AHK- Alfred Kirchhofer & around the Buffalo radio dial

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Starting in 1927, Alfred H. Kirchhofer spent 39 years at The Buffalo Evening News as the Managing Editor then Editor. He was also Vice President, then President of WBEN from 1930-67.

AHK (as he referred to himself) or Mr. Kirchhofer (as everyone else referred to him) was the man in charge of WBEN Radio before there was a WBEN Radio.

His influence was key in the News’ purchase of the station in 1930. From 1927 until his retirement in 1967, Kirchhofer ran and expanded a News Empire that included The Buffalo Evening News and added WBEN Radio in 1930, in 1936 added WEBR Radio (then a News property), WBEN-FM in 1946, and WBEN-TV in 1948.

Despite his founding of four broadcast outlets, Kirchhofer was first and foremost a newspaper man. After joining the Buffalo Evening News in 1915, he opened the News’ Washington Bureau, and became a familiar figure to Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, all the while being Buffalo’s eyes and ears in the nation’s capital.

Realizing the potential for radio beyond selling newspapers, Kirchhofer developed a staff of radio writers and newsmen for WBEN and put the station on top to stay for decades.

The FM and television stations developed under Kirchhofer were not only Buffalo’s first, but among the first in the nation.

Even as much of the broadcasting world reflected the changes in society through the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the staunch conservative content and dry delivery at the News Stations was a direct result of Kirchhofer’s editorial approach.

His News style book included a section titled, “avoid mentioning hideous creatures.” Rats and snakes became rodents and reptiles. Women weren’t “pregnant” but with child on the pages of The News, and “motherhood is not treated as a situation comedy.”

The approach made the News Stations “The Stations of Record” for generations.

Another famous Kirchhofer story involves the chair next to his desk, which was notoriously bolted to the floor, nominally as a way to keep “boozy salesmen and politicians from getting too close,” but in practice, it was an intimidation tactic for anyone speaking with him.

Elda Lucente broadcast the Italian Hour on WXRA in 1949. The station was founded in Kenmore in 1947, and sold to become WINE in 1957.
The 1947 WGR announcing staff consisted of chief Allen Lewis (seated), and David Getman, Bernard Ryan, Robert Sherry, and Don Gill.
Bob Glacy joined the WGR/WKBW staff in 1938. In the early 40s, he hosted WKBW’s “Headlines on Parade” morning news program. He was the long-time host of “Glacy’s Basement” on WKBW and through the 50s, was one of the stable of hosts and disc jockeys at WGR.

Over the more than 15 years Bob Glacy spent at WGR Radio and later WGR-TV, he did just about everything from newscasts to disc jockey to hosting Ch.2’s TV Dance Party.

Later on WEBR, he hosted “Coffee Break” between 10 and noon from the fourth floor Civic Room of the downtown Sample Shop at 554 Main Street.

“Glacy will be seated in a glass studio shaped like a coffee-maker. Shoppers will be able to watch the broadcast and have coffee and rolls. Relaxed music will be geared to the housewife and home-bound office worker.”

CHVC signed on from a studio next to the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, Ontario in 1947. The station offered some of the first programming created by Black Western New Yorkers meant to be listened to by Black Western New Yorkers. Johnny Thomas and Flora Henderson produced programs on CHVC created for an audience in Buffalo.
“The Quiz of Two Cities” on WBEN pitted the people of Buffalo vs the people of Rochester, with Wally Nehrling, quizmaster.


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

WBEN- The Buffalo Evening News Station

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


The Buffalo Evening News promotes its radio coverage in a booklet promoting its radio station, WBEN, in 1931.

The Buffalo Evening News had been a pioneer in the field of wireless communications, from wireless telegraph station WBL which operated from The News headquarters, to setting up the radio relay of election results on “radio’s birthday” in 1920.

Decorated in green and white, an early WBEN studio on the 18th floor of the Statler Hotel, 1930.

“A new voice of the city is on the air, bespeaking new hopes and hoping to fulfill new opportunities for the entire Niagara Frontier,” read the opening sentence of the story in The News, celebrating the initial broadcast of WBEN on September 8, 1930.

WBEN’s first announcers in 1930 were, standing, William Cook, Merwin Morrison, and Bob White (also known as Chief Announcer Gorson Higham.) Seated are Edward Obrist and Louis Kaiser.

