Dad died a year ago today

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

One Year Today.

The Cichons, Turner Rd., Holliston, MA, 1985.
The Cichons, Turner Rd., Holliston, MA, 1985.

To put it in words he would have used, it’s been a year since my ol’man checked out. In fact, I’m sure I heard him start dozens, if not hundreds of sentences with, “When your ol’man checks out….”

Anyway, my dad died a year ago today. March 28, 2010. Palm Sunday 2010.

He was 58 when he died. He was very sick for most of his last few years, a combination of diabetes (which lead to a leg amputation), heart disease, and a serious case of indifference in dealing with and caring for those two conditions.

So he wasn’t always on his “A” game. He was sick a lot, and often pretty crabby. But when he was feeling good, man, he just wanted everyone to feel good. I really miss the way he could fill a room with joy, even when half the jokes were at his expense.

But for me, its all right there– I can see it, and just about feel it, but it’s just beyond my physical reach. The past year has been one of reflection upon all the great gifts my father gave this world. My heart floods with joy thinking of the very pure love that he doled out straight from the heart.

He was a thinker, and never afraid to tell anyone what he really thought about something. some of you reading this (and me writing this) may have found that out the hard way. I’m glad that I inherited the thinker trait from my ol’man, and I’m happy to have his example, to understand for myself, that sometimes its best to keep what you think to yourself.

The hardest part of the last year, are the times when I’ve forgotten he’s gone. It’s not that my full brain has doesn’t remember… It’s just that I’ll be having this little side conversation with myself, thinking about something in an almost subconscious sort of way, and it’ll lead to “I’ve gotta tell dad about this.”

That thought is only there for a fraction of a second, but it’s like a hard punch in the face. Just happened a few weeks ago, standing in the kitchen at work pouring coffee. BLAMMO.

By the way, this also happens with my diet. I’ve had Celiac Disease for 5 years. Haven’t had a doughnut in 5 years. Saturday, we drove by a Dickie’s Donuts, and my brain asked itself why I haven’t had a peanut stick in so long. Some parts of my brain have paperwork to catch up on.

Of course there’s more to write, plenty more. But the last reflection I’ll share on the last year: I now know some bit of Dad’s pain. Grandma Cichon died in 1996. Dad’s mom.

Inevitably, whenever we’d talk about grandma, which was often, we’d be smiling, but Dad’s face would turned pained. He’d sigh and say, “ooh, Mom…” or “ooh, Grandma…”

It’s the same thing I do now when I think about Dad.

In the days and weeks following his death, I wrote a brief book about my dad and our time together. There’s an e-book/pdf version at this page:

http://www.staffannouncer.com/olman.htm

I’d be honored if you’d take a look at it. There are a lot of goofy pictures of me, if that makes it anymore enticing.

Buffalo in the 70’s: The Forest City Auto Parts Guy

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo Stories archives

 

The Forest City Auto Parts guy, whose LONG neck was featured on the Buffalo Phone Book and the signs in front of the several area locations for years.

 

I best remember him from the corner of Seneca & Bailey. They probably could have kept this sign for the porn shop in that building now?

 

Buffalo in the 90’s: Ice and the Hammer at the Aud

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Hammertime!

Buffalo Stories archives

“Exclusive” sticker patches from Kiss 98.5’s Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer concerts from the early 90s at Memorial Auditorium.

Vanilla Ice played Buffalo March 7, 1991 and MC Hammer played the Aud on October 13, 1990.

These were in the drawer of the desk I inherited down the hall from Kiss 98.5.

Buffalo in the 50’s: Before there was Irv..

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

From the Buffalo Evening News, Nov 29, 1958– the day before Channel 7 signed on the air for the first time.

Irv Weinstein was a newscaster at KB Radio at this point– Channel 7’s first news anchor was Roger Lund.

Stan Barron was on the sports desk, and Rick Azar– who was also the announcer who signed on the station– was Channel 7’s first weather man.

Buffalo Stories archives

Remembering WBEN-TV’s Visit With Santa (And Forgetful the Elf)

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Santa's WorkshopBUFFALO, NY – Alternately known as “A Visit with Santa,” “Santa’s Workshop,” or some combination thereof, The Santa Show brought the magic of the north pole into Buffalo living rooms on WBEN-TV from 1948 to 1973. The show ran for 15 minutes daily at 5pm from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, and was the brainchild of WBEN-TV pioneer Fred Keller.

