Four Buffalo-themed Valentine’s Day cards

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

BUFFALO, NY – Cards designed by Steve Cichon, whose heart is always filled with Buffalove even when it’s the other kinda love.

PERCOLATING LOVE

roll up the rim

WINTER LOVE

plowed-and-salted

PASSIONATE LOVE

flutie

BIG LOVE

fuccillo-huge

This post originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Happy Birthday, Roby…

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

BUFFALO, NY – For many, February 12 is the day we honor Abraham Lincoln. Let ’em. For me, February 12 a date set aside for celebrating a different kind of statesman on his birthday.

Mike Robitaille first came to Buffalo 45 years ago as a member of the 1969-70 AHL Buffalo Bisons. He’d return a few years later as a Sabre, and a few years after being traded to Vancouver, he’d return as a broadcaster.

Sometime during the handful of years I worked with him at WNSA Radio and Empire Sports Network, I started to save the audio clips of all the amazing things he’d say. A couple of times, I compiled them for playback on his birthday, and here are a few of those put together for a several minute Best of Roby MegaMix.

I especially love hearing the great laugh of the late Jim Kelley throughout this piece… RIP Jim.

Mike is one of the great talents ever to grace Buffalo radio and television. His persona and personality are unique, and no one works harder at putting together what you see on the air, and making it look flawless, than does Mike.

He’s very humble about it, and if you press him, he’s just as likely to start talking about the sacrifices his family  made for him and his career as being the youngest of a large family in Midland, Ontario. Some guys want you to see how hard they work, but Mike works hard so you can’t see the work he’s put in.

Sabres hockey will be lacking when he retires at the end of the year.

This post originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com.

Even Old Buffalo Looking New: Ch.4’s 1960’s Buffalove

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

BUFFALO, NY – My friend Libby wrote something the other day which made me think. She was talking about the cold and the gray and the snow, and how we don’t even realize how the darkness of it all creeps into our personality.

“Honestly do not even realize I am depressed, until the sun comes out and everything is sunshiny and I feel the depression lift!”

skyway
I read this amidst my going through my collection of old radio and TV trade magazines. In the late 50s and early 60s, these magazines were filled with ads from local radio and TV stations looking to appeal to national advertisers. They talk about how great the station is, but also how wonderful the city and it’s people are– a great place to sell your stuff.

There are plenty of great ads from Buffalo stations. It’s like a Buffalo version of the wacky creative efforts you might see from the guys on Mad Men.

WBENTVbuildings

I’ve used these old magazines as a resource for years. Decades even. This time, however, the feeling was different, and Libby’s exaltation helped me put my finger on what made some of these ads better than they were the last time I looked.

These ads look better and more interesting, because there is hope and brightness in Buffalo like we haven’t seen here since the late 50s.

These ads, from 1958 and 1964, show WBEN-TV’s excitement for Buffalo and what is to come, and are meant to showcase the “just-over-the-horizon New Buffalo” that was on it’s way.

These ads feel fresh and great, because while there was a 60 year lag, that New Buffalo really is just around the corner this time.

WBENTVgrainelevators

When we were filled with gloom and darkness about our city, we would look and read these, and point to the empty, rotting grain elevators as a vestige of a vanished industry.

We’d look closely on the Skyway image, and see the beams marked with the logo of Bethlehem Steel. It was a bridge built to get 15,000 men from the city to their jobs in a plant that’s been cold for 30 years.

We imagine what Buffalo would have looked like if we didn’t build highways and downtown office buildings for 2 million expected Western New Yorkers, and we lament the buildings that were lost because too much of downtown was torn down too quickly for the wrong reasons.

But now, with the sun out here for the first time in generations, we look at these images and see progress and what’s to come. We now recreate under the Skyway, with promise of more to come. Grain elevators and malt houses are becoming the avant-garde, up-and-coming spaces that the next generation of Buffalonians realize are incredibly unique to us alone, as moves are made to re-imagine and re-purpose what makes us unique.

