Torn-Down Tuesday: Leonard Post makes way for Walden Galleria in 1988

       By Steve Cichon

The grand opening of the Walden Galleria was 30 years ago this week, May 1, 1989, which means it’s been at least three decades since you had a draft beer or fish fry at the Leonard Post Jr. VFW Post at its longtime home at 2000 Walden Ave.

The Leonard Post VFW Post was on Walden Avenue between the Thruway and the Sheraton Hotel until the Walden Galleria was built in 1988.

The cornerstone was laid for the building in 1960 and it was open for business the following year. For the next 28 years, it was the home of the post named in honor and memory of PFC Leonard Post, a Cheektowaga resident who was killed during the invasion of Normandy in 1944.

Soon after this photo was taken, the trees in the background were cleared to make room for the Walden Galleria mall.

As the new mall opened as the new neighbor to the Sheraton Hotel, the new VFW post opened about a mile east on Walden Avenue, where it’s been ever since.

Buffalo in the ’40s: Advances in WNY helped usher in modern era of bowling

       By Steve Cichon

Just after World War II ended, American Machine and Foundry moved into the former Walden Avenue plant of the Buffalo Arms Company, just east of Harlem in Cheektowaga.

AMF Automatic pinspotter, manufactured in Cheektowaga

Almost immediately, workers there began churning out a device that would allow bowling to become one of the great American pastimes of the postwar era.

AMF had been petitioning the American Bowling Congress to give approval to its automatic pinsetter, and that thumbs up came only weeks before the annual tournament, held in 1946 at Buffalo’s Connecticut Street Armory.

Bowling on Buffalo’s West Side

At a small garage across the street from the armory — now the site of a 7-Eleven store — AMF set up the first public display of the “most revolutionary piece of equipment in the fastest growing of all participant sports.”

The mechanized pinsetter and ball return eliminated the jobs of thousands of boys around the country who acted as pinsetters, but also allowed for the popular sport to be played 24 hours a day.

“Operating as rapidly as the bowler wishes, it automatically runs the gamut of bowling services setting up the pins, returning the ball to the player, and sweeping the alley of fallen pins,” read a press release that was reprinted on sports pages around the country.

The equipment still wasn’t practical for mass production, but four lanes were installed in a Depew bowling alley in 1947 to begin working out the kinks. In 1952, Amherst Lanes was one of the first two bowling alleys in the country to have the final production model pinsetters installed.

By 1953, AMF’s Cheektowaga plant was cranking out 100 automatic pinsetter units every month. Three years later, there were more than 9,000 machines in use around the country.

The automated pinsetting devices that were first unveiled to the public in that West Side garage in 1946 and then produced on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga catapulted bowling into the national phenomenon it was for several generations, making it a billion-dollar industry when the pinsetter turned 25 years old in 1971.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Cheektowaga’s Liberty Park

       By Steve Cichon

Especially since Exit 52A of the New York State Thruway was built at William Street in the early 1990s, the intersection at William Street and Union Road has grown — both in the numbers of commuters and in the numbers of lanes, with both streets now six lanes across.

Scene at Liberty Park, 1955.

By 2018 standards, it’s a typical busy Western New York suburban intersection, even down to two different places to get Tim Hortons coffee within a few hundred yards of each other.

The beer tent at a company picnic at Liberty Park.

Roll the calendar back 60 years, though, and this part of Cheektowaga was a much more rural setting.

The post-war housing boom continued to fill up grids of streets where farms had stood a generation earlier, but for decades those newer developments were interspersed with vestiges of a time when a trip out to William and Union was a trip out to the country.

Serving hot dogs at Liberty Park.

That was a trip that many thousands of Buffalonians had taken through the years.

Once primarily a picnic and baseball venue in the 1920s and 1930s, in 1942, Liberty Park was purchased by Alexander Kiliszewski, who was known to East Siders as the owner of the Polish Village Restaurant on Broadway.

During World War II, Kiliszewski and his wife, Mary, opened the Park Hotel and Restaurant on the grounds, and in 1949, they added a handful of kiddie amusement rides.

The Kiliszewski family sold the property in 1961. The following year it was rezoned and a gas station was built on the front part of the lot.

Holiday Showcase Restaurant: One of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo

By Steve Cichon

Rather abruptly, the doors closed on a Buffalo institution on Sunday, July 8, 2018.

From after-movie meals to being destroyed by a tornado, The Holiday Showcase Restaurant is one of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Photo appearing on the Holiday Showcase website, 2018,

The Holiday Showcase opened in the front corner of what was then the Aero Drive-In in 1964.

The Aero Drive-In held 800 cars and featured playgrounds for the kids in the spot where Sam’s Club is today.


