LB Smith Plaza/Abbott Rd. Plaza, 1976

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

An emailer asked what the name of the deli in the Abbott Rd. Plaza was back in the day….

That was Columbia Foods.

While looking that up, I also came across the list of Abbott Road Plaza merchants in 1976.

Good times at Abbott & Ridge!

Where did the name “The Valley” come from?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The Valley is a traditionally working class, industrial neighborhood between the First Ward and South Buffalo, bounded by the Buffalo River, Van Rensselaer Street, and the I-190.

Leaving the Valley on Van Rensselaer Street heading toward the Hydraulics neighborhood, during thr Larkin Warehouse fire in 1954.

My dad always referred to the neighborhood where he grew up as “The Valley,” always talking about having to cross a bridge to get in or out of The Valley. That was definitely true in the 60s, and is still pretty much true now—but the delineation was even greater before they ripped out all of the old steel truss bridges and eliminated the ones on Smith and Van Rensselaer in the early 1990s.

My guess, in talking with folks from the neighborhood, that the name “The Valley” was coined sometime in the 50s, that seems to be the generation that started referring to that name.

The city didn’t use the name in any of its planning or urban renewal programs in the 50s and 60s, and I haven’t been able to find a reference to the name in print in the Courier-Express or the Evening News until the time when the Community Association was organized in the late 60s.

One would have to assume, however, that the name was in some kind of familiar use leading up to naming a community association after it. My grandfather, who was born in what is now considered “The Valley” in 1926, and lived there for 40 years, didn’t refer to “The Valley,” but usually “the neighborhood.”

My great-grandparents came to Poland to “The Valley” in 1913.

After living on Elk, Fulton, and Perry, they bought 608 Fulton St. in 1922. My great grandfather worked at Schoellkopf Chemical/National Aniline for more than 40 years.

His son, my grandfather– who worked more than 40 years at National Aniline/Buffalo Color– lived in his parents’ house and then bought one across the street (from his brother-in-law’s family) at 617 Fulton, where my dad grew up.

My dad’s family moved to Seneca Street in 1966. Dad later owned the bar at Elk and Smith in the late 70s/early 80s.

Finally found: “As long as you’re coming to Kmart, don’t forget the film”

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Like many other commercial jingles from the late 70s through the early 90s, this one streams through my head regularly.

But unlike just about every other one of them, I couldn’t find this one online, anywhere. In fact, there aren’t even very many mentions of it without the audio or video accompaniment.

The jingle goes, “As long as your coming to Kmart, don’t forget the film.”

I thought maybe I had mis-remembered the lyric somehow, and one day shortly after my friendly neighborhood Kmart closed its doors for the last time, I decided to dig deep and see if I could find more about the jingle I remember, but apparently no one else does… at least enough to write about it online.

Nothing on YouTube, which lead me to believe it might have been a commercial campaign that ran on the radio only. After some intense searching, I finally found the jingle on an upload of an in-house Kmart music tape from the summer of 1990.

That makes sense, because I grew up only a five-minute walk away from a Kmart store, and spent many early-adolescent days just wandering around the store, where that jingle would have certainly seeped into my consciousness.

Anyway, to help out any other poor soul in search of this jingle, I created a YouTube video and a Google-trolled blog post to hopefully connect a memory with a bit of audio from a no longer existent store, about the long-anachronistic process of film developing.

Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Local 660 and Grandpa Coyle

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Pittsburgh Plate Glass was on Erie Street near the waterfront when this photo was taken in the early ’50s.

Today, the spot is WNED | WBFO’s parking lot (Erie St. runs behind the building.)

That’s my grandpa, glazier Jimmy Coyle, in the middle with the checked jacket where the rip is taken out of the photo.

He was a glassworker and later the Business Agent for Local 660, and a member of that union for more than 50 years.

 

No, there wasn’t a secret tunnel. There just wasn’t.

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I get questions about purported secret tunnels around Buffalo constantly, like from the well-intentioned person who sent this email.

