Buffalo in the 60s: AM&A’s getting ready to move

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Within the next few years, it’s expected that Chinese investors will pump anywhere from $60 million to $70 million into the vacant AM&A’s building on Main Street downtown, transforming it into a hotel and restaurant.

Fifty-five years ago today, the “old” AM&A’s building was the “soon-to-be” AM&A’s building. It was being renovated after the JN Adam department store closed up shop and left the building. AM&A’s was moving into the building from its long-time home directly across Main Street.

Five years later, I miss my Ol’Man to the moon and back

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Intellectually, I know there is no time or space in heaven, so today is just a glorious, random day in an eternity of glorious random days.

I further know in heaven, we have no need for our earthly contrivances, because in spirit we are perfection.

Intellectually, I know these things. It doesn’t mean I can truly comprehend what they really mean.

My dad went to his eternal reward five years ago today. It’s a wonderful blessing to firmly believe that our loved ones die from this life into a more beautiful forever.

In our perfectly human struggle to understand and explore what we can’t grasp, we often try to define the undefinable with comparisons to other undefinable things we’ve thought about a little bit more.

In 2006, Americans sent nearly 38 billion plastic water bottles to landfills. If laid end to end, that’s enough bottles to travel from the Earth to the Moon and back 10 times.

For some reason, an inconceivable number like 38 billion is easier to comprehend when we say it could make 10 round trips to the moon. This is silly, since most of us don’t really have a firm concept of how far away the moon is, besides really, really far away (which is where I would imagine 38,000,000,000 stacked water bottles would take me anyway.)

Sometimes it’s helpful for me– and any of us, I imagine– to picture our loved ones in perfection in heaven. Since we can’t understand perfection, we put it in earthly terms that we know aren’t even close to how things really are up there.

So my ol’man is in heaven. Five years today. He was recently joined by my mom-in-law there.  I smile that they are there, and that they are there together.

These two were a lot alike in their earthly lives, but one way sort of flashed at me this morning. They both loved cigarettes. In fact, they both smoked Parliament, until after years of being badgered by medical professionals and family, they both gave up the habit. But neither ever stopped thinking about– or talking about– smoking and the pleasure it brought them. It’s an eerily similar story for both.

I know if either one had been able to create their own version of heaven, it would have included a cigarette vending machine in the corner and an endless supply of quarters.  It also would have a kitchen table with ashtrays, mugs of coffee, and swirling smoke.

dad and pam smoke
The whole notion of these two smoking in heaven is ridiculous, and might even make someone mad. But it’s what flashed in my head this morning, and it fits. I love and miss them both.

I know heaven brings them the joy of smoking without even thinking of a puff, but some how for me, picturing them happy is easier with a butt in hand– like stacking bottles to the moon.

So today, I imagine Dad and Mom-in-law sitting at that heavenly kitchen table. They are talking and smiling, sharing a pack of Parliaments, and enjoying their heavenly life to the fullest, looking down upon all of us who love and miss them, their hearts full with the knowledge that we will all be together someday.

For us here, talking about how much you miss someone who is a piece of you is trying to put into words the indefinable. Dad’s been gone for five years, Pam for 16 days.

The yearning and sadness feels like the like the moon and back in both cases, but at the same time, the everlasting love from each is always as close as my heart.

Previous writings about My Ol’Man:

  • My Ol’man and Me: My dad died at age 58. I’ve really become accustomed to dealing with grief by writing about the people and things I love, and what it is and why it is that I love them. Written in the weeks following my dad’s death on Palm Sunday, 2010. The story of his last week alive, and a reflection of our relationship and time together. Read it here, and download it as a free e-book.

Buffalo in the 80s: Buffalo rejoices at the end of Canada’s beer strike

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

In 1985, Labatt, Molson and Carling/O’Keefe Breweries locked out their unionized workforce, leaving the beer drinkers of Canada (and Buffalo) looking elsewhere for adult beverages. It was a month-long stalemate that left five of Ontario’s six breweries out of commission.

It was 30 years ago today that the Brewers’ Retail reopened in Fort Erie and found itself bombarded with thirsty Ontarians — and Buffalonians. In fact, it was a Buffalo guy on a motor scooter who was first in line to strap two-four of Labatt on the back of his bike.

“Response bordering on jubilation greets return of beer in Ontario”

March 27, 1985

” ‘I’m so psyched,’ said Joseph Delo, 22, of Starin Avenue in Buffalo, who drove his motor scooter over the border this morning.”

Buffalo in the 80’s: Remembering Ziggy & Zon’s, one of WNY’s all-time most interesting shops

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The mention can bring only two reactions, either a confused, rumpled brow for those who never made it to the store with the strange-sounding name or a wide smile as the memories of one of Western New York’s all-time most interesting shops come flooding back.

Before the arm and leg, it was Ziggy & Zon’s that made the Airport Plaza famous with its menagerie of unique and hard-to-find-elswhere stuff.

In the days before the internet, it was one of those places you might go if you really needed it but weren’t sure where to buy it.

This ad appeared in The News in March, 1985.

Buffalo in the 80s: Where did WNY families dine in the mid-1980s?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo’s children of the ’80s have memories of a list of “fine-dining” institutions that are mostly different than the family eateries of today.

From the pages of The Buffalo News on March 30, 1985, here are some restaurants where a family might have eaten.

The Harvest House Cafeteria was inside Woolworth’s at the Eastern Hills Mall. Was it your family’s alternative to the York Steak House there?


