Christmas Shopping in Buffalo 1910

By Steve Cichon

These photos appeared in the Buffalo Courier Sunday Magazine, New Year’s Day 1911.  The quality of the images isn’t good enough to see what is in those window displays, but they still represent a great look at the retail scene on Main Street downtown more than 100 years ago.

Where possible, the 1910 images are presented with Google images of the current look of the same space.

AM&A’s original location was directly across Main Street from it’s best-remembered 1960-94 location. The building in the photo was demolished to make way for the Main Place Mall. (Buffalo Stories archives)

JN Adam & Co. 391 Main Street. JN’s was at this location until 1960, when the store closed and AM&A’s took over the space. (Buffalo Stories archives)

“Hanan Shoe Company, 464-466 Main Street, opposite Tifft House.” Just north of Court Street on the west side Main. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Walbridge & Co, 392-394 Main Street, now in the footprint of the Main Place Mall. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Flint & Kent, 560 Main Street. The storefront became downtown’s location of The Sample before making way for The Key Towers. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The Wm Hengerer Co- 465 Main Street. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The Wilson Company, 563-565 Main Street. Now in the footprint of the M&T Center, just south of Chippewa. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Weed & Co, 292-298 Main Street, across from the Ellicott Square Building. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The Sweeney Co, 268 Main Street. The building still stands, and is now known as The Sweeney Building. (Buffalo Stories archives)

H.A. Meldrum Company, 460-470 Main Street. Herbert Meldrum was the son of AM&A’s co-founder Alexander Meldrum. (Buffalo Stories archives)

JM Brecker & Company, Genesee & High Sts, burned down on Christmas Day 1910. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Buffalo in the ’60s: Bowling was a big business in Buffalo

By Steve Cichon

We Buffalonians don’t bowl anywhere near as much as we used to, but just like we still consider ourselves a blue-collar town (even though most of the blue-collar jobs have been gone for decades) we still sentimentally feel a link to the game our parents and grandparents enjoyed over pitchers of beer in leagues all across the city.

Sattler’s and bowling– two entities that made Buffalo great in the 1950s. (Buffalo Stories archives)
Buffalo Stories archives

While for many bowling was a game that was as much about smoking and drinking and socializing as it was about rolling a ball down the lane, it was also serious business in Buffalo.

There was a time when Channels 2, 4, and 7 all aired local bowling shows– and Channel 4 had two shows– “Beat The Champ” with men bowlers and “Strikes, Spares, and Misses” with lady bowlers. WBEN-TV’s Chuck Healy was in homes six days a week for two decades as Buffalo’s bowling emcee as host of those programs. This 1971 ad describes “Strikes, Spares, and Misses,” which aired daily at 7:30pm, as “Buffalo’s most popular show.”

When local TV bowling was at its zenith in the 1950s, even radio stations promoted their coverage of the sport. Ed Little, who spent 62 years working in radio, most of them in his hometown of Buffalo, read the bowling scores on WEBR Radio before he took the drive down Main Street to host live broadcasts with the stars performing at the Town Casino.

WEBR’s Ed Little with bowling highlights weeknights at 6:30. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Buffalo’s best bowlers became celebrities– well known from their exploits as televised. Nin Angelo, Allie Brandt, Phyllis Notaro, and scores of others became some of Buffalo’s best known athletes.

Sixty years later, families still beam with pride when relating the stories of their family’s greatest athletes, even when an elder has to explain most of the fuzzy details. All-American Bowler Vic Hermann’s family still proudly talks about the day Vic rolled the first 300 game in the history of “Beat the Champ.”

A Courier-Express photo illustration bringing together many of Buffalo’s great bowlers of the late 1950s. (Buffalo Stories archives)

We live in an era where we’re watching the numbers of Western New York bowlers and bowling alleys dwindle rapidly. But five or six decades ago, it wasn’t just bowling alleys that were plentiful: The sports pages of The Buffalo Evening News and Courier-Express were regularly filled with ads for the all the accouterments of  bowling.

Bowling was big, and judging by the pages of the city’s newspapers, there was big money to be made as well. The run up to league time in 1960 saw no fewer than five decent-sized ads for custom bowling shirts…. because it wasn’t just about your score, it was about looking good at the social event of the week at your neighborhood bowling alley.

