Remembering Seneca Street’s Mr. Manny

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

I saw news on Facebook today that Manny Ciulla has died.

Mr. Manny, one of the greats

Manny’s on Seneca Street was the kind of institution we need more of… run by the kind of man we need more of.

After my ol’man’s bar closed, Manny’s was the only ginmill where dad’d feel comfortable, because Mr. Manny was more than just a guy who pushed drinks over the bar– he cared about his customers and the people of the Seneca Street community like family.

“Mrs. Manny” made great pizzas and burgers, but Manny’s was a clearly a tavern. Still, when I’d stop in as a 12 or 13 year old and ordered a Birch Beer at the bar, there was nothing untoward about it– and I know Mr. Manny loved it, and he’d talk to me like he talked to my dad or my uncles.

I can’t imagine there’s anyone who knew Mr. Manny who didn’t love him. Just like Tony Scaccia at Tony the Barber and Gerry Maciuba at The Paperback Trading Post, Manny was one of those Seneca Street shopkeepers who made Seneca Street– where both grandmas lived– feel like home to a kid who moved seven times before sixth grade.

Conrad Loewer, c1855-1893, my third-great grandfather

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Conrad Loewer is my third-great grandfather, born in the Holy Roman Empire state of Hesse Cassel/Kurhessen (in today’s Germany) sometime around 1855. He died in Buffalo in 1893.

Conrad and Katherine Weigand Loewer

With his father (my fourth-great grandfather) John (born 1821), sister Katherine, and brother Henry, he came to the United States aboard the Bark Therese. The 52-day voyage from Bremen, Germany landed at the Castle Garden immigration station in New York—the forerunner to Ellis Island– on August 13, 1868.

A bark (barque) is a ship with three or more masts. The image of the Bark Therese was created by Norwegian artist Frederik Sørvig in 1853.

John was a tailor in Germany and continued that trade in Buffalo—passing it onto his son Conrad as he came of age in Buffalo. In 1885, Conrad sold his property on Hickory Street near Batavia (Broadway) and eventually made his way to Carbondale, PA, where he opened a men’s tailor shop on Seventh Street there.

In 1887, newspapers in Carbondale and Scranton reported on Conrad’s childhood association with one of the anarchists who lobbed bombs at police officers in Chicago’s Haymarket square. In Hesse, Loewer attended school with August Spies, who was eventually executed for his role in “The Haymarket Affair.”

“It’s a pleasure to know that this early association with the bomb thrower did not contaminate him, for Mr. Loewer is ‘mild-mannered’ and an industrious citizen,” reported the Scranton Republican.

In 1888, Loewer returned to Buffalo with his wife and children, moving around Jefferson Avenue and William Street. Living at 899 Smith Street, he died in 1893 from pneumonia.

My great-great grandmother, Jeanette “Nettie” Loewer-Greiner, and her twin brother John were seven years old when their father died. Sisters Agnes and Dora were even younger.

Conrad Loewer’s daughters: Katherine, Elizabeth, Jeanette, Agnes, Dora

Especially after the death of my third-great grandmother Katherine Weigand-Loewer in 1900, Conrad’s brother Henry became a father figure in the lives of the Conrad’s destitute and orphaned six children, doing what he could to support them. Henry also supported his elderly father John until his death in 1897.

Henry A. Loewer was a cloth cutter at the Erie County Penitentiary before he was elected Buffalo’s Morning Justice in 1901. For four years, he was the judge who’d travel from precinct to precinct deciding on the cases of men arrested overnight for drinking, fighting, etc. During his time on the bench, he also solemnized 169 marriages.

Henry Loewer 1864-1907

When Henry died in 1907, the Buffalo Enquirer called him “one of the East Side’s best-known Republicans,” and said, “he was a man of bulky size and a familiar figure to the people of the East Side.”

Tracing the history of the Loewer family in Buffalo is challenging since there is another Loewer family with children named Conrad, Henry, and John. They were also from Hesse Cassel and also tailors. It’s very likely that they were related “in the old country,” but there’s no evidence of them working together, sharing business, etc in Buffalo—despite living only blocks away from one another in the Fruit Belt and the streets just south of the Fruit Belt with tree names in the Ellicott Neighborhood.

Conrad Loewer’s daughter Jeanette married Frederick W. Greiner, the son of Joseph Prentiss Greiner and Mary Atkinson-Greiner. Their daughter, Jeannette Greiner-Wargo married Stephen Wargo. They were my grandmother’s parents.

