Episode 5: The never-ending smile of Grandma Coyle

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Grandma Coyle, the saint, died on All Saints Day.

I mean, she wasn’t some perfect saintly woman, but that makes what she gave so much more special.

She swore, drank beer, smoked Parliaments, and she’d crack ya if you needed it. But she also loved all of us fully, completely, and deeply every moment.

Just as important as the love, she constantly let us know how much she loved us.

Her love for all of us was unconditional and ever flowing… And that love just made her so happy.

I loved watching her on holidays– that love filled smile would fill her face every time one of her kids or grandkids or their spouses walked through the door.

The radiance of her heart made the world a better place for the time she was here, and it continues now.

Her heart lives on in all of us who she loved. The love that radiated from her smile every time any of us walked in the room left no question that there was a beautiful woman who loved you with every fiber of her being.

I’m blessed in that just the thought of that smile fills my heart with love enough to share in the way she taught me.

She’s been gone a long time, but the love she built in my heart lasts and grows as her example shows me how to love the people in my life without compromise.

Even if someone doesn’t deserve it. Or if someone needs a crack. Or if someone isn’t wearing an undershirt (the crime of which I was most often guilty in Grandma’s court)… no matter what, love never wavers.

PS… I’m wearing an undershirt.

Episode 4: Crazy Cichons

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

A few years ago, I was a docent at the Erie County Fair Heritage and History Center, and one of the more popular questions was about when the fair was in South Buffalo near Indian Church Road for a few years back in the 1800s.

That inevitably lead me to mention that my grandma lived a block south of Indian Church off Seneca on Fairview, which usually lead to some small talk about who lived where or the bikes in the Babe Boyce store windows and PM Berst Furniture– both of which were at Seneca and Indian Church.

If people don’t seem immediately certain where grandma’s street is, I’ll mention it’s where Heidie’s Tuxedo used to be on the corner.

That sparked something for one guy.

“Heidie’s, right. Yeah, who was that fuckin’ crazy family that lived on Fairview?”

I tried to think of the name of one family a couple of houses down that my ol’man wanted nothing to do with… but then the obvious answer struck me.

“The Cichons?” I asked.

“Holy shit! Yeah, that’s them! They were all fuckin’ crazy! What was your family down there?”

“That’s my family,” I said, expressionless.

The guy’s wife blanched. He started apologizing, mostly, I think, because he was worried he offended a “fuckin’ crazy Cichon.”  But I laughed, and said, “naw, it’s ok– we are crazy.”

He rattled off a list of uncles and a few cousins that he drank with and fought with and fought against.

Then I said, “Yeah, one or two of those guys might get mad when I tell ‘em you think they’re crazy.”

As the color drained from his face again, I said, “Just kidding,” with a smirk.

We chatted a while longer, but I think I tweaked him around enough to maybe watch his back for crazy Cichons for a while. 

Hahaha. He was right. We are a fuckin’ crazy family. Hahahaha.

Episode 3: Trafficopter

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

An old photo brought up the memory.

I once was a teenaged radio traffic reporter… flying high above drive-time city traffic with live reports from from “Skyview 930” almost 30 years ago now.

Even then, the days of each station having their own helicopter were over, and it was a little-shared secret that there were three traffic reporters from different competing radio stations all in the same fixed-wing airplane, seeing the same backups at the same time, flying in a figure-eight pattern over the area highways.

In the days before DOT cameras and Google maps, watching traffic from that vantage point was invaluable in learning about how cars move– Especially when you’d fly over a trouble spot, and then you wouldn’t see it again for 20 minutes or so.

That’s probably why, off the top of my head, I can still give you a completely made-up morning or afternoon traffic report on the spot that’s going to be completely accurate— even if not specific and filled with lots of confident-sounding bet-hedging.

I learned a lot about talking off the top of my head and the way area traffic patterns work, but looking back, the best thing about that experience was the guidance, kindness, and encouragement from nearly every single person at the two sister AM news and FM music stations during what was my first on-air gig.

