By Steve Cichonsteve@buffalostories.com@stevebuffalo
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…
If you were a kid in the 1990s, a pair of Nikes or Reeboks didn’t make you any smarter or help you perform better on standardized tests.
A pair of name-brand sneakers, however, may have helped you feel equal to (or maybe even superior to) your peers.
There was a sort of sneaker caste system in most places. Nike’s Air Jordans were at the top. Then came a host of lesser brand names, followed by store brands — ranked in order of the coolness of the store, of course.
From personal experience, I can say with unflinching certitude that the lowest sneaker caste was filled with those purchased at K-Mart. I didn’t really care that my sneakers came from K-Mart or Hills, and in fact, I actually felt some pride in that my footwear cost somewhere around $11.94, while the Reebok Pumps or Jordans were in the $70 range. Still, it only takes one or two comments to give even the most steel-willed individualist a complex.
By the mid-’90s, K-Mart had dropped the brand names Trax and Athletix — which occasionally marred my otherwise idyllic 1980s grammar school life — but Spaulding, Everlast and MacGregor still remained.
Luckily, by the time I was in high school, and by the time this ad came out, I had switched to wearing shoes more than sneakers. Still, one can’t help but think about how many kids wearing their Skechers (which used to be cool, kids) clipped this ad to know which sneakers — and which kids — to target.
There is buzz and tempered excitement over the purchase the old AM&A’s department store building on Main Street.
The building was last occupied in 1998 by Taylor’s, a short-lived high-end department store better remembered for its dress code (no sneakers!) than its offerings.
In 1995, Bon-Ton closed what was the flagship store of the Adam, Meldrum, and Anderson Department Store chain. Bon-Ton bought AM&A’s in 1994.
The building is now best known as the AM&A’s building, as it was from 1960-94.
For the 90 years previous, AM&A’s was directly across Main Street from that location, in a series of storefronts which were torn down to make way for the Main Place Mall.
For most of the 20th century, the building we call AM&A’s was the JN Adam Department store. Adam was a mayor of Buffalo and the brother of AM&A’s co-founder Robert Adam. In 1960, JN’s closed, and AM&A’s took over the building.
This photo, probably from the very late 1950s, shows Woolworth’s (which remained in that location until the chain dissolved in 1997), JN Adam, Bonds Men’s store (famous for two trouser suits), Tom McAn Shoes, the Palace Burlesk at its original Shelton Square location, then the Ellicott Square Building.
All of the storefronts between JN Adam and the Ellicott Square building were torn down for the M&T headquarters building and some green space.
In 1971, Big E Savings Bank offered members of its “Money Managers Club” a bundle of coupons to some of Western New York’s great summertime locations.
“The Big E,” once Erie County Savings Bank, became expanded and became Empire of America in the 1980s. The Buffalo-based bank was one of dozens around the country which was liquidated amid the Savings & Loan (S&L) scandal.
Carroll’s Drive-Ins are no longer serving hamburgers to Western New Yorkers, but the Syracuse-based company is now the world’s largest Burger King franchisee.
Fun? Wow! Now known as Martin’s Fantasy Island, the Grand Island amusement park still welcomes thrill seekers every summer, although the once iconic main gate pictured above is no longer as majestic.
Fun ‘N Games Park in Tonawanda just off the 290 was a smaller amusement park in the area generally occupied by Gander Mountain. As much as the rides, kids loved driving by–if not through– the whale car wash next door.
In the 1970s, a person wanting a hot dog on Sheridan Drive had a footlong’s worth of options. Ted’s first store away from the Peace Bridge was opened on Sheridan in the 1940s when the road was still mainly rural. Pat’s Charcoal Hots (and Whopper Ice Cream) was a big hang out for a couple generations’ worth of Tonawanda kids, although some switched allegiances and switched over to Scime’s across the street when Pat’s was sold. Long gone now, Pat’s was located where Walgreens now stands at Sheridan and Parker.
