Scary brass lizards and memories of Father’s Days past

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Seeing this guy on the window sill in our dining room fired up a Father’s Day memory.

This is one of a couple of brass lizards that were in hidden in the dining room plants at the house of my great-grandpa and namesake, Stephen Julius Wargo.

Especially when they were dirty, these things looked real– and one time, when Gramps sent me in to water his plants, one of these really scared the life out of me — which was probably the whole idea. It made good ol’ Grandpa W. laugh and laugh. “AND DID HE LAUGH,” as Grandma Coyle would say, laughing herself.

My mom always made her Grandpa Wargo oatmeal cookies for all holidays, including Fathers Day, and his big grin showed it was just about his favorite present ever, every time.

When Great-Grandpa Wargo died, his daughter, my Grandma Coyle, gave me a few of his things–including this brass lizard.

Seeing it makes me remember Grandpa Wargo and Grandma Coyle, and think about my mom and the gallon sized bag of oatmeal cookies, closed with a twist tie, which we gladly delivered on our Father’s Day travels of long ago.

Of course, I think of my own ol’man on Father’s Day, too… I made a video about it for my campaign for Erie County Clerk.

Lessons from Dad

Happy Father's Day weekend! Although my dad isn't here physically to take part in my campaign, with your help, I'll be bringing his sense of common sense to the clerk's office.

Posted by Steve Cichon for Erie County Clerk on Friday, June 16, 2017

My dad would always refer to himself as “your ol’man” when talking to us kids.

He died seven years ago, but so long as I’m around, he lives every moment  in my heart and in my actions.  So although my dad isn’t here physically to take part in my campaign, with your help, I’ll be bringing his sense of common sense to the clerk’s office.

Happy Fathers Day, everyone.

Jim & June Coyle: a devotion and love that lives on

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Today is Grandma Coyle’s birthday in heaven… But I think she’d be OK with me sharing this great pic of the love of her life which popped up in my Facebook memories today.
eating breakfast in Lackawanna.
The love and devotion they felt and lived rivaled any of the great love stories ever told. How deeply blessed we– their children and grandchildren– are to have had such love and such an example of love in our lives.
Backyard, 841 Tifft Street
 
Somewhere on high, Grandma’s birthday is perfect– her lil body snuggled in perfectly against Gramps’ big frame, his big meaty arm draped around her shoulder, gently squeezing her in tight.
Side door, 109 Hayden Street
It’s just like grandma– giving the gifts of beautiful memories on her birthday.

Great Grandma Wargo: South Buffalo’s hard working washer woman

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

Grandma Coyle and her grandma
The caption was written by Grandma Coyle’s father… my Great-Grandpa Steve Wargo.

My great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Wargo, holds my grandmother, June Coyle. Lizzie came to America from Hungary in 1906… 10 years and six kids later, she was widowed in a foreign land. Working as a wash woman, she earned enough money to feed her kids and buy the home she’s standing in front of– 527 Hopkins Street in South Buffalo.

I’ve been looking at this photo pretty much my entire life. It was in the big blue photo album that grandma had in her sewing room.

I remember the awe I felt when grandma said something along the lines of “that’s me with my grandma.”

For all the time I spent studying this photo and a few others which were probably taken the same day almost 85 years ago, I never once noticed the outfit– the uniform– my great-great grandmother is wearing.

Wargo Elizabeth 1930 census

She was a domestic servant. The 1930 census says she was a “laundress” with a “private family.”

daisy downtonIn essence, she was one of the downstairs people on Downton Abbey. Right down to the shoes, her dress looks like something you might see Daisy wear on Downton.

Looking at this photo of my grandmother and her grandmother, and thinking about her hard work and sacrifice swells me with thanks.

All that is beautiful in our lives is the result of so much sacrifice by generations of people who couldn’t even imagine us… It’s really humbling. This tough little immigrant woman fought through life for me.

When you get to know your ancestors, it’s hard to take credit for anything. Realizing the generations of sacrifice offered so that I had the opportunity to live the life I do is the ultimate exercise in modesty.

Where did the wonderful 33 daffodils come from?

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

Daffodils along the Kensington Expressway and Youngmann Highway are one of those things that make our City of Buffalo great.

daffodils2
I scared my wife pulling over abruptly on the 33 to get these photos on a beautiful spring day. April 18, 2015.

Of course, as Buffalonians, our usually dark and cold winters trigger a primal yearning and desire for warmth and springtime. Winter can leave our souls and psyches wounded to the point where we really aren’t even able to fully grasp what May will do to our dulled senses.

The drawn-out beginning of spring helps us slowly power up our appreciation for things outside the man-made walls of home, work, and car.

No matter how many times we’ve experienced Buffalo springs after Buffalo winters, we still count dozens of childlike moments– overcome with sudden joy– when, seemingly out of no where, the glow of the sun warms our face or the smell of a spring rain fills our nostrils.

Where there were just black and gray piles of salt-caked snow and ice– suddenly dots of yellow first appear along the 33 and 290, first few and far between.

Within a week, we’re again overcome by the vibrant and varied yellows of the flower that’s even more special to me as it was my Grandma Coyle’s favorite.

The beautiful, fleeting, first sign of spring brings smiles to hundreds of thousands of motorists every year, but where did they come from? Didn’t they just seem to appear and spread over the last decade or so?

Well, yes. In 1999, Erie County Legislator Judy Fisher gave money to The Green Fund,  through which City Director of Support Services Jim Pavel bought 50,000 bulbs and organized a mass planting by volunteers young and old. The number of bulbs bought and planted doubled the next year, and had totaled 1 million by 2004.

From 2000 to 2004, Lamar Advertising was also in the bulb-planting game. The folks who own many of Buffalo’s billboards and most of the billboards along the Kensington– spent $600,000 planting 2.7 million daffodil bulbs.

Sixteen years later, those roughly 4 million bulbs have split and spread. Now countless millions of yellow blooms remind us, as we drudge along the expressway, that spring is here– and that maybe it’s a good time to roll down the window and enjoy the fresh air.

If the wind is blowing just right as you cruise along the 33 close to downtown, maybe you’ll catch a whiff of Cheerios as you enjoy the sun-kissed daffodils. Welcome to Buffalo.

daffodils1

Dontcha just miss a good ol’fashioned milk machine?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

milkmachine

This is a scene that played itself out over and over on streets all over Buffalo for much of the 20th century.

It was tough to walk a block or two without hitting a neighborhood tavern or a milk machine.

Though far fewer in number, of course there are still neighborhood gin mills, but the milk machines have gone away.

The machines began popping up in the city in the mid-1950’s. By the mid-1990s, the milk machines were all but extinct, with the last ones gone just after 2000.

The one I remember more than any other was next to B-kwik on Seneca Street, across from St. Teresa’s.  The milk machine stood outside against what was the back wall of B-kwik– That spot was built out and is now Tim Hortons.

Although Grandma Coyle, who lived a block away on Hayden Street, had milk delivered from the milk man, occasionally she’d still have me go buy more from the milk machine. Grandma Cichon, who lived further down Seneca, would send me to Fay’s in the old Twin Fair Plaza to buy milk. It was cheaper there, but i can also remember having to take back a carton or two because it was expired.