What Labor Day means for me and my family

Both of my grandpas typify what Labor Day is about.

monic steve grandparents
With my grandpas Jim Coyle (left) and Eddie Cichon (right), and Grandma Coyle and my beautiful bride on our wedding day in 2001. The more weddings I attend, the more grateful I am that I had three grandparents there on my wedding day.

Grandpa Coyle was poor, and I think it’s fair to say didn’t have many prospects, until his boss at the Boys Club helped get him an apprenticeship with the Glaziers Union. After years as a glass worker, he ran Local 660 for decades.

gramps and glaziers
That’s Grandpa Coyle, in the center, next to the sailor, with the checked jacket and the rip in the photo. He was a glazier– a glassworker– and eventually spent a couple decades as the funds administrator for the Glaziers Local 660. This is from c.1953.

Grandpa Cichon started as a laborer at National Aniline, but learned a trade to become a tinsmith. He put in 40 years there.

gramps racing
Grandpa Cichon usually had no fewer than 3 or 4 jobs at a time, including regular work through the ticket takers and bet takers union at Memorial Auditorium, War Memorial Stadium/Rich Stadium, and Buffalo Raceway.

Both men’s willingness to work hard for better lives for themselves and their children is now also being enjoyed by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Sure, organized labor is about 40 hour, 5 day work weeks… But to me, it’s about building American families for generations.
Labor Day also makes me think of my time as a union member, when the company that owns Channel 4 locked out half of our NABET-25 bargaining unit.
Technicians (studio crew, engineers, master control operators) weren’t allowed to work through contract negotiations, while newsroom staff (producers, photographers, editors) were forced to work with (incompetent) replacement workers.

steve locked out
As someone who has only ever wanted to show up and do my job, it was a time I’ll never forget– when the owners of Channel 4 wouldn’t let some of its hardest working, longest tenured employees come to work to provide for their families.
I don’t always agree with every union stance, but whenever I hear someone say unions are past their usefulness, I pray that they never learn first hand how useful a union can be.

The 1930s South Buffalo vehicular tragedies in my family tree

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

I don’t think we always realize how much better we live these days.

Both Grandpa and Grandma Cichon had little siblings killed when they were hit by cars on the streets of South Buffalo.

The Buffalo Evening News’ morbid coverage of Grandma Cichon’s little sister’s death is incredible. Mary Lou Scurr was about a year-and-a-half old when she was run over while playing in a toy car in the street.

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marylou2This photo was on the front page, above the fold, May, 1935. Grandma’s little brother Gordon—who was only hours before a witness to the accident which caused the death of his little sister– posed next to the wreckage of the accident. Judging by the description of the scene, it’s fair to assume this mangled car had blood and possibly other remains of his baby sister in it.

Sadly, Gordon Scurr’s next appearance in the news was 11 years later, while in high school, he died of a rare glandular disorder.

gordon

Two years later, Grandpa Cichon’s little brother was killed in a similar fashion.

Roman (also called roman3Raymond) Cichon was five years old and fascinated with trucks. He liked to go to the junk yard at the corner of Fulton and Smith Streets in The Valley to see the trucks in action.

His big brother, my grandfather, used to take him there. The way he told it, while Gramps was stealing an apple off a neighbor’s tree, Raymond was “mangled” by a truck. That word “mangled” was one Gramps often used with us in the hundreds of times we crossed Seneca Street to go from his house to Cazenovia Park.

In his 88 year life, the death of Raymond may have been what caused him the most sadness; even worse in some ways than the unbearable loss of 4 of his own children. As he talked about it, I could feel his guilt in not being right there to save his little brother. His use of the word mangle is the only hint of what the scene looked like—but frankly it’s enough.

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In the end, it certainly wasn’t Gramps’ fault– and the truck driver lost his license. Raymond was killed when that truck bolted onto the sidewalk ran him over.

He was buried at St. Stanislaus cemetery near where another baby Cichon, Czeslaw (aka Chester ) was buried after he died from cancer as a baby.

Putting together the pieces of family history

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I wish Gramps was around to share this with him, just got it today. This is his dad’s 1893 baptismal record from Obrazow, Poland. Says Jan Stanislaw Cichon was born in Glazow, Radom, Poland to Jozef and Agnieszka (nee Korona.) Like all the records from Poland at this time, it’s written in Russian.

