History’s Garbage Bin: Sharing the Garbage Picked Goodness… Again

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

To save everything because “it’s old” is just silly. To toss everything away because “it’s old” is just silly, too. Somewhere between those two extremes is where most of us try to live.I get both sides. I’m a saver, who wishes sometimes I could live more of a clutter-free life. But a healthy portion of my clutter comes from big piles of important stuff that otherwise would have no home.

Depending on how you look at it, I have been blessed or cursed with the ability to see the possibilities beyond a pile of garbage. My home is a great example. It’s taken over a decade of hard work for my wife and me to make it shine, taking it from a worn-down relic to a stop on the Parkside Home Tour.

Over the last two decades, I have garbage-picked, purchased, been asked to copy, or reluctantly accepted thousands of hours of audio and video, almost always locked away on some sort of format that made it impossible listen to or view. Or even know if there was anything there.

Basically, I’ve been collecting “potential.”

Twice I’ve garbage-picked boxes of old film reels. These boxes were in the garbage for good reason; the film was infected with “vinegar syndrome,” a decomposition of the materials in the film, which renders it unviewable. Worse, one “vinegared” film can jump start the degrading process in other nearby films as well.

The relatively small group of folks who had decided to chuck these boxes has literally thousands of reels of film to worry about. As a member of that group I agreed. But as an individual, I decided that I couldn’t see this film simply thrown away. I garbage picked the film, then spend lots of time and money picking out the few good bits from the mangled messes inside those decaying boxes and film canisters, cleaning those good bits, then properly storing them to avoid more vinegar problems and further degrading.

The same is true of a pile of old video cassettes. The TV station I was working at was taking “the best” of some of the video that was on an old, dying format of videotapes, and dubbing them to the format they were then using. It made sense, as these dubs were being made on the station’s last working machine that played the old format tapes. The old tapes were being hauled to the dumpster. I grabbed as many as I could for “safe keeping.”

In both of these cases, I was holding onto what I knew was great video, but had no means to share it or even watch it. In some cases, this stuff had been in my possession for over a decade. Waiting.

Having been lucky enough to turn a bit of a profit from my book “Irv! Buffalo’s Anchorman: The Irv, Rick, and Tom Story,” I gathered up most of that film, and many of those video tapes, along with others that I’d copied or recorded myself over the years, and sent them off to be properly and professionally digitized. A painstaking and expensive process, but one that was the end result of saving them from the trash in the first place– whether I knew it at the time or not.

Being able to treat my relatively small collection with a great deal of care and respect has allowed me to begin sharing some interesting moments reported and recorded by Buffalo television journalists over the last 60 years. You’re seeing the fruits of it on YouTube.

A Stan Barron obituary piece was the first item from the hours of “new” old video I shared…


The second was a true Western New York treasure. Who among us in Buffalo hasn’t replied with a sarcastic “Fun? Wow!” when asked a question? The phrase, of course, comes from TV commercials for Fantasy Island, which ran over and over and over and… I can remember asking my parents to go to “Fun Wow,” not realizing the actual name of the place.

The iconic commercial forever ensconced the phrase “Fun… WOW!” in our collective lexicon. Type “Fantasy Island” into Google, and the term “fun wow” follows as a suggested search term. Some how the commercial has eluded the Internet, until uncovered in that pile of tapes that time had forgotten was remastered.

There are two wonderful memories supplied, and there’s plenty more to come as well. Literally hundreds more quick videos to come for all of us to pause and remember for a moment.

Video especially has a great power to transport us back to another time and place like no other medium. That’s why I can honestly say that I don;t think I’ve ever been so excited about a project as the one I’m embarking on here in putting this video online to share with the world.

What it comes down to for me is…. my stuff is useless unless it can be of some use to somebody. I’ve already seen the smiles from these small bits already released that proves the usefulness. I won’t make a million dollars on my finds… In fact, I’m in the red getting them ready to share. But it really hurts my brain to know that many of the wonderful archival videos you’ll see, in fact, much of what is posted at staffannouncer.com, could have just as easily made it’s way to the land fill.

No matter where you fall on the “saver/saves-nothing” scale, I ask you to join me in finding good use for your saved stuff, or finding a good home for the stuff you want to get rid of.

One man’s trash can become an entire community’s treasure.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Remembering the Courier: Thirty years since the last Courier-Express rolled off the presses

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

This page first appeared on staffannouncer.com on September 19, 2012.

BUFFALO, NY – It was thirty years ago today, September 19, 1982. I was in my second week of kindergarten, and the last editions of the Courier-Express were hitting Western New York front stoops with a thud. It was a thick Sunday edition, and most of the “A” section was dedicated to the forever silenced presses of the liberal morning newspaper.

masthead

This is page is simply that A section, presented one page at a time. Click on each page for a larger, easier to read version. I photographed, then edited each page. If anyone has a better idea for “scanning” newspapers, I’d love to hear it… and maybe would do more.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

 

Buffalo in the 80’s: 400 photos of pre-MetroRail Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY  – At the time when these photos were taken, Buffalo needed the song “Talking Proud” to remind us to talk proudly about our city because everything seemed to be spiraling out of control.

Area industry was hemorrhaging the good paying blue collar jobs that were the back bone of “who Buffalo was;” so many plants were being left idle.

The city itself had seen better days, too. A once proud downtown was looking sad but hopeful for what the MetroRail might bring. Neighborhoods were slowly being abandoned… or worse, quickly being abandoned.

Bad things were happening all over, and even the calm, cool, and collected types were running out of fingers to plug the holes in the dyke.

That’s the scene in the Buffalo of these photos. Late 70s through the 80s. It wasn’t cool or hip or trendy or interesting to love this place for what it was. Many people focused their love on a single building, like Shea’s or the Darwin Martin House. Many people focused on their love of the people of this city.

But as a whole, the Buffalo that we loved was disappearing. The capital of glitz and glamour, the big city between Chicago and New York, the true Queen City of the Lakes was gone. It was hard to love the remnants of those days gone by, the city we have today. It took us some time to appreciate what we had and have, and we’re there now.

When someone makes a crack about snow or chicken wings, we’re ready to tell them what’s truly great about our city. We talk about our great history, and how we’re moulding that into our promising future.

But as you look at these photos, I hope you don’t simply curse the mistakes that were made. Many of these neat and interesting places no longer exist. But many were taken down in the hopes of replacing the old with something to be proud of tomorrow. No one knew how to do it. Boston made mistakes. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago. Each made choices now lamented about city planning, or lack of it.

Looking through these, quite a few times I said, “Damn.” Sometimes as in, damn, I wish that building was still here. But also, damn as in, look at how much better Chippewa looks. Damn, I’m glad there are no more porn shops on Main Street.

It’s a mixed bag for sure, but it is a mixed bag. If you through these photos, and see nothing but negative, you might be part of the problem with Buffalo today. You can’t change the past, and you can’t blame people who were trying, for the most part, to make our city a better place.

An early 80s billboard near City Hall asked the last person leaving Buffalo to turn out the light. Luckily, despite umpteen decisions that we wish we had back, it looks like that light will shine brightly for quite a while now.

About these photos:

A tremendous Buffalonian with a great eye for history rescued these amazing photos from certain peril. Yes, Derik Kane garbage picked them, scanned them, and put them up on Facebook.

The photos are popping up piecemeal all over Facebook, but I thought it was important to put them in a single, public place together on the web, so that they could be viewed as a single collection, and Derik was kind enough to oblige.

Personally, this is the earliest Buffalo I remember. Taking the Seneca bus downtown to Main Street with my mom or one of my grandmothers just before the MetroRail went in.

I’d like to gather as much info on these photos as possible. If you have any information or stories about any of the buildings, or neighborhoods, or times spent, or even the great array of vehicles, please note the number of the photo(s) and drop me an e-mail and we’ll update the page.

It’d also be great if anyone thinks to grab a “now” photo from a similar vantage point of any of these photos… Especially places that look drastically different.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Buffalo in the 50’s: Ted’s Charcoal broiled Red Hots, Sheridan Drive

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

teds

Who feels like cooking in this heat… Let’s go to Teds! Sheridan Drive, late 40s, early 50s.

Give me a well done (aka burnt) loaded footlong with a toasted roll and a loganberry.

And when asked, “Fries or rings?,” the only worthy answer is both.

Buffalo in the 20’s: Booze Bust in The Valley

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

dryraidelkst

BUFFALO BOOZE BUST… Wouldn’t it have been great if Irv Weinstein would have been around to write Prohibition stories? The papers were filled with them almost every day.

I like this one in particular– because it took place in a bar my ol’man would buy 55 years later.

The text is a bit hard to read:

The Buffalo Sunday Express Sunday December 27, 1925

Cleverly concealed caches of liquor were found hidden under the floor of the barroom in the saloon at no. 807 Elk street, owned by John Doty. A large copper tank, to which were attached two spigots and a siphon, was hiding places for two dozen quarts of rare old whisky.Under the floor and on the stairway were 100 quarts of alleged liquor. Doty will be arraigned on Monday.

In the late 1930s, the path of Elk Street changed as South Park Avenue was created out of several South Buffalo and First Ward streets. What was number 807 Elk –at the corner of Smith Street– in 1925, is now 207 Elk (sadly, a vacant lot.)

Buffalo in the 80’s: Talking Proud latch hook

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

In 1982, steel and auto manufacturing jobs were leaving Buffalo by the thousands.

chamberofcommerce82

The Chamber of Commerce, though, was in its 1982 glory with a “Talking Proud” hooked rug hanging on the wall, and a big giant computer that had about 1/320th the memory that the phone I’m writing this on has.