Griffin name continues to help charities with Run Jimmy Run Charity 5k

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo, NY – As Mayor, Jim Griffin raised over $20,000 for local charities by sponsoring a decades’ worth of annual runs in South Park. Fast forward 20 years, and the late mayor’s name is now once again in the spotlight in the running world as his family, the Buffalo Bisons and the Alzheimer’s Association of WNY organize the “Run Jimmy Run Charity 5k.”

The race takes runners on a tour of Griffin’s vision for Buffalo, starting the bronze likeness of the mayor outside Coca Cola Field, “The House That Jimmy Built.” The course then heads to City Hall, to the Griffin-imagined Erie Basin Marina, and then back to the ball park for the homeplate finish line, a beer and a ballgame.

An optional one mile walk takes participants from the Griffin statue to City Hall and back, and makes it a family friendly event, ending with a ticket to the afternoon’s Bisons game.

Aside from celebrating the memory of Buffalo’s longest serving top executive and the game he knew would help save downtown, the proceeds will benefit a charity with close ties to the late mayor.

When Griffin was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative brain disease in the months before he died in 2008, outside of Google, his family didn’t know where to turn to learn about Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. The Alzheimer’s Association of WNY became a support network for the Griffins, as it has thousands of other families suffering through memory loss and dementia.

The $30 cost of pre-registering for the Sunday, July, 21st race includes a ticket to the day’s 1:05 Bisons game, a commemorative baseball-sleeve t-shirt, a chip-timed bib, and a post-race party serving lunch, beer and pop.

The race starts at 10am.

More details and registration information at www.runjimmyruncharity5k.com

Seriously, How Are you? Better now, Thanks!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – “How are you doing?”

It’s one of those phrases that we throw around. Most of the time, the words fall out of our mouths without even realizing what we’re saying. But even when we are really interested in how someone is doing, how interested are we, really?

I have learned through the years that there are some people of whom you can’t ask that question, because they will tell you, in painstaking detail, exactly how they are.

Even worse, is when you ask someone you love “How ya doin,” and you really want to know, but that person won’t share their pain or their joy with you.

When someone responds FINE because they don’t want to burden you with their troubles, or even worse, when they don’t want to seem too prideful and won’t share their jubilation… that hurts.

Having someone be willing to listen to what really vexes you is a great gift. Having someone trust you with their inner most thoughts is a great gift, too.

But what made me really think about all this, was a friend — closer to acquaintance than BFF– asking me with care and sincerity how I was doing. A blanket ask. Open ended.

Not overly concerned, or concerned for the sake of drama, just honestly interested in my well-being. No strings attached. Beautifully simple.

I was taken aback a bit. Here’s someone who doesn’t know, but cares about whatever it is.

Asking that question, and meaning it — for my benefit — is a big commitment.

It was wonderful. It was powerful. It was the sort of reaching out that I have to imagine happens less and less in an age where more and more communication and more “being a friend” is done through fingertips on the glass face of a smart phone. But there is was, honest to goodness, real human care and compassion.

Like everyone else, I have all kinds of troubles and concerns. Piles of nonsense vexing me. This to worry about, that to be angry at. All that was true at that moment as well.

But you know what? I answered, honestly, “I’m doing pretty damn good.”

Although I didn’t, I should have followed it up with, “Because you care.”

Thanks, friend.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

I’m Listening to Your Eyeballs… no matter what your mouth is saying

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Lately, I’ve been keeping a closer ear on people’s eyeballs.
We’ve all trained our mouths to be our servants.

They express what we want them to express. We chose and use our words, our tone, our volume very deliberately, if not consciously.

Quite often, for the sake of appearances, the sake of making it through life, our mouths don’t match what we feel at our core.

When your mouth starts matching your heart, chances of trouble greatly increase. Especially when for one reason or another, what’s in our hearts is something disruptive to the fabric of our life or being. What our heart truly wants may be even forbidden.

So these inner most thoughts aren’t allowed anywhere near the lips. The words are never spoken.

But, again, I lately find myself listening more and more closely to eyeballs. Most of us allow our eyes to say things we’d never let our mouths say.

We don’t even realize what we let our eyes say before its already all out there.

The thing about eyeballs is you don’t need much time. In less than one second, I can see down to your very soul. Thousands of words just poured out of those peepers, and there’s no pulling them back.