My dad lived his life hating this man, who treated him poorly for a variety of reasons. Because of some genealogical research I was doing, my dad talked to my grandpa about this guy only days before Dad died… and Dad made some peace– which I know gave my grandpa peace, too. They both had tears in their eyes, as Gramps said, “Pa really was good, son. He was just sick.” Jan Cichon spent the last decade of his life mostly drunk, self-medicating after cancer of the jaw and throat saw the lower half of his face horribly pained and disfigured.

Finding this record, even a few months after Gramps’ death, closes some kind of loop for me. Much of who I am traces back to my dad and his dad… and the way Gramps talked about his dad– It goes back to him, too. A part of me that I’m really proud of was born to a couple of Polish peasants in Southeast Poland in 1893. I’m glad to know it.

As serious as kielbasy: Discovering what drew out the serious in Gramps

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

BUFFALO, NY – Anyone who knew my Grandpa Cichon knew there was a certain joyfulness in his voice– always. His heart was always smiling, and that showed through in his voice. I might count on one hand the exceptions in the 36 years I knew him.

Gramps trying to look serious in a photo for his Harness Racing Commission license.
Gramps trying to look serious in a photo for his Harness Racing Commission license.

One notable time was when the full service gas station guy screwed him on the amount of gas he pumped into Gramps’ car. Gramps probably asked for $5, which he figured should have about filled up the tank. We barely got a block up Seneca Street when Gramps threw on the brakes and made a hard u-turn back towards Petro USA.

“You goddamn horseball!,” Gramps screamed out the window, as my brother and I barely contained our laughter, sitting on the red plush seats in the back of the black 1985 Pontiac Bonneville. We’d never seen Gramps like that, and I think that’s pretty much the only time I ever saw Gramps really mad. Again, it was also one of the few times I saw him more serious than filled with joy.

Now gramps was blind, and didn’t around well for the last few years of his life. Some men in that situation would want, say, booze snuck into the nursing home. Not Gramps. Donuts or hot dogs with slivered onions and sweet relish were all he wanted. I’d usually bring him one or the other, sometimes both.

Over the course of 90 minutes, I’d hand him 3 or 4 timbits. Once I made a joke or said something stupid about donuts. Again, one of the few times I ever heard him this serious. “Son,” he told me with the tone of life and death at stake, “Donuts are as good as gold.” I was satisfied there was nothing greater I could do for him than visit and bring chocolate timbits.

The “beautiful” food they served was always a topic of conversation. Food was Gramps’ all-time favorite subject, perhaps a left over affect of growing up in the Depression when there was never enough to eat. The last time I visited with Gramps, he was talking about how they’d served kielbasy that afternoon. Kielbasy is the Polish plural of kielbasa, and we’ve always called Polish sausage (ka-BAAS-ee) in my family.

I wasn’t sure what to think, though, when Gramps’ tone turned a bit hushed and he got somewhat serious, maybe as serious as I had heard him since he bawled out the South Buffalo gas station guy almost 30 years earlier.

“Now son,” he started, with a gravity which set me on the edge of me chair, straining to get close and make sure I didn’t miss anything. “Son, what’s your favorite? Do you like the smoked or the not smoked?”

The most serious conversation I’d ever have with my beloved grandfather, the man who my Uncle Tom called “the best polack who ever lived,” was about “kielbasy.” Polish sausage. Good ol’ Edziu wanted to know my freaking Polish sausage preference. It’s really about the most marvelous thing ever, really.

“I usually take one of each, Gramps,” I said, telling the truth, but also not wanting to really show my hand and potentially disappoint Gramps in something that was obviously so important to him. But then I gave up the goods. “If I had to choose one though, I’d probably take the smoked.”

“Me too,” Gramps said to my relief. “Know how I like it? Burned up a l’il bit, with horseradish mustard on rye bread. My ma used to make it the big pan with the lard for the pierogi. She made the pierogi big, and cooked ’em in lard, not butter.”

With Easter upon us, there’s been plenty of social media talk of Polish sausage. All I can think about is Gramps’ favorite– kielbasa on rye bread with Weber’s mustard. I’m doing it this Easter. I’m bringing the rye bread and Weber’s just to make sure.