Santa was played by two men during the show’s 25 year run. Ed Dinsmore played the Jolliest of Elves from 1948 until his untimely death in 1954. WBEN staffer Bill Peters stepped in, and played the role for 19 years. Besides the Big Man, Warren Jacboer played “Freezy the Polar Bear,” both Gene Brook and Bud Hagman played “Grumbles the Elf,” and, arguably the most memorable cast member was Forgetful the Elf… as played by Johnny Eisenberger for nearly the entire run of the show.

The program was simple by our modern day TV standards– most of the 15 minutes consisted of Santa reading letters from WNY boys and girls. But its long run– and the feelings it engendered– makes it an all-time Buffalo classic.

Channel 4 helped deliver, on average, 50,000 letters a year to Ol’ St. Nick. The show was the first regular program broadcast in color in Buffalo starting in 1956.

The Two Men who Played Santa

dinsmore
Ed Dinsmore: Santa 1948-1954
peters
Bill Peters: Santa 1954-1973

 

 


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

The 13th Annual Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame Honorees Announced

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This story was published in Forever Young magazine

The Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame swells its ranks by 5 once again this September, and in this, our lucky 13th year, we have finally begun to catch up. When the Buffalo Broadcasters began this process in 1997, we had 75 years worth of Western New York commercial broadcasting talent to consider.

Now, after dozens and dozens of inductees from the earliest days of radio and television, peppered with many of the more modern superstars along the way, the pendulum has swung. We are at a point now where we can honor broadcasters who’ve made their impact in the last quarter century,  while still honoring those greats who have passed on to the announce booth in the sky. Each of the broadcasters tapped for induction this year have been active during the last 18 years, and all but one within the last few.

One of the missions of the Buffalo Broadcasters is to celebrate great broadcasting past and present. We are proud that The Hall of Fame Class of 2009 celebrates some of both.

_

Marie Rice- A respected, straight street reporter at Channel 4 for an entire generation, Marie came on at WBEN-TV in 1977 as the woman in the vaunted station’s on-air news stable.

It was soon after her sign-on in Buffalo that the story perhaps best suited to her brand of straight-laced compassionate journalism began to unfold; it was one she’d continue to report on until she left WIVB in 2004. Marie Rice was one of the earliest journalists on the scene at Love Canal; at a time when home owners there just wanted to know what the ooze in their basements was.  She hopes, she says, that through her reporting she was able to make a difference. It’s all a part of public service; giving a voice to the voiceless.

The Ohio Native says everyone is blessed with a gift, and she counts her husky, commanding voice as hers. And while the tonal quality of that familiar voice struck the proper mood in reporting from murder trials and city hall scandals, before working in television news in Buffalo and Albany, Marie was known as “Misty,” as one of the country’s first female disc jockeys at an all-jazz station in Pittsburgh.

_

Pat Feldballe- The name would leave most wondering, but the smooth, consistent voice is one you’re unable to escape in Buffalo. From Channel 2’s promo pieces, to Valu Home Centers to Paddock Chevrolet, on on-hold messages, to the national Time/Life commercials, for a quarter century, Pat ihas been Western New York’s go-to independent voice-over king.

In 1970s you’d have heard him at WBUF, WGR, WGRQ, and WUWU playing rock’n roll, and hosting a magazine program (and working with Terry Gross) at WBFO. Pat eventually got the point when he’d show up for his jock shift and find a handful of production orders taped to the console for him to do. Figuring it was his destiny, he did a stint as a radio production director, but quickly decided, in 1982, that he could do production on his own. He hasn’t looked back.

In an industry where many production guys will try to sell clients on the latest and greatest gadget, Feldballe’s used the same microphone since 1986. It’s a part of all his success. “I’m the most consistent guy I know, I always sound the same, and I take pride in making sure reads time out,” says Pat. Just showing up and doing the work, doing it well, and making it easy for whoever’s using his work. “I just hung out the shingle 27 years ago, and here I am.”

_

Fred Klestine- Like most Lackawanna boys in the 1940s, Fred worked at the steel mill once he got out of school. But his bellowing voice and friendly, mellow personality helped him land a job as the morning man on WWOL Radio in the 1950s.

