By Steve Cichon
The entire contents of the original soft cover book has been uploaded and is now presented online as a universally available resource in promoting and sharing Buffalo’s rich broadcasting heritage.
Written in 2020, 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting, Vol 1: 1920-1970 by Steve Cichon is formatted as a series web pages.
The original print volume was 432 pages with more than 800 individual images. While still available in book form at the Buffalo Stories Bookstore, every page and every image is linked using the subheadings from the book’s table of contents as seen below.
The Covers: captions for the 270 images on the front and back covers
Setting the record straight- Radio’s birth in Buffalo
The earliest days of Buffalo broadcasting
WBEN – The Buffalo Evening News Station
FDR in Buffalo as President and more Buffalo Radio in the 30s
Father Justyn’s Rosary Hour and around the dial in the 30s
Buffalo’s radio staff musicians
Some of the voices of 1940s Buffalo radio
Buffalo morning radio wars, 1940s style
Buffalo radio at war (and after the war)
AHK- Alfred Kirchhofer & around the Buffalo radio dial
The Buffalo Bills of the AAFC, 1946-49
Bennett High’s future star power, 1946 & around the Buffalo radio dial
Billy and Reggie Keaton & Sally Work
Wrestling from Memorial Auditorium
Buffalo’s forgotten TV pioneers: WBES & WBUF
Buffalo’s last staff organist– Norm Wullen
Beginnings of a teenage revolution: The Hound, Lucky Pierre, & Hernando
Legacy of the Seneca-Babcock Boys Club
Guy King ushers in bad boy rock ‘n’ roll
Dick Lawrence brings Top-40 to Buffalo
Jack Sharpe and WEBR’s Trafficopter
Buffalo’s third and final VHF: WKBW-TV, Ch.7
The relegated role of women, (con’t.)
Public Broadcasting comes to Buffalo
Around Buffalo’s Radio & TV dials in the 50s
Buffalo’s Visits to Romper Room
Boost Buffalo, It’s Good for You!
WBEN AM-FM-TV’s new home, 1960
A new voice for Buffalo’s Black community, WUFO
One of America’s Two Great Radio Stations: WKBW
Clint still #1 and around the TV & Radio dial
More listeners start tuning to FM
Around the TV dial through the 60s
Cable TV comes to WNY & Beat the Champ
Ramblin’ Lou & The Family Band
More images from around Buffalo’s TV dial in the 60s
Ground up by radio: Bill Masters & Frank Benny… and elsewhere around the dial
On the radio, on the telephone: John Otto (and elsewhere around the dial)
Jeff Kaye & KB’s War of the Worlds
Sandy Beach begins a 52-year Buffalo run
Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting
The book’s original front and back matter
On a personal note…
While organizing some of my archives very early in the COVID quarantine, it became clear that there was a book about the history of Buffalo broadcasting screaming out from the piles of material.
Well, that’s partly true. I’ve really been writing this book since I was about 6 years old.
Of course, I didn’t realize it then, but that’s when we’d visit Grandpa Coyle, and he was transfixed by the small black, paint-splattered radio sitting next to his orange rocking chair in the living room.
The exciting voices of Van Miller and Ted Darling came out of that little radio when Gramps, who was a season ticket holder for the Bills and the Sabres, would listen to away games. He’d throw his arms in the air and mumble a lot, and ask me to go get him another stubby bottle of Schmidt’s or Labatt 50 out of the fridge.
A few blocks away, Grandpa Cichon would sit on his porch with a similar radio, but a different experience. Instead of winding him up, Stan Jasinski’s polka program seemed to make life slow down into a warm smile for Gramps.
“What is he saying?” we’d ask my first-generation American grandfather, as Jasinski spoke in Polish. He’d make up something silly, but we couldn’t be quite sure whether what he was saying was true, because who else knew Polish?
Back at our home, the best bonding time with my ol’man came when we’d sit for an hour and watch the news together. I became acquainted with Rich Kellman and John Beard and Irv Weinstein as I learned numbers on that round, loud, clunking TV dial–when I’d act as Dad’s channel-changer in the days before we had a remote.
A few years later, my friend’s dad took our Cub Scout troop to the radio station where he worked—and my face just about fell off. I was hooked. I started waking up at 5am on Saturdays to go to work with him. That friend had a radio station set up in his basement where we’d make tapes.
When we moved, I had a “radio station” in my house. I’d make tapes and call talk shows. I recorded and saved my call to a disc jockey making a birthday request for my brother doing a really terrible Ronald Reagan impression. I was 10 years old.
At 15, I wrote letters to every radio station in Western New York, asking if they needed an intern. The only one to respond was the boss at my favorite station– Kevin Keenan at WBEN. I spent every moment of that summer at the station, and at the end of summer fulfilled a dream and went on the payroll as a weekend board operator. I was a high school junior working in radio, having the most fun of my life and feeling fantastic.
One of my first moments understanding that I was holding the power of radio in my own hands came with news of Ted Darling’s shocking death from Pick’s disease at the age of only 61.
Only 18 myself at the time, I wasn’t a huge hockey fan– but I had grown up loving the sound, the feel, the excitement, the magic of Ted Darling. I also felt the sadness of listeners who filled the airwaves remembering the great broadcaster and lamenting the loss of this great icon.
By then a full-fledged producer, I internalized the passion and grief around me, and put it into my work, spending hours combing through and editing highlights of his play-by-play to create a Ted Darling tribute which aired on WBEN.
The heartfelt and overwhelming reaction to that piece changed me and changed the way I looked at my job. To that point, I knew I could use radio to be goofy and have fun, but in that moment, I learned that radio could be an outlet for me, personally, to create things that are meaningful to people by reflecting what they long for and how they feel in my work.
