Buffalo in the ’60s: Keeping Lake Erie safe and clean

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

As it has a half-dozen times or more over the last half-century, the future of Lake Erie looked cloudy without some forward-thinking intervention:

Many diverse plans for Lake Erie tend to cloud its future

“Everyone wants in on the action in Lake Erie today and unfortunately for the lake — and the public — there’s no single policeman and few rules of the road.”

Buffalo in the ’80s: Smell of pierogi at Broadway Market

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Can you still get homemade duck soup at the Broadway Market?  This story could have been written this week:

April 21, 1984: Smell of pierogi, road of crowd greet market Easter shoppers

“Under a heavy aroma of pierogi, 99 varieties of cheese and all manner of fish, the shoppers maintained a dull roar all afternoon. The aisles were flush with people of all ages, housewives pushing baby strollers, stockboys struggling with mobile racks laden with the kind of breads and cakes that could be bought nowhere else.”

Buffalo in the ’60s: Will high speed trains soon be barreling through Central Terminal?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Forty-five years after a comfortable high speed rail trip from the Central Terminal, some folks are now wondering if the high-speed rail discussion has once again left the station:

April 21, 1969: TurboTrain shows how nice rail trip can be

“United Aircraft’s TurboTrain … is a vehicle right out of the jet age. It has achieved test speeds up to 170 miles an hour but was held on this trip to 79, the upstate limit set by the Interstate Commerce Commission.”

Buffalo in the ’90s: An era ending in Delaware Avenue shopping

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

For generations, Buffalo’s best dressed women shopped on Delaware Avenue. That era was ending with the closing of Par Avion.

The last women’s shop in the area, Mabel Danahy, announced a move to Amherst in 1996. Pitt Petri was the last heritage retailer along Delaware Avenue when it closed in 2011:

April 21, 1994: Era fading on Delaware Avenue: Par Avion’s closing leaves just one women’s shop

“Alison F. Kimberly, owner and manager of Par Avion, which has operated at the corner of Delaware and Tupper since 1967, said she’ll close up shop at the end of May because “times have changed.”

“”Women are working during the day, not shopping,” Ms. Kimberly said.

“And when they do shop, their time is extremely limited, according to the veteran proprietor.

“They call up a catalog at 3 a.m. or they go to a mall where they can make one stop and save time,” she said. “The whole face of retailing has changed since we opened in the ’60s.””

Buffalo in the ’60s: Realtor fined for acting in ‘racially derogatory manner’

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A couple in Williamsville was denied access to housing because of their race, according to this article in The Buffalo Evening News:

April 21, 1969: Realtor fined $500 on couple’s charge of housing bias

“A Williamsville realty company has been ordered by the State Division of Human Rights to list with a local fair-housing group all housing accommodations as they become available for rent in the next two years and to pay $500 in compensatory damages to a [black] couple.”

Get your dupa dyngusing: Making the most of Easter Monday in Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY- I have had dozens of people ask me what to do and where to go to make the most of Dyngus Day… So I collaborated with a few Polish princes, and came up with a pretty good list of ideas to get your dupa dyngusing:

Everybody is Polish on Dyngus Day, and those of us who are already Polish, are even more Polish!
Everybody is Polish on Dyngus Day, and those of us who are already Polish, are even more Polish!

DYNGUS MORNING (10a-Noon): Start early. The first Dyngus parties in WNY begin at 10am. The Polish Villa 2 (1085 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga) is known for its “Bloody Mary Breakfast” with live polka music.

NOON: Join me as I emcee the kielbasa contest at the Broadway Market…. If you are looking for other family friendly activities, try the Kid’s Smingus Dyngus Day Party at St. Casimir’s Church Social Hall (1388 Clinton Street) or attending Dyngus Day Mass at Corpus Christi Church (199 Clark Street). No kids? Begin Polish tavern hoping in the Polonia District with a stop at the famed R&L Lounge (23 Mills Street) where you can grab a plate of pierogi and a bottle of Polish beer…or Genny Cream Ale!

EARLY AFTERNOON (1-4p): Explore Kaisertown…the fast growing Dyngus area of Buffalo. Experience live polka music at Ray’s Lounge (2070 Clinton Street) and at the Firehouse Bar & Grill (2141 Clinton Street). In walking distance of both venues is Porky’s Tavern (2028 Clinton Street), a wonderfully restored “shot & a beer” gin mill. Just down Clinton Street you’ll find Potts Banquet Hall (41S. Rossler at Clinton) featuring live polkas with John Stevens Doubleshot Band.

