The headline on the few paragraphs she wrote was, “The Man Behind the Story.” Sharing that in social media the next day was another chance for my friends to enjoy my new found “fame.”

The Today show wasn’t the only place to “borrow” the story. Google images shows hundreds of instances where websites have posted the 1991 Radio Shack ad.

So now, here I sit… having fed the media a viral post wondering, was it worth it?

The upside is, between nationally read and syndicated websites, national television, and social media, there is no doubt that millions have seen my work.

Downside? Immediately, anyone would notice the trolls. Hundreds of nasty things written about me and my writing, some of them emailed directly to me so I couldn’t miss them. But that’s life on the internet.

The real downside is, while I wrote it, it’s no longer my work. It’s now in the public domain. I made that 1991 Buffalo News Radio Shack ad image with my cellphone here in my office early last Tuesday morning. Now, though, it will be floating around the internet forever, my contribution stripped. And don’t think the payment was on the front end. I was not paid for writing that blog at any point. Hundreds of websites, millions of clicks, making money– but none for the original creative force.

No attribution bothers me more than no cash, but neither one will ever keep me up at night. Honestly, I knew what I was signing up for in turning my piece over to Huffington. Not that it would air on the Today Show, but that I was basically handing off rights to my writing so that more people could enjoy it.

This isn’t about sour grapes, or railing against modern media. I’m really not complaining. I know the game, and I play it. It’s actually benefical for me to say that I’ve written a viral blog post, that I’ve written for the Huffington Post, and that my work has appeared on the Today Show.

It’s been kind of fun watching it unfold. But it’s also kind of sad knowing, when producers do little more than cut and paste, that some guy writing a blog in Buffalo is actually producing segments for network television at the same time.

So, anyway, I was thinking…. I wonder if Viral Nova would want this one?

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

13 things inside the mind of a 18-year old Buffalonian in 2014

Yesterday I was speaking to a class of high school kids, mostly seniors. One of the reasons I’m a successful public speaker has nothing to do with public speaking, per se. It’s my firm belief that no matter who the person or people are, we are equals.
18 year olds probably don’t remember people tossing quarters into the basket at the Black Rock and Ogden toll booths. They don’t even remember the toll booths being there.
18 year olds probably don’t remember people tossing quarters into the basket at the Black Rock and Ogden toll booths. They don’t even remember the toll booths being there.

Whether you’re a wealthy and powerful leader, or a kid trying not to doze off in 3rd period, we’re all on the journey of life together and we all have the opportunity to impact one another’s lives. I try to connect with people through shared experiences and perspectives… and, well, that hit a bit of a wall talking at Pioneer.

When a 16 year old asks you about your greatest experiences in journalism, and as you start to talk, you realize this kid was in first grade when Hurricane Katrina struck, so there’s an impromptu explanation of why that story was important, and then why I covered it, and then my story, then—… to hell with it. “I met Katy Perry before she was a big star.” (Actually, I wish that I would have thought to share that story.)

No matter how or why you are speaking in front of people, if you want to convey your message directly and thoroughly, you have to keep your audience in mind. Why is any of this relevant? I’ll be teaching a class of mostly college freshmen starting in a week-and-a-half. They are basically the same kids I was talking to yesterday.

I have to learn pretty quickly to limit my pop culture and current events references to the last 8 to 10 years or so. Thinking about that, and that “incoming college freshman” list that Beloit college puts together every year, I started to think about the local pop culture touch stones for my students. I’m probably missing a lot, but here’s the list off the top of my head.

Get ready to feel old.

13 things inside the mind of a 18 year old Buffalonian

1.) Byron Brown has been mayor for as long as they can remember. He became mayor when they were in fifth grade.

2.) The Bills have never been to the playoffs. They were 3 for Home Run Throwback. Not only do they not know Jim Kelly as a player, they don’t know Doug Flutie. They might not even remember Drew Bledsoe. They were 8 when he left.

3.) Niagara Falls, USA has always had a casino, and never had a mall or festival of lights.

4.) Unless they were on the roads a lot before the age of 11, most probably have no idea that there were once tolls at Ogden and Black Rock on the 190. And they’ve never seen anyone throw quarters into an exact change toll booth.

