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…
After camping out near Elmwood and the city line in three canvas-covered wagons, 110 years ago today– July 7, 1910– “a band of gypsies” with 13 children, “10 monkeys, seven horses, and three bears” were escorted out of Buffalo by two mounted policemen.
News Food Critic Janice Okun spoke with the director of the Cooperative Extension’s Sea Grant advisory program, who offered some preparation ideas beyond pan frying and whose office was looking for ways to help Buffalo eat those fish you’d probably just want to throw back.
This grainy 1975 photo was published to show the progress being made on repairs to the Skyway, but looking at the area with the eyes of 2015, 40 years of progress and change couldn’t be clearer.
Missing from the photo are the 1979 Adams Mark Hotel, and its neighbors WNED-TV and WKBW-TV. To the left of the Skyway, toward the top, you find an empty field where there is now Canalside.
The Aud and the Donovan Office Building stand just to the right of the Skyway at the top of the page. The Aud site is now home to the canals used for skating and boating. The bones of the Donovan Building live on inside the Phillips Lytle building.
For decades, city planners wrang their hands over the Webster block. In 1975, it was a parking lot, which it remained until only three years ago, when the Pegulas broke ground on HarborCenter. Also not in this photo — because it was 20 years from being built — is First Niagara Center.
Pioneer announcer and journalist Lou Douglas has died. He was 85.
The Korean War vet came to WBEN-AM/FM/TV in 1957 and his unflappable, smart, level-headed approach to news anchoring and interviewing was part of the fabric of the station for 30 years. Douglas was considered by most as the dean of broadcast journalists.
In his early years as a junior announcer at The Buffalo Evening News stations, television still played second fiddle to AM radio. Many of his early assignments were on Channel 4, including regular 6pm walks from WBEN’s Statler studios to The Buffalo Evening News’ building near the foot of Main Street. There, he’d read the 6 o’clock news as prepared by The News’ staff, broadcast–as was announced at the beginning of each newscast– “From the Editorial Floor of the Buffalo Evening News.”
Douglas would continue to appear as a reporter, host, and announcer on TV through the 1970s, but he is best remembered for his work at WBEN Radio.
It was his voice that anchored coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Buffalo in 1962. He broadcast from inside the prison complex during the Attica uprising. Living in Kenmore, his home was closest to the WBEN’s Elmwood Avenue studios– which meant extended duty for Lou during the Blizzard of 1977.
He always sounded even-keeled on the air, and was the same way in the newsroom, where he was remembered for reading the Wall Street Journal and never being afraid to pick up the phone to calmly make the most outlandish and seemingly impossible interview requests for his afternoon and evening interview spots.
In spanning three decades, Douglas really had two separate careers; one as a staff announcer, and one as a journalist. Through the 1950s and 1960s, the people you saw on Channel 4 and heard on WBEN were announcers– and only announcers. Union rules dictated that they could not and would not write their own news scripts or conduct news interviews or gather information.
By the mid-1970s, those rules had changed, and most of the “announcers” who had been bringing Buffalo news and weather since the ’40s and ’50s were gone. Not Douglas, though– his abilities as a staff announcer complimented his ability to gather the news, interview the newsmakers, and write his own newscasts.
He retired from WBEN in 1987, and spent a brief period at WWKB Radio a few years later before retiring for good.
In 2010, I spoke to Lou about his days in radio, and the possibility of the Statler building facing the wrecking ball. This interview wasn’t meant for broadcast, but is wonderful none the less. That interview, along with some career highlights, are listed for playback below. Please feel free to use any of the audio or photos in the celebration of Lou’s life in any media.
Steve with Lou Douglas, 2010:
WBEN’s Election 85 coverage: Kevin Keenan, Lou Douglas, Brian Meyer, Mark Hamrick, and John Murphy
WBEN News with Lou Douglas, 1973. Attica uprising, will Mayor Sedita resign?
WBEN News with Lou Douglas, January 1977. The Blizzard of ’77.
WBEN’s Coverage of JFK’s Visit to Buffalo, 1962. Lou Douglas live from Niagara Square.
Forty years ago today, July 1, 1975, the tolls at Black Rock and Ogden crept up from 15 cents to 20 cents, leaving many motorists searching their seat cushions for a nickel — and one kind Thruway employee ready to help.
Another now-useless skill that thousands of Western New Yorkers perfected was the slow-down to 10 or 15 miles per hour to toss our exact change into the plastic basket of the toll booth.
The advent of EZPass diminished the importance of this skill, which for some was left entirely in the Stone Age when the Thruway Authority removed tolls from the downtown Buffalo portion of I-190 in 2006.
Both Super Duper and B-Kwik were offering great savings on discount pop and beer 40 years ago this week for Independence Day 1975. So what beverages would have been stocked up for the upcoming holiday celebrations?
Koehler was produced in Erie, Pa., and became a local cheapo favorite after the closure of Buffalo’s Simon Pure and Iroquois plants in the early ’70s. Koehler was last produced in 1978.
Also at B-kwik, Hy-Top pop was eight cans for a buck.
Another longtime favorite of Buffalo cheapskates– RC Cola– was also on sale: eight 16-ounce glass bottles for $1.
Over at all 30 Super Duper locations across WNY, it was Schaefer Beer six-packs for a buck and eight cans of Red and White pop for $1.
By Steve Cichon | firstname.lastname@example.org | @stevebuffalo
During the War of 1812, about 300-400 soldiers died on what is now the Delaware Park golf course.
There was no battle there, though the men were in Buffalo in defense of our nation’s borders. The soldiers, mostly from southern states like Maryland and Virginia, died as they wintered on the large open area that would become “the park meadow” and the golf course.
These soldiers came to Western New York to defend our nation wearing light summer uniforms and open ended tents. They took on the worst of Buffalo winter with few blankets, fewer boots, and very little food. Most of the food that did make it this far out to the American frontier was rancid.
“Camp Disease,” probably cholera or dysentery or a combination of both fueled by starvation and frost bite, killed this men in an unimaginable way.
The ground was frozen, so the dead were buried in either shallow graves or simply piled in tents. When spring came, a large hole was dug… the dead buried in a mass grave.
Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknowns.
If you don’t know about this, you’re not alone. Through the years, many attempts have been made to call attention to this sacred site— the very reason for Memorial Day.
If this were a Civil War mass grave from 50 years later, Delaware Park would be a National Park and it’s story known around the world. The War of 1812 isn’t as sexy historically speaking, so these men lie mostly forgotten.
A large boulder, placed in 1896, marks the spot of the grave. The fact that its in the middle of the golf course means, again, it’s forgotten.
It was hoped the monument could be dedicated on Remembrance Day in 1896, but it wasn’t ready– and was dedicated on July 4, 1896 instead.
Sadly, through the years, the site– and therefore the memory of the sacrifice it represents– has been stripped of more attention raising features.
A flagpole disappeared in the first half of the 20th century.
This 1955 article from the Courier-Express shows a pair of Civil War parrott rifles on either side of the stone marker and a historical marker pointing to the site from Ring Road. The cannon disappeared in the 80s, the marker some time before then.
More needs to be done to honor the sacrifice of these men who gave their lives and now are spending eternity in the midst of our city.
Can the historical marker be replaced? Can we as a community build awareness and try to bring more honor to this many times over forgotten sacred site?