Everything I’ve done in radio, TV, and print since then—including this book—has been a manifestation of that powerful realization.
It was one of thousands of lessons I learned by doing, working alongside many of the greatest broadcasters in Buffalo’s history. You know some of the names— folks like Van Miller and Danny Neaverth, but just as importantly are some of the folks you’ll get to know as you read this book and its future companion volumes– the folks who’d run 2,000 feet of cable for a live shot or who pressed the button to start the commercial when Van stopped talking.
Not everyone grew up working in radio and TV like I did, but it’s almost impossible to have lived over the last century without having the people of radio and TV become part of your family and part of the fabric of who you are.
They have been with you during the great and the dark moments in history and there for happiness and sadness in your life.
They are the broadcasters who whispered out of the transistor radios under our pillows, filled the screens in our living rooms, blared out the speakers in our car, and these days– stream on our phones and tablets.
It still feels like a dream to me that I have had the opportunity to be a part of your life in that way over the course of 25 years… especially knowing what the people I’ve listened to and watched have meant to me.
I mean all this to say that the book feels as much like a family tree as it does a book about Buffalo Broadcasting.
With that mindset, I didn’t want to leave anything out. As I began work on the actual layout of the book, it was clear that there was just too much for a single volume, so I split the hundred years in half… and here we are.
By the time you read this, know that I’ve already began squirreling away the photos and stories that will make up a history of the last 50 years of broadcasting—and it will be a much more complete work with your stories and photos contributed. You can start that ball rolling with an email to email@example.com.
May your joy in reading this book be the same that mine has been in spending a lifetime putting it together—smiling, enjoying, and remembering the people who’ve added color, vibrance, and a sense of community to our Western New York lives for a century.
Steve Cichon June, 2020
About Steve Cichon
Author Steve Cichon is an award-winning writer and radio newsman who has spent the last three decades telling the story of Buffalo, one story at a time.
As a teenager, he wrote and produced news and sports programming on WBEN and served as gameday producer for Buffalo Bills Football. Later, he served as Executive Producer of the Sabres Radio Network.
His first shot in front of the microphone came again as a teen, this time high above Western New York’s highways as WBEN’s airborne traffic reporter. He was host of newsmagazine “Buffalo’s Evening News,” and an overnight night talk show host during the October Surprise storm.
For a decade, Cichon’s primary job was news anchor and reporter at WBEN Radio, covering courts, the Town of Amherst, the City of Buffalo, Hurricane Katrina, the crash of Flight 3407 and Presidential visits—but the beat that meant the most was the one he created for himself, that is, working to capture the essence of Buffalo in all of his reporting.
Even with “a face for radio,” Cichon worked in television as a producer at Ch.4, helped create and produce the “radio on TV” Simoncast with Howard Simon on Empire Sports Network and 107-7 WNSA, and was a producer on a PBS-WNED documentary on America’s opioid crisis.
Twice Steve has served in management roles in broadcasting. As a 24-year old, he was named Program Director of Buffalo sports talker WNSA Radio. He also proudly served as WBEN Radio News Director.
The author of six books dealing with various aspects of Buffalo’s history, Cichon has also written more than 1,700 articles for The Buffalo News on Western New York’s pop culture history, including his popular “Torn-down Tuesday” feature.
His work as a broadcast journalist has been recognized with more than two dozen Associated Press Awards AP for general excellence, use of medium, spot news coverage and enterprise reporting. Cichon has also been named Buffalo Spree’s Best of Buffalo Blogger of the Year, an Am-Pol Citizen of the Year, Medaille College’s Radio News Director of the Year, and was a Business First 40 Under 40 selection.
More than anything else, Steve’s a Buffalonian who worked and lived to see his childhood fantasies come to life under the soft glow of “on air” lights for nearly 30 years– and having the honor of sharing these stories of his broadcasting forefathers and heroes lets that feeling keep on riding…
Uncle Bob Cohen, my first radio mentor
Kevin Keenan, my second radio mentor, who gave me my first job and introduced me to my wife
My wife, Monica, who I met through the window of the WBEN newsbooth early one cold Sunday morning in 1993, when she came in to deliver a 5am newscast while I was running the board. Aside from being the love of my life, she also edited this book.
Ed Little, John Demerle, and Al Wallack are only three of the dozens and dozens of amazing people who took me under their wing and taught me the crafts of radio and journalism. And life.
Jarin Cohen and Marty Biniasz are two radio pals who are true brothers. My story is inseparable from theirs, and these stories are their stories, too.
Marty Biniasz, Jack Tapson, Dan Neaverth, Mike Beato, Bob Collignon, Jay Lauder, Walt Haefner, John Bisci, Scott Fybush, and dozens more have all shared items that have become a part of this work.
If nothing else, this book proves that newspaper writers craft the first draft of history.
Bits and pieces of biographical and factual data in this volume have been pulled from thousands and thousands of newspaper articles collected and read through the years.
Hundreds of writers and editors have had a hand in crafting those pieces, and I thank them all. But most notably, I’d like to thank the men and women who have either been on the broadcasting beat or have somehow made radio and tv something they’ve written about in the Courier-Express and The Buffalo News with regularity, among them, in no particular order:
Jeff Simon, Gary Deeb, Hal Crowther, Lauri Githens, Jack Allen, Anthony Violanti, Mary Ann Lauricella, Alan Pergament, Mary Kunz Goldman, J. Don Schlaerth, Don Trantor, Jim Trantor, Jane Kwiatkowski, Jim Baker, Scott Thomas, Sturgis Hedrick, Doug Smith, Margaret Sullivan, Rose Ciotta, and dozens of others.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
The full text of the book is now online.
The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York.
©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon