Wait, what? Old-time Buffalo cops CARRIED perps to jail

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

As a guy who people think of as a “historian,” it means that I get to do a lot of  “research.”

Right now, I’m in various stages of writing and research at least 6 or 7 books, most of them having to do with some element of life and pop culture in Western New York. The most fun part of writing a book for me, far and away, is the research.

It’s sort of like CBS Newsman Charles Kuralt talking about his old series “On The Road,” where he’d drive around the country in a Winnebago doing stories about oddities in every day life in America.

“We generally have a story in mind when we hit the road,” he said to WBEN reporter Mike McKay when Kuralt visited Buffalo in the early 90’s, “but we kinda hope we don’t get there.”

I love getting lost in research. It can be painstaking and hit or miss. Even if I know the date of some event that happened in 1963, you have to look through both the Courier-Express and the Buffalo Evening News a few days before hoping for a preview, and a few days after hoping for a recap. It’s often a low-odds gamble to look for something specific like that, and if you did nothing but look for what you were looking for, you could walk away with nothing after 8 hours.

So I end up reading the paper. From like 50 or 100 years ago. So even if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I find out things like Buffalo Police used to carry their suspects to the police station. Like over-the-shoulder WWF style.

I know, right? Read on.

cops-carry-bad-guys-for-TB-590x1024

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

The car dealers of 1950’s Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

We’re going back 63 years here, but these photos show that on many levels, life was simpler not all that long ago.

Two generations ago, you could walk to the car dealership in your neighborhood to purchase your next ride. If you wanted to haggle over the 9 or 10 cars they had, you went in and talked with the guy whose name is on the sign. The buildings are just regular city buildings, many of which still stand today, and you’d never guess were once car dealerships.

It’s just so much different than what we think of in 2013.

Although most of these photos are likely from the mid ’40s or earlier, each of these photos was taken from a collection of ads dated 1950.

The best thing about every single one of these places? None of them are HUUUUGE.

DiBello1950

DiBello Pontiac 1275 Main Street. Its facade is bricked over, but it’s still standing.

DonAllen1950

Don Allen Chevy, 2585 Main at Fillmore. Now the site of an Eckerd. I mean Rite Aid.

Gillen1950

Gillen Pontiac, the only dealer shown outside of the city, at 3445 Delaware Avenue in Tonawanda. Until recently the home of Premier Liquor, it’s now Len-Co Lumber.

LBSmith1950

LB Smith Ford, 1212 Abbott Rd at City Line. Recently abandoned after years as a Ford dealership, the buildings still stand next to LB Smith Plaza, home of Hens & Kelly.

Maxson1950

Maxson Cadillac-Pontiac, 2421 Main St at Jewett. Built as a Pierce-Arrow dealership, Caddys were sold here for about 65 years. Has been a bank for the last decade.

Rooney1950

Rooney Nash, 2705 Bailey St. Neither the car make nor the building have made it. This was where the gas station near the police station is.

TaggartSchutz1950

Taggart Schutz Pontiac 1294 Seneca St. building is boarded up and painted white, but still stands.

TaylorOBrien1950

Taylor-O’Brien Ford, 2837 Bailey Ave, Buffalo. Building still stands with large cement awning next to the 33

AAA1950

Not a car dealer, but interesting old car photos, and AAA– which still does all these things (except the crisp white jumpsuit wearing.)

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

 

@#$%!! Winter already?!?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I’m not the biggest fan of winter, and I hope it’s a mild one. I’ll take warm over cold any day of the week.

While sometimes I might say I do, I don’t hate winter. Winter is part of our deal here in Buffalo, so I accept it and try to make the most of it.

What really bothers me– what inspires something closer to hate– is the speed with which it all seems to go by.

A very artistic, instagrammy look at Steve Cichon’s snow blower
A very artistic, instagrammy look at Steve Cichon’s snow blower

In the last week, I made a pot of scratch chicken noodle soup, gassed up and started the snow blower, and got the furnace ready and turned on the heat. Mundane chores that bother some people, but for me it’s not that chore, so much as it’s just that it literally could have been last week that I was grilling on the 4th of July, sharpening the lawn mower blade for the season, and getting the fans out of the attic.