“Through the magic of radio, it expects to become an increasingly powerful factor for knowledge, for culture, for good citizenship.”

The voice of announcer Merwin Morrison was the first to be heard on WBEN, but that first broadcast was opened with the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, followed immediately by “the Maple Leaf Forever,” which was then the national anthem of Canada.

Even by 1932, there were still enough Buffalo homes without radios that the Shea’s theaters around the city were open to broadcast WBEN’s returns of the Presidential election between President Herbert Hoover and New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.
WBEN’s Blue and White Trio was a salon group that played music during the dinner hour in the station’s earliest years. Shown in 1931 is director and pianist Karl Koch, violinist Charles Coumont, and cellist Frank Kuhn. Above, they are shown inside Buffalo’s Elmwood Music Hall. Below, musicians at the WBEN studios.
Buffalo Mayor (and Broadway Market butcher) Charles Roesch stands before the WBEN microphone at the Elmwood Music Hall to open Buffalo’s Centennial celebration in 1932.

Buffalo Evening News Managing Editor Alfred H. Kirchhofer gave an address welcoming the listening audience to WBEN on behalf of the paper on that first day.

It was Kirchhofer, who would eventually serve as President of WBEN, who was more instrumental than anyone else in the paper’s move to start operating a radio station, and then later to develop FM and television broadcasting stations as well.

“We can promise you that we will be our own most severe critics and that nothing shall interfere with the rapid development of a station that will be a credit to Buffalo and a joy to the listener,” said Kirchhofer over the air that first night.

For the next 47 years, through the auspices of its newspaper owner, WBEN would be Buffalo’s most thoroughly marketed and photographed radio (and later TV) station, as is evidenced on the pages of this volume.

WBEN broadcasting from the Buffalo River in 1936, with technician Earnest Roy, Buffalo Fire Captain Daniel J. Mahoney, announcer Lou Kaiser, and pilot Patrick J. Mulland. The men are aboard the fire boat “W.S. Grattan,” which was renamed “Edward M. Cotter” in 1954.
Joe Wesp, WBEN’s Ironic Reporter, spent much of the 1930s travelling to out-of-the-way places around Western New York and broadcasting live from those places. In 1936, his travels took him to Gowanda, where he spoke with 71-year-old Frank Davis in front of Gulley’s drug store.
Earl Sheridan and Jack Doherty came to WBEN in 1935 as the Jack & Earl, The Minutemen from WYXZ in Detroit. Starting before the sun, they “broadcast popular songs, time signals, piano duets and comedy.” WBEN tried a long line of morning announcers in the 1930s, none of whom could put a dent in the popularity of WGR’s Clint Buehlman.
When Clint Buehlman first stepped to the mic as a newly hired junior announcer for the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation in 1931, he made waves with his silly programs where he was known as the station’s “Chief Nutcracker.” By then, the 20-year-old was already a radio vet, having acted on WGR dramas through the 1920s. He literally grew up and grew old with Buffalo radio and its listeners. Over his 46-year professional career, Buehlman became known for his little songs about driving in the rain and school closings. He’d start waking up Buffalo with WGR’s Musical Clock show in 1932 and though he moved to WBEN in 1943, he’d continue hosting a morning radio show without interruption until 1977.
WBEN’s first transmitter facility in Martinsville.


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

Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers: 8th Annual Hall of Fame Inductions

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This story was published in Living Prime Time magazine

sept2004The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to collect and maintain the articles and stories of the great history of radio and television on the Niagara Frontier, as well celebrate those who embody the great spirit broadcasting today and into the future.

Once a year, we like to take the opportunity to celebrate the lives and careers of those men and women of broadcasting who, through their superlative efforts, have left an indelible mark not only on the history of Buffalo Broadcasting; but on the lives of those who watched and listened as well. For the seventh of our eight years, we will convene at the newly remodeled Tralfamadore Café for The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame Night, Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 6:00pm.

Enshrined in our Hall of Fame are the broadcasters who make us proud to work in the wake of their legacy. They’ve all contributed something special to Western New York. Just like periods of history are noted by Kings and Popes, you might be able to trace your memory by who was on your radio as you woke up and went to school or work… Or who hosted the cartoons when you got home from school or read the news on TV as you went to bed. Hopefully the mere mention of some of the names below will help conjure some of those memories.