Whether at WWOL, WBNY, or during his decade at KB Radio during its 1960s Top 40 prime, Klestine always did what he could to share his love of jazz with his audience. He knew the music, and knew many of the performers personally. Klestine was a natural for the jazz-centric WADV-FM in the 70s, and worked at WBUF through the 80s.

To those who listened, he was a calm, straight-laced elder statesman type with a deep melodic voice. Off the air, he was a coffee-swilling funnyman. Longtime co-workers like Dan Neaverth and Sandy Beach count him not only as one of the funniest people each one has ever known, but as a great friend. Klestine was 68 when he died in 1992.

_

Randy Michaels- Randy Michaels became Randy Michaels in Buffalo. Literally. He made the most of federal deregulation in broadcasting in the mid 90s, and became Arguably the most powerful man in radio. He oversaw and led in the acquisition of over 1,000 radio stations as the  President of Jaycor Broadcasting, and later Clear Channel Communications.

Michaels started his career as an engineer and on air talent at the SUNY Fredonia campus station in the early 70’s. After an on-the-spot tryout at the Erie County Fair, he quickly moved to commercial radio at Taft-owned WGR and WGR-FM, where he took the pseudonym by which he’s still known today. Working in programming and as the nighttime disc jockey on WGR, Michaels soon left Buffalo for national programming assignments, moving his way up the food chain, eventually running the 1,200 Clear Channel Communications stations.

Michaels is now in Chicago at the top of the Tribune Company, which is the nation’s third largest newspaper publisher, and whose 23 television stations reach 80% of US households.

_

Don Polec- From 1977-1982, when Irv Weinstein smiled wryly and growled… And finally… at an Eyewitness Newscast, it was Don Polec’s time to shine; bringing the offbeat and, well, goofy to the airwaves.

A native of Buffalo’s Riverside section, Polec tried radio at WKBW, but found it wasn’t quite for him. After two years of managing a handful of different Burger King restaurants around the Western New York, Polec looked for work as a videographer. He sending Irv a resume that listed experience as an “urban sheep herder” and “professional vagrant.”  He was on the air, with that same sort of silliness, almost immediately thereafter.

Polec left Buffalo in 1982 for Philadelphia, where Action News featured antics his Western New York fans would recognize in “Don Polec’s World” reports until earlier this year. Polec’s Buffalo brand of zany-yet-artful reports were also featured on the national stage when he was a Good Morning America correspondent in the late 80s and early 90s.

_

The Buffalo Broadcasters are also celebrating several Golden anniversaries this year. WNED-TV, WBFO-FM, and WGRF-FM are each celebrating 50 years of broadcasting over the airwaves of Western New York.

For details on attending the Hall of Fame Ceremony, Tuesday September 22, 2009, at the WNED-TV studios; or for more information on the past inductees of the Buffalo Broadcast Hall of Fame, please visit www.buffalobroadcasters.com.

Steve Cichon is a news anchor at WBEN Radio, and a director and past President of the Buffalo Broadcasters. He’s also the webmaster at www.staffannouncer.com, a website devoted to Buffalo radio, TV, and pop culture history.

Cars and the Ol’man… and telling him about the new Civic

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

mg
MGB

My dad has always loved cars. While as a young single guy he had muscle cars (Like an AMC Javelin), and sporty convertibles ( Like an MG), he always took great pleasure in the hunt for new cars.

He enjoyed it even when he was buying wonderful (?!) family vehicles like our 1981 chocolate brown AMC Spirit with light brown pinstriping, or our 1983 Dodge Aries faux wood-panelled station wagon. I spent many weekend days driving from lot to lot with my dad… the newspaper filled with red circles around cars that could be the next Cichon Ride. We’d always go after hours as to avoid the salesmen.

The Cichon Clan.. before my sister was born.. So probably late 79/early 80.  I think my dad still wears that shirt.
The Cichon Clan.. before my sister was born.. So probably late 79/early 80.  I think my dad still wears that shirt.

I learned alot from my dad about shopping for cars, not all of it good. First thing to check: Check to see if the door was left unlocked. Bonus checking out the seat time if yes. If not, squinting and moving your head around the driver’s side window. “Can you see the mileage, Steve-o?”