It’s often fast and accidental, but its done. And you both realize it. It’s a new reality, this hundred chapter conversation in a glance…

But for the same reason our mouths don’t say the words, we go on as if this pupil to pupil transfer of knowledge never happened. But it did. Instead of discussing with someone that we just stood naked in front of each other, we desperately search for something comfortable to talk about.

In spite of our basic elemental human desire to discuss this new extraordinary deep connection, at a time when real connections with people are so rare, we don’t dive in. We desperately grasp at anything else to talk about. “Wow, look at the rain.”

As much as we need these connections in our lives, I guess we need even more that it not get weird. To avoid the weird, I think many people have just tuned out eyeballs, for fear of making such a powerful connection. I think it’s part of the reason why people’s guards are down. I guess most folks just don’t need that in their day.

But listening to those eyeballs, I find life richer. Weirder but richer…. also more fulfilling and less fulfilling at the same time. Closer yet never more distant now. I’m sure I could say it all better in a half second glance.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Rest in Peace, Larry Felser… Memories of a great writer and great friend

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – It’s one of those opinionated days, and all of my opinions are on my friend Larry Felser today. Larry used to weave silly observations into gold in columns that started this way. I’m just writing down a bunch of memories of my old pal and sharing some great audio clips.

02-oct-1989-felser

For about a decade, I got paid to hang out with Larry Felser on Mondays for an hour. I produced his radio shows on WBEN and WNSA Radio. Larry was one of those special guys who was able to move comfortably among millionaire athletes and sports owners, and just as easily among 16 year old kids who worked in radio and loved hearing his stories. Well, at least this 16 year old kid.

My friendship was cemented with Larry the day his car broken down a few blocks from the station in the middle of the Elmwood/Hertel intersection. He called from a payphone saying he’d be late, so I drove down there, let him take my car to the station, and waited for Triple-A with his car. He mentioned that all the time, never forgot it. I think he may have even mentioned it the last time we spoke.

He was like that. Those were the kinds of stories he’d tell you about people. He could sum up a Hall of Famer by describing the time he had breakfast with him in a hotel lobby.

To know Larry Felser was to know the heyday of print journalism. He was a Buffalonian in the way we used to mean it. He was the smartest, best mannered lunch bucket guy, but he knew he was no better than the kid he went to Canisius with, who was working at the mill. And while Larry wasn’t throwing around 100 pound bags of feed, he was one of the hardest working guys I ever met. Even after he was “retired” from The News.

“Now here’s a guy….” as Larry would say, who just loved to talk and listen. Larry is the only person I’ve ever met who I could imagine, 1940’s movie style, get on the phone, and tell an editor, “Stop the presses! Have I got a Cracker Jack story for you!” He had that gutty old school newspaper man feel about him, even though he was at least a generation removed from working in that old, old school environment.

Some quick hit Larry memories::

“Fast as wood.” It was fast as wood, or skates like wood… This phrase was written by Larry about Dave Andreychuk, I believe. But I know for a fact it was one of Jim Kelley (the hockey writer)’s all-time favorite line, and as he repeated it so often, it’s become a favorite line among those of us who loved both Jim and Larry… namely Randy Bushover, John Demerle, and me.

Larry was one of the best storytellers around. His delivery was plodding, but he made up for it with his keen and scathing observation skills, and his ability to turn a phrase. The best stories, of course, came during the commercial breaks. I don’t remember what precipitated it, but one day Larry went on the most wonderful, colorful, captivating description of how he used to sneak off to “The Palace Burlesk,” and give a very vivid diatribe about why “Rosie La Rose” was the favorite dancer of him and his friends.

I remember word for word the 1940s slang phraseology used in that discussion of Ms. La Rose, and supplemental offerings she’d provide above and beyond the other entertainers at The Palace. For Larry’s sake, I’ll keep it to myself right now, but I’ll never forget it. In fact, I use the line often. In 1945, it was almost certainly vulgar. Today, it simply makes people laugh.

Another line I heard Larry say often, one which I almost always credit him when I use it.. “My most creative moments in front of a keyboard are when I write my expense accounts.”

I’m picturing Larry’s whole face smiling as he’d say that. Larry’s whole face smiled. It filled a room with warmth.

Toward the end of his career at the News, he grew a full beard. The line I heard him use on more than one occasion… “When I started growing the beard, I was going for Hemingway. It’s come out more like Box Car Willie.” He had the beard for quite a while before The News updated his photo.

