Our steel producing heritage—One of the things that makes Buffalo Buffalo.
We often talk about and remember Bethlehem Steel, and with good reason.
At one point, Lackawanna’s Bethlehem Rte. 5 complex was the world’s largest steel plant. At one point, the plant employed more than 20,000 men.
Just as amazing to think about is that there were nearly as many men working in other steel plants around WNY as well.
The Republic Steel Plant on South Park Avenue at the Buffalo River in South Buffalo was one of the biggest.
Now the site of the Elon Musk and Panasonic solar panel plant, but in 1950—the Cleveland based Republic Steel was making plans to increase the South Buffalo plant’s production to 900,000 tons of steel per year. Nearly a million tons of steel at Buffalo’s second largest steel plant.
The plant was closed and demolished in the mid 1980s and again, is currently the site for the state-funded RiverBend project.
Rather abruptly, the doors closed on a Buffalo institution on Sunday, July 8, 2018.
From after-movie meals to being destroyed by a tornado, The Holiday Showcase Restaurant is one of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo.
The Holiday Showcase opened in the front corner of what was then the Aero Drive-In in 1964.
The Aero Drive-In held 800 cars and featured playgrounds for the kids in the spot where Sam’s Club is today.
Around 1971, showed its last movie, but by then, the Holiday 1 and 2 theaters had opened. It was eventually the Holiday 6 by the time it was torn down to make way for the strip mall behind the Holiday Showcase, which served hundreds of thousands of meals to movie goers on the same property for more than 30 years.
From the beginning, specialties have included the HY-BOY, which a 1967 ad calls “a double decker hamburger sensation” and FRESH strawberry pie and shortcake.
Whether they’ve eaten at the famous Union Road restaurant or not, it seems every Buffalonian knows that the Holiday Showcase was one of two businesses heavily damaged when a tornado ripped through Cheektowaga in 1987.
The sign is a classic piece of Roadside Americana on Union Rd in Cheektowaga.
The Holiday Showcase Restaurant… another one of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo.
Among the things that make Buffalo… Buffalo is Bob Wells.
Bob Wells was the host of one of Buffalo’s most popular radio shows of the post-war era– the Hi Teen show ran on WEBR for 17 years, hosting as many of 2000 kids in the Dellwood Ballroom at Main and Utica every Saturday.
What kind of music did you hear on Hi-Teen?.
“I was probably the last disc jockey in America to play an Elvis Presley record,” Wells told Channel 2’s Rich Kellman during a late 70s interview.
Wells popularity with Buffalo’s youngest radio fans overlapped the rock ‘n’ roll era, but not by much.
Long after Hi-Teen was little more than a memory, Western New Yorkers continued to hear Bob Wells’ voice as the voice of Your Host restaurants.
WATCH: A Bob Wells-voiced Your Host commercial from 1977:
Bob Wells… and the Hi Teen Show.. just one of the things that makes Buffalo… Buffalo
Beach has made a career of straddling the line of the conservative tastes of Buffalo, and has never let office or city hall politics get in the way of a good show. It’s that desire for great radio, no matter the cost, that has allowed Sandy to be a Buffalo radio fixture for 35 years with only a few interruptions.
Sandy came to WKBW from Hartford in 1968. Within 6 years, according to a 1972 interview, 2002 BBP Hall of Famer Jeff Kaye said that Sandy had “worked every shift on KB except morning drive, and improved the ratings in each part.”
His quick wit and infectious laugh have been a part of Western New York ever since at KB, WNYS, Majic 102, and now afternoon drive on WBEN.
A native of Lunenberg, Massachusetts (hence his long time sign off, “Good Night Lunenberg….Wherever you are”), Sandy’s made his impact for over a third of a century in Buffalo radio as a jock, in programming, and now in as a talker, and always as a wise-guy friend just a dial twist away.
Written by Steve Cichon in 2003 went Sandy was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
The reaction to the piece I wrote the other day about my personal struggles with depression and anxiety has been overwhelming.
One aspect I didn’t entirely think through– was that when people would share their stories with me, I’d really like to be able to offer some kind of next step to help them, some kind of way forward with some resources to get get on the road to better mental health.
So I turned to the experts.
“I think what’s important to remember is that everyone’s definition of crisis is different,” says Jessica Pirro with Crisis Services. She says it’s important to know that whatever kind of crisis you feel, at whatever intensity, at whatever moment, Crisis Services wants to help.
“Our hotline is available 24 hours a day for anyone that’s in need,” says Pirro. “You don’t have to be in extreme crisis. You could just need some information and referrals to resources. Maybe you’re interested in getting linked in with treatment or counseling. We can walk you through what that might look like.”
Not just for when “it’s really hitting the fan,” Crisis Services also is for support to help prevent some future crisis.
They want to help getting you to the next step after the phone call, in whatever way makes you comfortable to get to that next step.