People are obsessed with tunnels. Tunnels from Prohibition. Tunnels from the Underground Railroad. Tunnels between neighbors houses.

No one has ever been in any of the tunnels they email about—or even seen evidence of their existence— but the rumors are hot and people want to believe them so bad. But we are humans, not moles.

There are very few tunnels— statically NO tunnels compared to the numbers of rumors.

Of course, there are tunnels. Lots and lots of tunnels. But SECRET tunnels? There are secret tunnels only on Scooby-Doo.

But people will still email me about tunnels, and I will still gently try to tell these emailers that there probably wasn’t a tunnel, and they won’t believe me, and the beat goes on.

All-time Buffalonian Mark D. Croce, Jan. 24, 1961 – Jan. 9, 2020

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Rest In Peace Mark Croce, who died in a helicopter crash last night.

Aside from being one of Buffalo’s leading restaurateurs and club owners, without him, the Statler Hotel property would be a parking lot right now. He literally saved it from the wrecking ball. I was also privy to many of the really great things he quietly did for people just because he could.

The world has lost a good man who cared about this city and it’s people.

I ran across this Joe Cascio photo today of Mark Croce holding court with me and the rest of the media on the steps of the Statler Ballroom in 2011.

He didn’t have to buy the Statler. After years of crazy schemes and a handful of less-than-ideal out-of-town owners, the city was pricing out demolition.

His commitment to Buffalo by saving one of our storied landmarks was one of the small handful of events which helped Buffalonians see light coming from around the corner. I don’t know if we’d be wearing “Keep Buffalo A Secret” t-shirts without Howard Goldman’s having worked on Mark to buy the old hotel.

Ironically, it was on this same day that Mark and Mayor Brown were making a big announcement about the future of the Statler, that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg answered a question about a lack of classrooms, road maintenance, and housing in New York City by throwing a shot at Buffalo.

“There’s an awful lot of free space in Buffalo, New York, if you want to go there. I don’t think you do,” Bloomberg said.

Mayor Brown, who can be seen all the way to the right over Mark’s shoulder answered Bloomberg’s comments– right there in the Statler lobby– with the most tenacity I’ve ever seen from him in 15 years as mayor. “I’m pissed,” he said, several times, before demanding an apology.

Standing there, in this saved building, with our usually even-keeled mayor boldly standing up for our city’s honor– it was tough to not stand a bit taller as a Buffalonian.

And all that, because Mark Croce believed in Buffalo and put his business and his reputation on the line to make the Statler into an admittedly wobbly investment in Buffalo which acted as the basis and foundation for so many others…

Instead of a parking lot for City Hall workers.

 

Great old sign uncovered at old Record Theatre

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Since no fewer than 300 friends have called, texted, emailed, and sent telegrams about the cool sign uncovered at the old Record Theatre (thank you all!!), I took a ride over and snapped a couple of pics— featuring the vintage sign as well as the Lenny Silver Way signs.

Record Theatre renovations, 2019

Record Theatre renovations, 2019

Nine years after his death, the world needs Jim Kelley more now than ever

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Nine years ago today, I wrote:

My good friend and Hockey Hall of Famer Jim Kelley died today. When we last spoke a few weeks ago, he knew it wouldn’t be long. I told him I love him, and he said it back. I’m glad we had that conversation. I wish more friends could/would. God bless you Jimmy, and your family.

Jim Kelley, October 26, 1949 – November 30, 2010

I started out in the “real world,” with an adult job in an adult environment at the age of 15, surrounded by an amazing cast of people who made me think the world was made of great men like them.

There were many, but none was better than Jim Kelley.

He was a hockey writer, but more than that he firmly believed and professed that there was truth and falsehood. Further, he believed that anyone who tried to make gray out of black-and-white was probably up to something and as a citizen and a journalist, it was his job to figure out what.

I miss him personally as a friend, and more broadly as the kind of guy this world needs more of… now more than ever.