One year, he gave me a book for Christmas, and told me that if I wanted to be able to picture what football used to be like in Buffalo in the 40s, that it was just like this book. I’ve read this book about the Baltimore Colts and their fans about 10 times. I wish I asked Larry which other books I should read.

One book I decided to read was Larry’s on the AFL. I bought it and took it with me on vacation one week, and loved it. Read it cover to cover very quickly, and I still can’t put into words what happened when I got to the last page. Larry went through a list of thank yous. NFL and AFL owners (all his friends). Hall of Fame players (all his friends). Some of the greatest sports writers of the 20th century (all his friends). Some of the great sports writers and broadcasters from Buffalo (all his friends). And me.

larrypage

I was just thunderstruck, and to this day, I don’t know what to say. While he has the ear of most of the most important people in sports; that Larry even knew the name of some chump kid from a radio station really shows something about the man. That he’d memorialize our friendship on the same page that he did with Lamar Hunt and Will McDonough is still beyond comprehension to me.

But Larry is beyond comprehension to me. I’m better at an awful lot of things for just having been in his presence. Thanks, Larry.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

It was 20 Years Ago Today: Two Decades in Radio Goes By in a Flash

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s nearly inconceivable to me, but it was twenty years ago today. The letter that started my career at WBEN.

wbenletter1993

Update, April 20, 2018: marks the start of my 25th year in radio, and I’m so happy that it’s at WECK… what we do there feels a lot like the old full-service radio I grew up with… good music, straight forward news, and happy on the radio.As a 15 year old high school sophomore, I would have been happy getting a job at Tops.

Running the board at WBEN, 1994.

But neither Tops nor Bells would hire someone under 16. My birthday wouldn’t come until the end of summer. I needed something to do for the vacation.

I’d been earning money for years already. Helping out at a used book shop. Helping a farmer down the street pick potatoes. Cleaning up cigarette butts and cutting curly fries at a nearby hot dog stand.

I liked working and I liked earning money.

But radio? Why not, I guess I thought.

I had always loved radio, and for the few years my dad’s job took us to Massachusetts, I had a friend whose dad worked in radio. We used to go to work with him when he was the Saturday morning jock on a big station in Boston.

As an 8 year old, my first real taste of living a life in radio came when I had to be ready for Mr. Bob to pick me up at 5am to head into WHDH. No problem. Loved every minute of it.

On those Saturday mornings, My friend Jarin and I would “do production” for the “station” we ran in his basement, made up of real, but cast-away decades-old radio equipment.

When my family moved back to Buffalo, and Jarin’s moved to Maryland, he gave me some of the castaway equipment, and I built a “radio station” of my own in my bedroom.

We’d each “do shows” on cassette and mail them back and forth to one another.

I was 7 or 8 years into that “radio career” when, during my “job search,” I was struck with an idea.

WBEN Control Room, 2004.

I have no idea from whence the thought of an internship came, but I loved radio, and wanted to work in radio, and that’s what I set out to do.

I opened the phone book, and called every radio station listed, asking for the station manager’s name.

When I say every radio station, I mean every single one. Buffalo. Springville. Lockport. Niagara Falls. Batavia. I just wanted to get in. Anywhere.

With those names in hand, I knew to whom I should address the letters I was about to write on our Tandy 1000EX computer. The one with 256k of memory.

It was quite a few 29 cent stamps.

The letter I wrote had to have been a classic 10th grader essay on my love for radio, and my knowledge of radio equipment, with, of course, some big words thrown in for good measure (because that’s how I’ve rolled for years now.)

So, somewhere between 15 and 20 of these letters went out. And I waited.

And waited.

At the mail box everyday, I’m sure I looked like Ralphie looking for that Little Orphan Annie decoder ring.

If you think about that scene in a Christmas Story, when Ralphie excitedly says “My ring!!” and runs in the house, syrupy violin music comes in to set the scene.

In my mind, that same hokey musical accompaniment plays when I opened the mailbox to find that gleaming white WBEN stationery staring at me, with my own name typewritten on the front.

It was providence. The station I listened to, the station I loved, was the only station to respond. At all. The only letter I got.

Its really almost unfathomable.

Think of some bad sitcom where a kid has a dream about pitching for the Yankees.