Around 1971, showed its last movie, but by then, the Holiday 1 and 2 theaters had opened. It was eventually the Holiday 6 by the time it was torn down to make way for the strip mall behind the Holiday Showcase, which served hundreds of thousands of meals to movie goers on the same property for more than 30 years.


From the beginning, specialties have included the HY-BOY, which a 1967 ad calls “a double decker hamburger sensation” and FRESH strawberry pie and shortcake.

The Hy-Boy.


The infamous 1987 Cheektowaga tornado. This is the funnel cloud as seen from Dick Rd.

Whether they’ve eaten at the famous Union Road restaurant or not, it seems every Buffalonian knows that the Holiday Showcase was one of two businesses heavily damaged when a tornado ripped through Cheektowaga in 1987.

The sign is a classic piece of Roadside Americana on Union Rd in Cheektowaga.

The Holiday Showcase Restaurant… another one of the places that makes Buffalo Buffalo.

Buffalo in the ’30s: ‘The most modern Greyhound track’ in the U.S.

By Steve Cichon

Cheektowaga’s greyhound track at the corner of Maryvale and Harlem Roads, 1935. (Buffalo Stories archives)


If the newspaper ads were to believed, the greyhound track at Maryvale and Harlem roads in Cheektowaga was “the most modern greyhound track in the United States” when it opened in 1935.

The building of the $100,000 stadium was surrounded by controversy and fears that “illegal betting might flourish in connection with the enterprise.”

Plans called for a concrete and steel  grandstand with a seating capacity of about 4,000, a clubhouse capable of accommodating about a thousand, and a paddock with housing for 88 thoroughbred dogs.

The track proved very popular early on.

“All roads leading to the place were jammed, and aid from Cheektowaga and State police had to be summoned to keep the lines moving,” reported the Courier-Express. At least 6,000 were there to see the dogs take their first practice run the night before the first race.

In what would now likely be described as the abuse of two different species of animals, The News reported a crowd of more the 12,000 was on hand for “jungle jockey night,” when monkeys rode the greyhounds around the track.

The excitement ground to a halt when, only weeks after opening, the gambling system set up at the track was declared illegal. Later efforts to revive the track couldn’t withstand the betting changes.

The Kensington Expressway cuts through part of the land that was once home to Cheektowaga’s short-lived dog track.

Buffalo in the ’30s: Modernization at the Buffalo airport

By Steve Cichon

As part of the Depression-era programs meant to put men back to work and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, the Works Progress Administration started working on $1.7 million in improvements and modernization at the Buffalo Airport in Cheektowaga in November 1937.

Buffalo News archives

A rural Cheektowaga scene behind WPA workers, starting to build out a new wing of the Buffalo Airport in 1937. Buffalo News archives

The planned upgrades allowed for more daily flights to be added, like the Buffalo-Washington route which started the same day work began. Buffalo Congressman (and later U.S. Senator) James Mead was on that first flight, which was called historic for several reasons.

One was faster mail delivery times, shaving a day or two off mail taken by rail. The real excitement surrounding the new “Buffalo-Washington skyway” involved Canada, and the hope with increased improvement, that Buffalo could be the middle hub in the air link between the U.S. capital of Washington and the Canadian capital of Ottawa.

“Thus another history-making flight was noted in Buffalo’s aviation record.”

Torn-Down Tuesday: Super Flea, aka the Walden Flea Market

By Steve Cichon

For decades, it was a weekend home-away-from-home for people who have stuff to sell and those on the endless quest for the perfect (if not slightly used) stuff.

Buffalo News archives, 1984

Buffalo News archives, 1984

While much of Super Flea’s buying and selling went on in the parking lot when weather allowed, the Super Flea building was a year-round weekend junk adventure.


Super Flea moved into the structure originally built at a cost of $1.1 million by GEX, and opened in 1962. GEX was a membership department store for government employees, military personnel, and employees of companies which dealt with the government.


When it opened, GEX carried more than 80,000 items, in a single story store “the size of three football fields.”


The building that was home to GEX then Super Flea for more than 50 years was torn down starting in 2014. A new Walmart Supercenter opened on the site in 2015.


The Buffalo You Should Know: WNY amusement parks through the decades

By Steve Cichon

Just what counts as an amusement park has been determined on a sliding scale since the phrase was first recorded in the 1890s.

Buffalo News archives

Crystal Beach, 1989. (Buffalo News archives)

Tell an iPad kid of today that he’s going to an amusement park, and visions of mega-coasters and waterparks at Darien Lake or Disney World will dance in his head.

It’s a far cry from when Buffalonians of not-so-long-ago were contented with the tilt-a-whirl and a merry-go-round permanently set up in some department store parking lot.


For a century, Buffalo’s gold standard for amusement parks — no matter how that term was defined — was Crystal Beach. When it was founded in 1888, Crystal Beach was celebrated for the healing powers of its natural sand and crystal-clear waters. Steamboat excursions from Buffalo, first on the Puritan and the Pearl and later on the Americana and Canadiana, brought visitors to Lake Erie’s Canadian shores, but also to several similar resorts along the shores of Western New York.

Elmwood Beach Grand Island

In 1897, Grand Island’s Elmwood Beach was promoted as the only temperance — that is, alcohol-free — park and beach on the American side of the international border. It was opened in 1894 by the White Line lake steamer company, to provide its passengers with a destination it called “The Island Paradise of Buffalo.” It was operated by Harvey Ferren, owner of the Court Street Theatre downtown.


It was built as “a safe place for bathing” for women and children, with hard white-sand beaches. Special park police made sure that there was no “objectionable swim attire” at this summer resort that “was on a scale previously unknown in the area.” The fact that no liquor was sold there made it a popular destination for church groups, which boarded the boat to the resort at the foot of Ferry Street.


Elmwood Beach was one of a handful of such resorts that popped up on Grand Island. Eldorado Beach was another.

New “high-class amusements and novelties” were unveiled for the 1899 season, but by 1910, the place had been abandoned. The parcel eventually became part of Beaver Island State Park, unveiled in 1939.

West Seneca’s Lein’s Park, Cheektowaga’s Bellvue Park, Fillmore Avenue’s Teutonia Park

These rustic, outdoorsy amusement areas were a drive out to the country in their day, but the land they were once located upon has long since been developed. The areas were used most by Buffalo’s growing German immigrant population.


Lein’s Park was built over the course of nearly a decade by Gardenville’s Henry Lein, just south of Cazenovia Creek and what is now Southgate Plaza on Union Road, starting in 1895.

Home to a bear pit, bowling alley and dance hall, the park closed up at some point after Lein — who served as West Seneca town supervisor — was found guilty of graft and sent to prison in Auburn in 1913. He was later pardoned by the governor and re-elected supervisor.


Buffalo’s German-Americans were clearly the target clientele for Fillmore Avenue’s Teutonia Park, “the family resort of the East Side” of the 1880s and 1890s.


While catering to Germans, the grounds one block north of Martin Luther King Jr. (then Parade) Park were owned by Baptist Kahabka, “one of Buffalo’s leading Polish citizens.” The park was one of Buffalo’s leading sports and conventions grounds, with boxing matches and picnics attracting crowds of up to 10,000 people somewhat regularly.

In 1921, the city cleared the land where the park once stood, and built East High School on the easternmost part of the plot.

Bellevue Park sprang up along Cayuga Creek at the last stop of a trolley line from Buffalo. The Bellevue Hotel on Como Park Boulevard was once a part of the sprawling 30-acre park, which was open until around the turn of the century.


Woodlawn Beach

Touted as “The American resort for Americans,” Woodlawn Beach tried to take on Crystal Beach directly, hoping to scoop up some of the thousands who arrived at Buffalo’s Central Wharf to get on ships bound for Canada.

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

The steamer Corona, and later the steamer Puritan, took passengers to Woodlawn Beach four times daily from Buffalo. The grounds opened in 1892 with a toboggan slide and “ice-cream” as main attractions. As early as 1894, ads also bragged about the park’s being “illuminated with electricity.”

In 1920, it was electricity that was bringing Buffalonians to Woodlawn in streetcars on what was billed as “only a seven-minute ride” from downtown. Two years later, Bethlehem Steel bought up some of the property for use as a slag dump, but the old roller coaster and amusements stayed in place in various states of operation through the Great Depression.

The evolution of many of these Victorian health retreats and picnic grounds into the more modern amusement park concept was pushed along by one of the great marvels of Buffalo’s 1901 Pan-American Exposition: “A Trip to the Moon.”


Located on the Midway on near what is Amherst Street today, “A Trip to the Moon” offered 60 passengers at once the most technologically advanced amusement of its time. A ride in a “spaceship” offered a simulated tour of the moon.


The ride caught the fancy of tens of thousands of visitors to Buffalo and at least that many Buffalonians. That was no doubt behind the idea in naming the features of Fairyland Park at Jefferson at Ferry after the Pan-Am’s big attractions. In 1910, “the Mecca of pleasure-seekers” was promoting its midway and Temple of Music — both with names taken directly from the Pan-Am. But other budget attractions inspired by the world-class event included Mysterious Asia, Cave of the Winds, White Horse Tavern, Southern Plantation, Japanese Rolling Balls, Minerva the Mystic and Reed’s Big Congress of Novelties.


“Luna Park was built just after the Pan-American Exposition and was the nearest thing to Coney Island in the pleasure line that Buffalo had to offer,” reported the Buffalo Courier in 1909 after the city’s biggest-ever amusement park burned to the ground at the corner of Main and Jefferson.


Click for larger view. Buffalo Stories archives

Renamed Carnival Court, the old Luna Park cost more than $250,000 to rebuild. Five cents admission gained you access to rides like Shoot the Chutes, the L. A. Thompson Mountain Scenic Railway, Auto-whirl, Witching Water Ways, Galloping-Horse Carousel, Human Roulette Wheel and Ocean Waves.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

The site was razed to make way for a Sears Roebuck store and parking ramp in 1929. Both of those former Sears structures are now part of the Canisius College campus.

Built in Western New York

A Western New York company gave rise to many smaller amusement parks around the country in the years following World War II.


When demand for the handcrafted carousels that had made the company famous since 1880 started to wane, North Tonawanda’s Allan Herschell Co. began making smaller amusement rides it marketed as attractions to small and large venues alike.

Opened originally in the 1920s as a dance pavilion, Lalle’s at Lake Bay, Angola, steadily added amusement rides and booths through the 1940s and 1950s. New amusements for 1947 included the miniature zeppelin, auto and railroad rides, the Dodge-Em, the Ocean Wave and the Chair Plane.


These smaller amusements were used to entice parents to bring their children — and maybe do some additional shopping — in several places around Western New York. Buffalo’s first suburban mega-shopping center, the Thruway Plaza, opened in 1952 with a handful of rides in its Kiddie Ranch.


Just up Walden Avenue, on the corner of Dick Road, stood Twin Fair Kiddieland in the parking lot of the department store.


In Niagara County, Page’s Kiddyland at Packard and Military first stood to help draw customers to the Simon-Gulf gas station and then the Whistle Pig restaurant.


One of Western New York’s smallest-yet-long-lasting amusement attractions was Dealing’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard near Ellicott Creek Park.

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

The Dealing family first built an elaborately carved carousel on their Niagara Falls Boulevard farm in 1929. After returning from World War II, Earl Dealing added about a half-dozen rides to the one put up by his father. He ran Dealing’s Amusement Park until 1980.


Nestled off Main Street in the Village of Williamsville, Harry Altman’s Glen Park Casino is remembered for high-quality musical and Hollywood entertainment and was a regular stop for acts as varied as Sammy Davis Jr. and the Three Stooges. Those too young to remember the music just might remember the rides.


Up to 6,000 people or more would fill the tiny park on holidays in the 1960s. The Glen Park Casino, renamed Inferno, burned down in a $300,000 blaze in 1968. The area was developed into a park in 1975.

Glen Park. Buffalo Stories archives.

Glen Park. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Western New York children of the 1970s might remember Fun-N-Games Park just off the Youngmann in Tonawanda.

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

Another instance of amusement rides in a Twin Fair parking lot, the park’s most memorable feature might have been the unconnected roadside attraction in front of it—the whale car wash.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

The larger parks like Crystal Beach, Fantasy Island and Darien Lake were built and promoted as regional destinations, and likely remembered by almost anyone who grew up in Western New York, but these smaller parks are just as memorable in our own experiences or the stories or our parents and grandparents of days gone by.

Fantasy Island, 1960s. Buffalo News archives.

Fantasy Island, 1960s. (Buffalo News archives)

What it looked like Wednesday: Walden at Union, around 1958

By Steve Cichon

This aerial view of Walden at Union might have been taken in 1958 with a handful of other aerial photos of that same area with the date stamped on them.


Buffalo News archives

Decades before the building of the Walden Galleria, Cheektowaga High School is perhaps the easiest landmark to identify. The on- and off-ramps of the Thruway on Walden at the bottom of the photo help situate the rest of the photo, as well.

Just on the right edge of the page, east of the Walden/Union intersection, is the longtime home of Brand Names.

Off in the distance, the Twin Drive-In and Twin Fair, both of which closed in 1982, can be seen at the corner of Walden and Dick.

The Google image shows the same area, turned 90 degrees, today.

Buffalo in the ’60s: A look inside Cheektowaga’s new St. Joseph Hospital

By Steve Cichon

This week 55 years ago, August 27, 1960, Western New York’s newest hospital was opened, as Bishop Joseph A. Burke cut the ribbon on the St. Joseph Intercommunity Hospital in Cheektowaga.

(Buffalo Stories archives)

A special section of The News was dedicated to the latest advances seen inside, as highlighted by the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph.

Bishop Joseph A Burke dedicates Cheektowaga’s new St. Joseph’s Hospital on Harlem Rd. in 1960. (Buffalo Stories archives)