Really. All of that could have been yesterday. But right now, I’m wearing 4 layers as I type in the back bedroom of our drafty old house, thinking that I won’t be warm until May. Again, it’s not the layers as much as it seems perfectly reasonable that I should be wearing shorts to take the dog for a walk today, not pulling out the peacoat for its 21st Buffalo winter.

It’s not that I don’t stop to smell the roses. I do, literally. I love nature, and enjoy taking it in. But the seasonal differentiation device in my brain is like an old VCR constantly flashing 12:00. I have no good sense of time, which means time is always flying by.

Flying by, in fact, like a tractor trailer on a dark road in the middle of the night.

When you see those little pinholes of light in the rear view mirror coming over that hill way behind you, it seems like that little spec of yellow might never catch up to you.

Daydream (or night dream, as it were) for a moment, and all of the sudden, that truck is right next to you, loudly rattling past, whooshing and reeking of diesel for about 6 seconds. Then it’s tail lights, until they get small and disappear– Just as two more little white pin pricks of light appear in your rear view mirror again.

Not just seasons, but all the things of life. All that time looking forward to something, only to have it whoosh by and turn into tail lights before you even realize it was there.

I’m not sure if it comes with age or if it’s because we change the way we live as we age, but it wasn’t always this way. I find myself being one of those annoying people who have tell people who are younger than me to take the time to enjoy… time. I don’t put it quite that way, but that’s what I mean. And make sure you enjoy time while standing somewhere other than my lawn.

I wouldn’t want to return to youth. The wisdom and knowledge of age roundly outweigh the creaks, groans, and grays for me.

The one thing I’d love to get back is time that goes by like a Countrytime Lemonade commercial– with twangy music, hazy sunshine hanging just above the horizon, a breeze gently swaying the willow tree,and the feeling that none of it will ever end.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Some of the best of 80’s Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

These are the kinds of thing that litter my hard drive and my attic.

This is what it means to be a “Buffalo pop culture historian,” having this sort of junk at my fingertips. And if I don’t regularly share images like these, people stop calling me a “historian” and start calling me a “hoarder.”

So these are from the Buffalo Stories/staffannouncer.com Archives.

If you survived the decade of the 1980’s in Buffalo, New York, you very well may remember:

goldcircleIn most locations, Gold Circle took over Buffalo area Twin Fair stores in 1982. Gold Circle stores closed in 1988, with many becoming Hills, unless there was already a Hills location nearby (such as on Lake Avenue in Blasdell.)
tricogoal copyRemember when the Trico ad in the boards lit up when the Sabres scored a goal at the Aud? Windshield wipers were invented in Buffalo, and produced in 3 various plants around the city, until Trico closed up shop and moved to Mexico. Also, remember when the Sabres scored goals?

 

gennycreamposterbigA field full of plants growing cans of delicious Genny Cream Ale? Don’t tell me you haven’t dreamed this dream. People will come, Ray… People will most definitely come.

 

chamberofcommerce82This is the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce in 1982. The best part is, the “Talking Proud” hook rug hanging on the wall might not even be in the top 5 most 80’s things about this photo.

 

crystalbeachsuperduperGet your discount Crystal Beach tickets at Super Duper. That’s exciting, but the real excitement, in retrospect, was the fact that you could very likely cross the Peace Bridge by answering one question with “US,” and then getting a “go ahead,” from a customs guy.

 

irvdietpepsi copyThis 1981 Irv Weinstein photo has a strong 1970’s look about it, but the early 80’s had a strong 70’s look about them. For some people in WNY, the 70’s ended and the 80’s began some time in 1992.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

BREAKING: Trader Joe’s Inspires Ambivalence

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This past weekend, we had visits to several box stores on our to-do list.

Since it was Sunday morning, and all of these box stores are each right next to a “box restaurant” where you can get bread-y things for breakfast, we decided to get our Niagara Falls Boulevard visit out of the way before most Williamsville soccer moms are awake to clog the roads and Canadians are still stuck in bridge traffic.

Steve's look inside the Niagara Falls Blvd. Trader Joe's the weekend it opened.
Steve’s look inside the Niagara Falls Blvd. Trader Joe’s the weekend it opened.

