Cichoń grave clean up 2018, St. Stan’s Cemetery

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I will never forget the satisfied, heart-filled smile Gramps gave me when I told him that I cleaned up his parents’ grave. I didn’t know it, but not being able to tend to his family’s graves was one of the things that weighed on him when he was in a nursing home, the last of ten siblings still alive.

“You’re a good guy for doing that, son,” Gramps said to me. It rang in my ears and filled my heart today when I stopped by the cemetery to look after my great-grandparents’ grave, and the graves of Gramps’ brothers who died in childhood.

Roman was hit by a truck and killed, Czesław (Chester) had Leukemia and died at three months old. Chester didn’t have a stone– they couldn’t afford one– Gramps’ older brothers cast a cross in concrete, which eventually wore down and was toppled. But he was right next to the fence, Gramps said. There are other makeshift headstones nearby which survive.

It’s deeply gratifying to honor my grandfather by honoring his parents and brothers.

May they all Rest In Peace. Spoczywaj W Pokoju.

Steve at the entrance to the old part of St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Cheektowaga, NY.

The hardest working man in politics is also the nicest

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

These are the only kinds of photos you get with Erich Weyant— accidental ones, while he’s busy at work.

While Steve shakes hands at a parade, Erich Weyant looks on with camera in hand,

But especially on his birthday, I think that it’s important the world get a good look at one of the most decent, good natured, kind human beings I’ve ever met.

My friends, my family, and anyone who supported my bid for County Clerk should also know that the only reason we came as close as we did was this guy right here.

He’s truly the only person who completely understood my reasoning and vision in running for elected office, while also sharing a commitment to that vision with the same amount of drive, drive, and determination that I had.

For that, I’ll never be able to repay him. (Except by embarrassing him in posts like this on his birthday.)

“The Drury goal” and the elevator dent

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

One of the most memorable moments in Sabres History,  11 years ago today. Game 5, Sabres and Rangers. Jay Moran had already announced, “last minute in regulation time” over the PA. The Sabres were down by a goal.

Then this happened:

“The Drury Goal” made for one of the my most memorable moments in covering sports.

I was in HSBC Arena covering the game, but I didn’t get to see the goal live.

Reporters have to be down in the dressing room/interview room area when the game ends, so we start leaving the pressbox and getting on the elevators with a few minutes left in regulation.

Especially for a playoff game, there are maybe 30 people crammed onto a cargo elevator with a little TV in the corner with the game on. I happened to be jammed next to two of the Rangers players who were scratched from the lineup.

As the elevator very slowly groaned down the five or six levels, I was close enough to hear them talk about their plans for visiting with friends and family during the next round of the playoffs. The win was about to put the Rangers up 3-2 in the series, with the teams heading to New York City for Game 6.

But that quickly changed.

When Drury scored that goal, the elevator shook with the rest of the building. There’s no cheering in the pressbox, but there was an audible bleat of excitement as Jeanneret’s amazing mindless call blared out of the tinny speaker on the tiny TV in the corner of the elevator.

The only noise that wasn’t excitement came from the foot of that New York Rangers player, whose body pressed up against mine when he made the motion to backwards kick the wall of the elevator with his heel– leaving a dent that was there at least through the following season.

That little dent made me smile every time I saw it. The Rangers didn’t make it to the next round of the playoffs. One of my favorite moments in 20 years of covering sports.

Sabres #23 Chris Drury goal with #19 Tim Connolly, during the third period of their game at the HSBC arena in Buffalo, Friday May 4, 2007. (Buffalo News photo/ Mark MULVILLE)

Dancing, swimming, and of course the rides: Highlights of a trip to Crystal Beach

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

If you’re over 40 and grew up in Buffalo, chances are pretty good you didn’t need an ad in the newspaper to entice you to beg for a trip to Crystal Beach. Yet from Memorial Day to Labor Day, from the 1940s to the 1980s, those ads were there, almost every day.

Here’s a look back at a few of those ads.

1944:

The “100 thrilling midway amusements” were among the most highly touted aspects of a visit to Crystal Beach during the years of World War II, but even more than the rides– in bold letters, bathing and dancing were the kind of fun that must have spoke to the throngs of WNYers who’d make the regular trip to Canada.