PRE-PARADE (3-5p): Head back to the Polonia District, park at the Broadway Market and hit the pre-parade parties at Corpus Christ Athletic Club (165 Sears Street), the Adam Mickiewicz Library (612 Fillmore Ave.) or the Pussy Willow Park Party Tent (Memorial Drive @ Peckham Street). Make sure while you’re there, you head over to the St Mark concession area, and pick up a sausage and support a great parish school. You might also want to stop by the Polish Cadets (927 Grant Street) in Black Rock which will feature live polka music in its legendary upstairs hall.

DYNGUS DAY PARADE (5p): The highlight of the Dyngus Day Buffalo experience. Best places to watch the parade are in front of any Dyngus Day Party venue. For a family friendly spot, grab a curb near the Broadway Market or St. Stanislaus Church on Fillmore. The rowdiest and wettest location to experience the parade is near Arty’s Grill on Peckham Street across from the Pussy Willow Park Party Tent. For a full parade map visit DyngusDay.com

POST-PARADE POLONIA: (6p-8p): Staying in the Old Neighborhood? Head over to the St. Stanislaus Church Social Center (Fillmore @ Peckham) for live polka music and Polish food prepared and served by Nuns.

POST-PARADE SUBURBS: (6p-8p): On Dyngus Day, Buffalo is transformed into the largest polka music festival in the world…and you’ll find some of the greatest bands in America at large, suburban festival halls. The Leonard Post VFW (2450 Walden Ave, Cheektowaga) features Lenny Gomulka & the Chicago Push, Polish Falcons (445 Columbia Ave, Depew) features Phocus and the Millennium Hotel (2040 Walden Avenue, Cheektowaga) features Freeze Dried.

DYNGUS DAY FINALE: (8p): If you never experienced Dyngus Day with the band Those Idiots, than you NEVER experienced Dyngus Day in Buffalo. This year the band will be the headlining act at the Pussy Willow Park Party Tent in the Polonia District. After the Those Idiots Show, stop at the G&T Inn (58 Memorial Drive) to hear Geno, the World’s Only Polka Singing Bartender

DON’T LET THE PARTY END: (10p-3a): Come back to where we began in the morning. The Polish Villa 2 features live polka music with the Piakowski Brothers at 10pm. Historically, the party ends earlyTuesday morning as musicians who have played all day end up at the Villa to finally unwind. It’s a who’s who of polka greats with the occasional jam session breaking out.

CAN’T PARTY ON DYNGUS DAY? (Wednesday-Sunday). You’ll find Dyngus Parties with live polka music every day of the week between April 23rd and April 27th. The best post-Dyngus party? Catch live polka music with Tony Blazonczyk at Potts Banquets on Saturday, April 26th at 6pm.

Of course– keep Dyngus Day safe and select someone as a designated driver.

As serious as kielbasy: Discovering what drew out the serious in Gramps

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

BUFFALO, NY – Anyone who knew my Grandpa Cichon knew there was a certain joyfulness in his voice– always. His heart was always smiling, and that showed through in his voice. I might count on one hand the exceptions in the 36 years I knew him.

Gramps trying to look serious in a photo for his Harness Racing Commission license.
Gramps trying to look serious in a photo for his Harness Racing Commission license.

One notable time was when the full service gas station guy screwed him on the amount of gas he pumped into Gramps’ car. Gramps probably asked for $5, which he figured should have about filled up the tank. We barely got a block up Seneca Street when Gramps threw on the brakes and made a hard u-turn back towards Petro USA.

“You goddamn horseball!,” Gramps screamed out the window, as my brother and I barely contained our laughter, sitting on the red plush seats in the back of the black 1985 Pontiac Bonneville. We’d never seen Gramps like that, and I think that’s pretty much the only time I ever saw Gramps really mad. Again, it was also one of the few times I saw him more serious than filled with joy.

Now gramps was blind, and didn’t around well for the last few years of his life. Some men in that situation would want, say, booze snuck into the nursing home. Not Gramps. Donuts or hot dogs with slivered onions and sweet relish were all he wanted. I’d usually bring him one or the other, sometimes both.

