Buffalonians know what to do with bread bags during the winter

By Steve Cichon

Wonder Bread bags used to come with ideas for reuse of the bag printed on them. There must not have been any Buffalonians working at Wonder Bread’s headquarters, because no where is there a mention of using them as a winter boot liner. (Buffalo Stories archives)

In Buffalo we seem to start thinking of winter the moment the Erie County Fair ends. A generation or two ago, winter was something that needed a bit more preparation than it does in 2015—especially if, back then,  you were getting your brother or sister’s leaky hand-me-down boots to wear every day from November to March.

Putting on socks, then bread bags, then boots was a routine of chilly Western New York winters for decades.

In my neighborhood, we looked to tell something about kids from their bread bags. Colorful polka dots on a white background meant you were wearing Wonder Bread bags on your feet. This was basically the Lacoste alligator emblem of dry feet.

Yellow, orange and brown bags sticking out of the tops of your boots meant that your parents drove an extra couple of blocks to shop at Bells.

You can’t have a snow storm without having plenty of milk and bread at home. Add toilet paper and beer to that list, and a Buffalonian can last a week without venturing out. From a 1979 Bells ad.(Buffalo Stories archives)

But most kids—including my brother, sister, and me—always had the red, white and blue of the Tops bags shown below, on sale this week 40 years ago for 39¢ a loaf.

From a 1975 Tops Markets ad. Buffalo Stories archives.

Even with the jamming of every spent bread bag in that special drawer in the kitchen for the whole year-round, there never seemed to be enough bags for all of our playing and walking to school all winter.

Not that they really kept our feet dry, anyway.


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Steve Cichon

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.