Today, we make that trip across the Peace Bridge– and some did it that way in 1944, too. But the “extra special, grand” way to get to Crystal Beach was a 50¢ ride across the Lake aboard the Steamer Canadiana.

This was no mere boat ride. Hopping aboard the Crystal Beach boat at the foot of Main Street (in a spot behind Key Bank Center in today’s geography) was where the party started, lead by live music by such popular Buffalo bands as Harold Austin’s Orchestra (who was also very popular at The Dellwood Ballroom during Bob Wells’ Hi Teen dance program on WEBR Radio.)

When it came to dancing to live music on the rollicking waves of  Lake Erie, getting there (and back home) really was half the fun of going to Crystal Beach when you took the Canadiana.

1960:

The excitement of 5-cent rides at Crystal Beach was almost too much to bear. You paid per ride at Crystal Beach back then, and hearing that 24 rides cost only a nickel sounded like just about the most fabulous way anyone could think of to spend the last few days of summer.

That is, of course, until you read the small print — and realized your roll of nickels might not take you as far as you thought.

Nickel Day applied to 24 of the parks “riding devices.” The best rides were still cheaper than usual — but only half-price. The Comet, the Giant Coaster, the Wild Mouse, Magic Carpet, The Roto-Jet, Scrambler, Auto Scooter, The Old Mill, even roller skating — those more popular thrill-inducing rides were going to cost you more than just 5 cents.

But at least the bathhouse and beach equipment rates were also at half price, too.

1975:

Buffalo’s most fondly remembered amusement park broke down exactly what made the place great in this ad published July 1, 1975– likely prompting some last minute begging to do what came only naturally to generations of Buffalonians– spend our nation’s birthday in a foreign country eating sugar waffles and drinking loganberry.

The Comet Coaster— towering 105 feet– one of the top 10 in the world.

24 major adult rides— featuring the twirling TWISTER, the fantastic FLITZER, the mighty MONSTER, and the swinging CHAIR-O-PLANE.

12 rides for the kids— try the all new AUTO SKOOTER and GLASS HOUSE.

And… Dr. Miracles’ Wondercade, the Shootin’ Shack, Cafe International.

Swimming— 1/4 mile of clean, patrolled beach and sparkling water.

Free Picnic Grove— Covered sheltering for 3,500 people.

Games, Bingo & Souvenir Boutique

No admission charge— Ride what you like, like what you ride. 60 ways to be alive in ’75.

Happy Birthday, Tom Donahue!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

We’re celebrating my WECK Coffee Club cohort Tom Donahue’s birthday today…

Tom Donahue, some time before this morning.

Of course, I do that with a look back into the Buffalo Stories archives!

 

Buffalo in the 70’s: Everyone seemed to love The Ground Round

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Through the 1970s and 1980s, The Ground Round was a popular casual dining spot with locations at Seneca and Thruway Malls and on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Created by Howard Johnson’s, it may have been the first place you threw peanut shells on the floor and kids ate for a penny a pound on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

The Seneca Mall Ground Round was two years into its run when the Bills opened Rich Stadium in 1973. Many fans sought ways to avoid having to drive into Orchard Park– Ground Round offered a park and ride solution. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Buffalo’s first Ground Round opened outside the Seneca Mall in 1971.  “The Ground Round,” explained General Manager Burton Sack, “is a fun-type family restaurant featuring a player piano, nostalgic wall decorations from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, free peanuts on all tables, beer by the mug and pitcher, and free toys and games for the youngsters.”

Buffalo Stories archives

Five years later, The Howard Johnson’s restaurant at Sheridan and Delaware in Tonawanda was converted into a Ground Round, as was the Cross Bow Restaurant on Sheridan Drive in Amherst.

Buffalo Stories archives

In 1989, there were 215 Ground Round restaurants in 22 states– six in the Buffalo area. Those local stores were located at 3545 Delaware Ave. in Tonawanda; 208 Seneca Mall in West Seneca; 8529 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Niagara Falls; Thruway Mall and 1445 French Road, both in Cheektowaga; and 3180 Sheridan Drive and 7566 Transit Road, both in Amherst.