There was no line, but I’m not sure the fire marshal would like home many people were packed inside Trader Joe’s this weekend.

There was no line, but I’m not sure the fire marshal would like how many people were packed inside Trader Joe’s this weekend.

We were able to quickly grab what we needed at three stores, and, well, we just happened to be in the plaza that plays host to the most exciting thing to happen to Western New York since Krispy Kreme opened here.

There were parking spots right in front of the store, and there weren’t any Real Housewives of Snyder clawing at each other in a line in front of the store– in fact, there was no line– so we tried Trader Joe’s, especially since we needed to buy something for dinner anyway.

It’s a grocery store. It has a trendy feel, too trendy for my liking, but so does Wegmans where I shop twice a week. They had what I needed to make chicken soup, and they had generic Cheerios on sale. Fine.

There’s my opinion, but people have been all over the map on Trader Joe’s.

They have some interesting inexpensive items. They have some interesting super expensive items. The clerks are either “nice and helpful” or “annoying and too perky” depending on your point of view.

The meat and vegetables were pretty reasonably priced, but you couldn’t possibly do all your shopping there, because the trendy TP looks like its made out of pine cones.

Why do I have to form an opinion on a stupid niche grocery store? We have become a society where you have to love or hate something, and then argue the crap out of why you feel that way.

It’s a store. Some stuff I’d buy, some I wouldn’t. In the 25 minutes my wife and I were in there, three different employees told me they liked my bow tie with buffaloes on it, and three also asked if I needed any help. Based on that, I think it’s fair to say the staff in general is nice, annoying, too perky and helpful.

I just can’t get worked up either way… over a freaking grocery store.

Somehow though, in my ambivalence for TJ’s, as the insiders call it, I feel like less of a man. Like I’ve showed up to a Superbowl party to “just root for a good game.”

“Just pick a team, Sally,” I feel some alpha-male douche snarling at me, and he wants to know about cookie butter and what my feelings are over a lack of “Two-Buck-Chuck” because of our state laws governing wine sales in grocery stores. He hates it, because he has Two-Buck-Chuck in his fantasy league.

I’ve actually been caught in the cross-hairs of a Love TJ’s vs Hate TJ’s battle, with each side trying to sway me with incredible arguments about a grocery store that’s been open for less than 100 hours here in WNY. If only we could corral this passion into something good.

I don’t hate Trader Joe’s. I don’t love Trader Joe’s. It’s meh. But with all this passion about the joint, maybe they should build one in the hole where the Aud used to be.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Learning to listen

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

My grandfather is 87 years old. His body is failing him, but his mind is a steel trap.

steveandgramps

I used to like to ask him questions about things I’d like to know about, but now mostly I listen when we visit. It’s just another one of the many things I’ve learned from good ol’ Gramps.

Listening is a powerful, underutilized gift. People don’t like to listen, even when they think they are listening. For example, I used to think I loved listening to Gramps’ stories, but I was always asking about specific things. Once I gave up the steering wheel, I really started to enjoy the ride.

Gramps’ mind goes all over time and space. He has a nearly photographic memory for things that happened before he lost his sight a decade ago. He’s starting to lose names of people and places, but he remembers when you give him a little help. That’s not really a new problem either– for as long as I can remember, gramps has called me “AhhhChuckieTommyJimmyEddieAhhGregAhhStevie.”

I stopped by yesterday, and Gramps told me a few great stories about days gone by, as well as his analysis of the world today.

  • His $600 winner on a $2 ticket at the track.
  • Chinese nuclear reactors.
  • As a kid, swiping rejected boxes of Cheerios from the loading docks at General Mills (those were different times.)
  • How the Bills should have won every game so far.
  • All the different places he and his brothers and sisters served during the war. Aunt Olga was with Patton.
  • Bringing pennies to Father Baker.
  • Polish and Russian history.
  • How at 15 he had a mustache, and would go drink at Tippy Toes, and pick up chicks in his 1933 Plymouth.

