Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.
Cleaning up in the attic, one box had some high school files in it, including a screen print of a David Letterman drawing I did in 10th grade.
I was such a big fan to the point where I wore sneakers with my double-breasted sport coats just like Dave… and, at just barely 16 years old, I used my first radio paycheck (judging by the date on this invoice) to mail order a box of 50 cigars– so I could drive around in my ’74 VW, wearing a bow tie, heading to my job at a radio station with a big ol’stogie going, paying tribute to Letterman and having about the greatest existence any 16 year old could ask for.
I think my plan was to make some kind of “public art installation” (aka graffiti) with my silk screen Dave… but as I recall, the ink didn’t stick to the surface I tried to plaster. What a pisspot. (I don’t think I could define pisspot, but I know one when I see one. And the older I get, the more of them I see!)
Today is Amherst’s 200th Birthday! It’s official because it says so on Wikipedia:
The town of Amherst was created by the State of New York on April 10, 1818; named after Lord Jeffrey Amherst. Amherst was formed from part of the town of Buffalo (later the city of Buffalo), which had previously been created from the town of Clarence. Timothy S. Hopkins was elected the first supervisor of the town of Amherst in 1819. Part of Amherst was later used to form the town of Cheektowaga in 1839.
Here are a few of our looks back at the Town of Amherst over the years:
Milestone: For the first time since 1986, I cannot say the I own a working cart machine.
A friend asked me to digitize some carts for him, which I was happy to do– until I tried all four of the cart machines I have in my attic, and they’ve all run out of gas.
On a beautiful summer day when I was 9 years old, my friend gave me the big rack mountable Spotmaster cart machine I’m so diligently cleaning in this photo (while wearing my dad’s dog tags in my bedroom, c. 1989.)
I balanced it on the seat of my bike for the few blocks back to my house, and I’ve had a “real radio station” at home ever since.
Owning a cart machine when I was 9 probably made me feel more like a true radio guy than I do showing up to write and read the news every morning…
Carts have been a part of my life for a long time– playing music and commercials, and taking hours to create audio production pieces that now take about 15 minutes of a computer.
I’ll miss not having a working cart machine, but I’ll hang on to the worn out ones I have– you never know when you’ll need a good boat anchor or three.
His smiling face and happy accordion are one of the great welcoming sights of the Easter Season at the Broadway Market.
And with his Easter season appearances in newspaper and social media photos and all over television newscasts, Tony Krupski has really become the face of the Broadway Market.
“Many people tell me that, yes,” said Krupski last week at the market.
Krupski has been playing accordion for 60 years, famously for his family’s band, The Krew Brothers Orchestra and for Full Circle. Playing at the market is really source of pride.
“I don’t take it for granted. I’ve been playing all my life. But the Broadway Market– it rejuvenates the entire year. I’m happy to be a part of it,” says Krupski.
So now as his playing creates new memories and a connection to the past at the Broadway Market, he’s reminded of his own memories of the place.
“I remember coming here to the Broadway Market as a youngster,” says Krupski. “My parents would bring me here and we’d shop in the market. In the back, the hucksters selling fruits, vegetables and chickens. It just brings back a lot of memories, and here I am, years later, enjoying and playing here.”
Tony honored me with a command performance of my favorite Krew Brothers’ song, The Buffalo Polka.
March 28th was Palm Sunday eight years ago– I remember because during the 3am hour, Dad had a heart attack in his hospital bed at the VA, and despite the best efforts of the ICU team, he died. That’s him, by the way, on the left with his older brothers Mike “Hooker” Doyle and Chuck Cichon.
I knew the moment my ol’man left. I wasn’t there, but something woke me up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night and instantly, with something like an electrical pulse of knowledge, I just knew. It was knowledge that was filled with peace and light and beauty, but as I started to think about it, it made me terribly sad.
Thinking it was some kind of dream, I calmed myself down and fell back asleep, just in time for the phone to ring at 4:11am, with mom telling me to get to the hospital. I was the first to get there, and they told me they tried for 20 minutes but couldn’t bring him back.
I later figured out that his official time of death minus the time they spent working on him was the exact time I popped up awake in bed. Dad was gone and it was terribly sad, but also filled with peace and light and beauty.
It’s beyond current human understanding how or why the universe let me know dad was gone, and that everything was OK… but you can’t be the same after something like that, experiencing some connection to the great beyond.
I’m really just fine with not understanding it.. and just knowing that my ol’man’s soul and who his was lives on in me until I breathe my last breath.
It also leaves me knowing that somewhere in time and space, on a plane that’s just outside our human grasp, my ol’man is waiting for me with a big smile, some cheap whiskey, and some thoughts on Donald Trump.
For six decades, a trip to Grand Island has included passing through one of these blue sheds– the same toll booths have stood at the entrances to the Grand Island bridges and all along the Thruway.
We’re looking back at Thruway toll booths as we say good bye to the Grand Island booths with the introduction of cashless tolls to the Island this Thursday.
When the Thruway was built throughout the 1950’s, it was celebrated as a marvel of modern engineering– and written about in places like National Geographic magazine.
People were actually happy to pay the tolls– as the Thruway cut the time to drive to New York City, for example, by 300%.
