The essence of Buffalo Stories is defining and celebrating the people, places, and things that make Buffalo… Buffalo.
That’s Buffalo’s pop culture heritage-– and that’s what you’ll find as you scroll through these stories or search the collected works of one of WNY’s most prolific pop culture historians of the last decade for something specific…
My “new” old Bills sweater is the exact same one Gramps used to wear as a ticket taker at the stadium. Gramps would let us into Bills games— I remember going to a Baltimore Colts game during the 1982 strike.
We weren’t allowed to acknowledge or say hi to Grandpa, and we had to give him a matchbook to rip and hand back to us in case the bosses were watching.
Paid attendance at Rich Stadium: 80,080. Non-paying Cichons: 3,347. Hahaha
The truth is, Jackie Jocko didn’t know me from anyone. We’d met a bunch through the years, and I even drove him home from EB Greens a few times toward the end of his career, but with Jocko, it didn’t matter who you were anyway– if you were in his company, he was there to entertain you with his musical ability but also to touch and warm your soul as one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met.
He didn’t know me from the guys from Iowa at the next table, but when he sang, “My friend Steve is a good guy,” he meant it. He meant I was a friend, and he meant that he saw the good in me… Because he was literally everyone’s friend and he saw the good in everyone.
If it was just the size of his talent behind a piano keyboard, it would have been an honor to have spent some time with him through the years… But he was a genuine and thoroughly good man to a degree where it seemed like he turned over his entire existence to the well-being of the people around him.
What else can you do but hold up a paddle that says SMILE, and sing… “My… friend… Jock… ko… is… a… good… guuuuy….. ”
When I was a general assignment reporter, I always loved the angle that when something big happens, anything that anyone is doing becomes a story. “How did you ride out the storm?” “How did you celebrate the big win?” “Where were you when the tornado hit?”
No matter what your answer is…it’s part of the larger story and worth celebrating. As a researcher and historian who combs through other writers’ and journalists’ archived works to re-tell their stories in the light of present day life, I love finding those little bits of everyday life set against the backdrop of big stories.
That’s why these ladies watching TV at a City of Tonawanda department store is my favorite image from the lunar landing. A million people are telling Neil Armstrong’s story– But we here care just as much about what was going on in the Twin-Ton Department store as he was making that giant leap.
Watching TV rarely gets you on the front page of the paper, but it seems appropriate that it did for the staff at Jenss Twin-Ton Department store 50 years ago next week.
That man would step foot on the moon is an unimaginable, superlative, epoch-defining feat in human history. But that more than half a billion would watch it happen live on their television sets made it a definitive moment in a broadcast television industry that was barely 20 years old at the time.
Gathered around the TV “to catch a few glimpses of the Apollo 11 events” were Mrs. James Tait, Margaret Robinson, Marian Feldt, Jack Dautch, Grace Hughes, Dorothy Wiegand, Rose Sugden and Rose Ann Fiala.
By the time of the 1969 moon landing, Jenss Twin-Ton’s future was already in doubt as city fathers in the Tonawandas were looking to expand already present Urban Renewal efforts to include the store at Main and Niagara.
Founded in 1877 as Zuckmaier Bros., the department store was sold in 1946 and became Twin-Ton in 1946. Jenss Twin-Ton closed in 1976 when the building was bulldozed as urban renewal caught up. Plans for the department store to rebuild on the site never materialized and the Tonawandas’ only downtown department store was gone for good.
After more than a week away from everything Buffalo…
Nothing says welcome home like sitting in an airport waiting for the second leg of a flight to BUF, and listening to the loud flip phone conversation of a 60-something woman with a third-generation Buffalo/Polish accent– ya know– naaht too baayd— but just enough to know that if she doesn’t live in Chicktawaga now, she probably did at some point in her life.
I can’t really believe how the sound makes my heart full. Other places are great to visit, but I just can’t imagine coming home to anywhere else…
For years, on and off, I’ve been looking for a Buffalo travel poster, any Buffalo travel poster.
Honestly, I kind of assumed that there never was one. I mean why waste precious wall space with (my beloved) Buffalo when there have always been far more exotic, colorful, and warm places which might be more gerenally appealing to the traveling public.
Then I came across this beauty from the late 50s or early 60s.
My ol’man used to (somewhat proudly) tell the story about how he got suspended from South Park High School for ditching class to go see Lyndon Johnson speak in Niagara Square.
LBJ and Lady Bird with Buffalo Mayor Frank Sedita and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller in Buffalo in 1966.In the 40 years or so I’ve had to let that story sink in, I think I have two takeaways.
The first is… When common sense dictates breaking a rule, do it. (There was nothing being taught at SPHS that day that could compete with seeing a President.)
The second is… common sense also dictates that you do your best to find an amiable solution to the breaking the rule. I’ve done plenty of things like skipping class to go see the President… but not while giving the finger to the guy who will paddle my ass and suspend me for doing it.
So thanks Dad and LBJ for the life lessons on this President’s Day.