Weeks of murders, beatings and unjust arrests led up to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala.
In support of the events in Alabama, somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people rallied at Lafayette Square on March 14, 1965 — days after Dr. King was arrested, but days before the most famous, third Selma march. Arthur Eve led protesters in a march to Buffalo’s Federal Courthouse after speeches decrying racial injustice and inequity in this country.
Two days later in Buffalo– in sympathy with those whose march was stopping in Selma– 300 protestors trudged through snow, ice and cold temperatures as they walked from Lackawanna to Niagara Square, on March 14, 1965.
These photos were reprinted in The Buffalo News twenty years ago this week.
Only months after AM&A’s sold its operations to Bon-Ton, Bon-Ton announced the closure of the Main Street downtown location which had been hemorrhaging money for quite some time.
More than 300 jobs were lost with the closure of the store as well as the warehouse behind the store across Washington Street.
The loss of the downtown anchor and landmark 20 ago this month served as a wakeup call to many, that downtown was still far from a full, healthy recovery.
City must keep encouraging a downtown neighborhood
Housing will not appear downtown just because experts say it should. The old chicken-and-egg issue is part of the picture. Downtown would be more attractive if there were more people on the street to create a feeling of security. Downtown would be more attractive if there were more service outlets such as good convenience food stores, convenient dry cleaners and other small service shops. But those things aren’t likely to appear until more people live downtown.
This is a scene that played itself out over and over on streets all over Buffalo for much of the 20th century.
It was tough to walk a block or two without hitting a neighborhood tavern or a milk machine.
Though far fewer in number, of course there are still neighborhood gin mills, but the milk machines have gone away.
The machines began popping up in the city in the mid-1950’s. By the mid-1990s, the milk machines were all but extinct, with the last ones gone just after 2000.
The one I remember more than any other was next to B-kwik on Seneca Street, across from St. Teresa’s. The milk machine stood outside against what was the back wall of B-kwik– That spot was built out and is now Tim Hortons.
Although Grandma Coyle, who lived a block away on Hayden Street, had milk delivered from the milk man, occasionally she’d still have me go buy more from the milk machine. Grandma Cichon, who lived further down Seneca, would send me to Fay’s in the old Twin Fair Plaza to buy milk. It was cheaper there, but i can also remember having to take back a carton or two because it was expired.
There were a handful of beer ads in the pages of The News 50 years ago this week (the week of Feb. 16, 1965); most of them were brewed in the Buffalo region if not in Buffalo itself.
Frankenmuth Bock beer was brewed in Buffalo after its parent company merged with the Iroquois Brewery of Buffalo to form the International Brewing Co.
In 1965, Genesee Beer was brewed in Rochester, NY, as it is today.
Koch’s Golden Anniversary and Draft beers were brewed in Dunkirk, NY until 1985. The Genesee Brewery, which bought The Fred Koch Brewery in 1984, moved all brewing operations to its Rochester home base until the Koch brands were phased out in the mid-2000’s.
Schmidt’s was brewed in Philadelphia, but was a low-cost favorite in the Buffalo market until the brewery closed in 1986.
Six or seven years ago, The Buffalo Broadcasters threw out a bunch of 16mm newsfilm that had begun to degrade and could no longer be played. I garbage picked it, and pulled apart the reels to look for the good frames here and there.
I scanned a few of them in… Here are a couple of late 1960s Buffalo area gas stations from a reel labelled simply “GAS.”
There was no brick oven pizza, flat screen TVs, or lattes at these gas stations. You got gasoline, maybe some oil, from a guy with a workingman’s filth under his nails. You paid at the pump when you gave him five bucks and told him to fill’er up and keep the change.
It’s different now. Not better, not worse– a mix of the two, for sure. It’s more fitting to just say “different.”
There is plenty more of this “garbage film,” and in some a bunch of cases, even a few seconds of good video was pulled from it. In a few cases, the grisly look of the film that was tossed was no indication that it actually played back well.