I’ll bite into that Old World combination of flavor, and think happily of Gramps. The hunk of kielbasy won’t be fried up in lard, but that sounds like something maybe to look forward to sometime soon.

Death is never what It seems: Gramps, Dad, and how their passings changed things…

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – With Ralph Wilson in the news, today I was talking with a few co-workers about death and dying.

The Ol'Man (my dad, Steve Cichon), Me, and Gramps (dad's dad, Edward Cichon). Just hanging out at the Msgr. Nash K of C Hall, South Legion Dr, 2008.
The Ol’Man (my dad, Steve Cichon), Me, and Gramps (dad’s dad, Edward Cichon). Just hanging out at the Msgr. Nash K of C Hall, South Legion Dr, 2008.

I’d found myself in the same situation as Mr. Wilson’s family over the last few weeks. While I had hoped that my grandfather would live forever, or at least til he hit a birthday worthy of a Willard Scott mention; the truth is, Gramps was 88, and had been in slowly declining health for over a decade. It was a mix of great hope and sad acceptance in thinking about Gramps for a long time, until he did pass away March 4th.

I grieve the loss of a simply beautiful man, but equally feel some satisfaction in accepting the simply beautiful long life he lived.

As is often the case with death, it’s not quite that simple. We’ll all be attending a service for Gramps on Friday, which is also the anniversary of my Dad’s death a few years ago.

In our little conversation around the coffee pot about Ralph Wilson and death, I was about to mention something about about Dad’s death, when I realized I didn’t know without thinking how long it had been.

I just barely controlled myself, with the thunderpunch of a thought that Dad died so long ago I can’t immediately remember.

It was four years ago. And four years later, that thought that I had to do math in order to remember how long it had been since I sat with dad, laughed with dad, talking with dad, yelled at dad… It was as if he’d just right now died all over again.

But having a Mass for Gramps on the anniversary of dad’s death is somehow appropriate for me.

Losing a father is a complicated, awful, inward, outward emotional mess. Dad was very sick, and for a long time, I had tried to steel myself for the inevitable– but there’s no way to prepare. Especially when the most difficult part of it all was completely outside of me and my control.

Gramps. Spending 3 years and 11 months talking with Gramps about my dad and the fact that he’s gone while trying to keep it all together was emotionally difficult beyond words. My dad was more than Gramps’ son, they were best friends. In his own illness, my dad thought more about Gramps’ well-being than his own. He called him 3 or 4 times a day. They kept each other smiling, and kept each other in line.

My dad’s last mission in life was doing what he could to take care of his dad. My dad never asked for much for himself, but I know if we would have had the opportunity to talk heart-to-heart with me before he died, dad would have told me to take care of Gramps. I did my best, which sometimes wasn’t good enough. A call to Gramps could be crushing, and frankly, I wasn’t always up to it.

It was generally heart breaking talking with Gramps. Four or five times in the course of a 90 minute visit, he’d talk about how much he missed my dad. I sat through it, discussed it, even encouraged it– despite those thoughts ripping the heart out of my chest and leaving me drowning in emotion every time. But of course, what ever pain I have dealing in the death of a father, I can’t even imagine the pain and emptiness of dealing with the death of a son.

Once I mentioned that I had some recordings of my dad. Gramps almost started to cry, his voice shaky. “I’d love to hear his voice again, Son.” I have not and cannot listen to the hours and hours of Dad I taped through the years. I just can’t bear it. I found a short conversation I recorded when my dad called me at work one time to wish me a happy birthday. It’s dad happy and full of life… which in his last few years wasn’t always the case. Still, most of the dozens of times I played the one minute phone message for Gramps, tears uncontrollably streamed down my face. A few times I felt nauseous. Gramps often cried too, but it was therapy he relished.

Despite being blind and practically immobile, I’m sure Gramps knew until his last breath exactly how long he’d been without my dad. If Gramps was still here, I’d have called him on Friday, the anniversary of Dad’s death. “Hi Gramps, It’s Stevie.” “Hello, son. You know your dad died 4 years ago today?” “Yep, I know,” I’d have said, trying not to sound too sad. “Wanna hear the tape?”