I was treated like everyone’s kid brother and the station mascot. Everyone was bursting at the seams to help me succeed and that feeling– and the confidence it built– certainly helped launch the rest of my career.
Sadly, the only true specific memory from those days involves the one person who wasn’t on the “Aww shucks, let’s help the kid” plan.

She thought she was on her way to becoming the female Howard Stern, I think– this woman who was personally a mess during the short time she was in town. To me, and other station underlings, she wasn’t very friendly, a bit of a diva, and wouldn’t even look at me (let alone talk to me) in the hallway.

So now I was doing traffic on her fancy FM show– no big deal. I’m 16, but a pro.

“An accident has the Kensington backed up…. and that has the main line slow back to William… The 190 might be your better bet heading downtown— no wait at either the Black Rock or Ogden tolls. this report brought to you by Builders Square… in Skyview 930, I’m Steve Cichon…”

That should have been the end of the report, but with her whiskey-soaked cigarette voice she tried to lay on the sultry at the end of one of my first reports– in what might have been the first words she ever directed at me.
“HeeeEEEEyy SteeeEEEeeeve, you know, you sound sexy,” said the nasty hag to the teenaged boy live on the radio.

I was 16 or 17 years old, and a little embarrassed– but more pissed. I knew my future was at the news station, was making a big effort to sound professional and journalistically trustworthy… and not just some kid.

By any measure, I know didn’t sound sexy. And she knew it. She was being mean to be funny— trying to throw off a kid on his first day for a laugh.

I can tell you for sure my terse and dismissive response, horrified, pissed, and embarrassed, jammed in the back seat of a tiny airplane with 50 pounds of equipment on my lap, wasn’t sexy.

“SteeeeEEEeeeeve, you sound seeeEEEEeeeexy.”

“Well, OK,” I said, “if you think an accident on the 33 is sexy. Thanks…” as I quickly clicked off the mic.

Hahaha. I’d have handled that differently today, but the way teenaged me handled it makes me smile to think about.

When I got back to the station, I complained to my boss about the woman– who at this point was already on her way to being fired. But with my heart in my throat, I told him what I said, too… concerned about being in trouble for “going off the script.”

Trying to keep his usual military bearing, my mentor and boss barely held back a big grin, telling me I handled things perfectly. I couldn’t have been sure then, but there’s no doubt there was delight in the fact that “the kid gave it to the witch” live on the radio.

This was exactly the kind of loving support I found over and over again from the radio family that is still so much a part of my heart.

Still, I carried shame about this incident for a long time— not happy with the way I handled myself. Even at this moment, nearly three decades later I’m second-guessing— but of course… there’s no good way for a kid to handle a small-hearted jerk.

More than anything, I guess I should thank her, because somewhere deep in the echoes of my mind, the incident reverberated every time I went off the script to tell some kid “great job” on the air.. even when listeners might have wondered if we’d been listening to the same report.

And there’s little doubt I felt some part of that sting as I’ve called out and bawled out dozens of people who’ve mistreated “lower-statused” co-workers through the years…

Things like “The guy’s doing the best he can— why don’t you worry about your own work.”

Now that’s sexy.

Episode 2: The Fish Fry

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

My ol’man and Gramps— my ol’man’s ol’man— were certified, bonafide American originals.

They were the kind of men that could only be forged in a place like Buffalo and in a tough neighborhood like the Valley.

Late in life, Gramps lost his sight and his mobility— around the same time that my dad lost his leg to diabetes and heart disease after a couple of years in and out of the hospital.

Those two became best friends— talking to each other on the phone four or five times a day, helping one another defeat loneliness while enriching the father-and-son bond between these two guys who were made from the same good stuff.

Gramps was in his 80s, reflective, and accepting-but-sad. Dad was in his 50s, still a Marine at heart, and despite not having a leg or enough stamina to learn to walk on a prosthetic— he sometimes forgot about his physical condition. Especially when it came to trying to lighten the burden of his dad’s loneliness and isolation.

It wasn’t easy to get Dad out of the house or Gramps out of the nursing home.

