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.

 

Sandy Beach celebrates 50 years in Buffalo Radio

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A very famous local radio personality– whose name we won’t mention because he works at another station– is celebrating 50 years in Buffalo Radio this week.

He came to Buffalo with his famous laugh in 1968. His laugh is famous, so are his jokes and his political opinions, which again, he’s been sharing for 50 years now.

Stan Roberts,Dan Neaverth, Sandy Beach.

But if you were around when the Timeless Favorites we play on WECK were the top hits on KB Radio, you remember our guy as a big-time rock ‘n’ roll DJ.

The KB jocks: Sandy Beach, Don Berns, Jack Armstrong (standing). Casey Piotrowski, Jack Sheridan, Danny Neaverth, Bob McRae (sitting) From the KB 1 Brown album. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Before he came to Buffalo, he even interviewed the Beatles– George Harrison, anyway.

Danny Neaverth, Shane Brother Shane, and Sandy Beach in the WBEN studio. Steve Cichon photo.

So, if you happen to run into a guy whose name rhymes with Randy Peach– who does a show 300 kilohertz south of WECK– wish him a happy 50th anniversary in Buffalo.


From the archives:

Photos and sounds with Sandy at WKBW in the 60s & 70s: Buffalo’s 1520 WKBW Radio: WNY’s great contribution to 20th century pop culture

Watch Sandy in the Majic 102 studios with Don Postles in 1989: Buffalo Morning Radio around the dial in 1989


Sandy Beach with Steve Cichon, 2008. I did the news on Sandy’s show for years, and found him to be one of the most genuine and loyal co-workers and friends I’ve made in my 25 years in radio.

Sandy Beach

beach.jpg (10242 bytes)

Beach has made a career of straddling the line of the conservative tastes of Buffalo, and has never let office or city hall politics get in the way of a good show. It’s that desire for great radio, no matter the cost, that has allowed Sandy to be a Buffalo radio fixture for 35 years with only a few interruptions.

Sandy came to WKBW from Hartford in 1968. Within 6 years, according to a 1972 interview, 2002 BBP Hall of Famer Jeff Kaye said that Sandy had “worked every shift on KB except morning drive, and improved the ratings in each part.”

His quick wit and infectious laugh have been a part of Western New York ever since at KB, WNYS, Majic 102, and now afternoon drive on WBEN.

A native of Lunenberg, Massachusetts (hence his long time sign off, “Good Night Lunenberg….Wherever you are”), Sandy’s made his impact for over a third of a century in Buffalo radio as a jock, in programming, and now in as a talker, and always as a wise-guy friend just a dial twist away.

Written by Steve Cichon in 2003 went Sandy was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. 


 

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

 

Teacher makes history personal to make it come alive

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s D-Day, and many of us have lamented that “the next generation” doesn’t have any knowledge or connection to one of the most gruesome days in American history.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Many of the military histories came alive in our classroom,” says Jason Steinagle, award-winning history teacher at Hamburg Middle School. He encourages kids to look to their family trees to make history more meaningful.

Jason Steinagle, in Revolutionary War era costume, helps make history come alive for his students.

“Many students actually found artifacts within their families. Letters home from soldiers, medals that they had won. Personal history. The kids made a personal connection to it, and that’s one way to keep history alive,” says Steinagle.

A passion for history and an appreciation of our collective past is a life skill that can be learned, and used beyond seventh grade, and Steinagle considers inspiring that his life’s work.

It’s more than “just history.”

That’s why Steinagle has helped organize Living History Day, where students and the community at large are immersed into the culture of the several eras through demonstrations and hands-on activities.

“We’re trying to influence the next generation of leaders for our country,” says Steinagle. “It’s very important for them to understand and appreciate who we are as Americans. Good or bad, right or wrong, we need to learn to appreciate what we can learn from our history and who we are as Americans.”

“It’s what moves us forward and makes us a better people,” says Steinagle.

Living History Day
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Free Family Event
SUNY at Fredonia Campus
4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

The Boston Historical Society with Hamburg Kiwanis and other local partners proudly offer the Living History Day, a free family event that transports the community back in time to early American history.

This event is unique to the area and is more than a battle reenactment since it immerses participants into the culture of the era through demonstrations and hands-on activities.