For four years, my mourning has been wrapped in the context of completing Dad’s last mission and being there for Gramps in sharing his pain and loss.

Right after he died, I wrote about what a perfect grandfather Gramps was to us when we were little. Now that he’s gone, I’m realizing pretty strikingly that once again, Gramps was helping me far more than I could have ever helped him in talking about and thinking about my ol’man.

 

Remembering the Everyday with Gramps: The perfect grandfather because in his heart he was one of the kids

Edward Valentine Cichon 1926- 2014

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Valentines Day was the perfect day for him to be born, as he was in 1926.

Gramps and me, standing on Fairview Place, in front of my parents 1977 Mercury Monarch, 1978. Gramps always had a baby in his arms or a kid's hand in his hand whenever possible. He spent a lifetime working hard, usually 3 or 4 jobs to provide for his brothers and sisters, his own ten kids, and his 16 grandkids (and now untold numbers of great grandkids.)
Gramps and me, standing on Fairview Place, in front of my parents 1977 Mercury Monarch, 1978. He always had a baby in his arms or a kid’s hand in his hand whenever possible, and spent a lifetime working hard– usually 3 or 4 jobs to provide for his brothers and sisters, his own ten kids, and his 16 grandkids (and now untold numbers of great grandkids.)

To say Gramps had a big heart isn’t telling the whole story. Nor is it enough to say his heart was pure.

Edward Valentine Cichon had a childlike heart. He was filled with goodness and optimism. He was filled with giving and generosity. He was filled with happiness to know that you were happy.

He was the perfect grandpa. He’d walk us over to Caz Park, getting us jazzed up about “the swings… And the slides…. And the horseys…” It was the same sing-song order he’d mention them every time.

But first we’d walk through the park. Occasionally, that meant filling our pockets with chestnuts from the trees just past the St. John’s parking lot.

Sometimes that meant sitting for an inning of softball or baseball. Gramps usually had a couple of apples in his pocket for us, sometimes a banana. He taught us how to shine up the apple on our pant legs.

Also in his pocket was the handkerchief, which kept our noses in check when it was chilly. To keep our bladders in check, if it was just us men, we’d be pointed to some trees. If we had ladies with us, we were told not to touch anything in the Caz bathrooms, unless you were using your foot to flush.

Then we’d cross the bridge, throw a few of those chestnuts in the creek, and continue on through “the jungle,” as Gramps called the path on the Abbott Rd side of the path along the creek.

We’d look for “the lions… The tigers… The monkeys…” The same list every time, said with the same cadence as the other list, except this one was often enhanced with Tarzan noises. OoOoAaaahah.

“I saw a monkey in that one last time,” he’d say pointing at the same tree every time.

Finally, we’d get to the playground, and Gramps would sit on the bench until we were done. Sometimes longer, if he didn’t feel like moving yet.

“Go catch grandpa a bird,” he’d say, encouraging us to sneak up quietly behind a robin or a swallow so we could scoop ’em up. I don’t remember ever catching one.

Not every time, but sometimes, we’d stop by the deli at the corner of Seneca and Duerstein for a nutty buddy or an ice cream sandwich, so long as we remembered, “Don’t tell grandma.”

Almost every time we’d stop at Quality Food Mart, Gramps’ explanation to grandma would start “But Huns! The kids were hungry…” but it would quickly trail off.

We didn’t tell, but our ice cream smeared faces and shirts did all the talking necessary.

Good ol’Gramps. I bet there is monkey in his tree right now, and he’s happily pointing it out to all the kids.

The cars of our childhood

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I saw a pristine 1990 Chevy Lumina over the weekend. I actually drove a Lumina for a while, but my thoughts turned to a great friend who drove a Lumina, too. Radio newsman Ed Little looked classy behind the wheel of his always well-maintained, respectable mid-sized General Motors sedan. The hipster who was driving it on Sunday was more ironic than classy.
My dad loved cars– looking at them and driving them. He’d always excitedly point out cars that he or someone he knew once owned. As a young man, he drove sports cars like an MG and muscle cars like an AMC Javelin. Of course, I now point out old cars to anyone who will listen.

Just like with my ol’man, seeing an old car that reminds me of a car from my past is one of those instant mood changers for me. I’ve owned a few interesting cars through the years, like a white 1971 Mercedes. Very eye catching, but not too comfortable to drive. I love my ’86 VW Golf, ’95 Plymouth Neon, and ’97 Honda Civic. Those cars weren’t spectacular, but they were comfortable and easy to drive. When I see one, I want to drive it.

But the real memories come from those cars my dad and my grandpas had long before I could drive.

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First- Here’s that Lumina, like the one Ed Little had. I’d wait to see this car pull up to fine restaurants like Alice’s Kitchen, Your Host, Grandma’s Pancakes, and the Four Seasons.

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In the Cichon house, we had this exact car: a Dodge Aries station wagon with faux wood paneling and tan Naugahyde seats. We also had a black one, with red velvet seats. Nice.

spirit
There were also 2 AMC Spirits in our family. Grandpa Cichon had a white one with a big blue pinstripe, my family had a brown one.

spirit-interior
This is the exact interior of our 1981 Spirit. I hurt myself on the steering wheel playing Dukes of Hazzard, climbing in and out of the windows.

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Grandpa Cichon traded in the Spirit for a Pontiac Bonneville. It was in this car, my brother and I witnessed one of the great events in our lives up until that point. Usually calm Gramps got hosed at a full-service gas station. He unleashed a torrent of Polish-American cursing that remains with me nearly 30 years later. We i see this car, I think, “You G-dd-mmed horseball!!”

econoline-pickup

Grandpa Coyle would get a new Oldsmobile every year or two… But all though my childhood, he has this odd, pea green Ford pickup– Which was actually van without an enclosed back. There were only two seats, and I can remember fighting with my brother over which one of us would get to ride on the hump where the stick shift was… on the way to the hardware store.

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Finally my Great-Grandpa Wargo drove this beautiful pea green Ford Maverick. It was a car that was old and mysterious, just like Great-Grandpa. I especially liked that the old yellow NY plates had three numbers then BUX. I liked -BUX on a license plate. Our plates were boring by comparison.

What did your grandpa drive? I’d love to see it, tweet me @SteveBuffalo.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Learning to listen

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

My grandfather is 87 years old. His body is failing him, but his mind is a steel trap.

steveandgramps

I used to like to ask him questions about things I’d like to know about, but now mostly I listen when we visit. It’s just another one of the many things I’ve learned from good ol’ Gramps.

Listening is a powerful, underutilized gift. People don’t like to listen, even when they think they are listening. For example, I used to think I loved listening to Gramps’ stories, but I was always asking about specific things. Once I gave up the steering wheel, I really started to enjoy the ride.

Gramps’ mind goes all over time and space. He has a nearly photographic memory for things that happened before he lost his sight a decade ago. He’s starting to lose names of people and places, but he remembers when you give him a little help. That’s not really a new problem either– for as long as I can remember, gramps has called me “AhhhChuckieTommyJimmyEddieAhhGregAhhStevie.”

I stopped by yesterday, and Gramps told me a few great stories about days gone by, as well as his analysis of the world today.

  • His $600 winner on a $2 ticket at the track.
  • Chinese nuclear reactors.
  • As a kid, swiping rejected boxes of Cheerios from the loading docks at General Mills (those were different times.)
  • How the Bills should have won every game so far.
  • All the different places he and his brothers and sisters served during the war. Aunt Olga was with Patton.
  • Bringing pennies to Father Baker.
  • Polish and Russian history.
  • How at 15 he had a mustache, and would go drink at Tippy Toes, and pick up chicks in his 1933 Plymouth.

Listening to Gramps, and knowing how much he enjoys having someone listen, has made me a better listener. I love to tell stories, but I’d rather hear a good story well told, by someone who is enjoying the telling. Even if I’ve heard the story 38 times before. The story is the selfish part for the listener.

Enjoying the joy with which the story is being told, now there’s a skill we all need to practice, with someone who could really use an ear.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Fathers Day 2011: Some Thoughts on All the Fathers in my Life

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

I’ve been blessed with fathers in my life. I was lucky to have the best dad that anyone could ever ask for; which is what every son and daughter created in their old man’s image will say. I mean how can I not: from my stubby fingers, to untold numbers of personality traits both wonderful and not-quite-as wonderful, I’m a spitting image of my dad in so many ways, how can I deny it?

I’ve written a lot about my dad. Click on “The Ol’man” in the word cloud and you’ll see plenty about him.

I love and miss my dad every day, but what I’d like to talk about today is the other fathers in my life, and I’m lucky to have and to have had many.

I’m so blessed to have enjoyed the love and care of three grandfathers.

First, Stephen Julius Wargo, my great grandfather, after whom I was named. My mom’s grandpa. He lived a few blocks away from us, and when I had to go home for lunch in first grade, I would occasionally bring a can of chicken noodle soup over to Grandpa W’s house for us to share, with enough left over for his dinner. He also famously fixed my Dukes of Hazzard big wheel, when the piece between the handlebars and the big wheel broke. I sadly dragged the pieces down to his house, but triumphantly rode my orange plastic treasure home a week later. He was always smiling, kind of a troublemaker, and happy that as a revered old guy, he could get away with it. Like on Christmas, when he wouldn’t fully open a gift; but would only lift up the edge of the paper to see what was in there. A master aggravator!

Jimmy Coyle was my mom’s dad. He took over sending out cards and such after my grandma died, and I know I got at least one signed “Jimmy Coyle” from gramps. A big strong man, Gramps was the old fashioned kind of strong silent type that you might see in the westerns that he loved. When I was little, and we’d be there for dinner, he’d come home from work, and within moments be sharping the big knife in anticipation of carving up the big roast beef that Grandma just pulled out of the oven. I always felt an extra compulsion to behave and eat everything on my plate, with my regular seat next to Gramps. We would often be at Grandma and Grandpa’s house the night he did grocery shopping, and he would buy a special treat for us for ‘helping’ put away the groceries (I was no more than 5 or 6, and I’m the oldest… So I don’t think we were much help.) It was usually green Chuckles (like the spearmint jelly candies) and we earned ’em. I also remember going with him in his old green jalopy of a pickup truck (it was actually a van with the back some how cut off) to the hardware store, where I can remember him using his old wooden fold out measure to see how much wood he needed. I don’t think he ever used a metal measuring tape. As we all got older, you could tell how satisfied Gramps was when his house would fill on holidays. One of his last great thrills though, came on one of his saddest days. On the day of Grandma’s funeral, he took ‘all of June’s gambling money,’ and funded an impromptu Irish wake at a hole in the wall bar. He had so much fun drinking and really just hanging out with his kids and especially his grandkids, he talked about it with a smile until the day he died.

I’m blessed that Grandpa Cichon is still as loving and lovely a man you’d ever meet at the age of 85. If the world had a few more people like Eddie Cichon, there’d be fewer coupons to go around, but a lot more happiness and love. Gramps always delighted in whatever kids were around, especially any of us 20-something grandkids. When we were small, he’d take us to the park, and sit and watch us play until we wore out. One of his classic lines, Go catch grandpa a bird, would leave us kids sneaking up on birds seemingly forever. We never caught one. Dinner was a little different at Grandma Cichon’s. The table was completely set, everyone was in place, waiting for Gramps to get home from work. His seat was a direct shot from the front door, he’d sit right down, say the fastest grace on record, ‘BlessLordGiveBoutToReceiveChristLordAmen,’ and quickly add a ‘OK, let’s eat.’ And eat you did with Gramps. A child of the Depression, he clipped coupons, and stored them under a couch cushion. He’d try to use expired ones. And he’d buy it whether he needed it or not. “But Huns,” he’d tell Grandma, “It was on sale.” Then he’d try to make you eat it or take it home. For as hard a time as I have had with my Dad’s death, poor gramps not only lost a son, but a best friend. My dad used to bring him donuts to the nursing home whenever he’d visit. It had probably been at least a year since he had one, when I brought two up a few weeks ago. He’s blind, so when I told him what a I had there with me, he said, with all the gravity and earnestness you can imagine, ‘Stevie, donuts are as good as gold.’ And there’s no doubt he meant it.

September 29, 2001, I some how shanghaied my beautiful wife into saying ‘I do,’ and I gained not only a wife, but a whole family. I don’t even like referring to Howard Huxley as my father-in-law, because father is really enough. He’s probably tearing up reading this, and that’s what I love about him. He loves his family, and loves and appreciates that his family loves him.