WBENTVskyway

And with cranes and scaffolds up in dozens of places around the city, the thought of “new building” isn’t necessarily followed by “oh no.”

As the sun shines, and us Buffalonians feel the depression about our city lift, we’re beginning to figure out how to make our dynamic past, part of our dynamic future.

And we’re getting excited about seeing how the same ol’stuff starts to look different with some sunshine on it, warming the face and the soul.

The unfairly maligned drive-thru– It’s worse inside, baby

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

BUFFALO, NY – The notion that you always get jobbed in the drive-thru is now thoroughly ingrained in our culture.

drivethru

Joe Pesci has one stupid rant about a drive-thru in a movie 25 years ago, and it’s now become fact for a large segment of Americans. “They always $%# you in the drive-thru!,” he said about 87 times in Lethal Weapon II back in 1989.

With all due respect to Mr. Pesci, the fact is– in 2014– the drive-thru is always better.

Why? Because the incompetence you imagine as you sit in your car pales in comparison to the incompetence you actually see unfold inside.

It’s always a rough adventure. If I am choosing drive-thru food, it’s probably a busy, jam-packed, semi-homicidal, annoying day already. To watch the circus it takes to get my order made, in the bag, and handed to me, usually just makes it worse.

That isn’t to say that all fast food workers are terrible. Quite the opposite. If it weren’t for the 20% who work their tails off and do 90% of the work, the fast food industry would collapse. The other 80%, however, put on a moron ballet so perfect in its incompetence and imperfection that Baryshnikov couldn’t compete.

Let’s look at the facts. Getting baseline acceptable service at a fast food joint is a 50/50 proposition at best. In your car, at least you’re listening to your own music, relaxing in your own seat, in control of your own surroundings.

Inside the store, there’s a pretty good chance you are watching at least one employee doing some facet of his/her job poorly, and ruining the whole flow for fellow employees and customers.

Also inside, add into the equation the loud-mouthed jerk in line, who won’t shut up about how utterly shocked he is by the shoddy work going on, and that it’s an outrage. It’s as if the last time this guy got a burger was at some gleaming Arnold’s-like drive-in. It’s also pretty clear that this jackhole has never worked hard at anything other than acting indignant.

While fly-away hairs stick to the poor manager’s worry-and-hardwork moistened forehead, and every other customer in line tries to avoid eye contact with this guy who is yelling –UNBELIEVABLE– over and over again; some conniving opportunistic disease with legs cuts in line, acting like she’s done nothing wrong. She’s also ready to tell you that your were standing in line wrong, if you are looking to pick a fight.

All this, or you can sit in the car and wonder what the hell is taking so long– but at least listening to your favorite book on tape.

Either way, the chances are pretty high that your anger will turn to rage when you find the wrong items in the bag. Maybe you should just start carrying a big bag of apples in the car.

This post originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Old Blizzards, The Comet, and Staying Warm, Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY- So sure, it’s freezing. This is a prolonged cold snap like many of us in Buffalo can’t remember, especially in light of a couple of really mild winters.

Now you’re thinking, so what does Cichon have for us today? More on the anniversary of the Blizzard of ’77?

Well, if you want that, here’s a copy of a Channel 4 newscast from just after the Blizzard. When I worked at Channel 4, I garbage-picked a 1977 copy of this tape when a newer copy was dubbed in the late 90s. This tape is very interesting, if you want to wallow in cold.

But me, I’m wishing for warmth. So instead of the 37th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’77, I’d rather talk about another upcoming anniversary: It was 25 years ago this year that the last cars groaned and creaked along the shores of Lake Erie on the Comet.

It’s been a quarter of a century since we spilled across the Peace Bridge to be greeted by delicious all-day suckers, Paul Bunyan, and that creepy piano playing guy in Laff-in-the-Dark.