Bowling shirts from Al Dekdebrun, who became famous in Buffalo as a quarterback for the Buffalo Bills of the All-America Football Conference of the 1940s. (Buffalo Stories archives)
Laux Sporting Goods sold bowling shirts from their original location at 441 Broadway on Buffalo’s East Side. (Buffalo Stories archives)
One of Buffalo’s biggest sellers of custom bowling balls was on the city’s West Side at Buffalo Rubber & Supply, Niagara Street at Pennsylvania. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Ulbrich’s– Buffalo’s futuristic bookseller

By Steve Cichon

So it looks like Ulbrich’s invented

Buffalo Stories archives

The Otto Ulbrich Co. was Buffalo’s bookstore, on Main Street downtown for 117 years before bankruptcy struck in 1989. At the peak of business, there were 13 Ulbrich’s locations.

There were ten stores in 1978 when this ad appeared in Buffalo Spree magazine.

I have a obsession/addiction/fetish with pens of every kind– and it all started with wide-eyed wonder wandering that amazing aisle at Ulbrich’s before I even knew how to write. As a five or six year old, I specifically remember wanting to spend some of my birthday money on fancy pens at Ulbrich’s.

Planning Buffalo’s waterfront in 1969

By Steve Cichon

The great thing about this 1969 map proposing a waterfront domed stadium… Is that it pretty much looks this way there now— if you squint, the proposed domed stadium looks like Key Bank Center and the proposed convention center looks like HarborPlace.

Also, thank God the West Side Arterial (on the left towards the top) wasn’t built.

In fact, thank God most of the proposed buildings listed here weren’t built. Number 10 is shown where Coca-Cola Field is… it wound up on the other side of number 9 and became the Hilton/Adam’s Mark.

AM&A’s Christmas windows, 47 years ago today

By Steve Cichon

From the pages of the Courier-Express, holiday shopping on Main Street downtown 47 years ago today… AM&A’s windows and sidewalks jammed with shoppers.

Downtown Is Jammed by Shoppers In Traditional Post-Holiday Spree


The traditional heavy shopping downtown the day after Thanksgiving held true again Friday as pedestrians jammed stores and sidewalks and cars filled downtown streets bumper-to-bumper most of the day.

Most store officials contacted said they were pleased with what appeared to be near-record crowds and all the stores were jammed right after opening.
Total sales volume for the day wouldn’t have been known until today.

Displays Popular

Robert B. Adam, president of Adam, Meldrum & Anderson Co., said A. M. & A.’s traditional downtown store Christmas window display was viewed by the largest amount of people in the eight years the displays have been offered. He said this
year’s window display is on the history of Christmas carols.

Hens & Kelly Inc.’s downtown store also was reported jammed and Harry Blum, senior vice president, said business was very good right from the store’s opening. He said it was usually “noon before the store got that crowded.”

Lawrence R. Rose, executive director of Main Place and vice president and secretary of the Main Place Merchants Assn., described the shopping crowds as
“fantastic.” He said the day is normally a big day, but that Friday’s crowds were exceptionally heavy in all 53 stores in Main Place.
Best Day Seen

Similar observations were made by Daniel Ransom, president of the Wm. Hengerer Co., who said Friday was the best day-after-Thanksgiving in the
three years I have been here.”

Parking facilities in the downtown area were reported full most of the day.
Gerald R. Tunkey, general manager of Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps Inc. which operates five city ramps in the downtown area, said all the ramps were
full by 11 a.m. William J. Cochrane, assistant manager of the
Genesee Motor Ramp at 312 Pearl St., said business was “much heavier than normal, with almost all 300 spaces full much of the day.”

The shopping hordes meant the usual headaches for traffic police. Capt. Albert F. Saxer, head of traffic point control and radar units of the Buffalo Police
Dept., said extra patrolmen were planned both day and evening to handle the traffic.

Parking Scarce

“There are not enough parking facilities to handle the volume of vehicles that were downtown Friday,” said Saxer. “Parking facilities would have to
double to alleviate the situation.”

Saxer said traffic was slow but moving. There must have been room for sleighs, since several Santa Claus’ were spotted
downtown Friday.

Tearing down not just buildings, but our soul

By Steve Cichon

This isn’t anti- or pro- or anything specific … just what I thought about as I drove down Elmwood Avenue today.

They were shooting a movie in front of Voelker’s, because that is what attracts people to Buffalo. WNY is real, authentic, and lived in.

A few blocks away, a battle’s being lost to retain some of that authenticity to make way for a building that we might see in Tampa or Phoenix or anywhere else in the world.

Progress is good and we need it– but we also need to keep in mind what draws people here.

In a word, it’s our soul. The soul that lives in us and the soul that lives as part of our streetscape and buildings.

If something new is going to take away from that soul, it had better bring something tangibly more to the community.

Protecting soul can’t be written into a zoning plan. We have to be stewards of the essence that makes us who we are, and as a community, we need to continue to talk about all the Buffalo intangibles that money can’t buy– but sure as hell can ruin.

Election Day 2017: The best is yet to come!

By Steve Cichon

A social media recap of the 48 hours after Election Day 2017, where I was defeated in the race for Erie County Clerk by a margin of 52% to 48%:

The one good thing about no longer running for office is…. I can be snarky whenever snarky is called for. Here’s an email I received tonight, and responded to appropriately. Thank you everyone for your amazing love and support!


I love this photo– captured by the great Derek Gee of The News– because it really says everything I want to say about running for office, the race Team Cichon ran, and even the results. Since jumping into this race in March, I’ve been enriched in friendships new and lifelong…and the process has pushed me to rededicate my intense desire to make the world a better place by serving the greater humanity and the marginalized who need help being heard. The results aren’t exactly what any of us wanted– But my head is held high and my heart is full today. We left it all out there, and are ready for whatever else good is coming down the way.

Erie County Clerk candidate Steve Cichon talks to members of the media at the Democratic Party’s election night celebration at Statler City, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Breaking news– the election didn’t turn out the way we worked for… but the good news is, no matter what is to come, it comes with the best most supportive partner imaginable. Monica and I got to swing by the Channel 4 studios yesterday, and stop in the room that used to be WBEN Radio’s control room— the exact place where we met as co-workers 24 years ago. As I tell anyone who’ll listen, my wife is the brains of the operation, and the person who makes be better everyday. Thanks Sweetie Pie!!

Drove around today, filling my trunk with Cichon signs plucked from various places around town, including a few that were out in front of the former War Memorial Stadium… where Gramps was a ticket taker for 40 years and where my ol’man took us to Bisons games. My fondest five-year-old memories of the place are of the big metal troughs in the men’s room instead of urinals.

In perhaps my greatest “get off my lawn” moment ever, I was chatting with four friends who I worked with during this election season. I was wearing this ensemble from my “putting the outdoor furniture away” collection, and someone mentioned it was strange seeing me not wearing a bow tie. As I looked down at this plaid work shirt, I gloriously realized that it was purchased when I was in middle school in either 1989 or 1990 and was (quite a bit) older than all four of these friends. I proudly shared with them that bit of trivia, and enjoyed it way too much. Now stay off my lawn.

Sign of the times

By Steve Cichon

When I was a kid at Holy Family grammar school in South Buffalo, I loved election season. Watching the news with my dad every night, I got to know all the players on the local scene, and through my ol’man’s instant, savage analysis, I always knew who was a good guy and who was a chump.

That was fun, but just as exciting for me was driving around and looking at all the big colorful lawn signs.

We never had a sign on our lawn, but like a lot of South Buffalonians in the 80s, my grandparents usually had one for Mayor Griffin or one of the Keane brothers (Assemblyman Dick or Councilman Jim) stapled to the front of the porch.

Some kids liked to drive around looking at Christmas lights or spooky Halloween graveyards— but during political season, Dad would take us the long way to grandma’s house, maybe down McKinley Parkway, to look at all the political signs on the big lawns.

In some kind of simplified kindergartner way, I loved and appreciated the artistry in the varied designs and executions.

“Fahey At Large” might as well have been by Rembrandt or “LoVallo” by Monet.

Well done paint on wood was always eye-catching, but far more rare than it’s sloppy-stenciled cousins which seemed to be everywhere. But the printed signs were like works of art to me. The color choices. The fonts. Was it plain or well designed? How did they look after rain? Did the staple job detract from the sign?

Something, too, about three houses in a row with the same sign in the same spot. Or the uniqueness of a single sign among dozens of signs for “the other guy.”

Then and now, no where does all this drama play out better than Potters Road between Mount Mercy and the city line.

Unlike the manicured and rolling expanses of green on wide and open McKinley, houses seem almost on the street along some parts of Potters.