The Seneca Mall location was the first to open and the first to be closed– and then bulldozed– as the Seneca Mall was demolished starting in 1994. By the end of the year, half of the  remaining stores were sold to become the home of Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken restaurants.

This photo shows the last Buffalo area Ground Round location on Niagara Falls Blvd. in the Falls in 2004. (Buffalo Stories photo)
Buffalonians love to remember The Ground Round, but fish fry from a national chain? (Buffalo Stories archives)

Thank you for sharing your hearts and souls

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A year ago today I officially announced my candidacy for Erie County Clerk.
If I learned anything over what was –in nearly every way imaginable– the most difficult year of my life, I learned that politics comes alive not in parties or policies or lawn signs, but only when the hearts and souls of the people are touched.
I’m proud to say that we had more heart and soul and love in our nine months on the campaign trail than many of the political lifers have in 40 years of campaigning.
104,000 of our friends and neighbors filled in the bubble next to my name because you made my hopes and dreams your hopes and dreams.
I’m forever indebted to the family and friends old and new who showed so much support and love last year– thanks, now and forever, from the bottom of my heart.

Lovin’ on Letterman back in high school

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Cleaning up in the attic, one box had some high school files in it, including a screen print of a David Letterman drawing I did in 10th grade.

screen print of my 10th grade David Letterman drawing.

I was such a big fan to the point where I wore sneakers with my double-breasted sport coats just like Dave… and, at just barely 16 years old, I used my first radio paycheck (judging by the date on this invoice) to mail order a box of 50 cigars– so I could drive around in my ’74 VW, wearing a bow tie, heading to my job at a radio station with a big ol’stogie going, paying tribute to Letterman and having about the greatest existence any 16 year old could ask for.

I think my plan was to make some kind of “public art installation” (aka graffiti) with my silk screen Dave… but as I recall, the ink didn’t stick to the surface I tried to plaster. What a pisspot. (I don’t think I could define pisspot, but I know one when I see one. And the older I get, the more of them I see!)

Amherst turns 200!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Today is Amherst’s 200th Birthday! It’s official because it says so on Wikipedia:

The town of Amherst was created by the State of New York on April 10, 1818; named after Lord Jeffrey Amherst. Amherst was formed from part of the town of Buffalo (later the city of Buffalo), which had previously been created from the town of Clarence. Timothy S. Hopkins was elected the first supervisor of the town of Amherst in 1819. Part of Amherst was later used to form the town of Cheektowaga in 1839.

Here are a few of our looks back at the Town of Amherst over the years:

What it looked like Wednesday: The Village of Williamsville, 1933

Torn-down Tuesday: Ice cold beers in Williamsville, 1888

What It Looked Like Wednesday: Main Street, Williamsville, 1960s

Buffalo in the ’50s: The state’s first McDonald’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard

Torn-Down Tuesday: Henry’s Hamburgers, Sheridan at the Boulevard

Buffalo in the ’70s: Twin Fair is closed on Sundays, but Two Guys is open for business

 

33 years later, no longer a cart machine owner

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Milestone: For the first time since 1986, I cannot say the I own a working cart machine.

“Polishing the cart machine” was not a euphemism in my house.

A friend asked me to digitize some carts for him, which I was happy to do– until I tried all four of the cart machines I have in my attic, and they’ve all run out of gas.

On a beautiful summer day when I was 9 years old, my friend gave me the big rack mountable Spotmaster cart machine I’m so diligently cleaning in this photo (while wearing my dad’s dog tags in my bedroom, c. 1989.)

I balanced it on the seat of my bike for the few blocks back to my house, and I’ve had a “real radio station” at home ever since.

Owning a cart machine when I was 9 probably made me feel more like a true radio guy than I do showing up to write and read the news every morning…

Carts have been a part of my life for a long time– playing music and commercials, and taking hours to create audio production pieces that now take about 15 minutes of a computer.

I’ll miss not having a working cart machine, but I’ll hang on to the worn out ones I have– you never know when you’ll need a good boat anchor or three.