Over the course of 90 minutes, I’d hand him 3 or 4 timbits. Once I made a joke or said something stupid about donuts. Again, one of the few times I ever heard him this serious. “Son,” he told me with the tone of life and death at stake, “Donuts are as good as gold.” I was satisfied there was nothing greater I could do for him than visit and bring chocolate timbits.

The “beautiful” food they served was always a topic of conversation. Food was Gramps’ all-time favorite subject, perhaps a left over affect of growing up in the Depression when there was never enough to eat. The last time I visited with Gramps, he was talking about how they’d served kielbasy that afternoon. Kielbasy is the Polish plural of kielbasa, and we’ve always called Polish sausage (ka-BAAS-ee) in my family.

I wasn’t sure what to think, though, when Gramps’ tone turned a bit hushed and he got somewhat serious, maybe as serious as I had heard him since he bawled out the South Buffalo gas station guy almost 30 years earlier.

“Now son,” he started, with a gravity which set me on the edge of me chair, straining to get close and make sure I didn’t miss anything. “Son, what’s your favorite? Do you like the smoked or the not smoked?”

The most serious conversation I’d ever have with my beloved grandfather, the man who my Uncle Tom called “the best polack who ever lived,” was about “kielbasy.” Polish sausage. Good ol’ Edziu wanted to know my freaking Polish sausage preference. It’s really about the most marvelous thing ever, really.

“I usually take one of each, Gramps,” I said, telling the truth, but also not wanting to really show my hand and potentially disappoint Gramps in something that was obviously so important to him. But then I gave up the goods. “If I had to choose one though, I’d probably take the smoked.”

“Me too,” Gramps said to my relief. “Know how I like it? Burned up a l’il bit, with horseradish mustard on rye bread. My ma used to make it the big pan with the lard for the pierogi. She made the pierogi big, and cooked ’em in lard, not butter.”

With Easter upon us, there’s been plenty of social media talk of Polish sausage. All I can think about is Gramps’ favorite– kielbasa on rye bread with Weber’s mustard. I’m doing it this Easter. I’m bringing the rye bread and Weber’s just to make sure.

I’ll bite into that Old World combination of flavor, and think happily of Gramps. The hunk of kielbasy won’t be fried up in lard, but that sounds like something maybe to look forward to sometime soon.

Moving pictures that will move Buffalo: Pathe posts entire newsreel collection on-line

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

BUFFALO, NY – It’s an amazing treasure trove.

Pathe (pronounced {path-AY’}) News, one of the leading producers of the newsreels shown in movie theatres around the world from the 1920s through the 1960s, has posted it’s entire 85,000 video clip collection on YouTube.

blizzard37-1
Dateline: Buffalo! The old Pathe newsreel service posted 85,000 news and lifestyles films to YouTube, including ten showcasing some part of life in Buffalo. These newsreels, featured in movie theatres before the feature shows, were the “evening newscasts” of the time. (Buffalo Stories screenshot from “British Pathe” YouTube Channel video)

Think of the ways the world changed in that time, and know that you can easily watch clean, first generation videos of those changes as they happened, online. It’s an incredible digitization effort, and it’s even more incredible that it’s available to the world for free.

While the scope of the project is impressive, my parochial interests took me not in search of the Hindenberg, the liberating of Paris, or the first manned space flight. I, of course, searched “Buffalo.”

Many videos came up in the search, but there were ten relevant items which prove to be flabbergasting glimpses into Western New York’s past.

What follows here are links to those videos, with brief descriptions and screen shots taking a look back.

The Dodgers! A Prohibition Sidelight From Buffalo (1931)

Border police inspecting cars, looking for “the good stuff” at what appears to be the Peace Bridge, but I’m not sold on that– Booze smuggling was a growth industry in our border town while the US was forcibly on the wagon during Prohibition.

Buffalo, US (1939)

Curtiss Aeroplane test pilot Lloyd Child hits 525 miles an hour, faster than man has ever gone before, while testing the French Hawk pursuit plane.

Blizzard In Buffalo (1937)

Three people were killed in what was, at the time, the worst December snow storm in history. Great snow footage and scenes from around Buffalo.

 

Skiing Behind Plane Buffalo (1938)

The Red Jacket Ski Club does what looks like water skiing… But on snow instead of water, and a plane instead of a boat. Wacky!!