Ja-Fa-Fa Hots spent 60 years on Harlem Road at the 33 Expressway in Cheektowaga. Ja-Fa-Fa served up Malecki hotdogs 30 years ago.


Kids loved to help make their parents’ coffee at Lum’s, which featured cream poured from cow-shaped dispensers. Both the Canterbury and the Cloister were probably more for adults than kids, but they were certainly special-event restaurants for many families.

 


Grandma’s Pancakes had two locations, one in West Seneca in the current Pasquales’s location, the other in the former Gleason’s on Main Street– across from what is now the Buffalo Medical Campus.


Peanut shells on the floor. What else do you need to say about the seven area Ground Round locations?

 

 

Buffalo in the 80s: Cabbage Patch Kids are on sale at Child World

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Child World spent the 1980s as America’s second-largest toy store chain, second to Toys R Us.

The three Western New York locations of Child World made the biggest such chain in Buffalo. All three stores were in now-defunct shopping malls, including the Thruway Mall, the Lockport Mall and the Summit Park Mall.

The Child World chain folded in 1990.

1985 ad.

Remembering wonderful Depew weirdness: Mannequins

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

For as long as I can remember, the front window of the old red house at the four-way stop on the corner of French and Cornell in Depew always had an epic display in the front window.

You can make out the outlines of the mannequins in the full-length windows in this Google Street View image from 2011.

 

Mannequins. 1960s or 70s looking mannequins. Right in the front window. Usually wearing some sort of lingerie, usually themed for whatever holiday or season was upon us. Santa hats and red silk teddies were always a yuletide highlight.

Heading east on French Road towards Transit at Cornell Drive. The former mannequin house is to the left. 2011 Google Street View image.

 

I never knew the story– there must have been a story– but it was always enough just to drive by and smile at the kind of interesting nut who’d fill his full-length parlor window with racy mannequins.

Driving by this past week, I noticed the mannequins were decommissioned and the house was up for auction.

The sad passing of another instance of wonderful, unique Western New York weirdness.

UPDATE:

Parts of this story have been trickling in from social media. The homeowner passed away last year. Facebook friend Joy Carr shared this 2005 article from Lancaster/Depew Bee.

March 11, 2000: A Swiss Chalet chicken dinner runs you $5.99

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Fifteen years ago today, $5.99 would have bought you a half-chicken dinner with half a rotisserie chicken, those amazing fresh-cut French fries, a roll, and don’t forget the signature chalet dipping sauce (which, of course, was good for the chicken, the fries and the roll.)

This deal was available at any of the four Buffalo-area Swiss Chalet locations.

The same meal today runs $13.49, according to the Swiss Chalet take-out website, and getting it involves crossing an international border.  The Swiss Chalet location closest to Buffalo is on Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls, Ont.

Despite the 225 percent price increase and need for a passport, if you’re a true-blue Buffalonian, chances are, you’re thinking about it.

Buffalo in the 60s: Beer industry veteran recalls delivering Iroquois by horse

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Our 2015 imaginations are lit up by the thought of a full-scale brewery operating in Buffalo, as Iroquois and Simon Pure both did when this article appeared in The News on March 10, 1965.

But 50 years ago, the idea that opened the minds of the readers of The News was the thought of 17 breweries operating in Buffalo.

Jacob Rosenfield delivered Iroquois Beer for almost 60 years, from the days of watching men walk into gin mills to get “take-away” beer in galvanized steel pails, all the way up to the strife of the 1960s and the Vietnam War.

His story is an interesting look at the history of Buffalo through the eyes and hard work of a single man.

” ‘Good old days’ recalled as second retirement ends”

” ‘In those days, a customer could enjoy a glass of beer for 5 cents and had a free counter lunch to boot,’ Mr. Rosenfield fondly recalled.”

Astigmatism, My Ol’Man, and Leonard Nimoy

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

I got glasses in seventh grade. My vision was really bad and I didn’t really know. I remember looking at a pine tree out our front window, and being marveled by being able to make out the needles; not just seeing a big green blob.

Sixth grade was a mess. We moved to Orchard Park late that summer, and as a late add to every class, I sat in the last seat every time. I didn’t realize it was unusual, but I couldn’t see the board at all.

It’s because of all this, I taught myself the most memorable skills I learned in middle school.

As my grades suffered in Social Studies and Math because I was blind and sitting in the back, I figured out how to do two Mr. Spock moves: make my hand make the “live long and prosper” sign, and make one eyebrow go up while the other one goes down.
These are both actions which take some muscle memory, and had someone realized I needed glasses a year earlier, I might not have had an entire academic year to train those muscles.

Star Trek was one of those shows I watched with my dad a lot growing up. It always seemed to be on, which made him selective.

There were “dumb ones,” episodes Dad thought were stupid and didn’t stand up to the standards he set for the show.

We wouldn’t watch the dumb ones, but the good ones, my dad laughed at the jokes and cheered when they won every time like it was the first time he’d ever seen it. He especially loved Spock, and was lovingly amused at his different ways in the same way Captain Kirk was.

Spock was someone we could always agree on. He’s a great character. He’s forever denying his humanity; which, ironically, is one of humanity’s most prevalent traits.

Nimoy’s calm demeanor and resonant voice brought the best of Spock with him no matter what else he was doing. Dad and I loved him on “In Search of..” as well.

Not many people can specifically remember something striking they learned in sixth grade.

I learned to be a little more Vulcan, and therefore a little more human. And grew a little closer to my dad.

Thanks Leonard Nimoy. Rest in peace.