“People can call our hotline anonymously. A lot of people call us every day, just to talk about what’s going on. Really our goal is to provide empathy. We’re not here to judge anybody. We just want to provide some resources to help you through the situation you’re faced with,” says Pirro.
Anyone of any age who is experiencing a personal, emotional or mental health crisis can call 24 hours a day and find someone who just wants to help you make your way towards your next step to feeling better.
We hit 91 degrees on May 30, and even the most summer-loving of us saw our patience– and our antiperspirant– tested.
So, here are a few thoughts to try to cool things down– or at least make you a little more thankful for the heat.
It was actually the last week of May in 1942 when Bing Crosby recorded the famous version of White Christmas, so maybe he was dealing with the heat that day, just like we are this week?
As we’re dealing with this sometimes unbearable heat, it’s worth thinking about that it could be snow.
Really, you ask? But yes, the date for Buffalo’s latest snow fall is enough to send a chill down your spine on a blazing hot late May day.
It happened in 1980. It’s an outlier to be sure, but we had snow during the afternoon hours of June 10, 1980.
It’s the only time in the nearly 150 years of weather statistics being kept in Buffalo that we had snow in June, but history shows, it is possible.
The news of snow on June 10, 1980 only garnered little blurbs in both The News and the Courier-Express– and not even a headline! Read the coverage in the Buffalo Evening News and the Courier-Express on Buffalo’s latest snowfall on record:
And of course, it was just three years ago (2015) that it was into August before the largest piles of snow– left over from the Snowvember storm of 2014– were still there outside the Buffalo Central Terminal.
The glacier-like piles were showcased by Channel 2’s Dave McKinley in a story that gained national attention as the July sun roasted in Buffalo.
So, of course, know it could always be worse in the Buffalo weather department.
Many of us are making plans for a three-day weekend, but in this run up to the Memorial Day weekend– we’re remembering the sacrifices made in Buffalo and by Buffalonians.
Striking a Memorial Day balance with the twin sister of a fallen soldier
On November 3, 2016, Andrew Byers, 30, a Captain with the Army’s airborne 10th Special Forces Group was killed in Afghanistan.
“Gone are the days of Memorial Day as the start of summer and worrying about whose barbecue we’ll be going to,” says Lauren Byers, Captain Byers’ twin sister.
For Lauren and the Byers family, Memorial Day is now more than ever about striking a balance.
“I think we’re all looking for that thing to do to honor him, but also not be frustrated when you see all the commercials and ads that say ‘splash into summer’ or ‘Memorial Day Sale’ and not feel that twinge of pain, that that’s not really what Memorial Day is,” says Byers.
“How do you choose something that’s meaningful and balance that with knowing that your family member would want you to enjoy your time together as a family.”
A Memorial Day holiday might involved a chat about the Sabres for Andy Byers, whose love of the team followed him all around the world in service to our country. But that service is something Captain Byers knew he wanted to pursue from an early age.
“Even after he passed, we went to his office at Fort Carson, where he had a Sabres coffee mug on his desk,” says Lauren. “But he knew when he was 15 that he wanted to serve.”
It took her some time to accept her brother’s choice of career, but now Lauren looks on her brother’s service and ultimate sacrifice with a mix of pride, devastation, and working to keep the memory of her brother– and all fallen service people– alive.
“I think for Gold Star families, the challenge is two fold,” says Lauren. “We don’t want out family members to be forgotten. We don’ t the lives they lead to be forgotten. He would say, ‘If not me, then who?’ Someone needs to do this job. I am capable, I will be the one to do it.'”
What would Lauren like to see people do on Memorial Day? Just remembering those who’ve given their lives for our freedom– including her twin brother.
“People remembering them, the choice they made, and how they lived their lives– and giving them the respect that they are do.”
Remembering WNYers killed in Vietnam
We’re looking at one man’s quest to make sure the memories of the 532 Western New York service members killed in Vietnam live on.
Promises of peace came and went several times during the decades that American soldiers were in Vietnam… Peace was fleeting, too, for many if not most of the men and women who returned home from Southeast Asia.
“I just didn’t want these men and one woman to be forgotten,” says historian and Vietnam Veteran Pat Kavanagh, who started a huge project and labor of love started with the simple thought.
“Come hell or high water, I’m going to try to find all the original obituaries of those from Western New York killed in Vietnam,” says Kavanaugh of the through that sent him on his quest. “Right from the start, it just became very emotional.”
Kavanagh visited dozens of libraries and sent all around the country for microfilms, but the greatest effect was in leaving a small town library, and knowing this is place where this man who was killed in action once walked and made plans for a future which never came.
“I thought I was a hard guy, but after reading and copying these obituaries, I’d get into the car, and I’d pass the street where he lived. I’d pass the school where he went. I’m saying, ‘these guys are only 18 or 19 years old, and they’re dead.’ They’d been killed so far away from home,” says Kavanagh. “This is the least we can do for them.”
