Where did the wonderful 33 daffodils come from?

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

Daffodils along the Kensington Expressway and Youngmann Highway are one of those things that make our City of Buffalo great.

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I scared my wife pulling over abruptly on the 33 to get these photos on a beautiful spring day. April 18, 2015.

Of course, as Buffalonians, our usually dark and cold winters trigger a primal yearning and desire for warmth and springtime. Winter can leave our souls and psyches wounded to the point where we really aren’t even able to fully grasp what May will do to our dulled senses.

The drawn-out beginning of spring helps us slowly power up our appreciation for things outside the man-made walls of home, work, and car.

No matter how many times we’ve experienced Buffalo springs after Buffalo winters, we still count dozens of childlike moments– overcome with sudden joy– when, seemingly out of no where, the glow of the sun warms our face or the smell of a spring rain fills our nostrils.

Where there were just black and gray piles of salt-caked snow and ice– suddenly dots of yellow first appear along the 33 and 290, first few and far between.

Within a week, we’re again overcome by the vibrant and varied yellows of the flower that’s even more special to me as it was my Grandma Coyle’s favorite.

The beautiful, fleeting, first sign of spring brings smiles to hundreds of thousands of motorists every year, but where did they come from? Didn’t they just seem to appear and spread over the last decade or so?

Well, yes. In 1999, Erie County Legislator Judy Fisher gave money to The Green Fund,  through which City Director of Support Services Jim Pavel bought 50,000 bulbs and organized a mass planting by volunteers young and old. The number of bulbs bought and planted doubled the next year, and had totaled 1 million by 2004.

From 2000 to 2004, Lamar Advertising was also in the bulb-planting game. The folks who own many of Buffalo’s billboards and most of the billboards along the Kensington– spent $600,000 planting 2.7 million daffodil bulbs.

Sixteen years later, those roughly 4 million bulbs have split and spread. Now countless millions of yellow blooms remind us, as we drudge along the expressway, that spring is here– and that maybe it’s a good time to roll down the window and enjoy the fresh air.

If the wind is blowing just right as you cruise along the 33 close to downtown, maybe you’ll catch a whiff of Cheerios as you enjoy the sun-kissed daffodils. Welcome to Buffalo.

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April 15, 1950: ‘Buffalo’s Polka King’ starts daily radio show

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

As the 1950s wore on, Stan “Stas” Jasinski would become known as Buffalo’s Polka King with his daily programs first heard on WWOL and WXRA, and then on powerful WKBW. The platform made him known to the community at large, not just the Polish-American community.

His mix of Polish and English songs and commercials made his shows appealing to the Polish community and the community in general.  Jasinski went on to own WMMJ Radio, before founding Channel 29.

Also mentioned as part of Jasinski’s team was Dan Leslie, whose real name was Dan Lesniak. As the owner of WADV-FM in the 1960s and 1970s, Lesniak provided a home for polka music on Buffalo’s FM dial.

On April 15, 1950, Jasinski started a new Polish language program on WXRA, Kenmore.

Buffalo in the 70s: The ultra-modern look of AM&A’s

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Adam, Meldrum & Anderson was Buffalo’s largest and most popular department store in 1975.

AM&A’s branch locations in 1975.

Locally owned and operated from 1867 to 1994, more than just a place to shop, it was a Buffalo institution.

Starting in the mid-1970s and lasting through the early 1980s, the store’s italicized green-lettered corporate logo was augmented with an ultra-modern swooshy AM&A’s, shown below in an ad from 40 years ago this week.

As can be faintly seen on the renderings of the store locations, the more conservative font remained on the store’s signage. The more modern look was seen in advertisements, shopping bags and shirt boxes, first in an electric green and blue, then in a more subdued dark blue and red.

Buffalo in the 60s: AM&A’s getting ready to move

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Within the next few years, it’s expected that Chinese investors will pump anywhere from $60 million to $70 million into the vacant AM&A’s building on Main Street downtown, transforming it into a hotel and restaurant.

Fifty-five years ago today, the “old” AM&A’s building was the “soon-to-be” AM&A’s building. It was being renovated after the JN Adam department store closed up shop and left the building. AM&A’s was moving into the building from its long-time home directly across Main Street.

Buffalo in the 80s: Buffalo rejoices at the end of Canada’s beer strike

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

In 1985, Labatt, Molson and Carling/O’Keefe Breweries locked out their unionized workforce, leaving the beer drinkers of Canada (and Buffalo) looking elsewhere for adult beverages. It was a month-long stalemate that left five of Ontario’s six breweries out of commission.

It was 30 years ago today that the Brewers’ Retail reopened in Fort Erie and found itself bombarded with thirsty Ontarians — and Buffalonians. In fact, it was a Buffalo guy on a motor scooter who was first in line to strap two-four of Labatt on the back of his bike.

“Response bordering on jubilation greets return of beer in Ontario”

March 27, 1985

” ‘I’m so psyched,’ said Joseph Delo, 22, of Starin Avenue in Buffalo, who drove his motor scooter over the border this morning.”

Buffalo in the 80’s: Remembering Ziggy & Zon’s, one of WNY’s all-time most interesting shops

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The mention can bring only two reactions, either a confused, rumpled brow for those who never made it to the store with the strange-sounding name or a wide smile as the memories of one of Western New York’s all-time most interesting shops come flooding back.

Before the arm and leg, it was Ziggy & Zon’s that made the Airport Plaza famous with its menagerie of unique and hard-to-find-elswhere stuff.

In the days before the internet, it was one of those places you might go if you really needed it but weren’t sure where to buy it.

This ad appeared in The News in March, 1985.

Buffalo in the 80s: Cabbage Patch Kids are on sale at Child World

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Child World spent the 1980s as America’s second-largest toy store chain, second to Toys R Us.

The three Western New York locations of Child World made the biggest such chain in Buffalo. All three stores were in now-defunct shopping malls, including the Thruway Mall, the Lockport Mall and the Summit Park Mall.

The Child World chain folded in 1990.

1985 ad.

Buffalo in the 80s: Where did WNY families dine in the mid-1980s?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo’s children of the ’80s have memories of a list of “fine-dining” institutions that are mostly different than the family eateries of today.

From the pages of The Buffalo News on March 30, 1985, here are some restaurants where a family might have eaten.

The Harvest House Cafeteria was inside Woolworth’s at the Eastern Hills Mall. Was it your family’s alternative to the York Steak House there?


Ja-Fa-Fa Hots spent 60 years on Harlem Road at the 33 Expressway in Cheektowaga. Ja-Fa-Fa served up Malecki hotdogs 30 years ago.


Kids loved to help make their parents’ coffee at Lum’s, which featured cream poured from cow-shaped dispensers. Both the Canterbury and the Cloister were probably more for adults than kids, but they were certainly special-event restaurants for many families.

 


Grandma’s Pancakes had two locations, one in West Seneca in the current Pasquales’s location, the other in the former Gleason’s on Main Street– across from what is now the Buffalo Medical Campus.


Peanut shells on the floor. What else do you need to say about the seven area Ground Round locations?

 

 

Remembering wonderful Depew weirdness: Mannequins

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

For as long as I can remember, the front window of the old red house at the four-way stop on the corner of French and Cornell in Depew always had an epic display in the front window.

You can make out the outlines of the mannequins in the full-length windows in this Google Street View image from 2011.

 

Mannequins. 1960s or 70s looking mannequins. Right in the front window. Usually wearing some sort of lingerie, usually themed for whatever holiday or season was upon us. Santa hats and red silk teddies were always a yuletide highlight.

Heading east on French Road towards Transit at Cornell Drive. The former mannequin house is to the left. 2011 Google Street View image.

 

I never knew the story– there must have been a story– but it was always enough just to drive by and smile at the kind of interesting nut who’d fill his full-length parlor window with racy mannequins.

Driving by this past week, I noticed the mannequins were decommissioned and the house was up for auction.

The sad passing of another instance of wonderful, unique Western New York weirdness.

UPDATE:

Parts of this story have been trickling in from social media. The homeowner passed away last year. Facebook friend Joy Carr shared this 2005 article from Lancaster/Depew Bee.

March 11, 2000: A Swiss Chalet chicken dinner runs you $5.99

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Fifteen years ago today, $5.99 would have bought you a half-chicken dinner with half a rotisserie chicken, those amazing fresh-cut French fries, a roll, and don’t forget the signature chalet dipping sauce (which, of course, was good for the chicken, the fries and the roll.)

This deal was available at any of the four Buffalo-area Swiss Chalet locations.

The same meal today runs $13.49, according to the Swiss Chalet take-out website, and getting it involves crossing an international border.  The Swiss Chalet location closest to Buffalo is on Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls, Ont.

Despite the 225 percent price increase and need for a passport, if you’re a true-blue Buffalonian, chances are, you’re thinking about it.