The focus is soft and fuzzy around the edges.

The kid’s sitting on the bench when Billy Martin, wearing a blue hat (but without a Yankees emblem) points at him and hands him the ball.

But, instead of the Yankees manager saying, “You’re in, kid!” in a dream, I got the real deal.

There really couldn’t have been anything better than getting a letter from Kevin Keenan inviting me to WBEN. And there was that letter, right there in my hands.

I’ll never forget that first day. Kevin looked like a 1993 radio newsman from central casting; white shirt, tie, suspenders.

We talked about WBEN, and I can’t imagine how hilarious it was to have a 15 year old know your programming inside out, talking about how my alarm clock was set for 6:23am, so I could wake up to the Osgood File.

He loved that I had called “Ask the Mayor” only a few days before, and had talked to him and Mayor Griffin about one of the big issues of the day: The debate over whether Jay Leno or David Letterman should replace Johnny Carson.

I showed him I knew how to put up a reel of tape, and how to bulk erase a cart.

On the tour around the station, I met sports man Rick Maloney, and sat in to watch a Craig Nigrelli/Helen Tederous newscast.

I was floored when Kevin offered me the chance to intern during the summer.

What a summer of triple bus transfers from Orchard Park to North Buffalo… And my dad acting as my radio chauffeur.

Eight or nine hour days, every day, all summer. I learned from everyone I met. Busted my hump with a smile. Loved every minute of it.

When I went to help set up WBEN’s remote at the Fair, Kevin gave me a WBEN t-shirt. I had earned it, and I loved it. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud to receive anything.

As I headed back to school, now a well-heeled Orchard Park High School junior, I was offered a weekend board operator job. Best of Limbaugh on Sundays.

Screw Tops. I was pulling in my $4.25 an hour working in radio. My heart is racing right now, thinking about the pride and satisfaction I felt.

I was living the Doogie Howser dream. And it’s continued from there.

That day in Kevin Keenan’s office 20 years ago today was my last job interview.

I’ve been tremendously blessed to have had so many mentors who’ve looked out for me, taught me their secrets, looked out for me, and allowed me to coattail along on their rides.

I feel a lot like a kid who went to bed waiting for one of those radio stations to respond to my letter, and woke up News Director at the radio station I really hoped would answer.

Everything I know about broadcasting, about radio, about TV, about journalism: I was taught either by direct instruction or by example from the tremendous people I’ve worked with at WBEN, Channel 4, and the Empire Sports Network.

Steve and Howard Simon, Empire Sports Network’s “Simoncast,” 2003.

I’d love to write about a few of the people, but it just wouldn;t be fair, because the list really has hundreds of names on it. I’m not sure how or why I’ve been so blessed, so lucky, to have so many amazing, talented people take an interest in my life and my career.

There’s not a single task I do every day that doesn’t carry along with it the embedded lessons of those people who’ve taken me in as an apprentice and son.

I’m like an orphan that was raised by the community. So much of any success I’ve had is because so many people own a piece of my success, but it couldn’t have happened without each on of them.

Twenty years of incredible luck and love. I’m not sure it’s fair that one person should be so blessed… But for two full decades now, I’ve been indescribably thankful, and mindful to never waste even a little bit of it.

Update, April 20, 2018: Today marks the start of my 25th year in radio, and I’m so happy that it’s at WECK… what we do here feels a lot like the old full-service radio I grew up with– good music, straight forward news, and happy on the radio. I wrote this five years ago about how lucky I’ve been to be able to live a dream… and it’s all still true.

Solitary Man: You don’t always win, even when you don’t take the risk of losing

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

For sure, in life, the cards don’t always dance at the end. So is solitaire really so hard and frustrating that we need to play with the “winning deal” option?

I was terribly, actually mad when I realized that the setting on the solitaire game on my iPad was changed (probably during a software update) to “winning deal” instead of “random deal.”

solitaire

Solitaire can be a boring and mind numbing game, but I like to play as if there is something real at stake. Nothing specific, but something important. Even if my score is down to zero, I keep going until there’s absolutely no way for me to solve the puzzle. Move cards from the top piles back down to the stacks to be able to move over that 4 with three cards underneath it. Go through the pile of flip cards an extra time.

Of course, even with all the effort, about half the time, I lose.

But losing is a part of the game. Its not that I don’t always want a win any less, its just that sometimes, a win isn’t in the cards. You do everything you can, and you lose a lot. As often as you win.