It’s been years since he started the project and Pat feels the collection with remembrances of 532 WNYers killed in Vietnam is as complete as it can be.
The late Michael Accordino was a member of the 299th Combat Engineer Batallion on D-Day.
“For D-Day, we were munition men. We had to build the obstacles on the beach,” said then-Private Accordino in a 2011 interview. He and his mates were under heavy fire as they laid the way for infantry and artillery men to fight their way across and liberate Europe.
“There was a lot of firepower from the Germans up on the slope. Lots of machines guns, lots of mortars, lots of artillery as we were hitting the beach,” said Accordino. “We had to work in those conditions. One guy put it this way– imagine trying to mow your lawn, and your neighbor is throwing rocks at you. That’s what was happening to us.”
Accordino’s story is one of survival, but it’s a story he told often through the years so that people wouldn’t forget the sacrifice of the thousands who didn’t make it off of Omaha Beach.
The machine gun bullets were landing at my feet. I moved, and a guy raised his sights. He was going to get me, so I turned around and ran back to the obstacle. It wasn’t very big, maybe eight inches of protection.
I laid there, and to my right, there were these guys with a big spool of wire, and I wondered what they were doing with this wire.
They were about ten yards away from me, and I yelled over, “what are you guys doing there?”
All the sudden, they got hit. I seem them rolling, swaying back and forth. They got hit. I looked like someone threw a mortar in there.
I got up, I got the hell out of there, man. I got to the new line, and I just kept on doing my job.
–Michael Accordino, remembering the D-Day invasion, June 6, 1944
Mr. Accordino was awarded the Purple Heart after receiving shrapnel wounds on the beach at Normandy. I spoke to him on D-Day in 2011. He died in 2012.
Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers
First, it’s the story of Buffalo’s own Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. 300 US Army volunteers, buried in a mass unmarked grave in the middle of what is now the Delaware Park Golf Course.
About 300 soldiers, who came to Buffalo to protect our national border during the War of 1812 and died of hunger and disease as they spent the winter of 1814 in tents in middle of what is now Delaware Park– but what was then America’s frontier.
In 1814, The Village of Buffaloe was described by one visitor as “a nest of villains, rogues, rescals, pickpockets, knaves, and extortioners.”
But it was volunteer soldiers from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania who’d marched to Buffalo to invade British Canada and defend Buffalo and Black Rock from invasion.
When winter came, they stayed. Wearing light summery uniforms and no winter boots, they lived in open ended tents. It was a particularly brutal winter, and food was slow to make it to the Camp at Buffalo, which was literally the end of the supply line. The food that did make it here was never enough and usually rancid.
Soldiers were dying up to ten a day, and with the ground frozen, the dead were first buried in shallow graves, then eventually just left in tents.
What was left of the army left Buffalo when spring came, but not before paying for three-hundred coffins and for two local men to bury the 300 dead– which they did, in what is now the Delaware Park Golf course.
They remain buried there to this day, a bolder in the middle of the golf course marks the spot where the 300 nameless, faceless men, who died here protecting our country, were laid to rest 204 years ago.
Their sacrifice was remembered this way when that boulder monument was dedicated in 1896:
May their noble example and this tribute to their honor and memory prove an incentive to future generations to emulate their unselfish loyalty and patriotism, when called upon to defend their country’s honor, and if need be die in defence of the flag, the glorious stripes and stars, emblem of liberty, equal rights and National unity.
Disc Jockeys are known for telling a lot of stories and taking credit for things, but in the case of WECK’s Harv Moore, he doesn’t have to take credit for a hit song we all know because the band is the ready to give him all the credit in the world.
“Brandy” was a big hit for Looking Glass in 1972.
The New Jersey bar band had recorded an album for Epic Records and the first single released from the album flopped.
Eliot Lurie was a member of Looking Glass and the group’s primary songwriter.
After that miserable showing of the group’s first release, he didn’t think there was any chance for his “Brandy.”
“That probably would have been the end of if, had it not been for a disc jockey in Washington, DC named Harv Moore,” Lurie told “The Tennessean in 2016.
“After two weeks, they told us the record would be number one, and it was,” said Lurie.
It’s not often in a career– even a 60 year career like Harv’s– to be able to play a part in making a hit.
“I always felt I had a pretty good ear for music, hearing new stuff. It was a big thrill to see that go to number one in Billboard Magazine, it was a nationwide hit,” said Harv. “I got a nice gold record from Epic Records for it.”
Just a few years later, in 1975, Harv followed his boss at WPGC to WYSL in Buffalo, and he’s been here ever since.
“Buffalo’s my home,” said Harv, getting ready to play another song, sitting behind the mic at WECK.