The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers was founded in 1995, and we still have a lot of catching up to do. The Golden Age Award is reserved for the pioneers in the truest sense of the word: Those who did it first, the people who had no pattern to follow, no lead blocker. These folks blazed the trail, and set an example for future generations to follow.

Stan BARRON 2004 Golden Age Award
Stan BARRON
2004 Golden Age Award

If you ever heard Stan Barron, you’re standards are likely a bit higher in sports broadcasting. Stan came to Buffalo in 1952, and spent a decade at WKBW Radio and television, as a play-by-play man on radio, and serving as WKBW-TV’s first sports director. Stan is perhaps most remembered, though, for his time at WBEN Radio, where he was half of the Stan and Van team calling Bills Football for 14 years. It was also at WBEN that he, with out the aid of a producer for most of the shows run, ran Free Form Sports, a show that might have the Bills quarterback on one minute, then switch to an 11 year old Little League pitcher who threw a perfect game.

Upon Stan’s death in 1984, then WBEN disc jockey Tom Kelly commented that the first thing he heard on Buffalo radio as he drove into town was a gravely voice reading youth soccer scores on WBEN. He didn’t understand that night but he soon did. Stan Barron wasn’t a sports announcer; he was a beloved institution who enjoyed, understood, and celebrated sports and athletes at every level.

Alfred KIRCHHOFER 2004 George Goodyear Award
Alfred KIRCHHOFER
2004 George Goodyear Award

AHK(as he referred to himself) or Mr. Kirchhofer (as everyone else referred to him) was the man in charge of WBEN Radio before there was a WBEN Radio. His influence was key in the News’ purchase of the station in 1930. From 1927 until his retirement in 1967, Mr. Kirchhofer ran and expanded a News Empire that included the Buffalo Evening News, and added WBEN Radio in 1930, in 1936 added WEBR Radio (then a News property), WBEN-FM in 1946, and WBEN-TV in 1948.
Despite his founding of four broadcast outlets, Kirchhofer was first and foremost a newspaper man. After joining the Buffalo Evening News in 1915, he opened the News’ Washington Bureau, and became a familiar figure to Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, all the while being Buffalo’s eyes and ears in the nation’s capital. Realizing the potential for radio beyond selling newspapers, Kirchhofer developed a staff of radio writers and newsmen for WBEN and put the station on top to stay for decades. The Evening News Stations were always ahead of the curve for not only Buffalo, but helped put Buffalo in the media avant-garde for the nation. The FM and television stations developed under Kirchhofer were not only Buffalo’s first, but among the first in the nation.

The staunch conservative content and dry delivery at the News Stations that survived well into the 1970s was a direct result of Kirchhofer’s editorial style. His approach made the News Stations “The Stations of Record” for generations.

Mike MERIAN
Mike MEARIAN

Despite a decades long career in radio, television, and on the stage, Mike Mearian might best be known to the thousands of children who grew up watching him on Channel 4 in the 50s and 60s as the guy with Buttons. Mearian filled the imaginations of kids with thoughts of far off places as the host of Children’s Theatre on WBEN-TV, as well as the voice of Buttons the puppet.

After winning three purple hearts in World War II combat, Mearian started in radio in a small Texas town in 1947. He eventually made his way to Buffalo, and after stints as the morning man at KB Radio and Kenmore’s WXRA, Merian spent the next 14 years at WBEN Radio and TV. Perhaps best remembered for those of a certain age for his work with children’s programming, older folks will remember his live Statler Hilton Lunch Club shows and his evening comedy show on WBEN Radio.

Mearian values his time in Buffalo as a time where talented people were given free reign to make good radio and television without interference from above. You may have recognized Mike over the years in commercials, on soap operas, even on Law & Order as a judge… and wondered, “what ever happened to Buttons?” Not to worry, since leaving Buffalo in 1966, Mearian has lived in the Big Apple with his wife and the puppet friend brought alive here in Buffalo.

Stan ROBERTS
Stan ROBERTS

Ba-Dum-Bum! That vocalized rimshot crashes quite easily (and often!) from the lips of Buffalo’s beloved self-fashioned Corny DJ… For parts of seven decades, Stan Roberts has been on the radio making us laugh… and groan. From the time of his arrival at WKBW Radio in the early 60s, through his days at WGR, WBUF and WBEN, Stan has made a career of not taking himself too seriously. And so long as you were laughing, or at least smiling (no matter with him or at him) he figures his job well done.