President Johnson’s Quick Tour Of New York & New England (1966)

President Lyndon Johnson visits Buffalo. The first scene is great– people at the Buffalo Airport, then a Niagara Square rally for the President. From there, it’s on to Lake Erie, where LBJ, surrounded by local dignitaries (like Mayor Frank Sedita and Deomcratic Chairman Joe Crangle) is shown a pail of filthy, contaminated water from Lake Erie. It would become the beginning of movement in the efforts to clean up the lakeshore in Buffalo.

Us Women’s Golf Championship (1931)

With The Country Club of Buffalo in Williamsville as the backdrop, beautiful flapper women vie to become the US womens golf champion.

Snow Scenes In States (1962)

A perefct example of the over-the-top writing and delivery that has become associated with newsreels. Snow swept across two-thirds of the country, including many places that usually see little snow. The whole two minute piece is fun to watch, but there are a few quick shots of Buffalo starting at :46.

 

Striking Schoolteachers U.S.A. (1947)

Buffalo Public School teachers shown on strike at schools across the city… Also featured: The smiling faces of dozens of children, happy to be out of class.

Bell Helicopter (1944)

The brand new Bell helicopter on display inside the Buffalo (Connecticut Street) Armory.

Oh – This Spring Weather (1926)

Cold and snow hits Buffalo during the brutal spring of 1926, when we had a freakish St. Patricks Day storm. This is video from all of the ships paralyzed in Buffalo Harbor.

Giant responsibility: Herbeck feels the weight of generations with recognition

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – This one will be a little different on Friday.

Buffalo News Investigative Reporters Lou Michel (left) and Dan Herbeck (right) are being honored by the Buffalo History Museum as "Giants of Buffalo" for their work in journalism with the Buffalo News. Together, they wrote "American Terrorist," the biography of Niagara County native and admitted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh his role in the 1995 bombing in an exclusive jailhouse interview with Michel. (Buffalo News photos)
Buffalo News Investigative Reporters Lou Michel (left) and Dan Herbeck (right) are being honored by the Buffalo History Museum as “Giants of Buffalo” for their work in journalism with the Buffalo News. Together, they wrote “American Terrorist,” the biography of Niagara County native and admitted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh his role in the 1995 bombing in an exclusive jailhouse interview with Michel.
(Buffalo News photos)

Audiences at the “Giants of Buffalo” series at the Buffalo History Museum have been treated to spectacular trips down memory lane.

Danny Neaverth, Sandy Beach, Stan Roberts, Shane Brother Shane, and Joey Reynolds gave a glimpse of what it was like inside what was “the most happening spot” in Western New York 50 years ago– WKBW Radio.

Irv Weinstein, Rick Azar, and Tom Jolls shared their unlikely formula for success in television news, what it meant for them personally, and how it almost certainly couldn’t happen the same way now.

This Friday, when he and Lou Michel take to the stage, Dan Herbeck wants people to understand that when he’s talking about working hard at chasing good stories– and telling those stories in meaningful and relevant ways– he isn’t talking about some bygone “glory days” era of journalism.

“Professional journalists are still needed,” says Herbeck. Maybe now more than ever. What passes for “news” in many circles in 2014 is actually blogging and talking about news that was unearthed through the grind-it-out determination of a journalist–probably a print journalist– somewhere else along the way.

Because readers don’t have to buy a physical newspaper anymore, Herbeck is concerned that people don’t value the work that goes into putting a story a few clicks away. “People have the false impression that ‘it’s easy to get news,” says the 36 year Buffalo News veteran. “It’s not easy to get news. There are people at the front end (of those clicks), people who work hard to get a story.”

Herbeck says he learned and expanded his story-telling skills as he watched and worked with dozens of other story tellers. He wrote a book with Michel, but the veteran scribe says he spent even more time working side-by-side with longtime News reporter Mike Beebe. “It got to a point where we could read each others’ thoughts,” says Herbeck of Beebe, who retired in 2010 after three decades with the Buffalo News.

It’s Beebe and other dogged newspaper men like Gene Warner and Lee Coppola who Herbeck will have on his mind as he is honored as a “giant” in journalism. “They’ve scrambled and scratched and stumbled their way to good stories over the years. I take it as a real honor that they picked us to do this,” says the semi-retired journalist, taking a break from the weeks-long pursuit of another story. “I feel like we’re representing the hundreds and hundreds of newspaper reporters over the last 200 years here in Buffalo.”

Along with Lou Michel, Dan Herbeck says he stands honored and ready to represent “the likes of Mark Twain and beyond.”

giantsjournalism

Death is never what It seems: Gramps, Dad, and how their passings changed things…

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – With Ralph Wilson in the news, today I was talking with a few co-workers about death and dying.

The Ol'Man (my dad, Steve Cichon), Me, and Gramps (dad's dad, Edward Cichon). Just hanging out at the Msgr. Nash K of C Hall, South Legion Dr, 2008.
The Ol’Man (my dad, Steve Cichon), Me, and Gramps (dad’s dad, Edward Cichon). Just hanging out at the Msgr. Nash K of C Hall, South Legion Dr, 2008.

I’d found myself in the same situation as Mr. Wilson’s family over the last few weeks. While I had hoped that my grandfather would live forever, or at least til he hit a birthday worthy of a Willard Scott mention; the truth is, Gramps was 88, and had been in slowly declining health for over a decade. It was a mix of great hope and sad acceptance in thinking about Gramps for a long time, until he did pass away March 4th.

I grieve the loss of a simply beautiful man, but equally feel some satisfaction in accepting the simply beautiful long life he lived.

As is often the case with death, it’s not quite that simple. We’ll all be attending a service for Gramps on Friday, which is also the anniversary of my Dad’s death a few years ago.

In our little conversation around the coffee pot about Ralph Wilson and death, I was about to mention something about about Dad’s death, when I realized I didn’t know without thinking how long it had been.

I just barely controlled myself, with the thunderpunch of a thought that Dad died so long ago I can’t immediately remember.

It was four years ago. And four years later, that thought that I had to do math in order to remember how long it had been since I sat with dad, laughed with dad, talking with dad, yelled at dad… It was as if he’d just right now died all over again.

But having a Mass for Gramps on the anniversary of dad’s death is somehow appropriate for me.

Losing a father is a complicated, awful, inward, outward emotional mess. Dad was very sick, and for a long time, I had tried to steel myself for the inevitable– but there’s no way to prepare. Especially when the most difficult part of it all was completely outside of me and my control.

Gramps. Spending 3 years and 11 months talking with Gramps about my dad and the fact that he’s gone while trying to keep it all together was emotionally difficult beyond words. My dad was more than Gramps’ son, they were best friends. In his own illness, my dad thought more about Gramps’ well-being than his own. He called him 3 or 4 times a day. They kept each other smiling, and kept each other in line.

My dad’s last mission in life was doing what he could to take care of his dad. My dad never asked for much for himself, but I know if we would have had the opportunity to talk heart-to-heart with me before he died, dad would have told me to take care of Gramps. I did my best, which sometimes wasn’t good enough. A call to Gramps could be crushing, and frankly, I wasn’t always up to it.

It was generally heart breaking talking with Gramps. Four or five times in the course of a 90 minute visit, he’d talk about how much he missed my dad. I sat through it, discussed it, even encouraged it– despite those thoughts ripping the heart out of my chest and leaving me drowning in emotion every time. But of course, what ever pain I have dealing in the death of a father, I can’t even imagine the pain and emptiness of dealing with the death of a son.

Once I mentioned that I had some recordings of my dad. Gramps almost started to cry, his voice shaky. “I’d love to hear his voice again, Son.” I have not and cannot listen to the hours and hours of Dad I taped through the years. I just can’t bear it. I found a short conversation I recorded when my dad called me at work one time to wish me a happy birthday. It’s dad happy and full of life… which in his last few years wasn’t always the case. Still, most of the dozens of times I played the one minute phone message for Gramps, tears uncontrollably streamed down my face. A few times I felt nauseous. Gramps often cried too, but it was therapy he relished.

Despite being blind and practically immobile, I’m sure Gramps knew until his last breath exactly how long he’d been without my dad. If Gramps was still here, I’d have called him on Friday, the anniversary of Dad’s death. “Hi Gramps, It’s Stevie.” “Hello, son. You know your dad died 4 years ago today?” “Yep, I know,” I’d have said, trying not to sound too sad. “Wanna hear the tape?”

For four years, my mourning has been wrapped in the context of completing Dad’s last mission and being there for Gramps in sharing his pain and loss.

Right after he died, I wrote about what a perfect grandfather Gramps was to us when we were little. Now that he’s gone, I’m realizing pretty strikingly that once again, Gramps was helping me far more than I could have ever helped him in talking about and thinking about my ol’man.