5.) Bon-Ton has always been Bon-Ton and Macy’s has been Macy’s since they were 10– so maybe they remember Kaufmann’s. They might know the name AM&As, but only because some old person in their family calls Bon-Ton “AM&As” for some reason.

6.) They’ve never been asked “smoking or non?” at a restaurant in New York State. Smoking was banned in restaurants 11 years ago here.

7.) They remember the old days when the Sabres played at “HSBC Arena,” but don’t remember any other names or buildings. The Bills have always played at “Ralph Wilson Stadium,” never Rich.

8.) 103.3 has always been the Edge, 102.5 has always been Star, 104.1 has never been Oldies 104.

9.) They have never seen an Irv Weinstein newscast, but probably don’t remember the Empire Sports Network, either.

10.) There has always been a Tim Hortons on every corner, and they’ve always served sandwiches and/or ice cream.

11.) They’ve always been able to read the Buffalo News online.

12.) There was another Governor Cuomo?

13.) Just about every ride at Darien Lake has always been there.

At the risk of sounding old and cranky, I really do have underwear older than these kids.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Everything from 1991 Radio Shack ad I now do with my phone

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Some people like to spend $3 on a cup of coffee. While that sounds like a gamble I probably wouldn’t take, I’ll always like to gamble– especially as little as three bucks– on what I might be able to dig up on Buffalo and Western New York, our collective past, and what it means for our future.

I recently came across a big pile of Buffalo News front sections from 1991, every day for the first three months of the year… collected as the First Gulf War unfolded. $3. I probably could have chiseled the guy down a buck, but I happily paid to see what else was in those papers.

There’s plenty about a run up to the first Superbowl appearance ever for the Bills, and mixed in with the disappointment is an air of hope and expectation for what is to come. Harumph. There are also some great local ads commemorating and/or coat-tailing on the Bills success.

We’ll get to those someday, but today, something much simpler. The back page of the front section on Saturday, February 16, 1991 was 4/5ths covered with a Radio Shack ad.

There are 15 electronic gimzo type items on this page, being sold from America’s Technology Store. 13 of the 15 you now always have in your pocket.



So here’s the list of what I’ve replaced with my iPhone.

  • All weather personal stereo, $11.88. I now use my iPhone with an Otter Box
  • AM/FM clock radio, $13.88. iPhone.
  • In-Ear Stereo Phones, $7.88. Came with iPhone.
  • Microthin calculator, $4.88. Swipe up on iPhone.
  • Tandy 1000 TL/3, $1599. I actually owned a Tandy 1000, and I used it for games and word processing. I now do most of both of those things on my phone.
  • VHS Camcorder, $799. iPhone.
  • Mobile Cellular Telephone, $199. Obvs.
  • Mobile CB, $49.95. Ad says “You’ll never drive ‘alone’ again!” iPhone.
  • 20-Memory Speed-Dial phone, $29.95.
  • Deluxe Portable CD Player, $159.95. 80 minutes of music, or 80 hours of music? iPhone.
  • 10-Channel Desktop Scanner, $99.55. I still have a scanner, but I have a scanner app, too. iPhone.
  • Easiest-to-Use Phone Answerer, $49.95. iPhone voicemail.
  • Handheld Cassette Tape Recorder, $29.95. I use the Voice Memo app almost daily.
  • BONUS REPLACEMENT: It’s not an item for sale, but at the bottom of the ad, you’re instructed to ‘check your phone book for the Radio Shack Store nearest you.’  Do you even know how to use a phone book?

You’d have spent $3054.82 in 1991 to buy all the stuff in this ad that you can now do with your phone. That amount is roughly equivalent to about $5100 in 2012 dollars.

The only two items on the page that my phone really can’t replace:

  • Tiny Dual-Superhet Radar Detector, $79.95. But when is the last time you heard the term “fuzzbuster” anyway?
  • 3-Way speaker with massive 15″ Woofer, $149.95.

It’s nothing new, but it’s a great example of the technology of only two decades ago now replaced by the 3.95 ounce bundle of plastic, glass, and processors in our pockets.

This post originally appeared on TrendingBuffalo.com, and was picked up by the Huffington Post. It also filled a segment on NBC’s Today Show, and has served as inspiration and a resource for dozens of print and web articles around the world.

A reflection on Al Roker using my jokes and other things that happened with this post can be read here:  The Anatomy of a Viral Post… Was it Worth It?

Winter Makes Us Who We Are

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Some of us ski, some of us snowmobile, but most of us dislike Buffalo’s winter weather, and have absolutely no use for it at all. Period.

Hertel Avenue, January 6, 2014.
Hertel Avenue, January 6, 2014.

Sure, that first snow fall is cute, and it’s nice to have a little right before Christmas, but that’s it for snow. And the cold is almost entirely useless.

Yet here we are, living in a place where we don’t really like the weather 5 months out of the year, and we wouldn’t leave for anything.

All of us spend from November to April with a dry cough, a low-grade sinus infection, and chapped, cracked hands and lips.

The cold, colorless landscape can wear on our moods. Prolonged cold and snow can wear on our bodies as we clear our driveways and windshields, and can wear on cars as they try to chug through, too. Even our heartless, soulless machines need an occasional jump or a push to get themselves going when it’s like this.

But that’s how winter makes us who we are.

We’re ready with the knowledge of rocking a car– wheels straight– before a gut-busting almighty shove, and standing by with a pair of jumper cables, ready to hook the black cable to some bare metal in the engine block of the car with the dead battery. We don’t have this arcane knowledge just for ourselves, but also to help bring brightness to someone else’s cold, gray day. We don’t even question that it’s everyone’s responsibility to get everyone else out of the ditch and on to where they are going.

If you don’t have jumper cables, maybe you have supply of cough drops, tea bags and tissues your desk drawer. They are ready, of course, for when your month-long almost cold turns the corner to full-blown sick. They are also there, however,  as an apothecary for friends and co-workers, ready to soothe their aches with a little understanding and help get through not only the day, but the howling, frigid winter with which we all grapple.

Maybe after a lifetimes’ worth of clearing the neighborhood’s sidewalks, the next generation is now clearing yours. We all understand that winter is a group effort in Western New York, and that understanding permeates who we are year ’round.

A Buffalo winter is not like a tornado or a hurricane. There’s no hoping and praying that it skips us. We know it’s coming, and we know it’s going to be long, and we know it’s going to be rough at times. But the thing that’s different about a Buffalo winter– is not only how we deal with it, but how we all help each other through it.

People fortunate enough to head south during the winter months know the feeling of having red, chilled cheeks walking on a plane, and sunny warmth on your face as you disembark.

As good as 80 might feel in Miami today, it couldn’t beat a 52 degree day at the end of January, when you walk outside, feel thoroughly warmed, and smile at the neighbor with whom you were shoveling the side walk only a few days earlier.

Sure, it’s only January, and there is more gray, thick winter to come, but our shared experience, our love for our city, and our love for one another, keep us moving in anticipation of when we can change the sound of howling wind for the sounds of birds chirping in the lush green trees, and change the taste of chapstick for the tastes of our favorite ice cream and hot dog stands.

Stay warm.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Back to the glory days of 3¢ beer in Buffalo!

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Everyone loves a cheap beer, right?


But 3¢ beer? Now that’s news!

As newspapers around the country struggle, maybe they need to take a page from the 1935 Courier-Express, and report the news the people want– Namely, find the city’s cheapest schupers and kimmelwecks, and print that. Print it everyday.


After reading this, I’ll never pay a nickel for a beer again!

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

One guy’s 2013: Imperfectly perfect

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.”


Can we all agree this is a dumb thing to say?

Stupid as it is, though, when you break it down, you begin to see the complexity underlying the thought.

What does “greener” mean? There are infinite shades of green, and we all have our own unique notion of which color green the grass should be. What’s greener for you, might be less green for me.

And what about the other side of the fence? Are you going to climb that fence, or try to make your own grass closer to your neighbor’s?

Maybe he started with better grass seed. Maybe he has a $10,000 underground irrigation system that constantly waters the lawn at the perfect rate, while you hose yours down twice a week. But did you know he never eats out to pay for the system and the water?

He also gets it sprayed every week, so his kids and dog have to stay off the grass about half the time.

Greener grass, but at what cost? Especially when plenty of people like the natural look of your lawn better than the chemical look of his.

You need to figure out what that lawn you covet is worth to you, and if its worth the sacrifice. Nothing good comes without sacrifice.

Even though my wife generally cuts the grass at our house, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about these sorts of questions in 2013 as I “retired” from radio.

People always ask why I left. After 20 years of broadcasting and 10 years as a radio newsman, I walked away from my dream job as WBEN News Director to start my own business. Buffalo Stories LLC is really my big boy dream job.

People always ask what I do. I create and write for people, I help people learn to create and write for themselves, and I use my experience to help figure out what individuals, businesses, and non-profits need from their public persona to get them where they want to be.

I shoot video, write books, create websites, teach college classes, look into souls, bring people together for the common good.

In a sentence, I listen to people and use my skills to help them take what they already have and form it so they can better live their passion.

It’s what working for myself has allowed me to do, too. I am living my passions: helping people succeed, and helping Buffalo succeed by weaving threads of our glorious-yet-too-often maligned past into our future.

So when people ask, these are the things I tell them. I am extraordinarily blessed that they are all true. What I don’t usually talk about is that working from home and being your own boss isn’t all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.

Before I move onto bigger and better years, let me be honest for a moment about 2013.

It’s been hard. It’s been really hard. I’m not complaining, and I’m new at it, but it’s hard.

It’s hard to share a workspace with the rest of your life, including a wife and a dog. It’s hard to walk away from 15 items on the to-do list to walk into the next room to make dinner. It’s also hard to walk away from the dinner table and head back to work. It’s tough to get up at 5am to get some work done so I can spend some of the rest of the day with family or work on other projects now that I’m a “free man.” It’s torturous to wonder if I’ll ever land enough of the clients and projects I love.

It’s also a tough pill to swallow that the gains this year have not been financial. I’ve actually brought in, over the last six months, a tad less than I would have had I stayed in radio.

But nothing good comes without sacrifice. For all of the nonsense, in the last six months I’ve played roles in amazing projects, been hired by amazing people, and now have some truly extraordinary things on the horizon. I’m helping businesses and non-profits succeed. I’m writing books. I’m teaching. I’m working on TV documentaries about our beautiful extraordinary city and it’s people. I’m building on small successes, and planting seeds which will grow strong as time wears on.

Greener grass? I rototilled in 2013. I hoed and raked and seeded and watered, and most of it is lush, green, and beautiful. It’s even OK that a few spots came up brown, because it’s not only the results I’m proud of, but the vigilance and hard work, too. No shortcuts, no baloney. I think it’s the better way, despite the hardships.

I hope you can find your green patches from 2013, and hope that you’ve steeled your spine to do the work, and set your vision to make 2014 the best year yet.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Christmas miracle…

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

It says something about us. I’m not sure what, but I think it’s a tiny bit of proof that we’re not completely done for. That there is some how, some hope for us after all.


“White Christmas” was first recorded by Bing Crosby in 1942, and the recording became the number one hit song for several months that year. The song made GIs fighting overseas during World War II cry thinking of home. It sold so well, that the original master recording became damaged because they copied it so much. Bing and the same crew got together and made a new master recording in 1947. That ’47 version is the one we’re all familiar with.

Bing’s White Christmas remains the best selling song of all-time.

I am an admitted old-soul, nostalgia guy. I like Norman Rockwell and Bing Crosby and “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I also know that generally, I’m in the minority. But somehow, a 66 year old recording has somehow remained unquestionably mainstream.

The song is certainly well presented, and it’s powerful lyrics are open for you to insert your own fuzzy-around-the-edges wishes, desires and memories. And Bing Crosby, media’s first superstar and once the most powerful entertainer in the country, now just sounds like a generic guy who could be anyone’s dad singing. The song remains powerful by tapping into those fragmented memories of a simpler time, when Christmas meant hardly being able to fall asleep the night before, and waking up to wide-eyed wonder.