Getting them both out at the same time was a real adventure, but my ol’man would beg for me to help him take his dad out the same way a five-year-old begs to go out for ice cream. That means relentlessly, with big sad eyes, not really understanding or caring why its a bad idea, and with a complete and utter disregard for whatever bullshit being spewed to explain why it’s not the best idea.

One day in particular, the planets aligned and I made secret plans to get my ol’man and gramps out for an early dinner.

When the day came and I asked Dad if he wanted to head over to pick up Gramps for a fish fry— it was less like telling a kid we were going for ice cream— but more like telling him we were going to Disney World.
My ol’man was wide-eyed and breathless.

He was excited to get out of the house. He was excited to get a fish fry.
“I hope they got that good potato salad,” said Dad excitedly.

But more than anything, he was excited to be sharing all these things with his dad.

With my wife’s help, I got Dad in the car. Kinda spilled him into the backseat. Then to the nursing home and Gramps in the front seat.

We went to the good Greek place only a mile or so away. My wife and I were completely spent from getting these two into the car when we had to unpack them.

Both times, Gramps was pretty compliant but as heavy as the smell of fried fish in the air.

He sat with the wheels locked on his wheelchair in a far-away parking spot because it was the only place where we could get the door open and enough room to get these guys out.

If Gramps was easy— getting one-legged Dad out of the back seat was like trying to pull a rabid cat out of a carrier crate.

My ol’man was excited and crazed and even forgot himself in the mayhem, trying to lift himself out of that backseat using the long-gone leg he’d had amputated years earlier.

Sweaty and wild-haired by the time he was out of the car, he was pissed because we weren’t moving fast enough.

There was goddamn fish fry waiting to be eaten, and nothing was slowing down my ol’man.

“Here Dad, let me help you,” said my father to his father, despite his inability to muster enough power to move his own wheelchair.

Grabbing the push handles at the back of Gramps’ wheelchair, my ol’man started jiggling and shaking himself trying to break the internia of two guys sitting reluctantly immobile in their medically-necessary chariots.

None of the gyrations worked even a little.

“Relax Dad, we’re going as fast as we can,” I said, stressed and worn-out myself, now trying to push both wheelchairs at once and adding to the ridiculousness of the scene. It was a live-action Three Stooges show.

Eventually we got in and had some great fish fry and great conversation and lots of laughs.

This was the last time we’d go through this deeply beautiful and satisfying comedy routine— it was actually Dad’s last good day.

All that jiggling— and his trouble getting up and down the stairs and in and out of the car— almost certainly contributed to the major heart attack he had that night.

Dad’s many heart attacks were quiet. He never knew as they happened. He’d just feel lousy— which he did all the time anyway. After a couple of days in the ICU, my ol’man died at the age of 58.

My ol’man’s last good meal and last good time was a fish fry with his ol’man. And it killed him to make it happen. And if he was sitting here, he’d tell you it was worth it.

Every dad deserves a son like my ol’man, and every son deserves a dad like my grandpa. My ol’man and Gramps. Two of the best. How blessed I have been.

Episode 1: Smokin’ in the Park

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Mulroy Playground was around the corner from my house. During the summer of 1983, there were always dozens and dozens of kids— and zero adults.

Everyone was there mid-morning, when the city would drop free lunches off the back of big yellow Pep Dairy trucks everyday.

Wrapped on a small styrofoam tray about the size for a pound of hamburger, came rock hard peaches, sour half-frozen orange juice in a sealed plastic cup, and a sandwich— either thick-sliced low-grade bologna or a “choke sandwich,” which was wrapped to look like an ice cream sandwich, but instead was peanut butter and jelly between graham crackers.

It was low-grade peanut butter and stuck to your esophagus for hours— that’s why we called ’em choke sandwiches. There was milk, too, but unless it was chocolate milk, I don’t remember anyone drinking it.

There was a 1950s concrete wading pool, which normally was filled with broken glass, but no water. After a heavy rain, we’d carefully wade in the rainwater, brown glass bits, and floating gold foil Genesee Beer labels.