For me, a hard fought loss is always an inspiration to hit shuffle immediately and keep on playing until those cards dance across the screen. When you’ve lost two or three or seven games in a row, and you really should be going to bed, or getting back to work… Man, those dancing cards are great.

It’s a completely different mentality when your dealt a hand you know you can win. It’s boring. The thrill of “I’m going to try everything, because I don’t know what’s under that 4” is replaced with, “c’mon, idiot. Why can’t I get this.”

In the end, the temptation is to hit that help button to see where you went wrong, and to see the cards dance, even if you didn’t really earn it all yourself.

But you know what? If I’ve just done the best I can, worked on the game til I felt like I couldn’t work on it anymore, and decided I had to stop because there was no where else to go, I don’t think I want to know where I screwed up.I certainly dont want the big card locomotion party for all my hard work.

I know all the rules of solitaire inside and out. Been playing it for years. Even with actual real cards back in the old days, sometimes with cards missing… Talk about NEVER WINNING!

And whether you’re being dealt a winning hand or a random hand, sometimes you miss putting the red 5 on the black 6. You perfectly damn well know that’s the right play, and you missed it. Sometimes you can go back and fix it, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you get lucky, and despite a mistake you can make the cards cha-cha across the screen. Sometimes a mistake costs you, and all you can do is start over and try again.

I accept that sometimes I’m going to lose, and I often enjoy a hard fought loss. I don’t know that I’d enjoy solitaire so much with the burden and expectation of winning on my shoulders every time.

Don’t hit the “always win” button. Life’s experiences are greater when you take a chance on losing.

Wow. Three Years Already: Thinking About Dad Today

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s definitely a different feeling, but I’m not sure I can quantify how.
Dad died Palm Sunday, 2010. Three years ago today.

Today’s a different day, though. I’m writing this in an attempt to figure out how or why it’s different. It just is.

Time just brings up different feelings, is all. I haven’t accidentally thought, “I’ve gotta go tell Dad” something for a while. Thinking about that makes me sad. Even the deepest recesses of my brain and being know I won’t be conversing with the ol’man til the other side.

Of course, I can never forget my dad. But every once in a while, I’ll think of a phrase or an action that I hadn’t thought of in years– something that was in the ol’man’s repertoire.

This, too, leaves a painful hurt. I think of these usually silly, often violent sounding things, and I can’t stop myself from repeating them… because I just don’t want to forget anything about my dad. It’s not even something I do on purpose. It’s deeply embedded.

A few of the ones I’ve forgotten and remembered lately:

“Get over here and let me put a dent in your face,” was a typical way dad might tell you he didn’t like what you were saying or doing. It could have been one of the variants like “break your head,” “bust your face,” or “I’ll punch your lights out if you don’t stop fighting with your brother!”

If he was in a particularly playful mood, sometimes he’d just ball up his big meaty fist, point it at you with an onomatopoeic crashing sound,”DUHSHJZ!” As I write this, and try to figure out how to spell “duhshjz!” that I don’t think I’ve ever head that anywhere else. It sounds kind of “Polishy.”Is that sound familiar to anyone?

Anyway, as far as the ol’man was concerned, there was really no threat or even thought of actual roundhouse punches to be thrown. It was just the way he talked. And, being programmed that way, it’s how I talk. I forgot the “dent” line, but often what starts in my mind as, “Boy, I really dislike that you are doing that,” comes out of my mouth as, “You deserve a punch in the face.” I really have no desire to inflict violence on anyone, but it does seem like a perfectly reasonable way to explain myself if my guard is down. Sometimes I want to punch myself in the face.

“You look like nobody owns you,” was usually immediately followed by grabbing of a shoulder, jerking one of us into the bathroom, and soaking our head in Vitalis Hair Tonic before we went somewhere important, like to church. I don’t remember what made this one pop into my head, but it seems to be stuck there for the time being.

Dad really was something else. If I was writing a cartoon or a sitcom, Dad could be a character just as is. No changes. But he was more than that. He was a beautifully complex sonavabitch. At least I hope “beautifully.” Because it looks like in more ways daily, I’m heading in the same direction.

I’m still not sure why it feels different now, but about now dad would be calling me a lemon, and threatening to dent my head.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Gnarled Roots of a Family Tree: But its Great To Be in Contact with Extended Family

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

What a week in family history.

After last week’s blog post, my dad’s first cousin, Karen, wrote to reinforce the story I’d read in an earlier email:

As my mom, Olga, and her twin sister, Mary, related the family story to me about their dad’s arrival in the United States, the history unfolds thusly….John Cichon came from Poland on a ship that landed in Portland, Maine, and he entered the country through the Custom House (which still stands there today on Commercial Street. Wikipedia has a nice picture of it). Aunt Mary told me he was befriended on the ship by a Jewish man, who offered him garlic to ease the nausea of the voyage! In Maine, they were unable to find work, so they decided to go to Canada. From Toronto, John eventually made his way to Buffalo where there was a large Polish immigrant population. That’s the story as the Cichon twins told it.

The ship immigration manifests make it pretty clear that Jan was heading to the Niagara Region of Canada, and he pretty quickly made it down to Buffalo. By the 1915 New York State Census was taken, he was living a block away from what would become the family homestead on Fulton Street. He was single on the boat, married to Mary in the 1915 census.

korona
Further genealogical research has turned up the fact that Mike Korona and Jan Cichon were likely first cousins. Korona is Cichon’s mother’s maiden name.

Also interesting, on the boat, Jan Cichon traveled with Maciej Korona, from the village of Zawierzbe, only a few miles from his home in Milczany. In 1915, John Cichon had a boarder named Martin Korona at 43 Van Rensselaer St. The census document shows both men had been in the country for two years. While not certain, it looks like these two stuck together from Poland to Germany, where the boat left from, and then on to Maine. Then from Maine through Ontario, and into Buffalo. Martin Korona (sometimes Mike) lived with his wife Sally on Oneida Street on Buffalo’s East Side into the 1940s.

Armed with all this new information, I asked a friend for some ideas for a next move. He sent me to a wonderful East Side genealogist, who sent me a big long list of places to research around town and maybe pump some more information out of resources that I’d been using all along.

One idea was the to go back and double check marriage license lists at the downtown library. Now I had searched several times for a Jan Cichon/ Mary Pochec wedding. I had even paid the city clerk’s office to run a check for me, and called several churches where the wedding might have happened. I wasn’t confident, but went through the library materials again with a fine-tooth comb.

In casting a wider net, I hauled in the fish I’d been chasing for a long, long time. John and Mary Cichon were married August 19, 1914 by Fr. Peter Pitass. A quick web search shows that Fr. Pitass, the nephew of the founder of St. Stanislaus Church, was at that time, the pastor of Holy Apostles Ss Peter and Paul Church, on the corner of Clinton and Smith.

CichonMarriageLic1914

What made this marriage certificate so hard to find? First, the groom was listed as Jan Cikon, a misspelling, no doubt. He’s listed as 21, from Russia (Poland was split between Germans and Russia then), a laborer, and living on Fulton Street. Sounds perfect. The bride’s first name is listed as Maryjana. My great Aunt Mary said that her first name was Marianna in the old country. Great. From Russia, 21 years old. Dead on. Everything on the certificate, even the nearby church, is perfect, except one whopper.

The problem comes with her last name. Pochec is Mary’s maiden name according to all family knowledge. It’s listed that way in her Buffalo News death notice. John Cichon’s bride that day, however, was listed as Mary Ganaboska.

CichonObits

I’ve always felt there was something fishy about my great-grandmother’s background. She completely disappears before 1914, under the name Pochec or Ganaboska (or any close spelling variants of those two.) No ship manifests, no immigration lists, no address for the time she lived here before meeting her future husband. (UPDATE: More has been found on Babcia Cichon… More to come.)

The marriage license says she did shop work, and lived at 1013 Broadway before getting married. The Broadway Market is 999 Broadway. She lived literally next door to the market.

That is, of course, if any of this is true. I’ll have to do some more research to see what I can find as far as how Mary lists her name on other legal and church documents, like her older children’s birth and baptism certificates, and maybe the death certificate of son Czeczlaw, who died at only a few months old.

I have a few theories about why all the secrets, but I’d like to research them each a bit more.

