Remembering Buffalo’s Sacrifices: Memorial Day 2018

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Many of us are making plans for a three-day weekend, but in this run up to the Memorial Day weekend– we’re remembering the sacrifices made in Buffalo and by Buffalonians.

Remembering WNYers killed in Vietnam

We’re looking at one man’s quest to make sure the memories of the 532 Western New York service members killed in Vietnam live on.

Promises of peace came and went several times during the decades that American soldiers were in Vietnam… Peace was fleeting, too, for many if not most of the men and women who returned home from Southeast Asia.

“I just didn’t want these men and one woman to be forgotten,” says historian and Vietnam Veteran Pat Kavanagh, who started a huge project and labor of love started with the simple thought.

Pat Kavanagh and his research. Buffalo News photo

“Come hell or high water, I’m going to try to find all the original obituaries of those from Western New York killed in Vietnam,” says Kavanaugh of the through that sent him on his quest. “Right from the start, it just became very emotional.”

Kavanagh visited dozens of libraries and sent all around the country for microfilms, but the greatest effect was in leaving a small town library, and knowing this is place where this man who was killed in action once walked and made plans for a future which never came.

“I thought I was a hard guy, but after reading and copying these obituaries, I’d get into the car, and I’d pass the street where he lived. I’d pass the school where he went. I’m saying, ‘these guys are only 18 or 19 years old, and they’re dead.’ They’d been killed so far away from home,” says Kavanagh. “This is the least we can do for them.”

It’s been years since he started the project and Pat feels the collection with remembrances of 532 WNYers killed in Vietnam is as complete as it can be.

Read More: Pat’s  Information on all 532 veterans with direct ties to the eight counties of Western New York who were killed or died while on active duty in Vietnam  


Buffalo man’s story of surviving D-Day

The late Michael Accordino was a member of the 299th Combat Engineer Batallion on D-Day.

“For D-Day, we were munition men. We had to build the obstacles on the beach,” said then-Private Accordino in a 2011 interview. He and his mates were under heavy fire as they laid the way for infantry and artillery men to fight their way across and liberate Europe.

“There was a lot of firepower from the Germans up on the slope. Lots of machines guns, lots of mortars, lots of artillery as we were hitting the beach,” said Accordino. “We had to work in those conditions. One guy put it this way– imagine trying to mow your lawn, and your neighbor is throwing rocks at you. That’s what was happening to us.”

Accordino’s story is one of survival, but it’s a story he told often through the years so that people wouldn’t forget the sacrifice of the thousands who didn’t make it off of Omaha Beach.

 

The machine gun bullets were landing at my feet. I moved, and a guy raised his sights. He was going to get me, so I turned around and ran back to the obstacle. It wasn’t very big, maybe eight inches of protection.

I laid there, and to my right, there were these guys with a big spool of wire, and I wondered what they were doing with this wire.

They were about ten yards away from me, and I yelled over, “what are you guys doing there?”

All the sudden, they got hit. I seem them rolling, swaying back and forth. They got hit. I looked like someone threw a mortar in there.

I got up, I got the hell out of there, man. I got to the new line, and I just kept on doing my job.

–Michael Accordino, remembering the D-Day invasion, June 6, 1944

Mr. Accordino was awarded the Purple Heart after receiving shrapnel wounds on the beach at Normandy. I spoke to him on D-Day in 2011. He died in 2012.


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Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers

First, it’s the story of Buffalo’s own Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. 300 US Army volunteers, buried in a mass unmarked grave in the middle of what is now the Delaware Park Golf Course.

About 300 soldiers, who came to Buffalo to protect our national border during the War of 1812 and died of hunger and disease as they spent the winter of 1814 in tents in middle of what is now Delaware Park– but what was then America’s frontier.

In 1814, The Village of Buffaloe was described by one visitor as “a nest of villains, rogues, rescals, pickpockets, knaves, and extortioners.”

But it was volunteer soldiers from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania who’d marched to Buffalo to invade British Canada and defend Buffalo and Black Rock from invasion.

When winter came, they stayed. Wearing light summery uniforms and no winter boots, they lived in open ended tents. It was a particularly brutal winter, and food was slow to make it to the Camp at Buffalo, which was literally the end of the supply line. The food that did make it here was never enough and usually rancid.

Soldiers were dying up to ten a day, and with the ground frozen, the dead were first buried in shallow graves, then eventually just left in tents.

What was left of the army left Buffalo when spring came, but not before paying for three-hundred coffins and for two local men to bury the 300 dead– which they did, in what is now the Delaware Park Golf course.

They remain buried there to this day, a bolder in the middle of the golf course marks the spot where the 300 nameless, faceless men, who died here protecting our country, were laid to rest 204 years ago.

Their sacrifice was remembered this way when that boulder monument was dedicated in 1896:

May their noble example and this tribute to their honor and memory prove an incentive to future generations to emulate their unselfish loyalty and patriotism, when called upon to defend their country’s honor, and if need be die in defence of the flag, the glorious stripes and stars, emblem of liberty, equal rights and National unity.

More: The Mound in the Meadow: Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknowns 


 

 

Wrestling at The Aud: from The Hulk to Gorgeous George

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Hulk Hogan is going to be in Buffalo this weekend, and had some nice things to say about Buffalo Wrestling and the fans here. Steve Cichon has more from the Hulk and wrestling’s glory days in Buffalo.

Hulk Hogan is making an appearance at the Nickel City Con at the Convention Center this weekend, and he spoke with Mark Ciemcioch at The Buffalo News about his times in Buffalo.

He has great memories of wrestling in Buffalo, and like so many of us, Hulk Hogan has great memories of Memorial Auditorium.

Hogan traveled to Buffalo many times during his career, even having knee surgery here. He particularly enjoyed working the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium before it closed in 1996.

“I had some great matches in there,” Hogan said. “I’d hit people with a punch in the middle of that ring, and it sounded like a cannon would go off. The whole crowd would go along with it, (chanting) ‘Boom, boom!’ It’s a great wrestling crowd, a great city and a (I have) lot of fond memories of Buffalo.”

Hulk Hogan on ‘Hulkamaniacs,’ Buffalo and his biggest comeback yet

Wrestling, of course, goes way back in Buffalo– to big Friday Night sell out crowds through the 30s, 40s, and 50s, first at the old Broadway Auditorium (now “The Broadway Barns” and the home of Buffalo’s snowplows), and then Memorial Auditorium when it opened in 1940.

“This was a shirt and tie crowd,” said the late Buffalo News Sports Editor Larry Felser, who remembered when Wrestling at the Aud was one of the biggest events in Buffalo.

“Not that many people had TV sets back then,” remembered Felser in 2001. “People were crowding into Sears and appliance stores to try to see this thing on TV, because the place was sold out.”

And with all those big crowds, there was no wrestler who could draw them in like Gorgeous George.

“When Gorgeous George would wrestle, they’d pack the Auditorium for this guy,” said Felser.

“The Human Orchid,” as George was known, was the first modern wrestler, said retired Channel 7 sports director Rick Azar, saying he “changed the face of professional wrestling forever.”

As someone who called himself “Hollywood’s perfumed and marcelled wrestling orchid,” it’s clear that George knew how to make sure he set himself apart.

“He had an atomizer, and he’d walk around the ring with perfume, supposedly fumigating his opponent’s corners,” said Felser, who also remembered his flair for marketing outside the ring.

“His valet drove him around in an open convertible around Lafayette Square, and he’s got a wad of one dollar bills, and he was throwing money to people. It was a show stopper. He landed on page one. TV was just in its infancy then, but they were all over it. It was like World War III. That’s how big a story it was.”

Gorgeous George is credited with ushering in the Bad Boy era of sports– and even inspired Muhammad Ali, who told a British interviewer, “he was telling people, ‘I am the prettiest wrestler, I am great. Look at my beautiful blond hair.’ I said, this is a good idea, and right away, I started saying, ‘I am the greatest!'”

See some photos of Gorgeous George and read more about his career:
Buffalo in the ’50s: ‘Gorgeous George’ arrives in Buffalo, perfumes his room
Buffalo in the ’50s: Gorgeous George brings showmanship to the Aud

Buffalo, 1913: Ike Slept Here

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s the kind of story that plays out even today, more than a hundred years later.

You’re a college kid getting ready to make the couple-hour trip home for Christmas, when you realize one of your football teammates isn’t going to be able to make the two day trip back home to be with his family—so you invite him home, knowing there’s always extra room at the table.

West Point football, mid-1910s.

A Buffalo version of this story happened in 1913 when Louis Byrne, a cadet and football player at West Point, invited his fellow cadet and football teammate Ike—Yes, that Ike– home for Christmas.

Byrne’s late father was Col. John Byrne—a former Buffalo Police Commissioner and Commandant of the Pan American Expo Police Force. As a somewhat prominent Buffalo family, their comings and goings were fodder for the society pages of the newspapers.

Col. John Byrne being driven around the Pan-Am Grounds.

Cadet Dwight D. Eisenhower’s visit to the Byrne residence on Summit Avenue in the Parkside neighborhood was written up in both The Buffalo Evening News and the Buffalo Morning Express.

Buffalo Evening News Society Page, 1913

Eisenhower’s next visit to Buffalo came 39 years later, when then-General Eisenhower made a speech in the run up to his election as President in 1952.

President Eisenhower in a Packard convertible at the Broadway Fillmore intersection, 1952.

In his later years, one of Byrne’s favorite stories involved bossing Eisenhower around at West Point. A version of the story even made a nationally distributed Associated Press article.

Louis T. Byrne was an upperclassman at West Point in 1914, and one day was giving a plebe a “going over.”

“I suppose you expect to become a general?” Byrnes asked.

“Yes, sir I do, sir,” replied Dwight D. Eisenhower, the plebe.

You can visit the House where Ike stayed… by the way… on this weekend’s Parkside Tour of Homes— It was later owned by Mathias Hens of Hens & Kelly fame.

More on the Tour of Homes: www.parksidebuffalo.org

Buffalo in the 70’s: Everyone seemed to love The Ground Round

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Through the 1970s and 1980s, The Ground Round was a popular casual dining spot with locations at Seneca and Thruway Malls and on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Created by Howard Johnson’s, it may have been the first place you threw peanut shells on the floor and kids ate for a penny a pound on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

The Seneca Mall Ground Round was two years into its run when the Bills opened Rich Stadium in 1973. Many fans sought ways to avoid having to drive into Orchard Park– Ground Round offered a park and ride solution. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Buffalo’s first Ground Round opened outside the Seneca Mall in 1971.  “The Ground Round,” explained General Manager Burton Sack, “is a fun-type family restaurant featuring a player piano, nostalgic wall decorations from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, free peanuts on all tables, beer by the mug and pitcher, and free toys and games for the youngsters.”

Buffalo Stories archives

Five years later, The Howard Johnson’s restaurant at Sheridan and Delaware in Tonawanda was converted into a Ground Round, as was the Cross Bow Restaurant on Sheridan Drive in Amherst.

Buffalo Stories archives

In 1989, there were 215 Ground Round restaurants in 22 states– six in the Buffalo area. Those local stores were located at 3545 Delaware Ave. in Tonawanda; 208 Seneca Mall in West Seneca; 8529 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Niagara Falls; Thruway Mall and 1445 French Road, both in Cheektowaga; and 3180 Sheridan Drive and 7566 Transit Road, both in Amherst.

The Seneca Mall location was the first to open and the first to be closed– and then bulldozed– as the Seneca Mall was demolished starting in 1994. By the end of the year, half of the  remaining stores were sold to become the home of Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken restaurants.

This photo shows the last Buffalo area Ground Round location on Niagara Falls Blvd. in the Falls in 2004. (Buffalo Stories photo)
Buffalonians love to remember The Ground Round, but fish fry from a national chain? (Buffalo Stories archives)

Amherst turns 200!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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:

What it looked like Wednesday: The Village of Williamsville, 1933

Torn-down Tuesday: Ice cold beers in Williamsville, 1888

What It Looked Like Wednesday: Main Street, Williamsville, 1960s

Buffalo in the ’50s: The state’s first McDonald’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard

Torn-Down Tuesday: Henry’s Hamburgers, Sheridan at the Boulevard

Buffalo in the ’70s: Twin Fair is closed on Sundays, but Two Guys is open for business

 

“Tony Krew” and his accordion provide the soundtrack Broadway Market

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Listen:

His smiling face and happy accordion are one of the great welcoming sights of the Easter Season at the Broadway Market.

Steve Cichon and Tony Krupski at the Broadway Market during the 2018 Easter season.

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.

Tony Krupski entertains holiday shoppers at the Broadway Market with his smile and accordion.(Buffalo Stories/Steve Cichon photo)

“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.

Thruway toll booths: More than 60 years of passing through that same little hut

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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.

The I-190 under construction on Grand Island in 1955. (Buffalo Stories archives)

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%.

Paying tolls in 1956 at “the Buffalo entrance” of the New York State Thruway, as appeared in National Geographic. (Buffalo Stories archives)

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.

The last weekend of the Grand Island tolls, March 2018. (Buffalo Stories photo)

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.

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Its WKBW-TV Channel 7’s zany weatherman Danny Neaverth standing at the Ogden Tolls sometime in the early to mid 80’s.

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This story was all about how fast people could drive through the “Exact Change” booths, and still get the coins into the basket.

dannythruway(3)

Buffalo in the 80’s: Remembering the taste of Visniak pop

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Visniak was the unofficial soft drink of VFW Posts, corner gin mills, and East Side homes where the Visniak van would make weekly drop-offs of cases filled with a rainbow of pop flavors.

Buffalo Stories photo

Hattie Pijanowski, along with her husband, Edward, started the Visniak-Saturn Beverage Corp. on Detroit Street on Buffalo’s East Side in 1931. In 1939, the plant moved to Reiman Street in Sloan.

Edward Pijanowski became active in Sloan politics and ran for mayor of the village in 1951.

The company, which employed ten in 1968, brought colorful and tasty pop to generations of Buffalonians two different ways– in 7.5-ounce glass bottles and from barroom “pop guns” all over the city.

Chances are pretty good– if you ever ordered a Coke in an East Side tavern sometime between the ’50s and the ’90s, you were likely drinking a “VEESH-nyak” (from the Polish for “cherry”) and didn’t even realize it.

Visniak seeks Polish-speaking distributor, 1955. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Hattie Pijanowski died in July, 1985, at age 82. Her son, Ray, was 70 when he closed up the business in 2004, “because nobody returned the bottles,” and a new bottle cost more than what that bottle filled with pop would sell for.

Buffalo Stories archives

Charles A. Doyle: Buffalonian whose only crime was being a Communist

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

His only crime was being a member of the Communist Party.

Charlie Doyle’s story is one that I learned not from McCarthy-era newspaper articles, but from sitting in kitchens and on front porches on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.

The Buffalo Evening News reports on February 20. 1948, “Charles A. Doyle… has been arrested.. for prosecution and for deportation as a Communist. (Buffalo Stories archives)

“He was a commie, but he was always trying to help people,” I’d hear. “A good guy.”

You’d expect that kind of talk from his family — from my family. Charlie Doyle was my grandmother’s uncle. Aunt Agnes’ brother.

Charlie Doyle had dozens of close relations living on or just off Seneca Street in South Buffalo in the late 1940s when the move began to deport him. (Buffalo Stories archives)

I grew up in the ’80s, not the ’50s, but Communists still weren’t good.  They were the bad guys, but there was still Doyle, the Communist who caused people to smile when they talked about him.

The Doyle family, 1912, in Coatbridge, Scotland. The Irish Catholic family family had moved from Down, Northern Ireland to near Glasgow, Scotland in the 1880s. When father William died. his widow Mary and many of their children moved to South Buffalo, including my great-grandmother Peggy (third from left), Agnes (standing in front of Peggy), and Charlie– the baby– standing to the right of his father. (Buffalo Stories archives)

I didn’t realize until later that the story of Doyle was a bigger deal than just family lore. Though he continually denied it publicly for his safety and the safety of his family, he was a member of the Communist party. He was also a talented labor organizer and helped workers force safer working conditions and better pay at places such as Bethlehem Steel, Republic Steel and Carborundum.

A pamphlet entered into evidence in the House Un-American Activities hearings in the 1950s. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Despite having been a legal U.S. resident for 25 years with an American wife and family, because he was born in Scotland, he wasn’t allowed to re-enter the U.S. after a trip to Canada in 1949.

Doyle guilty of illegal entry, jury decides after quick trial: “The trial was one of the fastest in Western New York Federal Court history. A jury headed by foreman Nelson Barlett, a Forestville mechanic, which had been selected in 25 minutes, returned the verdict in an hour and five minutes.” (Buffalo Stories archives)

He spent the next several years in and out of prison based on illegal entry charges before– at the height of the McCarthy era– he was deported in 1953.

Communists Gerhard Eisler, John Williamson, Ferdinand C. Smith and Charles A. Doyle wave to crowd as they step on ferry on Ellis Island– where they’d spent months imprisoned.

Being deported from the US wasn’t the end of Charles Doyle’s trouble.

Upon landing on the shores of Britain, Doyle spoke of “insidious forces and McCarthyite scoundrels” back in the US. He attacked those “who in the name of patriuotism would destroy the Bill of Rights and bring our country to the brink of disaster.” This Reuters storyt was carried in newspapers around the world. (Buffalo Stories acrhives)

In London, Doyle picked up where he left off in Western New York– leading  labor organization efforts at a nearby power plant.

The resulting nationwide labor slowdowns caused massive power outages, including at London’s famously lit Piccadilly Circus. Those outages came during one of the coldest snaps of weather on record in London, and nearly two dozen people died from the cold. Doyle was tried in their deaths but exonerated.

In 1963, London’s Daily Mirror tabloid front page was filled with his photo and the bold-faced underlined words, “The most hated man in Britain.”

London tabloid “The Daily Mirror” called South Buffalo’s Charlie Doyle “the most hated man in Britain.” (Buffalo Stories archives)

And it wasn’t just America that didn’t want him. Despite having being deported from the US to his native UK, the House of Lords discussed trying to send him back.

Discussion from Britain’s House of Lords on whether the UK might be able to deport Charles Doyle. (Buffalo Stories archives)

 

Buffalo’s most famous Communist– labor leader and playwright Manny Fried– wrote about Doyle in a piece which was rejected for publication by The Buffalo News called “Democratic Leaders Are at a Fork in the Road.”

When (John L.) Lewis broke with the American Federation of Labor and sponsored the Congress of Industrial Organizations to organize production workers, he said that he hired the communists to organize the workers because communists were the best organizers, idealists sacrificing everything to get workers organized — and when they got the workers organized, he fired them.

Charlie Doyle, the leading open Communist Party activist in Western New York, was hired by Lewis to work for the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. Charlie played a major role in organizing workers into the union at the Lackawanna Bethlehem Steel plant. Then Lewis fired Charlie, and others were credited with
what Charlie had done.

When Lewis subsequently split with CIO leaders and formed District 50 of his Mine Workers Union to organize chemical workers in Niagara Falls, he again hired Charlie Doyle. When Charlie finished organizing those chemical workers into the union, Lewis again fired Charlie.

The CIO Chemical Workers Union then hired Charlie — and the unions Charlie had organized switched from District 50 to CIO. Then CIO fired Charlie. And then Lewis rehired Charlie – and those unions switched back to District 50 with Charlie. AFL and CIO merged into one organization and their AFL-CIO Chemical
Workers Union hired Charlie — and all those same unions of chemical plant workers switched over to the AFL-CIO with Charlie.

Carborundum workers went out on strike in connection with contract negotiations and leaders of the union in Washington held a meeting about the strike across the river in Fort Erie, Canada. U.S. Customs and Immigration wouldn’t let Charlie back across the bridge into U.S. But Canadian authorities looked the other way while Charlie crossed the river back into U.S. in a boat.

FBI and U.S. Immigration then picked up Charlie for deportation on grounds that years earlier when he came here from Scotland he was a communist. Charlie had his first papers to become a citizen, but hadn’t been granted his second papers to complete the process. Jailed for deportation, Charlie staged a hunger strike, but
finally agreed to be deported to England in return for U.S. government authorities persuading his Catholic wife to agree to end their marriage so he could marry the woman he loved.

(Several decades later the Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council passed the resolution offered by University of Buffalo Chapter of United University Professions recognizing Charlie’s contribution to organized labor in Western New York.)

Democratic Leaders Are at a Fork in the Road, Emanuel Fried

Doyle died in London in 1983. His obituary appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King speaks in Buffalo, 1959

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Already a widely known leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Buffalo in December, 1959.

The Buffalo Criterion published this photo of Dr. King at Faith Baptist Church on Humboldt Pkwy on its front page during Dr. King’s visit to Buffalo in December, 1959. (Buffalo Stories archives)

In his role as Vice President of the National Baptist Sunday School and Training Union Congress, Dr. King came to Buffalo to help plan that organization’s annual national session, which was to be held in Memorial Auditorium and at UB in June, 1960.

Originally built as Temple Beth David in 1924, the worship space at 626 Humboldt Parkway has been Faith Baptist Church for more than sixty years– since 1955. Martin Luther King spoke to the congregation at First Baptist in 1959. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Dr. King spoke with The Buffalo Evening News as well as with the people of Faith Baptist Church on his visit. Some of his remarks were reported in the Thursday, December 17, 1959 edition of The Buffalo Evening News.

Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Wednesday evening told The Buffalo Evening News:

“Today in the deep South there is a collision between two strong institutions — segregation and the public schools. When and where people must make a choice between the two, it is palpably clear what the choice will be.

“The example being set in certain other states, where integration was chosen over closed schools, is influencing the thinking of white  leaders.”

The article went on to say, quoting Dr. King:

“There are dark areas and bright areas in the over-all segregation picture,” he said. “The dark portions are the concerted resistance of public officials and the bright portions are created by the rays of light coming from the outside, where we know we have the sympathy and moral support of many Americans.”

Addressing the congregation of Faith Baptist Church and expressing greetings from “behind the ‘cotton curtain’ of Alabama,” he said the bus boycott of December 1955 to December 1956 was successful and a long stride toward recognition of the Negroes’ rights. “We believed,” he said, “that it was better to walk in dignity than to ride in humiliation.”

In a spiritual message, Dr. King said:

“Man has forgotten God, though unconsciously, not intentionally. Right still is right and wrong still is wrong but we are faced with the dangerous thinking that the question of right or wrong is relative. “Everyone is trying to obey the ’11th Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Get Caught.’ We must re-discover that all reality hinges on moral foundations, every personality has dignity and worth, all men are created equal, all reality has spiritual control. “We must re-discover God and put Him at the center of our lives.'”

The people of Faith Baptist Church, 1958. Click to enlarge. (Buffalo Stories archives)

More on Martin Luther King in Buffalo:

Martin Luther King addressed a full house at at Kleinhans Music Hall on December 9, 1967

Buffalo’s leaders urge peace following King’s assassination