Listening to Gramps, and knowing how much he enjoys having someone listen, has made me a better listener. I love to tell stories, but I’d rather hear a good story well told, by someone who is enjoying the telling. Even if I’ve heard the story 38 times before. The story is the selfish part for the listener.

Enjoying the joy with which the story is being told, now there’s a skill we all need to practice, with someone who could really use an ear.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Front Row Seat for Buffalo Sailor During Actual “Captain Phillips” Saga

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – “A friend asked it best. ‘How does it feel to have the most intense moment of your life turned into a movie?’ ”

That sums it up for John Siller, the former Navy Mass Communications Specialist who was off Africa’s coast, camera in hand, as the real “Captain Phillips” was rescued in 2009.

“It’s not like I was just standing there, I was involved in it. I didn’t shoot anybody, but I did a lot of work with the FBI, NCIS, taking evidence photos. I took the mug shots of the pirate we captured.”

captain-phillips-poster-intl
In the movie “Captain Phillips” to be released Friday, a bearded Tom Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, a merchant mariner whose ship, Maersk Alabama, was hijacked by Somali pirates.

“We were in the area doing counter-piracy operations, which up until that point, had involved us driving around in circles hoping to stumble upon pirates,” Siller says with a laugh. “We had helicopters that would fly around the area… It was more of a deterrent than us actually doing anything.”

Just like the rest of the world, the men and women with Siller on the USS Boxer were captivated by the story by watching it on the news. They had been in the general area of the hijacking, but were heading to the Persian Gulf for a scheduled port call and time off in Bahrain.

That was quickly cancelled, and the ship and crew were quickly moving toward the African Coast.

Soon, the Boxer was swarming with Navy SEALs.”We ended up being the ship that actually staged the efforts. We were the largest ship, so they brought most of their gear on our ship, so we became their operating base.”

On a normal day, Siller would be taking photos of daily operations on the ship, writing news stories and press releases. Those skills put him in the center of the operation.

“We were involved in documentation of everything,” says Siller. “They wanted photos and video of just about everything. Not only as evidence, but also to make sure that we were doing things the right way.”

Since word of the film came out, Siller and his old Navy buddies have been trading Facebook posts and jokes about what to expect from the movie. “I tell people that they got Denzel Washington to play me in the movie, which is obviously not true.”

He’s certainly going to see the movie, but he thinks alone might be the best way for him to watch. “It’s going to be hard for me to just sit there and watch when I was there, and I know what really happened.”

Siller is certainly expecting some Hollywood artistic license with the film, which could wind up getting dicey for him because some of what he saw, he’s still not allowed to talk about. “Some things I can tell, some things I can’t.”

Still, the resounding feeling is one of this not quite being real. “A lot of people join the military and just have a ‘whatever’ experience,” says Siller from his Buffalo home. “It’s almost surreal to think here’s this movie, and I was actually there.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

We are all Joe Hollywood

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

One of the allures of wrestling is that while the characters are huge over-the-top exaggerations, there is (almost) always a solid kernel of truth in their grossly surreal mannerisms and affectations.

joehollywood
If Vince McMahon called you and asked you to invent a wrestling persona based on a Buffalo guy, and he was going to be a bad guy wrestler, you’d probably come up with something close to Joe Hollywood.

A drunken Bills fan with stupid nickname and a haircut that was really cool 30 years ago.

The perfect wrestler, right? But if you are a Buffalonian and you are reading this, there is an embarrassingly high chance that sentence can also describe you. (Yes, you too, ladies.)

While I don’t think most people would think that sentence applies to them, the chance is almost 100% that  a Buffalonian reading this is closely related to, or counts among his circle of friends “a drunken Bills fan with a stupid nickname and a haircut that was really cool 30 years ago.”

Most guys who fit this description are great guys. Really. Our neighbors, our friends, our uncles, our cousins, and look a little closer in the mirror—Us.

Just like a WWF (or whatever it’s called now) heel, Joe Hollywood took our idiosyncrasies to the extreme.

Not satisfied with drinking canned beer on the couch, or even getting kicked out of the Ralph the old fashioned way, this guy was arrested running around at field level in a Santa suit.

Most of us have nicknames that make us cringe when they are used in front of our wives. He went before a judge to change his perfectly Buffalo polysyllabic Polish last name to that stupid nickname that someone probably gave him drunk in a bar one night.

And, well, the hair.

Many of us had some fun booting this guy around the other day, and I get it. Add a couple of dozen run-ins with police to his persona, and you have the mass-media personification of that guy in your neighborhood or family that always seems to shatter the peace.

God rest his soul, he was the worst-case-scenario Buffalonian, the least desirable outcome of someone raised in our Western New York environment. But that reflects on us.

Despite the occasional numb-the-pain-over-indulgence during football games, most of us are far closer to the “good guy Buffalo wrestler persona” than Joe Hollywood ever was… but think of how many wrestlers have quickly turned from good guy to bad guy to stretch out a career.

Any of us are two or three… or two or three dozen… bad breaks away from Joe Hollywood. If anything good comes of this, let it be a reminder that all of us here in Buffalo probably need a good haircut.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Time to alienate all my friends

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The other day, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek treatment on my feelings on this shut down of federal government.  Today, I’m going to make everyone mad with a more serious analysis of what I see as the problem.

1856 caning of Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor.
1856 caning of Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor.

Most people, I think, would agree with the notion that both sides should lock themselves in a room and not leave until there is a solution.

Most people say that, but that isn’t what most people mean.

What most people really mean is, “They should lock themselves in a room and not come out until the effing morons who don’t agree with my viewpoint see the light and defer to what is obviously the enlightened position, ie, my position.”

Our leaders reflect us. Even if you voted for the other guy, you are part of the environment into which these guys came to power.

We as a people say we want compromise, but are swayed by the stupid ads with the dark shaded photos and nasty voiced guys telling us that “this candidate voted against good stuff.”

Compromise generally appears in someone else’s campaign ads shaded as weakness.

We want compromise, but we want people to stick to their convictions at all costs.

Really, we don’t know what want, so our politicians don’t know what to give us.

Or maybe we do know what we want.

We listen to Jon Stewart or Rush Limbaugh, and we repeat the funny interesting ironic things they point out because they are smart and they are on our side. And then we feel informed. Mostly, those two and others like them, are mostly interested in telling jokes and being interesting. Not informing people.

And don’t think that Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner don’t care about what those two might think about any move they make. They have to care, because they in many ways, set the agenda with their partisan political humor.

So we have placed the future of our republic in the hands of an old disc jockey and a former stand up comedian, from whom over 30 million Americans become informed every week.

We say we want compromise, but do we really?

Reading Facebook over the last few days, I seriously wonder how many of my friends might enjoy a return to 1856, when a congressman walked into the senate chambers and beat Senator Charles Sumner unconscious with a cane.

Both sides have mostly good points. Both have a fewer stinkers, too. Both also sound like first graders talking about how the other guys have cooties.

If can’t agree that at this point, both sides are acting like children, and neither is on a moral high ground, then you are  part of the problem.

These are smart and savvy men and women in Washington.  They could come up with a great solution that most of us would be very happy with. But we don’t want that. We want it our way, and we don’t even really know what that means.

We’re just as bratty as our leaders.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Congress: Who has the more impressive package?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When people are fighting over whose package is bigger or smaller, whether it’s taxes or budgets or cuts or any other sort of “package,” I usually assume that neither one is accurately portraying their actual package size in the argument, and furthermore, that promises made about either package will ultimately lead to disappointment.

US_Capitol_Building_at_night_Jan_2006

When two sides are so convinced that their own package– and only their own package– is the only way to satisfy the country, and that they are justified in running around waving their package while bashing the other guy’s package… well, that’s just stupid.

It’s especially stupid because no matter which package we wind up taking, it’s going to leave us entirely unsatisfied… Which only sets up next year’s “who has the better package” fight.

Seriously– both of your packages are pretty weak. Neither one is really worth boasting about. So please stop acting like children bragging that your package is so much better than the other guys’. It’s not.

And of course, whenever people start arguing about packages, it’s the people who have to listen to the argument, or get beer spilled on them, or end up without a paycheck or services for a while because of an asinine package fight.

Please, keep your package size out of your discussion of packages, and act like grown men and women.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com