The other great part of doing this research early Saturday morning, was going to the downtown library, and running into my great uncle Pat. He’s my Grandpa Coyle’s brother. Talking to him was eerie, because not only does he look like my grandpa and have many of the same facial characteristics, the cadence of his speech and the way he talks is very similar.grandmacoyleElkSt

Uncle Pat was doing family research there, too, and we exchanged e-mail addresses to share some of the information we have with one another. I’m very excited to have sent him copies of scans I made a long time ago, of some of my grandfather’s snapshots. Here’s a photo of Uncle Pat and my great Grandmother standing on Elk Street in the late 40s or early 50s. I’m sure he’ll enjoy this photo (right) he hasn’t likely seen in 60 years… of him with his mother, who died 35 years ago.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Watching My Family Tree Grow: Finding More Ways To Reach into My Family’s Past

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s been just about two full months since I’ve had DNA test results from Ancestry.com, and I may have had my first useful hit.I’ve had 4 or 5 different “matches” that Ancestry.com says are 96% certain to be 4th or 5th cousins. But either there’s no good lead in the family tree they have posted, or their family tree is private, and they haven’t responded to messages. That’s a bit crazy to me. Unless you’re adopted and don’t know your roots, why else would you take this test other than to grow your family tree…

So the “certain” cousins are already taking family-like liberties and doing things like ignoring emails. Sounds like my family for sure. More like 97% that we’re related.

The one neat lead isn’t much, but it’s enough to help prove something I’ve suspected.

The analytics say its a low percentage possibility that I’m distantly related (5th to 8th cousins they say) to one guy. This person’s great grandmother has my mom’s maiden name. Margaret Coyle was baptized in Ireland 18 months before my great great great grandfather was born in Ireland. Could they be “Irish twins?”
I know John Coyle was born in Ireland in June, 1846, and came to Pennsylvania as a teen. He was a farmer, unable to read or write. This comes from census information, but its all I know. I’ve never been able to find any immigration information. There was a John Coyle baptized in July 1846 in Ireland, but to fully assume that he was my John Coyle might be a stretch. A good chance, but by no means a certainty with such a common name.

Well, that John Coyle who was baptized a month after my John Coyle was born, and the Margaret Coyle I’m probably related to didn’t have matching information on the baptismal records. Not the same father, not the same county.

But some searching found the two counties, Meath and Cavan, are right next to one another. The two churches are about 10 miles apart. Sounds like a pretty solid case that these two Coyles were cousins when you mix in the DNA results.

This is exciting because it opens up the Irish Coyle line in a part of Ireland that appears to have pretty well preserved records. I’m looking forward to doing that digging.

CICHON

One of my great obsessions in life, at least one I can talk about in polite company, is finding out any information at all about the Cichon branch of the family tree.

As I’ve written before, the backwards progression comes to a grinding halt with my great grandparents in Buffalo’s Valley neighborhood the late 1910s.

Census data and family tradition would indicate DziaDzia and Babcia Cichon each came to Buffalo from Poland in 1913. Family tradition says they came here separately, met at a party on Fulton Street, and were married in Buffalo. No record of any of that anywhere… Not the city, not any likely churches.

There are records for at least a dozen Jan Cichons who came to the New World 1912-14. However, not a single record for a Marianna Pochec or any Pochecs in that time frame.

There is the hope of good information coming from my great-grandparents’ death certificates. Death certificates are sealed for 50 years unless you can prove direct lineage to the deceased.

That would mean I’d have to have my birth certificate (no problem), my dad’s birth certificate (I don’t think he ever had one, though I bet his death certificate would do) and my Grandpa Cichon’s birth certificate (he’s in a nursing home and almost certainly has no idea where that might be.)

My great-grandfather died in 1967, so I have 4 years to wait. I remain undaunted in trying to milk the information I have, and building on it bit by bit.

I recently re-read an email from a Cichon cousin that mentioned that my great aunt Mary said my great-grandpa came to Buffalo through Canada. My grandpa has also said that he came through Maine.

Well I’ve found a Jan Cichon, who came from Poland in 1913, who fits both of those circumstances. The boat landed in Maine, and this guy’s final destination was a brother-in-law’s house Ontario. It’s a great lead, but by no means a sure thing.

Muddying up even worse, the ship manifest is hard to read. I have no idea what this guy’s mother’s (potentially my great-great grandmother’s) name is… And there is no town in the Russia/Ukraine/Poland area that shows up in searches with a name anything close to what’s written there.

The search continues.