He’s really the ultimate proud parent, traveling to just about everyone of my brother-in-law’s baseball games. And the games were an hour and a half away, at night, and he had to be up for work at 3am. And just this week, he was there shooting video of my well-into-her 30s wife, as she took the slide into Jell-O for charity, with no less excitement than when he was there taking pictures at her 1st grade dance recital. I know it’s tough on him that his other daughter and granddaughter are in Florida, but it really makes the times we’re all together that much more special for him and all of us. Personally, I’m thankful and blessed that all this love and pride has extended to me, too. Howard’s my biggest fan, showing up to all my silly events, always listening to the radio, and just being a good guy, good friend, and good dad.

Growing up, I also became close with the fathers of a number of friends, like Bob Cohen, the late Dr. Fanelli, and Don Brindle. Each of them cared for me not only like the friend of a son; but like a son, and I them like a parent.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I think Fathers Day is about more than just biological dads. We actually call our Catholic priests ‘Father,’ and two in particular have meant the world to me.

Msgr. Francis Braun was really the first priest I’d ever gotten to know and love on a personal level. He’s from the same no-nonsense old school as my Grandpa Coyle, has the heart of my Grandpa Cichon, and a lot of the ‘I’m doing what’s right-get out of my way’ attitude of my dad. I’m glad he’s enjoying his retirement with his fellow retired brothers in Christ, despite his having told me more than once that ‘old priests are a pain in the neck,’ and not always using the word ‘neck.’

Fr. Braun was the pastor at my church, so it’s pretty clear how he came into my life. But it’s a little less clear how Father John Mack did.

He is the little angel who sits on my shoulder,and helps shine the beacon of Christ’s love into places I didn’t know existed.

I’m humbled by his continued guidance and friendship, and I consider myself blessed to have a spiritual father to love and trust right here in the flesh. His presence in my life (and my Facebook life) “keeps me honest.”

Of course the big guy, the Father of all men, is also someone that I have to be thankful for; for blessing me with all these great men and great memories and great hope for the future.

Stan Jasinski on WKBW, Christmas Day 1954

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The view of Seneca Street from the Cichon’s porch on Fairview Place. The building to the left is Heidi’s Tuxedo, since burned down. My great grandfather lived in an apartment in the yellow house on the right.

BUFFALO, NY  – For me, hearing the name ‘Stan Jasinski’ conjures up images of my grandfather, sitting on his South Buffalo porch listening to cassette tapes of polka radio shows he had taped the previous weekend. Ed “Edziu” Cichon would sit out there, looking at the comings and goings on Seneca Street with a serene smile on his face, enjoying the music, his grandkids, and life in general.

It was a great break for Gramps, from his numerous jobs- from tinsmith at Buffalo Color and National Aniline, to ticket taker for the Bills and Sabres, to bet taker at Buffalo Raceway.

For most of my generation, I would imagine thoughts of Stan Jasinski beckon thoughts of grandparents, and this is true for Edmund Haremski as well.

Stan Jasinski, WKBW, circa 1955.

His family owned Lucki-Urban Furniture, sponsors of Jasinski’s broadcasts from the 50s-90s. He remembers playing the two transcription records from which these audio clips came in his grandma’s basement as a little guy.

The half hour program was recorded on these transcription records, sometime before Christmas Day 1954, for playback on that date. The program is completely on Polish, save the opening and closing voiceover by an WKBW staff announcer, perhaps Larry Brownell.

For those who remember listening to Jasinski near the end of his broadcast career as I do, his cadence and voice is amazingly consistent, sounding virtually identical, and very much recognizable, 40 years earlier.

You’ll hear Stan speaking between the songs, and if you’re like me– with a very limited understanding of Polish– The only words you’ll understand are a few numbers, and the words “Lucki-Urban’ and “Stromberg-Carlson,” the latter being a manufacturer of some of the finest radios of that era.

You’ll also hear ‘Stas’ singing along with the Paderewski Singing Society, working Lucki-Urban into Polish Christmas carols, including a Polish version of Jingle Bells.

  • Pada Snieg-– Polish Jingle Bells.
  • Stan Jasinski’s Complete Christmas 1954 broadcast on WKBW Radio,  with the Paderewski Singing Society.