Next to that, there was a monkey bar castle to climb on, but the older boys commandeered what was another worn-out 1950s structure. That was actually fine with us, because who ever had been throwing the beer bottles in the wading pool had been using the castle turrets as urinals. On hot sunny days the smell was unbearable.

Over on the swings, where everyone was doing their best to try to swing over the bar, Jimmy was usually on the last swing, barely swinging, his feet making noise with the gravel and dirt with every pass.

He was obese in a way that most of us had never seen in another kid. He was big. He was also my age—around 7— but I didn’t know him. He went to a public school a couple of blocks away, I went to Holy Family school right behind the playground.

I’m not even entirely sure that his name was Jimmy, but it’s hard to forget this kid.

As the early summer morning sun turned up the swampy heat and the smell of piss coming from the castle turrets, seven-year-old Jimmy laconically sat swinging all day, chain smoking.

Even among the group of vagabond, hobo, street-urchin children we were, something felt terribly wrong about Jimmy puffing away non-stop; inhaling even.

It wasn’t even the fear that he’d get in trouble— it just didn’t seem right. And sometimes, often even, other kids would say something.
Like a 12 or 13 year old would take a drag off a Marlboro and ask Jimmy, “Aren’t you too young to smoke?”

With the same amount of detached interest he showed in swinging, he’d answer, “Nah, I’ve been smoking since I was 6.”

He told a lot of stories that seemed unbelievable, but there he was– a seven-year-old chainsmoker. It really made anything seem possible.

I don’t remember talking about Jimmy with my parents, but since it bothers me this very moment almost 40 years later in the same way it did back then, I imagine I might have said something.

Probably to my ol’man, who probably half-listened, and then responded with a Parliament dangling out of the corner of his lip as he growled.

“Don’t let me find out that you’ve been smoking over in that goddamn park,” he would have said. “I’ll put my boot so far up your goddamn ass you won’t sit for a week.”

We moved and I never saw Jimmy again. I hope someone put a boot up his ass and he’s doing ok today.

Joe Bruno was friendly– but ready to fight

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Longtime New York State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno died today.

Some of my most interesting times as a reporter happened when I was the only journalist on the scene.

As a radio guy without a camera, I think it puts a lot of newsmakers at ease— or maybe it makes them feel like they’re at an advantage.

Anyway, I was at an event to ask Joe Bruno about state budget negotiations as headed by Albany’s long-infamous “three men in a room,” where the governor, the Assembly Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader would swap and balance their special interests to make sure the budget would have the votes to pass for the governor’s signature.

Bruno was warm and overly friendly— and entirely evasive. We both played the game. I likely had at least two more stops that night and it was clear I wasn’t going to win a Pulitzer for the story that would result from the interview. It would probably just end up as a couple of quick sound bites for the morning show.

My last question was something like, so what is it like being one of the three men in the room?

With the same overly friendly approach, he said that three men in a room was a myth, not how it actually worked, etc, etc… it was a sound bite he’d been well-practiced at giving for more than a decade.

I thanked him and stopped my recorder.

“There’s no such thing as ‘three men in a room,’” he said, with calculated seriousness and determination in his eyes that hadn’t been there during the interview.

Then a gleam grew from that cold look and a faint smile appeared at the corners of his lips, but the way he straightened his spine at the same time gave more of a sinister vibe than a warm one.

He made sure our eyes were locked when he said, “but it’s great being one of those three men,” keeping that gaze long enough to intimidate but short enough to claim otherwise.

He was not only a tough old-time politician, but he was also a boxer— a good one.

I met a little of both that day.

100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting, Vol.1 1920-1970

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

The newest book from Buffalo Stories & Steve Cichon!

ORDER NOW at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore!

Meet and reacquaint yourself with the people and stations that have created and reflected who we are as Buffalonians with this 432-page in-depth look at the first 50 years of radio and television in Buffalo.