Driving through toll booths were even something you wanted to tell the folks back home about– There were postcards all along the Thruway, like these two from the Buffalo area for the Williamsville tolls and the 90/190 interchange, the old Ogden tolls.
And back in 2015, we celebrated a decade without the Black Rock and Ogden tolls…
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.
Having recently spent an afternoon going through family history with my mom’s older brother, my uncle Jim Coyle, there were plenty of wonderful, flashy items.
The dog tags (and attached Miraculous medal) Great-Grandpa Wargo wore as an Aviation Metalsmith 3rd Class in the Pacific during World War II.
Photos of Great-Grandpa Wargo’s parents’ wedding in 1906.
Photos of Great-Grandma Wargo’s grandparents, John Prentiss and Mary Greiner, outside their East Side Buffalo home in the 1910s. The spot is now covered by the Buffalo/Niagara Medical campus.
What looks to be a Kindergarten photo of my grandmother, June Wargo Coyle. It was instantly one of my favorite photos of her.
Not quite as flashy, a six-page letter, written in long hand, by an older Coyle cousin with information meant for young genealogist uncle Jim Coyle in 1971.
Mary Coyle was my great grandfather Coyle’s first cousin. She was born in 1906, and spent the early part of her life living among our ancestors and extended family in Pennsylvania coal country.
It was another Coyle cousin– Ceil Gallagher– who reached out to Mary on Jim’s behalf. Ceil lived in the Marine Drive Apartments, and the first couple of pages of Mary’s letter is the good, old fashioned kind of long hand letter that people don’t write anymore– complete with complaints about troubles with legs and invitations to come visit. “We have plenty of room,” writes Mary to Ceil.
Then there are several generations of the Coyle family tree, almost certainly (and perfectly) rendered from Mary’s memory… people who would have been Grandpa Coyle’s great-aunts and great uncles and their children and grandchildren.
Good ol’Mary couldn’t have imagined it writing nearly 50 years ago, but her longhand family tree helps close the gaps with several fourth and fifth cousins with whom I share DNA according to ancestry.com’s DNA test– but with whom I could not find a common ancestor (until now.)
My favorite part of the letter (and probably ol’Mary’s favorite part to write) is the last page.
Her handwriting shrinks in size as she shares distant fuzzy memories of long ago trips with her dad to visit aunts and cousins. At one point she admits, “I think I am the only one who knows anything about our relations.”
John Coyle (c.1849-1908) came to Pennsylvania from Ireland around 1861 and married Mary Dugan around 1865. Those immigration and marriage years are based soley upon data in the 1900 census.) Up until Mary’s letter, the information on census reports and this death certificate are all that I’ve known about John Coyle’s history.
He came to the US at a point when records weren’t kept as well as they would be in years to come. The fact that John Coyle is a common name doesn’t help. We can’t be sure when or through where he immigrated, or where in Ireland he came from.
But once he was here, the John Coyle family lived in and around the coal towns of Carbondale, Mayfield, and Jermyn in Lackawanna County. According to the 1880 census, their son Andrew was born in New Jersey– they clearly moved a lot, to where ever the mining jobs were.
There were seven boys in the family, and those boys worked jobs in the mines just like their father– things like breaking up larger chunks of coal and leading the donkeys pulling the carts of coal. They eventually moved about an hour’s drive south to Beaver Meadows in Carbon County. Some of the family also eventually wound up in the larger cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, which are in between these clusters of towns.
Mary Coyle writes what she knows about her grandfather’s sister.
In what was new information to me, Mary writes that John Coyle had a sister– who was known as Biddy, Fanny, or Frances. She married a man named Gallagher and had two kids. Margaret married Sherman Tompkins and Charles married Jennie Keating.
Searches on ancestry.com show many of Fanny/Frances Coyle-Gallagher’s descendants have traced their lineage back to her, but none have connected Fanny and John as brother and sister.
Like John, Fanny came to the US from Ireland. But she came a few years later– and already married, which makes her easier to trace.
Fanny Coyle was married to John Gallagher in Gweedore, County Donegal, on 22 Feb 1870– there were a few people who linked that information from a list at donegalgenealogy.com. The names look like other names that pop up with the Coyles– Gallaghers, McGees, Duggan, etc, which is another good sign that it’s the right place to look.
There are a few trees which mention Fanny Coyle-Gallagher, but appear to trace back the wrong Patrick Coyle as her father. Based on the dates alone, they have the wrong guy.
One ancestry.com member– Edward O’Donnell Neary– seems to have some good information from somewhere, perhaps from a family bible or other source that has been handed down. His tree has Fanny’s father as John Patrick Coyle, born 21 March 1824 in County Donegal, Ireland and died March 1894 in Dunfanaghy, County Donegal. The good news there, is he also has Fanny’s mother as Cecila McGee– the name that matches John Coyle’s Pennsylvania death certificate.
I’m reaching out to him to see where he got this information from, and to share the information that I’ve been working with.
Mary goes onto explain that her grandfather John must have had another brother or cousin, because she remembers visiting Mrs. Malloy and Charlie Coyle who both lived on Kidder Street in Wilkes-Barre.
She’s right once again. Charles J. Coyle and Isabelle “Bella” Coyle-Malloy were two of the six children of Andrew Coyle and Mary O’Donnell-Coyle.
At this point, given the facts presented in Mary’s letter, it’s clear this group of Coyles is related. What isn’t clear, is how they are related. To figure that out, we’ll have to learn more about Andrew, like his death date– with the hopes of finding his death certificate, which should give his parents’ names.
Mary visited Mrs. Turnbaugh(?) in Beaver Meadows, whom she believed to be her fathers’ aunt. This is the only lead that doesn’t bear any immediate fruit. The only Turnbaugh woman of the proper age in Carbon County was born in England. This needs further research.
She also remembers visiting Celia O’Donnell and the McGees in McAdoo, PA. McGee is John Coyle’s mother’s maiden name, and there are several McGee/Coyle marriages of people in McAdoo, but no solid connections without further investigation.
One final note on ancient Coyle history came in the beginning part of the letter. For all the she remembered about John Coyle’s relatives, she didn’t know anything about his wife– my great-great Grandmother– Mary Duggan Coyle.
“It never dawned on me that I don’t know anything about my grandmother’s side. I can’t recall ever hearing anything about her, except all the neighbors used to speak of her as a wonderful person.”
Because Mary Coyle sat down and wrote a letter 50 years ago, hundreds of her cousins all over the world are closer to understanding a little more about where we’ve come from.
It’s with great sadness that I’ve spent several hours creating this post today.
When I bought a copy of the 1983 Priests’ Pictorial Directory, I did it with a smile. Flipping through the pages, there are dozens of men who’ve had a positive and wonderful impact on my life.
Instead of sharing the warm and fond memories of the hundreds of men of God in this booklet, I’m drawn today to make sure that the airing out of the deepest recesses of evil within the Catholic church here in Buffalo is as complete as possible.
Of the 42 men named by the Diocese today, 38 of them had photos in this directory. Those photos appear below.
I remember one of these men regularly visiting my Kindergarten classroom. I regularly attended Mass offered by another. It makes me sad and sick– but healing occurs in the light not in the dark.
Here are photos of those accused. May the light shining upon it bring healing to all those who feel the pain of this horrific chapter in the history of the Catholic church.
Here is the complete list released by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo– 42 priests, with dates of their deaths in parenthesis:
Having worked with Van Miller on Bills broadcasts on the radio and then as his producer at Channel 4, I spent a lot of time listening to his stories.
Van was a tremendous storyteller, and always delighted any crowd gathered around him with his ability to spin a tale about almost anything and make it interesting.
One of his favorites was “The Cookie Gilchrist earmuff story.” Ask people who’ve spent time around Van– Paul Peck, Brian Blessing, John Murphy… and they probably know the story as Van told it by heart as well as Van knew it himself.
The story goes, Cookie Gilchrist wasn’t really happy with the amount of money The Bills were paying him, so he was always looking for a way to make an extra buck. One time, he decided to buy a load of earmuffs and sell them as “Cookie Gilchrist earmuffs” at The Rockpile one Sunday.
“Well,” Van would say with a smile, “It happened to be one of the hottest December days on record, and the sun blazing at kickoff– he only sold about three pairs of earmuffs!”
It’s a classic Van story, quick and neat, and leaves the listener smiling.
The problem is, while there’s probably some basis in truth— Van was always more about telling a good story than about getting all the facts straight.
In a quick internet search, I found three different reports of Van telling the story. The temperature at kickoff was either 69, 57, or 60 degrees depending on which version you read. The number of pairs of earmuffs he had changed too– 5,000 in one telling; 3,000 in another; 15,000 another time.
The point is, there were probably earmuffs. Beyond that, it’s tough to tell where the colorful imagination of Uncle Van took over.
There’s another version of the story told to writer Scott Pitoniak by longtime Bills trainer Ed Abramowski. Published in 2007, Abe’s version is Cookie was trying to sell the earmuffs for the 1964 AFL Championship Game at War Memorial, but the headgear wound up getting caught in customs when Gilchrist tried to bring them to Buffalo from his home in Toronto.
The only contemporary earmuff story I could find was in the Ottawa Journal a few days after the Bills won that 1964 AFL Championship Game.
A reporter asked Cookie about the autographed earmuffs he said would be sold at the game. “I ran into problems there, and didn’t sell them.”– Ottawa Journal, December 28, 1964
That game was played December 26, 1964. It was a mild day with some rain and a high around 45.
Van Miller’s story is the only reason I know that Cookie Gilchrist ever tried to sell earmuffs, and that really makes me smile. Knowing the real story about how and why makes me smile, too.
This video clip is about one of the toughest guys to ever wear a Buffalo on his helmet: Cookie Gilchrist.. but for me, it's also abotu the guy who taught me everything I know about Cookie– Larry Felser. Again, It's a great story about Cookie, but my favorite part is the very end… when Larry Felser lays it all out there finishing the story in grand style… with that devilish look in his eye and big grin on his face. He was one of the best storytellers I've ever known, and one of the most genuine souls. Rest in Peace, ol'pal.