There were other things to look for, too. “See, son? New tires on this one.” That was always a big selling point with the old man, who seemingly never stopped shopping for a new car. My wife would laugh if she knew that during our most recent car shopping experience in particular, she was actually shopping with my dad via me. Life is much esier once you admit to yourself that, in some ways, it is inevitable to become your parent.

Dad’s car obsession continues to this day, though the old man, now with only one leg, hasn’t driven in probably 7 or 8 years. “I’ll be driving soon,” is something you’ll hear him saying often. And you’ll still find Autotrader magazines with big, heavy red circles all over the house.

And then there’s Autotrader.com. “There’s a nice convertible Saab… a ’99… before they changed the front on it… Only 7-grand. Its in Ohio.” Dad loves the hunt for cars as much as driving, and when my wife first decided a few months ago that it was time to get a new car (for a number of different reasons), Dad eagerly climbed into the passenger seat as we thought about various makes and models, and weighed several bargains.

After visiting my folks Friday night, we took a ride to a nearby Honda dealership (after it was closed, of course) to scout things out. We found a good car at a good price, and one of the Civics was unlocked. Really comfortable and roomy.

We went the next day to figure out the details, and with the rebates, and generous amount given for our trade in, it was a much greater bargain than either of us could have imagined, and we were both excited about being able to pick up the next car on Tuesday (dealership was closed Labor Day Monday).

I was excited, in part, because the dealership was close to the folks house, and we could take a spin by to show the ol’man the new car. Seriously, no one on the planet gets more excited about anyone’s new car than Steven P. Cichon.

So, I was a little disappointed when my mom texted me to say that he went to the hospital Sunday (this happens somewhat frequently because of his diabetes problems.) He’s OK, but was in ICU to get his sugar evened out; it was messed up by a viral infection he’d been fighting for a few days.

He was his normal self, though still in the ICU when I went up to visit him an hour or so after picking up the car. Happy to have company, and talkative (not always the case, in case you don’t know the ol’man.) After the usual pleasantries, and getting to update on how he’s feeling, I dropped the bomb.

“So dad, we picked up our new car today.” He knew we were looking, but had no idea we were close to buying one. Either were we, frankly, until we got the great deal on the Civic. Its an over-used cliche, but there’s no other way to describe it. The twinkle in his eyes was like a kid at Christmas.

His body stiffened, and after opening his eyes wide in anticipation for a moment or two, he sat back in the standard issue vinyl hospital room chair, dozens of wires coming off of him, closed his eyes with a smile on his face, very seriously said, “OK, tell me about it *slowly*.”

I’m not one for the gadgets and features, but I always study up, because I know my dad will want to know. He loved that we got a great deal. He loved that the highway mileage approached 40 MPG. “That’s almost like driving for free,” he said. He loved that the dash lights were blue, the same color as one of the big puffy bandage things to keep his IVs in place.

Cadillac Cimmaron
Cadillac Cimmaron

But he stopped me on one feature that bowled him over. “Telescopic steering?!? In a CIVIC?!? They only put that in the top of the line Mercedes, for heavens sake!” My dad swears a lot, but he does try to control it. Of the 20 or so cars dad’s owned, only “The Cadillac” had telescopic steering. “I’d adjust it every time I got in, he said, making a holding the wheel motion and moving it all over over the place. That’s what a telescopic steering wheel allows you to do. Monica really likes this feature a lot, too. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should let people know that “The Cadillac” was actually a 1987 Cadillac Cimmaron, which is nothing more than Chevy Cavalier tricked out with leather, a V-6, a useless luggage rack on the back trunk, and apparently, a telescopic steering wheel.

And, Dad was almost disappointed when I somehow didn’t figure out how to park the car outside the window of his hospital room so he could look out at it. His eyes are so bad, he wouldn’t have been able to see it anyway. But he will get a spin in it once he gets home from the hospital.

monica09civic
Monica’s new 2009 Civic

I know the ol’man will tell everyone he sees and talks to for the next month about the car. Those poor ICU nurses. The women might get away without hearing about the car, but the men, and there are a lot of male nurses at the VA Hospital ICU, will likely hear a lot about it. And my grandpa. And Uncle Chuck.

It makes him so happy, I wish I could buy a new car every day.