And it seems like just about everyone on Potters is in the game, maybe even why they moved there in the first place. The manic jumble of lawn signs make the tight ride even more claustrophobic if not thrilling, with the dozens, even hundreds of signs over those few long blocks next to the creek, including many that you wouldn’t see anywhere else in South Buffalo.

Potters during Election time has always felt like the lights of Times Square or the Vegas Strip to me… and this time, it’s my name out there… on a great sign designed by my friend Jake Wagner.

Wow, ya know? Kneeling next to a sign with my own name on it on Potters Road, 14210.

It’s really a lot of work and easy to get caught up in the grind of running for office– it’s nice to be reminded of how amazing all this is every once in a while.

I can’t wait to serve as your next Erie County Clerk. More on my plans at

Remembering “Cheap Gourmet” Doug Smith

Doug & Polly Smith, c. 1985, WIVB-TV

By Steve Cichon

I got to know Doug Smith while we were both working at Channel 4, but I loved him long before then. Thinking of him makes me think of my grandmother.

Grandma Cichon rounded up us kids and we took the bus from Seneca Street near the city line all the way up to Hertel Avenue for the first Italian Festival in North Buffalo after years on the West Side.

In perfect Grandma Cichon fashion, we prettyquickly walked up and down through the rides and games –it wasn’t much different from the Caz Park Festival we were used to… And then, eschewing the pricier Italian Sausage or ravioli, we ate lunch at the Burger King at the corner of Hertel and Delaware.

And since we were so close to K-Mart, Grandma couldn’t resist running in, which we did (probably for air conditioning, I’d guess, more than anything else.)

In the parking lot leaving K-Mart, heading for the bus stop, I think I spied him first. A real-live celebrity from Channel 4. Doug Smith! Right there! The guy with the convertible Beetle! In the flesh!

As if that wasn’t enough, Grandma– in her breathy, asthmatic voice– started moving toward him shouting, “Doug! Doug! Oh Doug!”

She knew him in her role as the longtime President of the South Buffalo Theatre on South Park Avenue.

“Oh Marie, how are you my darling,” he said, overacting the part, maybe even kissing her hand.

Italian Festival, Burger King, Doug Smith, and Grandma knows him! What a day!

Doug Smith would have made me smile even if I’d never met him… but that he was always great— and that he always makes me think of my grandma is really a bonus.

Then again, I think Doug’s the kind of guy that evokes layers of memories for plenty of people around Buffalo.

He was one of a kind– and warmly touched so many lives. He died today at 81. Rest in Peace, Doug Smith.

Polish Buffalo in the 1930s: Gramps on Easter & Dyngus Day

By Steve Cichon

Long before Dyngus Day was the celebration of Buffalo culture it has become over the last decade, it was, as most know, a day of celebration and fast breaking in the Polish community.

My grandfather, Edward Cichon, was the seventh of ten kids born to Polish immigrants who lived in Buffalo’s Valley neighborhood (nestled between South Buffalo, The First Ward, and The Hydraulics.)

Grandma & Grandpa Cichon. Edward V. Cichon and Marie T. Scurr-Cichon.

His memories of Easter and Dyngus Day went back more than 70 years when I interviewed him for a news story back in 2006. He’s giving us a first-hand account of Dyngus Day in Buffalo in the ’20s & ’30s.

Born in 1926, Gramps grew up on Fulton Street near Smith on a street that was, at that time, half Irish and half Polish. Most of the men on the street, including my great-grandfather and eventually Gramps himself, worked at the National Aniline chemical plant down the street.

On Dyngus Day, he’d go behind his house along the tracks of the Erie Railroad—the 190 runs there now—and grab some pussy willows to take part in the Dyngus Day tradition of swatting at girls on their heels, who’d in turn throw water at the boys.

For Easter, Babcia would cook all the Polish delicacies like golabki, pierogi, and kielbasi.

The sausage, Gramps explained, was all homemade. “Pa” (as gramps always called his father) would get two pigs, and they’d smoke them right in the backyard on Fulton Street. The whole family would work on making sausage at the big kitchen table, and then hang the kielbasa out back—but they’d also butcher hams and other cuts of meat as well.

While he was in the frame of mind, I asked him about the Broadway Market, too. In the late ‘20s, His mother would wheel him the two miles over to the market in a wagon, and park him next to the horses while she shopped for food and across the street at Sattler’s.

Reading these stories is great, but listening to Gramps tell them is the best.