My great-great grandparents Fred and Jeanette Greiner lived on the corner of Hickory and Sycamore in a house with a corner porch. My 5’2″ grandma used to tell stories about her 4’8″ grandma chasing kids off that porch with a broom. Hahaha. Here’s a picture of Fred– a WWI cavalry sergeant and bottler at the Iroquois plant– enjoying a smoke in his living room on the corner of Hickory and Sycamore in the Ellicott Neighborhood.

Joe Bruno was friendly– but ready to fight

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Longtime New York State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno died today.

Some of my most interesting times as a reporter happened when I was the only journalist on the scene.

As a radio guy without a camera, I think it puts a lot of newsmakers at ease— or maybe it makes them feel like they’re at an advantage.

Anyway, I was at an event to ask Joe Bruno about state budget negotiations as headed by Albany’s long-infamous “three men in a room,” where the governor, the Assembly Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader would swap and balance their special interests to make sure the budget would have the votes to pass for the governor’s signature.

Bruno was warm and overly friendly— and entirely evasive. We both played the game. I likely had at least two more stops that night and it was clear I wasn’t going to win a Pulitzer for the story that would result from the interview. It would probably just end up as a couple of quick sound bites for the morning show.

My last question was something like, so what is it like being one of the three men in the room?

With the same overly friendly approach, he said that three men in a room was a myth, not how it actually worked, etc, etc… it was a sound bite he’d been well-practiced at giving for more than a decade.

I thanked him and stopped my recorder.

“There’s no such thing as ‘three men in a room,’” he said, with calculated seriousness and determination in his eyes that hadn’t been there during the interview.

Then a gleam grew from that cold look and a faint smile appeared at the corners of his lips, but the way he straightened his spine at the same time gave more of a sinister vibe than a warm one.

He made sure our eyes were locked when he said, “but it’s great being one of those three men,” keeping that gaze long enough to intimidate but short enough to claim otherwise.

He was not only a tough old-time politician, but he was also a boxer— a good one.

I met a little of both that day.

On WBEN’s 90th birthday, the station’s longest-serving announcer is still on the air…

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

WBEN signed on the air September 8, 1930—90 years ago today.

The station’s birthday is important to me because the station has played such an important role in my life as a listener, employee, and now alumni of the station.

I first walked into the station as a 15-year-old intern, and would spend the next five years working my way up through the producer ranks up to what was the highest profile producer job in radio—producer of Buffalo Bills Football with Van Miller and John Murphy. I also met and worked alongside the woman who’d become my wife during those days on Elmwood Avenue.

Five years later, I returned to the station, this time in the newsroom—and over the next decade I worked my way up to news director.

Through all my years in media, I always took special pleasure in being able to share my passion for Buffalo and Buffalo Broadcasting with the listeners of WBEN, and the station’s birthday, I’ve dipped into the archives to share some of the stories I wrote and produced about WBEN and the people we all listened to at 930am.

Steve Cichon- WBEN celebrates 80 years-1
Steve Cichon- WBEN celebrates 80 years-2
Steve Cichon- WBEN at the Aud-1
Steve Cichon- WBEN at the Aud-2
Steve Cichon- WBEN at the Statler-1
Steve Cichon- WBEN at the Statler-2
Steve Cichon- WBEN says Goodbye to Barbara Burns-1
Steve Cichon- WBEN says Goodbye to Barbara Burns-2
Steve Cichon- Brian Meyer inducted into Broadcast Hall of Fame-1
Steve Cichon- Brian Meyer inducted into Broadcast Hall of Fame-2
Steve Cichon- Remembering WBEN on 9/11 ten years later-1
Steve Cichon- Remembering WBEN on 9/11 ten years later-2
Steve Cichon- John Zach celebrates 50 years in Broadcasting-1
Steve Cichon- John Zach celebrates 50 years in Broadcasting-2
Steve Cichon- John Zach covers Martin Luther King-1
Steve Cichon- John Zach covers Martin Luther King-2
Steve Cichon- John Zach lived the Jersey Boys-1
Steve Cichon- John Zach lived the Jersey Boys-2

WBEN’s longest serving announcer

The 90th anniversary of WBEN’s first sign-on brings to mind many of the stable and authoritative voices which have unflappably informed Buffalo over those decades at 930am.

The longest tenured of those voices remains a daily fixture.

From her early days of airborne traffic reporting from the Skyview 930 helicopter to the last two decades as morning drive host, Susan Rose has been a steady, unwavering, and professional voice on WBEN and a clear connection to the great news voices of generations past.

Susan Rose with current co-host Brian Mazurowski

Rose is not your typical “radio star.” She’s never wanted to be. It’s exactly that which makes her a fit in the pantheon of WBEN greats.

“A superb anchor,” wrote Buffalo News critic Anthony Violanti. “Reads the news with journalistic style and skill.”

After graduating from Buffalo State College and starting her radio news career at Lockport’s WLVL, Rose joined WBEN in 1985.

WBEN Newsteam 1988: Brian Meyer, Ed Little, Susan Rose, Tim Wenger, Monica Wilson, Mark Leitner

Her blue-collar approach to journalism combined with 35 years of continuous, daily broadcasting on the station puts her in the same rarified company as past WBEN greats, many of whom she regularly worked with across the decades.

Mark Leitner and Ed Little were WBEN stalwarts and frequent Rose co-anchors through the 80s and 90s.

Rose was hired to join the WBEN news team by legendary news director Jim McLaughlin.

The legendary Lou Douglas was at WBEN for 30 years before retiring, overlapping a couple years with Rose.

After three decades at WKBW, John Zach spent another 18 years at WBEN, including 16 years co-anchoring “Buffalo’s Early News” with Rose.

John Zach & Susan Rose, WBEN, 2002.

While she doesn’t have that booming voice— once considered the most important hallmark of the then all-male radio news profession— Rose’s even and reliable presence has been featured on the station longer than any broadcaster, including Clint Buehlman, who hosted mornings at WBEN for 34 years.

Perhaps that’s part of the secret why Rose’s approach and sound is still as upbeat and fresh as the day she walked through the studio doors 35 years ago.

Rose’s husband, Tim Wenger, was her co-anchor on evening drive news program “Buffalo’s Evening News” in the early 90s.

She doesn’t project her personality into the news. Through her career—rather than stand out in front— she has allowed her writing, editing, news judgement, and steady on-air presence to support the team.

It’s even fair to say Rose avoids the spotlight— but it’s also fair to say when crisis strikes in Buffalo, there aren’t many voices on the airwaves today which bring credibility and calm like hers can.

A recent WBEN bio said “it was always her dream job to work for the number one news station in Buffalo.”

She’s taken it one step further to personify it.

100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting, Vol.1 1920-1970

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

The newest book from Buffalo Stories & Steve Cichon!

ORDER NOW at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore!

Meet and reacquaint yourself with the people and stations that have created and reflected who we are as Buffalonians with this 432-page in-depth look at the first 50 years of radio and television in Buffalo.

Packed with more than 600 photos, it’s a look at the stories of the people, places, and events that have entertained and informed generations of Western New Yorkers over the airwaves– and under our pillows, into our cars, into our living rooms, and into our hearts as a part of what makes us Buffalonians.

From the scholarly to the nostalgic, the earliest pioneering days of Buffalo radio will come to life with new research on Buffalo’s status as one of the birthplaces of modern radio—and then the birth of rock ‘n’roll radio here a decade later, about the same time television was wrangling more and more of our attention.

We visit Clint Buehlman and Danny Neaverth; Uncle Mike Mearian and Rocketship 7; The Lone Ranger & KB’s War of the Worlds; Meet the Millers and Dialing for Dollars; John Corbett & Chuck Healy and Irv, Rick & Tom; The Hound and John Otto and so many more of the great broadcasters who were there as we experienced the best (and worst) times of our lives.

The book’s covers by themselves are a study of the century of broadcasting in Buffalo, with another 269 images, showing some of our favorite stars in action.

Sales of the book benefit The Buffalo Stories Film Conservation Initiative, which funds the storage, maintenance, digitization, and interpretation of thousands of hours of discarded Buffalo film and video from the 1960s-1990s.

Author Steve Cichon has spent three decades in Buffalo media in radio, television & print. His journey started as a wide-eyed 15-year-old at WBEN learning about radio, journalism and life.   The lifelong Buffalonian sees this, his sixth book, as a kind of family history– as these are the stories of the people who made him the person he is today.

Available for pre-order now in The Buffalo Stories Bookstore.

Books are expected in stock by mid-September.

The Marv Levy voicemail prank, c.1994

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Today’s Marv Levy’s 95th birthday, and I was reminded by Greg Bauch on Twitter about a tape editing prank I did 25+ years ago.

Marv Levy: why do these people keep calling me?

Marv left a message for Howard Simon on the WBEN Sports voicemail along the lines of… “Hi Howard, it’s Marv Levy with the Bills, please give me a call back at 648-1800. Thanks.”

I edited out the “Howard” and left that on dozens of other people’s voicemails and answering machines. At least one friend forwarded it on to other people’s voicemails as well.

Listen to the actual message below:

The editing isn’t perfect, but it was also done before the days of digital editing. This was done with a grease pencil, a razor blade and Scotch tape– which, if I do say so myself, makes it even more incredible.

More on Marv Levy: http://blog.buffalostories.com/at-bills-vs-new-england-in-1994-patriots-fan-heckles-marv-levy/

Read more about Greg Bauch: WGR’s Biggest Loss Since Shane

Jacobi’s, Abbott near Ridge, 1966

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

South Buffalo has been a Buffalo pizza hot spot for decades.

Some of the first pies served up in that part of the world were served over the counter of The Plaza Pizzeria in LB Smith Plaza on Abbott Road near Ridge.

In 1966, Plaza Pizzeria moved to a stand alone building on the other side of Ridge Road and was renamed Jacobi’s.

It was the first pizza many in Lackwanna and South Buffalo ever tasted.

Buffalo officially becomes 716 on Sept. 29, 1960

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

It took months to phase in the use of three-digit area code 716 for direct dialing across all of the Buffalo area, but quietly, a switch was flipped on Sept. 29, 1960 — and telephone users in Buffalo, Akron, Alden, Amherst, Boston, parts of Cheektowaga, Derby, East Aurora, Eden, Holland, Lackawanna, North Collins, Orchard Park, Tonawanda, Wanakah, West Seneca and Williamsville were all able to use direct dial service for long-distance calls.

Until that date, Western New Yorkers had to call the operator to be connected long distance.

Folks in Angola, Clarence, Grand Island, Hamburg and Lancaster had to wait a few more weeks, but soon, they too, were officially part of the “716.”

As a part of the move to direct dialing, the old exchange names for phone numbers were replaced with numbers. In Buffalo, the Amherst exchange became TF-2, and eventually 832. Grant became TT-4, eventually 884. Evergreen in Tonawanda became NX-4, which a few years later evolved into 694.

This list, as printed in the Courier-Express, was clipped and left near phones for years.

In November 1960, the work was complete.

“Through the wizardry of electronic marvels, the 244,000 customers of the New York Telephone Co. in the Buffalo area will be able their own long-distance telephone numbers starting precisely at 2:01 AM Sunday,” reported The News a few days before the final switch.

Our identity as members of the 716 tie into that day, when people gushed about the jet-age ability to simply pick up the phone and call any of the 60 million phones in the U.S. and Canada without the help of any other human beings.

Getting around to a big project, 30+ years later

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

I posted this in a few of the pop machine forums on Facebook. It’d be great to get it out of the garage and keeping drinks cool…

I was nine years old when my ol’man drove me to a barn an hour away to buy this 1964 Lacrosse Pepsi machine, as seen in a classified newspaper ad, for $25.

It has no vending or refrigeration guts, and hasn’t since I bought it in 1987.

To collectors, I know it’s a worthless boat anchor— but you didn’t load it into the back of a 1985 Dodge Caravan with your dad and have it in your bedroom growing up.

It’s been relegated to the garage since I bought my own home 20 years ago, but I’d like to shine it up and get it cooling to keep beverages in my basement.

La Crosse Cooler Co., Model LC ILL 54 6. This machine dates back to at least 1964, which is the year that receipts inside the machine were dated.

I’ve read the Lacrosse systems are difficult to find. I’m not looking to create a showpiece here, and willing to try any harebrained scheme to be able to keep some pop bottles cold in this sucker.

It’s obviously less about having a soda machine and more about putting this one to use, finally, after more than 30 years.

Any ideas to rig up something would be appreciated.

Little Richard plays Buffalo at the Zanzibar, 1956

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Rest in Peace Little Richard. Buffalo’s loved him since 1956.

His influence is heard on every single pop song recorded since rock n’ roll was called rhythm and blues or “race music.”

He was George “Hound Dog” Lorenz’s favorite musician. He was The Beatles favorite musician.

Don’t believe the campy persona he lived because he had to because it was just about impossible to be a black gay man in America.

From a song writing, music, and showmanship perspective– he invented rock ‘n’ roll.

A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-wop-bam-boom!