If the thought of a quick PSSSSHT of air up your shorts in the Magic Palace or the sound of the talking garbage can thanking you for keeping the park clean doesn’t warm you up today, there might not be anything that will.
If you’re old enough to remember, watching this 30 second TV spot will warm your heart if not your skin today…

It’s the 25th anniversary of Crystal Beach closing this year, and it’s also the 10th anniversary of my Buffalo pop culture website, staffannouncer.com. All year long, I’ll be sprucing up some of the pages that have been there for a while, and creating a bunch of new ones that I’ve been meaning to create for years.

This post first appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Terribly Wonderful 50s Clip Art

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – One of the great things about doing research and looking through old newspapers is finding interesting things to put into collections.

flyingnewspaper

I look for patterns so I can put things together, and make it an interesting group. Such is the case with clip art.

Nowadays, you can have full-color beautiful photos and detailed artwork printed in most newspapers. In the time before even sharp photos were able to be replicated in newsprint, ads often relied on clip art style drawings to help get their messages across. These days, of course, clip art is best known for (annoying) memes on Facebook.

Here are some of the pieces of art I’ve clipped from Buffalo area newspapers from the late 40’s to the mid 60’s.

If any of these inspire a Buffalo-themed meme (or any meme, I guess–), I’d love to see it!

 

bus cameraman car-music checking-account checkout
garbage mixing-drugs nurses party sneeze

If you use any of these to create a meme, please email, tweet, or Facebook me a copy so I can share it (if it’s not terrible.)

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

The Anatomy of a Viral Post… Was it Worth It?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

If you do anything online, some part of you hopes it goes viral, right?

One week ago, at this very moment, I was sitting at my desk, looking around at my mountains of stuff, trying to find something to write about for my Tuesday post for Trending Buffalo, when my eyes locked in on a pile of 1991 newspapers I’d been meaning to go through.

radioshackad-218x300I wrote about a Radio Shack ad that was just about right on top of the pile. Virtually all the technology in the ad for “America’s Technology Store” had been replaced in my life by my iPhone. So I allow words to vomit-forth from my fat fingers onto keyboard for a half hour or so, and I have a blog post.

A couple of days later, I got an email from the Huffington Post. They “want to sign me up as a writer,” and they like my Radio Shack blog, and want to repost it on their website. “All they need is a brief bio and a photo” to get the ball rolling. I was intrigued, but I also speak the language of modern media. They wanted my work for free in exchange for internet fame. OK.

Later that afternoon, just before starting to make a pan of gołąbki (Polish cabbage rolls), I quickly scrawled the following bio: Steve Cichon is a writer, historian, and “retired” radio newsman in Buffalo, NY. He has worn self-tie bow ties since the ’80s, written three books, and has turned his borderline unhealthy obsession with Buffalo’s pop culture history into a career. More from Steve at BuffaloStories.com.

Along with that, I sent a photo my wife took of me while we were having breakfast at the Lake Effect Diner one Sunday morning a few months ago.

Then it was back to boiling cabbage, browning onion, and mixing raw ground beef with my fingers. By the time I got the pigs-in-a-blanket in the oven, a friend had seen my blog post on Huffington and posted it on Facebook, tagging me.

By the time I went to bed, it had been shared by over 1,000 people on Huffington’s Facebook page.

Early the next morning, I got several texts and Facebook messages that the Today Show was teasing a story about my blog. They wound up doing a lengthy segment, using my Radio Shack image, a few of my one-liners, and my math. They used my story, didn’t add anything to it,and didn’t give me any credit.

It's really something to wake up hearing Al Roker using your jokes on the Today Show.
It’s really something to wake up hearing Al Roker using your jokes on the Today Show.

My friends got mad, but as I wrote on Facebook, “I’m glad people are offended for me, I guess because as a long time radio/TV producer, you get used to other people presenting your work. To be honest:: If I was reading this on the radio… I probably would have credited the Huffington Post, too. Maybe the author— but maybe not. I’m really not too broken up about it… or broken up at all, really. But its nice to see friends have your back, you know?”

The story of a viral blog, unattributed, made its way around the Buffalo News newsroom, and reporter Jill Terreri talked to me that day for a piece in “Off Main Street.” The headline on the few paragraphs she wrote was, “The Man Behind the Story.” Sharing that in social media the next day was another chance for my friends to enjoy my new found “fame.”

The Today show wasn’t the only place to “borrow” the story. Google images shows hundreds of instances where websites have posted the 1991 Radio Shack ad.

So now, here I sit… having fed the media a viral post wondering, was it worth it?

The upside is, between nationally read and syndicated websites, national television, and social media, there is no doubt that millions have seen my work.

Downside? Immediately, anyone would notice the trolls. Hundreds of nasty things written about me and my writing, some of them emailed directly to me so I couldn’t miss them. But that’s life on the internet.

The real downside is, while I wrote it, it’s no longer my work. It’s now in the public domain. I made that 1991 Buffalo News Radio Shack ad image with my cellphone here in my office early last Tuesday morning. Now, though, it will be floating around the internet forever, my contribution stripped. And don’t think the payment was on the front end. I was not paid for writing that blog at any point. Hundreds of websites, millions of clicks, making money– but none for the original creative force.

No attribution bothers me more than no cash, but neither one will ever keep me up at night. Honestly, I knew what I was signing up for in turning my piece over to Huffington. Not that it would air on the Today Show, but that I was basically handing off rights to my writing so that more people could enjoy it.

This isn’t about sour grapes, or railing against modern media. I’m really not complaining. I know the game, and I play it. It’s actually benefical for me to say that I’ve written a viral blog post, that I’ve written for the Huffington Post, and that my work has appeared on the Today Show.

It’s been kind of fun watching it unfold. But it’s also kind of sad knowing, when producers do little more than cut and paste, that some guy writing a blog in Buffalo is actually producing segments for network television at the same time.

So, anyway, I was thinking…. I wonder if Viral Nova would want this one?

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

13 things inside the mind of a 18-year old Buffalonian in 2014

Yesterday I was speaking to a class of high school kids, mostly seniors. One of the reasons I’m a successful public speaker has nothing to do with public speaking, per se. It’s my firm belief that no matter who the person or people are, we are equals.
18 year olds probably don’t remember people tossing quarters into the basket at the Black Rock and Ogden toll booths. They don’t even remember the toll booths being there.
18 year olds probably don’t remember people tossing quarters into the basket at the Black Rock and Ogden toll booths. They don’t even remember the toll booths being there.

Whether you’re a wealthy and powerful leader, or a kid trying not to doze off in 3rd period, we’re all on the journey of life together and we all have the opportunity to impact one another’s lives. I try to connect with people through shared experiences and perspectives… and, well, that hit a bit of a wall talking at Pioneer.

When a 16 year old asks you about your greatest experiences in journalism, and as you start to talk, you realize this kid was in first grade when Hurricane Katrina struck, so there’s an impromptu explanation of why that story was important, and then why I covered it, and then my story, then—… to hell with it. “I met Katy Perry before she was a big star.” (Actually, I wish that I would have thought to share that story.)

No matter how or why you are speaking in front of people, if you want to convey your message directly and thoroughly, you have to keep your audience in mind. Why is any of this relevant? I’ll be teaching a class of mostly college freshmen starting in a week-and-a-half. They are basically the same kids I was talking to yesterday.

I have to learn pretty quickly to limit my pop culture and current events references to the last 8 to 10 years or so. Thinking about that, and that “incoming college freshman” list that Beloit college puts together every year, I started to think about the local pop culture touch stones for my students. I’m probably missing a lot, but here’s the list off the top of my head.

Get ready to feel old.

13 things inside the mind of a 18 year old Buffalonian

1.) Byron Brown has been mayor for as long as they can remember. He became mayor when they were in fifth grade.