Packed with more than 600 photos, it’s a look at the stories of the people, places, and events that have entertained and informed generations of Western New Yorkers over the airwaves– and under our pillows, into our cars, into our living rooms, and into our hearts as a part of what makes us Buffalonians.

From the scholarly to the nostalgic, the earliest pioneering days of Buffalo radio will come to life with new research on Buffalo’s status as one of the birthplaces of modern radio—and then the birth of rock ‘n’roll radio here a decade later, about the same time television was wrangling more and more of our attention.

We visit Clint Buehlman and Danny Neaverth; Uncle Mike Mearian and Rocketship 7; The Lone Ranger & KB’s War of the Worlds; Meet the Millers and Dialing for Dollars; John Corbett & Chuck Healy and Irv, Rick & Tom; The Hound and John Otto and so many more of the great broadcasters who were there as we experienced the best (and worst) times of our lives.

The book’s covers by themselves are a study of the century of broadcasting in Buffalo, with another 269 images, showing some of our favorite stars in action.

Sales of the book benefit The Buffalo Stories Film Conservation Initiative, which funds the storage, maintenance, digitization, and interpretation of thousands of hours of discarded Buffalo film and video from the 1960s-1990s.

Author Steve Cichon has spent three decades in Buffalo media in radio, television & print. His journey started as a wide-eyed 15-year-old at WBEN learning about radio, journalism and life.   The lifelong Buffalonian sees this, his sixth book, as a kind of family history– as these are the stories of the people who made him the person he is today.

Available for pre-order now in The Buffalo Stories Bookstore.

Books are expected in stock by mid-September.

The Marv Levy voicemail prank, c.1994

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Today’s Marv Levy’s 95th birthday, and I was reminded by Greg Bauch on Twitter about a tape editing prank I did 25+ years ago.

Marv Levy: why do these people keep calling me?

Marv left a message for Howard Simon on the WBEN Sports voicemail along the lines of… “Hi Howard, it’s Marv Levy with the Bills, please give me a call back at 648-1800. Thanks.”

I edited out the “Howard” and left that on dozens of other people’s voicemails and answering machines. At least one friend forwarded it on to other people’s voicemails as well.

Listen to the actual message below:

The editing isn’t perfect, but it was also done before the days of digital editing. This was done with a grease pencil, a razor blade and Scotch tape– which, if I do say so myself, makes it even more incredible.

More on Marv Levy: http://blog.buffalostories.com/at-bills-vs-new-england-in-1994-patriots-fan-heckles-marv-levy/

Read more about Greg Bauch: WGR’s Biggest Loss Since Shane

Read the whole book: 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting, Vol 1: 1920-1970

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

The entire contents of the original soft cover book has been uploaded and is now presented online as a universally available resource in promoting and sharing Buffalo’s rich broadcasting heritage.

Written in 2020, 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting, Vol 1: 1920-1970 by Steve Cichon is formatted as a series web pages.

The original print volume was 432 pages with more than 800 individual images. While still available in book form at the Buffalo Stories Bookstore, every page and every image is linked using the subheadings from the book’s table of contents as seen below.

The Covers: captions for the 270 images on the front and back covers

1920s

Setting the record straight- Radio’s birth in Buffalo          

The earliest days of Buffalo broadcasting                              

1930s

Buffalo & The Lone Ranger 

Stoopnagle & Budd

Roger Baker

WBEN – The Buffalo Evening News Station

Roy Albertson’s WBNY

FDR in Buffalo as President and more Buffalo Radio in the 30s

Father Justyn’s Rosary Hour and around the dial in the 30s

1940s

Stations on the move

Buffalo’s first look at TV 

Buffalo’s radio staff musicians

Some of the voices of 1940s Buffalo radio

Buffalo morning radio wars, 1940s style

Buffalo radio at war (and after the war)