We have invited selected schools throughout the area to attend from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The community is welcomed between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. We may offer an opportunity to:

· Attend presentations of student research
· Participate in the cultural traditions of the Seneca Nation and the Iroquois Confederacy
· Appreciate historical perspectives
· Loyalist and Patriot
· Union and Confederate
· Learn British tactics during the Revolutionary War
· Communicate messages across the battlefield with the Signal Corps
· Discover primitive medical technologies and techniques
· Drill with reenactors
· Enjoy a ladies’ fashion show
· Examine essential household items from the 19th Century
· Interact with historical interpreters Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Mary Walker, and Generals Lee & Grant
· Listen to the bugle calls
· Load an artillery piece
· Measure and analyze with Army Engineers
· Meet the horses and understand the advantages of the cavalry during the War
· Play cricket
· Realize the challenges of living on a 19th Century farm
· Recognize the work of the Sanitary Commission with wounded soldiers
· Visit the tent of a leather sutler
· Watch as blacksmiths shape iron

To learn more about our event, please call the Boston Historical Society at (716) 941-5139 or email directorofeducationbhs@gmail.com.

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.”

 

It’s a May heatwave, but doesn’t that beat snow?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

We hit 91 degrees on May 30, and even the most summer-loving of us saw our patience– and our antiperspirant– tested.

So, here are a few thoughts to try to cool things down– or at least make you a little more thankful for the heat.

It was actually the last week of May in 1942 when Bing Crosby recorded the famous version of White Christmas, so maybe he was dealing with the heat that day, just like we are this week?

June 10, 1980. Sweaters at the pool as snow falls in Buffalo.

As we’re dealing with this sometimes unbearable heat, it’s worth thinking about that it could be snow.

Really, you ask? But yes, the date for Buffalo’s latest snow fall is enough to send a chill down your spine on a blazing hot late May day.

It happened in 1980. It’s an outlier to be sure, but we had snow during the afternoon hours of June 10, 1980.

It’s the only time in the nearly 150 years of weather statistics being kept in Buffalo that we had snow in June, but history shows, it is possible.

The news of snow on June 10, 1980 only garnered little blurbs in both The News and the Courier-Express– and not even a headline! Read the coverage in the Buffalo Evening News and the Courier-Express on Buffalo’s latest snowfall on record:

And of course, it was just three years ago (2015) that it was into August before the largest piles of snow– left over from the Snowvember storm of 2014– were still there outside the Buffalo Central Terminal.

The glacier-like piles were showcased by Channel 2’s Dave McKinley in a story that gained national attention as the July sun roasted in Buffalo.

So, of course, know it could always be worse in the Buffalo weather department.

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.”

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.


Striking a Memorial Day balance with the twin sister of a fallen soldier

On November 3, 2016, Andrew Byers, 30, a Captain with the Army’s airborne 10th Special Forces Group was killed in Afghanistan.

Capt. Andrew D. Byers.
09/02/1986 – 11/03/2016

“Gone are the days of Memorial Day as the start of summer and worrying about whose barbecue we’ll be going to,” says Lauren Byers, Captain Byers’ twin sister.

For Lauren and the Byers family, Memorial Day is now more than ever about striking a balance.

“I think we’re all looking for that thing to do to honor him, but also not be frustrated when you see all the commercials and ads that say ‘splash into summer’ or ‘Memorial Day Sale’ and not feel that twinge of pain, that that’s not really what Memorial Day is,” says Byers.

“How do you choose something that’s meaningful and balance that with knowing that your family member would want you to enjoy your time together as a family.”

A Memorial Day holiday might involved a chat about the Sabres for Andy Byers, whose love of the team followed him all around the world in service to our country. But that service is something Captain Byers knew he wanted to pursue from an early age.

“Even after he passed, we went to his office at Fort Carson, where he had a Sabres coffee mug on his desk,” says Lauren. “But he knew when he was 15 that he wanted to serve.”

It took her some time to accept her brother’s choice of career, but now Lauren looks on her brother’s service and ultimate sacrifice with a mix of pride, devastation, and working to keep the memory of her brother– and all fallen service people– alive.

“I think for Gold Star families, the challenge is two fold,” says Lauren. “We don’t want out family members to be forgotten. We don’ t the lives they lead to be forgotten. He would say, ‘If not me, then who?’ Someone needs to do this job. I am capable, I will be the one to do it.'”

What would Lauren like to see people do on Memorial Day? Just remembering those who’ve given their lives for our freedom– including her twin brother.

“People remembering them, the choice they made, and how they lived their lives– and giving them the respect that they are do.”


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.


cannon

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