2.) The Bills have never been to the playoffs. They were 3 for Home Run Throwback. Not only do they not know Jim Kelly as a player, they don’t know Doug Flutie. They might not even remember Drew Bledsoe. They were 8 when he left.

3.) Niagara Falls, USA has always had a casino, and never had a mall or festival of lights.

4.) Unless they were on the roads a lot before the age of 11, most probably have no idea that there were once tolls at Ogden and Black Rock on the 190. And they’ve never seen anyone throw quarters into an exact change toll booth.

5.) Bon-Ton has always been Bon-Ton and Macy’s has been Macy’s since they were 10– so maybe they remember Kaufmann’s. They might know the name AM&As, but only because some old person in their family calls Bon-Ton “AM&As” for some reason.

6.) They’ve never been asked “smoking or non?” at a restaurant in New York State. Smoking was banned in restaurants 11 years ago here.

7.) They remember the old days when the Sabres played at “HSBC Arena,” but don’t remember any other names or buildings. The Bills have always played at “Ralph Wilson Stadium,” never Rich.

8.) 103.3 has always been the Edge, 102.5 has always been Star, 104.1 has never been Oldies 104.

9.) They have never seen an Irv Weinstein newscast, but probably don’t remember the Empire Sports Network, either.

10.) There has always been a Tim Hortons on every corner, and they’ve always served sandwiches and/or ice cream.

11.) They’ve always been able to read the Buffalo News online.

12.) There was another Governor Cuomo?

13.) Just about every ride at Darien Lake has always been there.

At the risk of sounding old and cranky, I really do have underwear older than these kids.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Everything from 1991 Radio Shack ad I now do with my phone

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Some people like to spend $3 on a cup of coffee. While that sounds like a gamble I probably wouldn’t take, I’ll always like to gamble– especially as little as three bucks– on what I might be able to dig up on Buffalo and Western New York, our collective past, and what it means for our future.

I recently came across a big pile of Buffalo News front sections from 1991, every day for the first three months of the year… collected as the First Gulf War unfolded. $3. I probably could have chiseled the guy down a buck, but I happily paid to see what else was in those papers.

There’s plenty about a run up to the first Superbowl appearance ever for the Bills, and mixed in with the disappointment is an air of hope and expectation for what is to come. Harumph. There are also some great local ads commemorating and/or coat-tailing on the Bills success.

We’ll get to those someday, but today, something much simpler. The back page of the front section on Saturday, February 16, 1991 was 4/5ths covered with a Radio Shack ad.

There are 15 electronic gimzo type items on this page, being sold from America’s Technology Store. 13 of the 15 you now always have in your pocket.

radioshackbnmasthead

radioshackad

So here’s the list of what I’ve replaced with my iPhone.

  • All weather personal stereo, $11.88. I now use my iPhone with an Otter Box
  • AM/FM clock radio, $13.88. iPhone.
  • In-Ear Stereo Phones, $7.88. Came with iPhone.
  • Microthin calculator, $4.88. Swipe up on iPhone.
  • Tandy 1000 TL/3, $1599. I actually owned a Tandy 1000, and I used it for games and word processing. I now do most of both of those things on my phone.
  • VHS Camcorder, $799. iPhone.
  • Mobile Cellular Telephone, $199. Obvs.
  • Mobile CB, $49.95. Ad says “You’ll never drive ‘alone’ again!” iPhone.
  • 20-Memory Speed-Dial phone, $29.95.
  • Deluxe Portable CD Player, $159.95. 80 minutes of music, or 80 hours of music? iPhone.
  • 10-Channel Desktop Scanner, $99.55. I still have a scanner, but I have a scanner app, too. iPhone.
  • Easiest-to-Use Phone Answerer, $49.95. iPhone voicemail.
  • Handheld Cassette Tape Recorder, $29.95. I use the Voice Memo app almost daily.
  • BONUS REPLACEMENT: It’s not an item for sale, but at the bottom of the ad, you’re instructed to ‘check your phone book for the Radio Shack Store nearest you.’  Do you even know how to use a phone book?

