Buffalo’s milkmen and their Divco trucks

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Remember when the milk man used to deliver the milk right to your back door?

Trucks like this restored Rich’s Dairy truck will be on display in Hamburg next weekend.

Well, the people who collect the trucks our milkmen used to drive are getting together in WNY next week.

Fischer’s Milk delivery in a Divco truck in the 1950s.

The Divco Club of America will be holding it’s 2018 convention in Hamburg starting next week, and their trucks will be on display at the Hamburger Festival on July 21st.

Delivering Fischer’s Milk in a 1930s Divco.

Divco trucks were seen all over WNY and all around the country starting in the 1920s, and used for milk and bread deliveries.

Amherst Dairy, 1942.

It was in March 30, 1982, that Carl Heim made one last era-ending trip through the streets of Buffalo.

Buffalo News archives

The cartons shown being loaded into this truck were the last home-delivered milk from Upstate Milk Cooperatives, the area’s largest dairy supplier.

Buffalo News archives

Upstate, which sold the Sealtest brand, was the last of the big dairies to end home service, though several smaller dairies vowed to continue.

Divco ad from 1949

The biggest factor in dropping service to Buffalo’s side and back doors was the growing disparity between the premium cost of delivered milk and the increasingly cheaper prices being charged by large grocery stores.

from a 1939/1940 Divco brouchure being offered in an eBay auction by autolit.com

Grain elevators make Buffalo Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Our grain elevators are part of what makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Simon Pure ad from 1949 celebrating Buffalo’s milling industry.

More than 15,000 men worked in Buffalo’s flour and feed milling industries in the 1940s and 50s.

No other city in the world processed more grain than we did in Buffalo.
Circumstances changed through the decades, and the grain boats stopped coming.

Those hulking elevator and mill complexes along Buffalo’s waterways served as reminders of what Buffalo had lost for decades.

Now the grain elevators that survive are being adapted to new uses, and serve as an example of how Buffalo can make it’s past– part of its future.

This video from fastimages.net features Buffalo’s lighthouse, waterfront, and various aspects of Buffalo industry.

Our grain elevators are part of what makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Holiday Showcase Restaurant: One of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Rather abruptly, the doors closed on a Buffalo institution on Sunday, July 8, 2018.

From after-movie meals to being destroyed by a tornado, The Holiday Showcase Restaurant is one of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Photo appearing on the Holiday Showcase website, 2018,

The Holiday Showcase opened in the front corner of what was then the Aero Drive-In in 1964.

The Aero Drive-In held 800 cars and featured playgrounds for the kids in the spot where Sam’s Club is today.

1950.

Around 1971, showed its last movie, but by then, the Holiday 1 and 2 theaters had opened. It was eventually the Holiday 6 by the time it was torn down to make way for the strip mall behind the Holiday Showcase, which served hundreds of thousands of meals to movie goers on the same property for more than 30 years.

1967.

From the beginning, specialties have included the HY-BOY, which a 1967 ad calls “a double decker hamburger sensation” and FRESH strawberry pie and shortcake.

The Hy-Boy.

Tornado

The infamous 1987 Cheektowaga tornado. This is the funnel cloud as seen from Dick Rd.

Whether they’ve eaten at the famous Union Road restaurant or not, it seems every Buffalonian knows that the Holiday Showcase was one of two businesses heavily damaged when a tornado ripped through Cheektowaga in 1987.

The sign is a classic piece of Roadside Americana on Union Rd in Cheektowaga.

The Holiday Showcase Restaurant… another one of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Buffalo in the 70’s: Steelworkers called back to work

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Just after Labor Day 1975, the Republic Steel Plant on South Park Avenue was finally starting to hum with the sounds of steel making again, after the plant had shut down in mid-July.

It meant a call back to work for about 500 steelworkers after a six week layoff. Another hundred were expected to be called back in the coming weeks.

New steel orders from the auto industry for the new 1976 model year cars was mostly responsible for the increase in steel production.

The photo below shows the build out of both National Aniline and Republic Steel in 1949. The single drawbridge at the top of the photo went over South Park Avenue. As you can see in the Google Maps image below, most, if not all of the buildings pictured are now gone, but new buildings with new jobs are coming up in their place.

Benny Goodman plays Buffalo (twice), 1938

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Looking back at a time 80 years ago– when Buffalo was big enough to have the biggest act in pop music here twice that year.

Read more and see photos of the visit:

Buffalo in the ’30s: Benny Goodman swings into Western New York

Benny Goodman plays at the Glen Park Casino, 1938.

 

Buffalo’s Great White Way

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s impossible to remember Downtown Buffalo in its prime without remembering the sparkling incandescent lights and glowing neon which brought the night time to life.
In the 40s and 50s, Main Street near Chippewa was aglow with what was described as “Buffalo’s great white way,” and the greatest display of dazzling and flashing marquees and signs between New York and Chicago.
Marquees for the Town Casino, Shea’s Buffalo, Paramount, and Cinema theatres; the big neon signs for Swiss Chalet, Laube’s Old Spain, and the Hippodrome. Many of those signs made by Flexlume,  which is still in business a bit further up Main Street.
There were Huge billboards for Chevrolet and Coca Cola with lights and motion, just like in Times Square, but comparisons to Time Square really started rolling in when the news started rolling in– or scrolling in– on the Western Savings Bank building.

Fun at the Drive-In, 60 years ago today

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

We’re looking back at this date in Buffalo Drive in Movie history, June 7, 1958– 60 years ago today.
If you were heading to a movie at the drive-in today, these were your options according to the listings in the Courier-Express:

More on Buffalo Drive-Ins:

Torn-Down Tuesday: Delaware Drive-In, Knoche Road, 1963

Torn-down Tuesday: Seneca Mall and Park Drive-In, 1968

 

The assassination of Bobby Kennedy and his time in Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It was 50 years ago today, only weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy died of gunshot wounds suffered moments after a victory speech celebrating a win in the California Primary…

As New York Senator, Bobby Kennedy spent plenty of time in Buffalo.

Robert Kennedy’s campaign car takes him through Buffalo’s East Side and up Broadway, 1964. The late Buffalo photographer Jack Tapson personally sent Senator Kennedy a copy of this photo. “I received a thank you note from Kennedy after fulfilling his request to send this photo and others….similar.”

Buffalo in the 60s: Robert Kennedy running for Senate; first stop: Buffalo

It wasn’t necessarily a “done deal” that U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy would be allowed to run for a U.S. Senate seat in New York. He was not a New York State resident and wasn’t registered to vote here; the state Democratic Committee had to give him permission to run.

On this day 50 years ago, September 1, 1964, state Democrats gave Bobby Kennedy the green light to enter the race for Senate, 10 months after the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy.

It was then quickly announced that Kennedy would begin his campaign for Senate at a rally at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo.

While Erie County Democratic Chairman Peter Crotty was one of the state power brokers who helped ensure Kennedy’s nomination, other local big-name Democrats, like Niagara Falls Mayor E. Dent Lackey, weren’t as impressed with Kennedy. Dent called the nomination an act of “extraordinary bad taste,” adding that a man from Massachusetts who doesn’t live in New York shouldn’t represent New York.

“The overwhelming defeat of Robert Kennedy in the November election would be the best thing that could happen to the Democratic machine in New York,” Lackey told The News.

“Bobby’s NY race OKd by committee”

“Mr. Kennedy in a two-day whirlwind campaign tour will also meet with the top leaders of business and labor and do a lot of handshaking with workers in industrial plants.”

 

FOUND, finally: A pic of Dad’s bar

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I found one of my holy grails today, although I didn’t immediately recognize it.

Elk & Smith, 1969

As soon as I saw it, I liked this photo immediately– lots of interesting things going on there– Old ambulances, old license plate, great old tavern sign, a church bingo sign, a grain elevator… When I flipped it over to read the caption on the back, my heart skipped a beat as it sank into my stomach. This is Elk and Smith Streets!

About ten years after this photo was snapped, my dad bought the bar that was called Ceil’s Grill when this photo was snapped. Spent a lot of time in this place as a tiny, tiny little boy… playing with the jukebox, pool table, shuffle bowling, and of course, the pop guns.

So with this, I finally have a photo of the exterior of my dad’s bar, which I’ve been looking for literally for decades.

That’s St. Stephen’s Church with the Bingo sign, and the Buffalo Malting Elevator (both currently under construction for reuse.)

Previously found on Facebook in 2016: an interior shot of Dad’s gin mill. “Not a great shot… but the place has only existed in my mind for more than 30 years. I remember the two guys shown— Rich McCarthy and Dick Lobaugh– from those days at the corner of Elk and Smith. Spent plenty of young childhood Saturday mornings spinning on those barstools, and getting bottles of Genesee out of the cooler for some of the guys who’d still be hanging around inside the bar when the sun came up.”

The bar burned to the ground in 1989, a few years after my dad sold it. It’s been a vacant lot ever since.

Necco wafers– and sweet childhood memories– safe at Vidler’s

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Either you love them or you hate them, but the thought of never eating a Necco wafer again was too much for many people around the country to bear.

When word that bankruptcy might mean the end of the line for Necco, there were some calling the reaction “The Great Necco Wafer Panic.”

“A lady came in and bought a hundred on them the day we found out that they were in trouble,” says Don Vidler, who has spent a lifetime on both sides of the candy counter at Vidler’s 5&10 in East Aurora.

from Vidler’s Facebook page

No matter how old you are, it’s tough to just walk by the candy counter just inside the front door under Vidler’s red awning.

“It’s certainly one of the main draws here,” says Vidler. “When people come in, it catches their eye right away, all the colors and the glass jars and everything.”

And for now anyway, it looks like rolls of Necco wafers will continue to be among those gleaming packages.

The future still isn’t certain– but it is brighter– after Spangler, a fourth-generation family-owned company and the maker of circus peanuts and Dum Dums lollipops had the winning bid of $18.8 million for Necco in a bankruptcy court proceeding last week.

Spangler has since said, however, that long-term plans for lines like Necco wafers haven’t been made yet. It might seem unimaginable that they’d go away, but it’s possible, says Vidler, who sees the disappointment in people’s eyes when they find out their favorites are no longer made.

“A lot of people want Clove or Black Jack gum. They don’t make those anymore,” says Vidler. Another candy with a huge following that is no longer manufactured– Sen Sen. There was a run on the red envelope of tiny licorice mints when production was stopped a few years ago.

The good news is, the shelves at Vidler’s seem to go on for miles with candy that we used to love, but just don’t see as much anymore. Things like butterscotch, peach stones, maple buns, and Choward’s Violet mints.

The Vidler family with the Vidler candy. from Vidler’s Facebook page

Just as Necco’s possible demise was a national news story, Buffalo was shaken by news of Vidler’s vintage popcorn machine running out of pop a few years back.

That’s no problem now.

“The popcorn machine is back up and running consistently, which is good,” says Vidler. “We’d have a riot in East Aurora if the popcorn machine’s not working. And Sandy the mechanical horse is still working, too. We had her retrofitted with a new saddle, all repaired and redone.”

The look of glee on the face of a kid on rocking on that horse, the smell the popcorn, the sound of the creaking wood floor… Just like all those penny candies which we once loved (and still do at Vidler’s), Vidler says there are some things you just can’t experience through a computer screen.

“I always tell people, you can’t experience Vidler’s online, you have to come here to see it.”