WBEN-TV signs on, 1948

AHK- Alfred Kirchhofer & around the Buffalo radio dial

The Buffalo Bills of the AAFC, 1946-49

Bennett High’s future star power, 1946 & around the Buffalo radio dial

Billy and Reggie Keaton & Sally Work

The WGR Flashcast

Ralph Hubbell

1950s

Radio & TV in 1950

Wrestling from Memorial Auditorium

Early 50s radio

Husband & Wife teams

Brought to you by…

Buffalo’s forgotten TV pioneers: WBES & WBUF

Buffalo’s Willis Conover

The Rico Family

Buffalo’s Polka King

Buffalo’s last staff organist– Norm Wullen

For the kiddos on Ch.4

Beginnings of a teenage revolution: The Hound, Lucky Pierre, & Hernando 

Legacy of the Seneca-Babcock Boys Club

“The calm before the storm” 

WGR-TV, Buffalo’s Ch.2

Guy King ushers in bad boy rock ‘n’ roll 

Dick Lawrence brings Top-40 to Buffalo

Western Connections

Jack Sharpe and WEBR’s Trafficopter

Buffalo’s third and final VHF: WKBW-TV, Ch.7 

The relegated role of women, (con’t.)

Public Broadcasting comes to Buffalo

Around Buffalo’s Radio & TV dials in the 50s

Buffalo’s Visits to Romper Room

1960s

Boost Buffalo, It’s Good for You!

WBEN AM-FM-TV’s new home, 1960

A new voice for Buffalo’s Black community, WUFO

The Sound of the City, WEBR

One of America’s Two Great Radio Stations: WKBW

Clint still #1 and around the TV & Radio dial

More listeners start tuning to FM

Around the TV dial through the 60s

Irv, Rick, & Tom 

Cable TV comes to WNY & Beat the Champ

Rocketship 7 & Commander Tom

Beatlemania hits WKBW

Ramblin’ Lou & The Family Band

Dialing for Dollars

More images from around Buffalo’s TV dial in the 60s

From the Editor’s Desk… WBEN

Ground up by radio: Bill Masters & Frank Benny… and elsewhere around the dial

On the radio, on the telephone: John Otto (and elsewhere around the dial)

Jeff Kaye & KB’s War of the Worlds

Sandy Beach begins a 52-year Buffalo run


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


The book’s original front and back matter


On a personal note…

While organizing some of my archives very early in the COVID quarantine, it became clear that there was a book about the history of Buffalo broadcasting screaming out from the piles of material.

Well, that’s partly true. I’ve really been writing this book since I was about 6 years old.

Of course, I didn’t realize it then, but that’s when we’d visit Grandpa Coyle, and he was transfixed by the small black, paint-splattered radio sitting next to his orange rocking chair in the living room.

The exciting voices of Van Miller and Ted Darling came out of that little radio when Gramps, who was a season ticket holder for the Bills and the Sabres, would listen to away games. He’d throw his arms in the air and mumble a lot, and ask me to go get him another stubby bottle of Schmidt’s or Labatt 50 out of the fridge.

A few blocks away, Grandpa Cichon would sit on his porch with a similar radio, but a different experience. Instead of winding him up, Stan Jasinski’s polka program seemed to make life slow down into a warm smile for Gramps.

“What is he saying?” we’d ask my first-generation American grandfather, as Jasinski spoke in Polish. He’d make up something silly, but we couldn’t be quite sure whether what he was saying was true, because who else knew Polish?

Back at our home, the best bonding time with my ol’man came when we’d sit for an hour and watch the news together. I became acquainted with Rich Kellman and John Beard and Irv Weinstein as I learned numbers on that round, loud, clunking TV dial–when I’d act as Dad’s channel-changer in the days before we had a remote.

A few years later, my friend’s dad took our Cub Scout troop to the radio station where he worked—and my face just about fell off. I was hooked. I started waking up at 5am on Saturdays to go to work with him. That friend had a radio station set up in his basement where we’d make tapes.

When we moved, I had a “radio station” in my house. I’d make tapes and call talk shows. I recorded and saved my call to a disc jockey making a birthday request for my brother doing a really terrible Ronald Reagan impression. I was 10 years old.

At 15, I wrote letters to every radio station in Western New York, asking if they needed an intern. The only one to respond was the boss at my favorite station– Kevin Keenan at WBEN.  I spent every moment of that summer at the station, and at the end of summer fulfilled a dream and went on the payroll as a weekend board operator. I was a high school junior working in radio, having the most fun of my life and feeling fantastic.

One of my first moments understanding that I was holding the power of radio in my own hands came with news of Ted Darling’s shocking death from Pick’s disease at the age of only 61.

Only 18 myself at the time, I wasn’t a huge hockey fan– but I had grown up loving the sound, the feel, the excitement, the magic of Ted Darling. I also felt the sadness of listeners who filled the airwaves remembering the great broadcaster and lamenting the loss of this great icon.

By then a full-fledged producer, I internalized the passion and grief around me, and put it into my work, spending hours combing through and editing highlights of his play-by-play to create a Ted Darling tribute which aired on WBEN.

The heartfelt and overwhelming reaction to that piece changed me and changed the way I looked at my job. To that point, I knew I could use radio to be goofy and have fun, but in that moment, I learned that radio could be an outlet for me, personally, to create things that are meaningful to people by reflecting what they long for and how they feel in my work.

Everything I’ve done in radio, TV, and print since then—including this book—has been a manifestation of that powerful realization.

It was one of thousands of lessons I learned by doing, working alongside many of the greatest broadcasters in Buffalo’s history. You know some of the names— folks like Van Miller and Danny Neaverth, but just as importantly are some of the folks you’ll get to know as you read this book and its future companion volumes– the folks who’d run 2,000 feet of cable for a live shot or who pressed the button to start the commercial when Van stopped talking.

Not everyone grew up working in radio and TV like I did, but it’s almost impossible to have lived over the last century without having the people of radio and TV become part of your family and part of the fabric of who you are.

They have been with you during the great and the dark moments in history and there for happiness and sadness in your life.

They are the broadcasters who whispered out of the transistor radios under our pillows, filled the screens in our living rooms, blared out the speakers in our car, and these days– stream on our phones and tablets.

It still feels like a dream to me that I have had the opportunity to be a part of your life in that way over the course of 25 years… especially knowing what the people I’ve listened to and watched have meant to me.

I mean all this to say that the book feels as much like a family tree as it does a book about Buffalo Broadcasting.

With that mindset, I didn’t want to leave anything out. As I began work on the actual layout of the book, it was clear that there was just too much for a single volume, so I split the hundred years in half… and here we are.

By the time you read this, know that I’ve already began squirreling away the photos and stories that will make up a history of the last 50 years of broadcasting—and it will be a much more complete work with your stories and photos contributed. You can start that ball rolling with an email to steve@buffalostories.com.

May your joy in reading this book be the same that mine has been in spending a lifetime putting it together—smiling, enjoying, and remembering the people who’ve added color, vibrance, and a sense of community to our Western New York lives for a century.

Steve Cichon June, 2020

About Steve Cichon

Author Steve Cichon is an award-winning writer and radio newsman who has spent the last three decades telling the story of Buffalo, one story at a time.

As a teenager, he wrote and produced news and sports programming on WBEN and served as gameday producer for Buffalo Bills Football. Later, he served as Executive Producer of the Sabres Radio Network.

His first shot in front of the microphone came again as a teen, this time high above Western New York’s highways as WBEN’s airborne traffic reporter. He was host of newsmagazine “Buffalo’s Evening News,” and an overnight night talk show host during the October Surprise storm.

For a decade, Cichon’s primary job was news anchor and reporter at WBEN Radio, covering courts, the Town of Amherst, the City of Buffalo, Hurricane Katrina, the crash of Flight 3407 and Presidential visits—but the beat that meant the most was the one he created for himself, that is, working to capture the essence of Buffalo in all of his reporting.

Even with “a face for radio,” Cichon worked in television as a producer at Ch.4, helped create and produce the “radio on TV” Simoncast with Howard Simon on Empire Sports Network and 107-7 WNSA, and was a producer on a PBS-WNED documentary on America’s opioid crisis.