For all of the lampshades Stan has worn on his head in TV commercials, he’s also been a part of many of Buffalo’s most exciting times. Thousands of Sabres fans still cherish the Memorable Sabres Highlights record Stan voiced in commemoration of the 1975 Stanley Cup year. Thousands of Bills fans ignored his warnings to “Stay off the Field” as they tore down Rich Stadium goalposts at the beginning of the Bills Superbowl run. Stan also helped organize Light Up Buffalo… inspiring some of the most stunning night time photos ever taken of Downtown Buffalo. He’s also made his mark in radio sales, as one of Buffalo Radio’s top billing salesmen of the past quarter century.

But most importantly, from his time as a teen DJ in Asbury Park, NJ in the late 40’s; to his role as one of Buffalo’s senior radio salesmen, Stan Roberts has always had the gift to make us smile whether we want to or not.

Buffalo Bob Smith began his broadcasting career in his hometown of Buffalo, but of course gained worldwide fame as the human friend of America’s favorite puppet, Howdy Doody. Despite his international celebrity, Bob never forgot his hometown, and even adopted it as a part of his name. Each year The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers honor a broadcaster who has made his or her mark away from the Niagara Frontier, but is a Buffalonian at heart.

Mark RUSSELL 2003 Buffalo Bob Smith Award
Mark RUSSELL
2003 Buffalo Bob Smith Award

After growing up on Buffalo’s East Side and attending Canisius High School, Mark Russell became interested in comedy during a hitch in the Marine Corps. It was while in the Marines he began performing in clubs around the Virginia base at which he was stationed. Influenced by the likes of Mort Sahl and Tom Lehrer, Russell’s act had become increasing political by the time he landed at the Shoreham Hotel. There, Russell spent 20 years entertaining and skewering the men leading the nation.

He also met a few fellow Buffalonians — WNED executives – who offered to produce a PBS special starring Russell.

Nearly 30 years later, Russell still returns to Western New York to spend part of the summer and to star in those specials, on a street named Mark Russell Way by the City of Buffalo in his honor.

Don YEARKE 2004 Behind the Scenes Award
Don YEARKE
2004 Behind the Scenes Award

The quarter century Don Yearke spent as an award-Winning videographer and Chief Photographer at Channel 4 is the basis for which he has been awarded the Behind The Scenes Award. But his work as a camera man is only the second half the story.

After signing on Buffalo’s WNIA Radio as the first Tommy Thomas in 1956 and spending time at Radio Tokyo as a soldier stationed in Japan, Don made his way to KB Radio in 1958. There he started as Dick Biondi’s newsman, and, eventually, became KB’s overnight Rock Jock, where his show could be heard in Maryland, Michigan, and Sweden. As Don Keller, the Farm Feller, he delivered agricultural news to the Niagara Frontier on WKBW Radio every morning, and on WKBW-TV on Saturday mornings. As his role at Channel 7 grew, Don became Buffalo’s first modern street reporter, both gathering news and interviews, and then presenting them himself on camera.

It was in the Channel 7 newsroom that News Director Hal Youngblood sent reporter Don Keller to a fire, and told him to point the camera at the flame. Since that first assignment as a camera man with a black and white Bell Howell wind up, Yearke’s pictures have brought the world to our living rooms. From Popes and Presidents, to the Blizzard of ’77, to Superbowls, Don’s eyes have provided our vision of the news of the day. Since his retirement as WIVB-TV’s Chief Photographer in 1999, Yearke has continued to work as a free lance videographer.

We always welcome new members to the BBP, broadcasters and fans of broadcasting alike. It’s our mission to preserve and promote Western New York’s rich TV and radio history, and to salute and bring attention to quality broadcasting of today. Membership is $25, and anyone with a passion for broadcasting can join as a member. It’s just as easy to join us in celebrating this year’s honorees. Tickets to our Hall of Fame event are available for to general public at $50 per person. Send your ticket order or membership request with payment to: The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers; 5672 Main Street; Williamsville, New York 14221.

Steve Cichon is President of the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers.