When “The Great One” rolled up to Ted’s Jumbo Red Hots on Sheridan Drive on March 10, 1955 – 62 years ago today – he was one of America’s biggest TV stars.
“The Honeymooners” didn’t debut as its own show until later that year, but Ralph, Alice, Norton and Trixie were stars of the most popular sketch on “The Jackie Gleason Show” – which was America’s second most watched TV show right behind “I Love Lucy.”
Apparently on the way to Niagara Falls, Gleason’s bright-red custom car, with license plate “10-JG,” pulled into Ted’s around 2 p.m. A man got out of the car and ordered “a tray filled with pizza and hot dogs,” which he took back to the car while Gleason and two women waited back in the car.
At least 20 people saw the TV star sitting in his car, but he never got out or talked to anyone there in the 20 minutes they were eating while parked there.
Ted’s has been in the same location on Sheridan Drive since 1948.
A 1969 obituary described Theodore S. Liaros as “an early 20th century Greek immigrant who built a pushcart business into a citywide chain of park concessions.”
Until a stroke at the age of 78, Liaros had spent most of 57 years working 16-hour days, slinging popcorn and peanuts first from a wagon, then starting in 1927, hot dogs, loganberry and even pizza from a small shack that had been abandoned by construction workers after the completion of the Peace Bridge.
Even with the Peace Bridge stand operating, Ted’s lunch wagon was still a familiar presence at the Clinton-Bailey Market until the Sheridan Drive location opened.
Liaros’ death on Oct. 24, 1969, came only weeks after that original stand at the foot of Massachusetts Street near Niagara Street was bulldozed on Sept. 15 to make way for an improved I-190/Niagara Street interchange.
In 1957, the Liaros family built another stand near the Peace Bridge in Front Park near Porter Avenue, and occupied it through the early 1970s, when they built another restaurant on Porter Avenue.
But even though the TV stars visited Tonawanda and the Front Park shop was successful, the namesake of Buffalo’s favorite dog stand always loved that first wayward shack where he spent hundreds of thousands of hours during six decades.
“It was the place my father really had his heart in all these years,” Ted’s son Spiro Liaros said upon his father’s passing and the tearing down of the original Ted’s.
The Liaros family still operates Ted’s.