Girls my age might warmly remember getting a Cabbage Patch doll under the tree in 1983. And while that is a simple, warm memory for her, her mother might remember the near-riot that broke out at Gold Circle when two women started fighting over the last one. That mom might remember getting her Chatty Cathy doll in her stocking. Like so much of our stuff, it’s not the actual thing we hold so fondly, it’s the memories and feelings wrapped up in those things that we hold dear.

We each know that there’s something special, warm, and wonderful about the Christmas spirit. Deep down, we all know that it’s something that we should take with us the rest of the year. Helping people, bringing joy to people, realizing and embracing the true meaning of life.

Even as the 2013 Christmas spirit has become too much about free shipping and removing the remaining humanity from the commercialized part of the holiday– somehow a seven-decades-old recording thrives amidst our “toss-out-the-old” culture, and invites us all to stop for a moment.

The White Christmases we’re dreaming about are generally gone. The care-free feeling and the loved ones who are no longer here can’t be brought back. But hopefully being reminded of something we’ve lost along the way, we can some how try to find some relevance in simplicity, and find a place in our heart and some time for it our calendars in our modern hectic lives.

That song wouldn’t live if we didn’t want it.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Anchorman Buffalo Style

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

With Anchorman 2 hitting theatres on December 18th, it’s only fitting that we take a look back at the men and women who wore those styles and looked good on Buffalo TV in the 70s and 80s.

From the Buffalo Stories/staffannouncer.com Archives, here are a handful of delightful photos and screen shots that would make Ron Burgundy proud…

Irv Weinstein, Rick Azar, Don Postles, and Tom Jolls… The wide-tied Eyewitness News team c. 1980.
Irv Weinstein, Rick Azar, Don Postles, and Tom Jolls… The wide-tied Eyewitness News team c. 1980.
John Beard, Allen Costantini, Van Miller, Kevin O’Connell. The hip dudes of Channel 4 in the late 70s.
John Beard, Allen Costantini, Van Miller, Kevin O’Connell. The hip dudes of Channel 4 in the late 70s.
Molly McCoy, Rich Kellman, Ed Kilgore, and Barry Lillis… NewsCenter 2
Molly McCoy, Rich Kellman, Ed Kilgore, and Barry Lillis… NewsCenter 2
Susan Banks, WKBW-TV, c.1980
Susan Banks, WKBW-TV, c.1980
Frank Benny, WGR-TV weather man, mid 70s
Frank Benny, WGR-TV weather man, mid 70s
Maria Genero is one of a vaunted few– She’s worked at 2,4, & 7. She did weather on Channel 4 in the mid 80s.
Maria Genero is one of a vaunted few– She’s worked at 2,4, & 7. She did weather on Channel 4 in the mid 80s.
Here’s beefcake Danny Neaverth in 1973. Aside from mornings on WKBW and later WHTT, Danny did the weather outside on Channel 7’s noon news, and later did weather and hosted “Nearly Noon” on Channel 2.
Here’s beefcake Danny Neaverth in 1973. Aside from mornings on WKBW and later WHTT, Danny did the weather outside on Channel 7’s noon news, and later did weather and hosted “Nearly Noon” on Channel 2.
John Beard and Carol Crissey 1981
John Beard and Carol Crissey 1981
The legendary Ron Hunter, WGR-TV news anchor for several years in the mid 70s. One of the writers of the original Anchorman movie once cited Hunter, who moved on from Buffalo to Chicago, as an inspiration.
The legendary Ron Hunter, WGR-TV news anchor for several years in the mid 70s. One of the writers of the original Anchorman movie once cited Hunter, who moved on from Buffalo to Chicago, as an inspiration.
Wadi Sawabini outside a jewelry store holdup.
Wadi Sawabini outside a jewelry store holdup.
Mike Randall, Eyewitness News
Mike Randall, Eyewitness News
Marie Rice outside the brand new Hilton hotel
Marie Rice outside the brand new Hilton hotel
The mysterious investigative reporter John Pauly at a Buffalo phone booth
The mysterious investigative reporter John Pauly at a Buffalo phone booth
Rich Newberg and an ambulance
Rich Newberg and an ambulance
How does Jacquie Walker look exactly the same? (OK, maybe smaller shoulder pads.)
How does Jacquie Walker look exactly the same? (OK, maybe smaller shoulder pads.)