Twice Steve has served in management roles in broadcasting. As a 24-year old, he was named Program Director of Buffalo sports talker WNSA Radio. He also proudly served as WBEN Radio News Director.

The author of six books dealing with various aspects of Buffalo’s history, Cichon has also written more than 1,700 articles for The Buffalo News on Western New York’s pop culture history, including his popular “Torn-down Tuesday” feature.

His work as a broadcast journalist has been recognized with more than two dozen Associated Press Awards AP for general excellence, use of medium, spot news coverage and enterprise reporting. Cichon has also been named Buffalo Spree’s Best of Buffalo Blogger of the Year, an Am-Pol Citizen of the Year, Medaille College’s Radio News Director of the Year, and was a Business First 40 Under 40 selection.

More than anything else, Steve’s a Buffalonian who worked and lived to see his childhood fantasies come to life under the soft glow of “on air” lights for nearly 30 years– and having the honor of sharing these stories of his broadcasting forefathers and heroes lets that feeling keep on riding

Thanks…

Uncle Bob Cohen, my first radio mentor

Kevin Keenan, my second radio mentor, who gave me my first job and introduced me to my wife

My wife, Monica, who I met through the window of the WBEN newsbooth early one cold Sunday morning in 1993, when she came in to deliver a 5am newscast while I was running the board. Aside from being the love of my life, she also edited this book.

Ed Little, John Demerle, and Al Wallack are only three of the dozens and dozens of amazing people who took me under their wing and taught me the crafts of radio and journalism. And life.

Jarin Cohen and Marty Biniasz are two radio pals who are true brothers. My story is inseparable from theirs, and these stories are their stories, too.

Marty Biniasz, Jack Tapson, Dan Neaverth, Mike Beato, Bob Collignon, Jay Lauder, Walt Haefner, John Bisci, Scott Fybush, and dozens more have all shared items that have become a part of this work.

If nothing else, this book proves that newspaper writers craft the first draft of history.

Bits and pieces of biographical and factual data in this volume have been pulled from thousands and thousands of newspaper articles collected and read through the years.

Hundreds of writers and editors have had a hand in crafting those pieces, and I thank them all. But most notably, I’d like to thank the men and women who have either been on the broadcasting beat or have somehow made radio and tv something they’ve written about in the Courier-Express and The Buffalo News with regularity, among them, in no particular order:

Jeff Simon, Gary Deeb, Hal Crowther, Lauri Githens, Jack Allen, Anthony Violanti, Mary Ann Lauricella, Alan Pergament, Mary Kunz Goldman, J. Don Schlaerth, Don Trantor, Jim Trantor, Jane Kwiatkowski, Jim Baker, Scott Thomas, Sturgis Hedrick, Doug Smith, Margaret Sullivan, Rose Ciotta, and dozens of others.


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

Getting around to a big project, 30+ years later

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

I posted this in a few of the pop machine forums on Facebook. It’d be great to get it out of the garage and keeping drinks cool…

I was nine years old when my ol’man drove me to a barn an hour away to buy this 1964 Lacrosse Pepsi machine, as seen in a classified newspaper ad, for $25.

It has no vending or refrigeration guts, and hasn’t since I bought it in 1987.

To collectors, I know it’s a worthless boat anchor— but you didn’t load it into the back of a 1985 Dodge Caravan with your dad and have it in your bedroom growing up.

It’s been relegated to the garage since I bought my own home 20 years ago, but I’d like to shine it up and get it cooling to keep beverages in my basement.

La Crosse Cooler Co., Model LC ILL 54 6. This machine dates back to at least 1964, which is the year that receipts inside the machine were dated.

I’ve read the Lacrosse systems are difficult to find. I’m not looking to create a showpiece here, and willing to try any harebrained scheme to be able to keep some pop bottles cold in this sucker.

It’s obviously less about having a soda machine and more about putting this one to use, finally, after more than 30 years.

Any ideas to rig up something would be appreciated.