ACTUAL ITEMS

I mentioned my great aunt Mary. She served as a nurse in the Navy in World War II. Her twin sister, Olga, was an Army nurse overseas. Doing a Cichon search, I came up with Aunt Olga’s wedding announcement in a Maine newspaper. The photo shows a beautiful Lt. Cichon in her Army WAC uniform. Clicking the photo takes you to the full wedding announcement from 1946.

In a separate search for Scurr, my dad’s mom’s maiden name, I found a newspaper account of the sad story of Grandma Cichon’s brother, Terry Scurr. You can read that below.

He was just out of the Army, and was at Letchworth with a bunch of friends. He died trying to help a friend who’d slid down a cliff.

Once I was talking to Seneca Street fixture “Tony the Barber” Scaccia, and mentioned that Tony’s cut the hair of five generations of my family, from my cousins’ kids back to my great-Grandpa Scurr. Tony told me the story of Terry’s wake, in the Scurr’s upstairs Seneca Street apartment.

History and family history are amazing. When you learn a little bit, it starts to grow exponentially.

Don’t Defriend Lightly: Think Twice Unless You Plan on Never Talking to That Person Again

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

“I’m cleaning out my friends list. If you’re reading this, congratulations, you made the cut!”I’ve cringed every one of the hundreds of times I’ve seen this or similar messages on Facebook.

Why?

Walter Cronkite once bawled out Stuttering John for using the word “friggin'” when asking him a question in one of those set-up interviews he used to do for the Howard Stern Show.

“Frigging, now what does that mean,” bellowed Uncle Walter condescendingly.

“It-it-it-it-AAAAUUGHit gives, ya know, augh, emphasis,” said John.

“But what does it mean?,” drilled Cronkite. “A word should have meaning, shouldn’t it?”

That’s the long way of saying “Defriending” someone means something. You’ve said something there, whether you like it or not. You know that. You’ve been defriended, or “unfriended” as Facebook puts it. If you weren’t hurt, you were at least indignant. “Well, I never liked that sonava– anyway,” you might say. Even if that’s true, you don’t want someone putting up that “Add as Friend” hand in your face without provocation, or at least not knowing why.

In olden times, maybe people dropped off your Christmas card list when you’d lost contact or interest. I’d say that’s akin to hiding someone’s feed on Facebook.

Defriending someone, however, is like ripping their address out of the little book you keep in drawer by your phone, and, when they send you a Christmas card, you scrawl an Elvis style “Return to Sender” across the the pretty red envelope.

unfriendWe wouldn’t have ever thought to do that in olden times, but we’re generally less considerate these days.

People make all sorts of excuses for why they defriend people they know, but they are just that– excuses. Just like most things in life, if you need an excuse… Deep down, you know it’s not wholly right.

To me, finding I’ve been defriended almost always comes with some bit of sadness. I don’t do a lot of “stalking” on Facebook, so I usually find out when I try to send someone a note. Usually a congratulatory note, or a “hey, thought of you–” note, or maybe I found an old photo or piece of audio I know they’d like.

So it’s not just “you defriended me,” but “here I am looking to rekindle an old friendship, which you found worthless.”

I had worked on a few assignments with one young lady a few years ago. Didn’t really know her well, but we hung out with each other and helped each other quite a bit on a project. We got along well, and were Facebook friends. I recently saw some of her work in the national spotlight, and was going to write her a note, but— yep.

In this case, I was more perplexed because she doesn’t get it. Nor do the braggart defrienders. To me, that sort of relationship is what social media is about. Contact with people I will likely never go to lunch with, never see, never call.

Life is about relationships. So much happens when you are willing to explore those relationships, or at least not cut them off. Today’s superficial Facebook friend could be tomorrow’s next job referral. Or he could be the guy who says, “oh yeah, I knew him.. Jerk defriended me on Facebook.”

Selfishly, if not for the greater good, is it really worth pissing someone off or hurting their feelings for no reason other than you’re clearing deadwood? Your Facebook account isn’t a forest. Deadwood doesn’t increase the risk of fire.

Have I thought about this too much? Probably. Have I defriended people? You can count the number on one hand, in 6 years. A few were people who came to my page to agitate. Only one I knew personally.

I always say, “if I offend… Defriend.” But in this self-centered, consequences be damned culture we live in, I hope you think about it for a moment before you do. And I hope you don’t try to be all friendly with me in the grocery store, and act like you didn’t open my photo and click defriend.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com