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…
It was the craziest radio prank to date in Buffalo and Tom Clay– who was one of many men who used the air name GUY KING on WWOL Radio– kicked off Buffalo’s Rock’n’roll radio era in style.
Leading into the Independence Day holiday, Clay played Bill Haley & The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” over and over again, while hanging outside the studio window out on the WWOL billboard in Shelton Square, urging motorists to get a look at him and beep their horns to say hello.
Buffalo Police and Buffalo Fire didn’t appreciate the prank, and Clay spent part of the night in the clink.
The Complete History of Parkside, Buffalo, NY A New Book by Buffalo Author Steve Cichon
A history of the Frederick Law Olmsted designed neighborhood, from its place in the history of the Seneca Nation, to its role in the War of 1812, to Olmsted’s design and the turn of the century building out of the area, and the neighborhood’s 20th century evolutions. Included are discussions of the area’s earliest colorful settlers, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, Delaware Park, The Buffalo Zoo, and the stories and anecdotes of many more struggles, individuals, and institutions that have made Parkside one of Buffalo’s premier historic neighborhoods today.
Questions You’ll Have Answered as You Read:
Where is Parkside’s mass virtually unmarked grave?
How did a Parkside quest for riches turn to… naked women?!?
Why did the FBI have Parkside staked out for most of a decade?
You’ll also learn details on how America’s first jet plane was built in Parkside, and the scandal with Parkside roots that nearly brought down a Presidency.
135 historic photos, 172 pages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steve Cichon is an award winning journalist with WBEN Radio, where he’s been a news reporter and anchor since 2003, having worked in Buffalo radio and television since 1993. Steve and his wife Monica became Parkside home owners on Valentines Day 2000, and quickly fell in love with the neighborhood. They continue to renovate and restore their 1909 EB Green designed American Four Square, and will likely continue to do so into perpetuity.
Books available for purchase NOW online… and at the following locations:
Talking Leaves Books (Main St. and Elmwood Ave. Locations)
The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Shop
This story was published in Forever Young magazine
The Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame swells its ranks by 5 once again this September, and in this, our lucky 13th year, we have finally begun to catch up. When the Buffalo Broadcasters began this process in 1997, we had 75 years worth of Western New York commercial broadcasting talent to consider.
Now, after dozens and dozens of inductees from the earliest days of radio and television, peppered with many of the more modern superstars along the way, the pendulum has swung. We are at a point now where we can honor broadcasters who’ve made their impact in the last quarter century, while still honoring those greats who have passed on to the announce booth in the sky. Each of the broadcasters tapped for induction this year have been active during the last 18 years, and all but one within the last few.
One of the missions of the Buffalo Broadcasters is to celebrate great broadcasting past and present. We are proud that The Hall of Fame Class of 2009 celebrates some of both.
Marie Rice- A respected, straight street reporter at Channel 4 for an entire generation, Marie came on at WBEN-TV in 1977 as the woman in the vaunted station’s on-air news stable.
It was soon after her sign-on in Buffalo that the story perhaps best suited to her brand of straight-laced compassionate journalism began to unfold; it was one she’d continue to report on until she left WIVB in 2004. Marie Rice was one of the earliest journalists on the scene at Love Canal; at a time when home owners there just wanted to know what the ooze in their basements was. She hopes, she says, that through her reporting she was able to make a difference. It’s all a part of public service; giving a voice to the voiceless.
The Ohio Native says everyone is blessed with a gift, and she counts her husky, commanding voice as hers. And while the tonal quality of that familiar voice struck the proper mood in reporting from murder trials and city hall scandals, before working in television news in Buffalo and Albany, Marie was known as “Misty,” as one of the country’s first female disc jockeys at an all-jazz station in Pittsburgh.
Pat Feldballe- The name would leave most wondering, but the smooth, consistent voice is one you’re unable to escape in Buffalo. From Channel 2’s promo pieces, to Valu Home Centers to Paddock Chevrolet, on on-hold messages, to the national Time/Life commercials, for a quarter century, Pat ihas been Western New York’s go-to independent voice-over king.
In 1970s you’d have heard him at WBUF, WGR, WGRQ, and WUWU playing rock’n roll, and hosting a magazine program (and working with Terry Gross) at WBFO. Pat eventually got the point when he’d show up for his jock shift and find a handful of production orders taped to the console for him to do. Figuring it was his destiny, he did a stint as a radio production director, but quickly decided, in 1982, that he could do production on his own. He hasn’t looked back.
In an industry where many production guys will try to sell clients on the latest and greatest gadget, Feldballe’s used the same microphone since 1986. It’s a part of all his success. “I’m the most consistent guy I know, I always sound the same, and I take pride in making sure reads time out,” says Pat. Just showing up and doing the work, doing it well, and making it easy for whoever’s using his work. “I just hung out the shingle 27 years ago, and here I am.”
Fred Klestine- Like most Lackawanna boys in the 1940s, Fred worked at the steel mill once he got out of school. But his bellowing voice and friendly, mellow personality helped him land a job as the morning man on WWOL Radio in the 1950s.
Whether at WWOL, WBNY, or during his decade at KB Radio during its 1960s Top 40 prime, Klestine always did what he could to share his love of jazz with his audience. He knew the music, and knew many of the performers personally. Klestine was a natural for the jazz-centric WADV-FM in the 70s, and worked at WBUF through the 80s.
To those who listened, he was a calm, straight-laced elder statesman type with a deep melodic voice. Off the air, he was a coffee-swilling funnyman. Longtime co-workers like Dan Neaverth and Sandy Beach count him not only as one of the funniest people each one has ever known, but as a great friend. Klestine was 68 when he died in 1992.
Randy Michaels- Randy Michaels became Randy Michaels in Buffalo. Literally. He made the most of federal deregulation in broadcasting in the mid 90s, and became Arguably the most powerful man in radio. He oversaw and led in the acquisition of over 1,000 radio stations as the President of Jaycor Broadcasting, and later Clear Channel Communications.
Michaels started his career as an engineer and on air talent at the SUNY Fredonia campus station in the early 70’s. After an on-the-spot tryout at the Erie County Fair, he quickly moved to commercial radio at Taft-owned WGR and WGR-FM, where he took the pseudonym by which he’s still known today. Working in programming and as the nighttime disc jockey on WGR, Michaels soon left Buffalo for national programming assignments, moving his way up the food chain, eventually running the 1,200 Clear Channel Communications stations.
Michaels is now in Chicago at the top of the Tribune Company, which is the nation’s third largest newspaper publisher, and whose 23 television stations reach 80% of US households.
Don Polec- From 1977-1982, when Irv Weinstein smiled wryly and growled… And finally… at an Eyewitness Newscast, it was Don Polec’s time to shine; bringing the offbeat and, well, goofy to the airwaves.
A native of Buffalo’s Riverside section, Polec tried radio at WKBW, but found it wasn’t quite for him. After two years of managing a handful of different Burger King restaurants around the Western New York, Polec looked for work as a videographer. He sending Irv a resume that listed experience as an “urban sheep herder” and “professional vagrant.” He was on the air, with that same sort of silliness, almost immediately thereafter.
Polec left Buffalo in 1982 for Philadelphia, where Action News featured antics his Western New York fans would recognize in “Don Polec’s World” reports until earlier this year. Polec’s Buffalo brand of zany-yet-artful reports were also featured on the national stage when he was a Good Morning America correspondent in the late 80s and early 90s.
The Buffalo Broadcasters are also celebrating several Golden anniversaries this year. WNED-TV, WBFO-FM, and WGRF-FM are each celebrating 50 years of broadcasting over the airwaves of Western New York.
For details on attending the Hall of Fame Ceremony, Tuesday September 22, 2009, at the WNED-TV studios; or for more information on the past inductees of the Buffalo Broadcast Hall of Fame, please visit www.buffalobroadcasters.com.
Steve Cichon is a news anchor at WBEN Radio, and a director and past President of the Buffalo Broadcasters. He’s also the webmaster at www.staffannouncer.com, a website devoted to Buffalo radio, TV, and pop culture history.
While they owned much of the property along the neighborhood’s southern border, and taught at St. Vincent de Paul, Mt St Joe’s, Medaille, St. Mark, and St Mary’s School for the Deaf, the Sisters of St. Joseph haven’t been the only Catholic nuns along the Parkside section of Main Street.
The Sisters of Charity established Buffalo’s first hospital downtown in 1848, and moved to the corner of Main Street and Delevan Avenue (the current home of the Canisius College Koessler Athletic Center) in 1876.
And while Sisters Hospital didn’t move there until the World War II era (1943), a hospital of sorts has stood on the spot where Sisters now stands since the Civil War era. The Providence Retreat, also known as through the years as the Providence Insane Asylum, and the Providence Lunatic Asylum, it was established in 1860 by Dr. Austin Flint and Dr. James Platt White, with the help of the Sisters of Charity.
As the Civil War dawned, after it was “decided that the city needed a hospital for the treatment of mental and nervous diseases.” The institution opened its first building on the Main Street grounds July 15, 1861. That building was then outside the city limits, on grounds described as “spacious and beautiful.” The grounds contained both a hennery for eggs and a dairy, and “stronger patients” were able to take advantage of the neighboring Delaware Park and Zoological gardens.
The asylum, and its most infamous guest, nearly cost Buffalo a Presidency. One of Buffalo’s most scandalous residents was a “guest” at the Providence Retreat. Maria Halpin was one of many unwed mothers residing there, and she became a star in the 1884 Presidential campaign. It just so happened that the prominent Buffalo attorney with whom she reportedly had a tryst quickly moved up the ranks as Mayor of Buffalo, then Governor of New York, and ultimately President of the United States.
Had Grover Cleveland run for President in this modern age, the intense vetting process likely would have knocked him out of the running early. The Halpin story was well-known but not talked about in Buffalo for at least a decade. However, when Grover Cleveland decided to run for the White House, The Buffalo Evening Telegraph, a paper similar in journalistic integrity to the National Enquirer, ran a story entitled “A Terrible Tale-Dark Chapter in a Public Man’s History.”
The rag put into print a damning piece of salacious bombast slanted against Cleveland by his old Western New York political enemies. The paper spelled out that Cleveland was the lover of The Loose Widow Halpin, and when she became pregnant, the powerful Cleveland had her institutionalized, the child placed in an orphanage, all at Cleveland’s expense. The story spread like wildfire around the country, to the delight of Cleveland’s political opponents.
Though painted in the worst possible light, Cleveland couldn’t and wouldn’t deny the story. Halpin actually kept the company of several prominent lawyers, many of them married, including Cleveland’s partner and best friend Oscar Folsom. Folsom was nearly positive the child was his, but to save Folsom and the other men potential martial problems, the bachelor Cleveland took responsibility for the care of the woman and her child, whom she named Oscar Folsom Cleveland.
Cleveland asked a judge to commit Halpin to the bucolic Parkside mental ward only after he was unsuccessful in trying to break her of alcoholism. At Cleveland’s expense, his young ward was place in the finest orphanage to move along his placement with and adoption by a well-to-do family.
These details, however, were only made public decades later. Despite the controversy, Cleveland was elected President, where he was the first man to be married in the White House. Not to Halpin, who continued to hound Cleveland for money, but to Frances Folsom. The daughter of his partner Oscar, Cleveland became her legal guardian when she was 11 years old. She was somewhat scandalously 27 years younger than the President, and, though it wasn’t common knowledge at the time, was likely the half sister of Cleveland’s “son.” For his part, Oscar Folsom Cleveland eventually became a very successful doctor; his education paid for by the man who took a political hit for doing what he thought was the right thing.
A More Modern Hospital
As modern medicine progressed, particularly in the newly developing field of psychiatry, a new state of the art “Asylum” was built in 1905. Bishop Charles Colton was assisted by Msgr. Nelson Baker in laying the cornerstone for what was then known as The Providence Retreat. The building was to be fireproof, and “up to the high standards required by the state… in the treatment of the insane and feeble minded.”
A 1905 Buffalo Express article notes, “The institution is managed by the sisters, under the rules approved by the state commission of lunacy.” The article goes on to talk abut the $300,000 building. “Away in the back, and distinct from the others, are the rooms for violent patients who may be noisy.”
In 1943, the 83 year old Providence Retreat, long the home “for treatment of mental patients,” was closed and converted to a maternity hospital. Upon the opening of Louise de Marillac Hospital, an official told the Buffalo Evening News, “We feel there is more need here for an additional maternity hospital and an enlarged institution for babies than for the care of the mentally afflicted that the Providence Retreat has been carrying on.”
Three years later, ground was broken on another million dollar expansion of the structure that was destined to become the new Sisters Hospital at Main Street and Humboldt Parkway. The new streamlined, modern structure was prepared to combine the efforts of the Louise de Marillac Maternity Hospital and Sisters Hospital. The hospital was on the cutting edge of modernity, with a telephone and radio in every room.
Easily ignored, standing between Sisters Hospital and St Mary’s School for the Deaf is a rather nondescript brick building with a lesser known rich history. Built in 1907-10 as the US Marine Hospital, it’s likely to have gone unnoticed by most passersby for over a century. The building served as a home “owned and operated by the United States Government, and is for general medical service to sailors, marine soldiers, ex-soldiers, marines and merchant seamen” for almost 50 years. Far and away the most common, interwoven maladies amongst the old seadogs were old age and alcoholism.
In three separate incarnations, this building has played, and continues to play, a role in the forefront of medicine. First, as the Marine Hospital, many early strides in anesthesia were made inside the walls of the Parkside institution. Very early in his career, it was here that one of the world’s pioneering anesthesiologists first learned his trade, at a time when the specialty at best was an after thought.
In an article in Anesthesia and Analgesia in 2000, Drs. Ronald Batt and Douglas Bacon write about Dr. Clarence Durshordwe, a World War I veteran who grew up on Buffalo’s East Side and attended UB Medical School.
After medical school, Durshordwe interned at the 68-bed Marine Hospital in Buffalo. On completing his training, he was hired as an assistant surgeon for the Public Health Service. Early in his five years of service, he discovered that the lowest ranking physician was assigned to give anesthetics. Concerned that he might harm a patient, Durshordwe went to Buffalo City Hospital to observe nurse anesthetists administer anesthetics. Toward the end of his tenure at the Marine Hospital, now assigned to perform surgery, Durshordwe found he spent more time worrying about the anesthetic than the surgical procedure.
The mostly self-taught doctor would be one of the men who helped bring together the theories and practice of anesthesia from locations all around the world; where even late into the mid-20th century some physicians around the world still questioned it’s medical value.
Great strides were also made in the fledgling practice of physical therapy when the federally owned hospital was transferred to the state in 1950, and it became the home of UB’s Chronic Disease Institute. It was the area’s first hospital devoted to “physical medicine, the combination of medicine and therapy.” Within 3 years of the doors opening, the institute “achieved remarkable results in restoring to partial or complete usefulness disabled limbs, muscles, and organs, and overcoming speech difficulties.” It was here that many of the tenets of 21st century medicine were first explored locally.
As of 1953, two years before the polio vaccine was announced to the world, and at a time when the diagnosis meant fear, every polio patient brought to the facility in an iron lung was able to gain release from the “cumbersome contrivance.” One arthritis patient, so seriously disabled he was brought into the center on a stretcher, walked out, self-supporting, eight months later; all by virtue on the modern medical theories we now take for granted, first explored locally by our Parkside neighbors.
The Marine Hospital Campus was purchased by Sisters Hospital in 1995 for off-street parking for visitors and employees. While the original plans called for the building to make way for even more parking space, The Parkside Community Association advocated saving the historic structure. This was accomplished when Benedict House was opened at the Main Street location in 1997. It’s mission, as taken from its website in 2008:
The mission of Benedict House is to provide non-discriminatory residential housing opportunities and supportive services for persons living with AIDS in an environment promoting the principles of dignity, respect, understanding, compassion and self-determination.