You’d have spent $3054.82 in 1991 to buy all the stuff in this ad that you can now do with your phone. That amount is roughly equivalent to about $5100 in 2012 dollars.

The only two items on the page that my phone really can’t replace:

  • Tiny Dual-Superhet Radar Detector, $79.95. But when is the last time you heard the term “fuzzbuster” anyway?
  • 3-Way speaker with massive 15″ Woofer, $149.95.

It’s nothing new, but it’s a great example of the technology of only two decades ago now replaced by the 3.95 ounce bundle of plastic, glass, and processors in our pockets.


This post originally appeared on TrendingBuffalo.com, and was picked up by the Huffington Post. It also filled a segment on NBC’s Today Show, and has served as inspiration and a resource for dozens of print and web articles around the world.

A reflection on Al Roker using my jokes and other things that happened with this post can be read here:  The Anatomy of a Viral Post… Was it Worth It?

Winter Makes Us Who We Are

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Some of us ski, some of us snowmobile, but most of us dislike Buffalo’s winter weather, and have absolutely no use for it at all. Period.

Hertel Avenue, January 6, 2014.
Hertel Avenue, January 6, 2014.

Sure, that first snow fall is cute, and it’s nice to have a little right before Christmas, but that’s it for snow. And the cold is almost entirely useless.

Yet here we are, living in a place where we don’t really like the weather 5 months out of the year, and we wouldn’t leave for anything.

All of us spend from November to April with a dry cough, a low-grade sinus infection, and chapped, cracked hands and lips.

The cold, colorless landscape can wear on our moods. Prolonged cold and snow can wear on our bodies as we clear our driveways and windshields, and can wear on cars as they try to chug through, too. Even our heartless, soulless machines need an occasional jump or a push to get themselves going when it’s like this.

But that’s how winter makes us who we are.

We’re ready with the knowledge of rocking a car– wheels straight– before a gut-busting almighty shove, and standing by with a pair of jumper cables, ready to hook the black cable to some bare metal in the engine block of the car with the dead battery. We don’t have this arcane knowledge just for ourselves, but also to help bring brightness to someone else’s cold, gray day. We don’t even question that it’s everyone’s responsibility to get everyone else out of the ditch and on to where they are going.

If you don’t have jumper cables, maybe you have supply of cough drops, tea bags and tissues your desk drawer. They are ready, of course, for when your month-long almost cold turns the corner to full-blown sick. They are also there, however,  as an apothecary for friends and co-workers, ready to soothe their aches with a little understanding and help get through not only the day, but the howling, frigid winter with which we all grapple.

Maybe after a lifetimes’ worth of clearing the neighborhood’s sidewalks, the next generation is now clearing yours. We all understand that winter is a group effort in Western New York, and that understanding permeates who we are year ’round.

A Buffalo winter is not like a tornado or a hurricane. There’s no hoping and praying that it skips us. We know it’s coming, and we know it’s going to be long, and we know it’s going to be rough at times. But the thing that’s different about a Buffalo winter– is not only how we deal with it, but how we all help each other through it.

People fortunate enough to head south during the winter months know the feeling of having red, chilled cheeks walking on a plane, and sunny warmth on your face as you disembark.

As good as 80 might feel in Miami today, it couldn’t beat a 52 degree day at the end of January, when you walk outside, feel thoroughly warmed, and smile at the neighbor with whom you were shoveling the side walk only a few days earlier.

Sure, it’s only January, and there is more gray, thick winter to come, but our shared experience, our love for our city, and our love for one another, keep us moving in anticipation of when we can change the sound of howling wind for the sounds of birds chirping in the lush green trees, and change the taste of chapstick for the tastes of our favorite ice cream and hot dog stands.

Stay warm.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com