Grandma Coyle, the saint, died on All Saints Day

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

June Marie Wargo Coyle
Jan. 14, 1931- Nov. 1, 2005

Her love for all of us was unconditional and ever flowing… And that love just made her so happy. I loved watching her on holidays– that love filled smile would fill her face every time one of her kids or grandkids or their spouses walked through the door. The radiance of her heart made the world a better place for the time she was here, and it continues now– Her heart lives on in all of us who she loved.

The love that radiated from her smile every time any of us walked in the room left no question that there was a beautiful woman who loved you with every fiber of her being. I’m blessed in that just the thought of that smile fills my heart with love enough to share in the way she taught me.

Here are Grandma and Grandpa Coyle outside of their new home on Hayden Street, South Buffalo, in the late 50s.

 

The every day is filled with memories of those who make us who we are

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This Hertel Avenue litter triggered an instant memory flashback:

Hey Steve-o, here’s a couple bucks. Go to the store and get your ol’man a pack of smokes. Your grandmother, too. And get yourself a candy bar, ok?

Even at 6 years old, Dad didn’t have to tell me to get him Parliament 100s or Grandma Kools.

There was never a note that I remember… and never a problem so long as I went to the corner deli and got the right brand of smokes. ( I tried to buy Marlboro for an uncle once and they literally chased me out of the store. Hahahaha.)

That was Grandma Cichon with the Kools.

Grandma Coyle, like my dad, smoked Parliaments. But the only thing she’d send us to B-Kwik for regularly was rolls for dinner.

Sometimes we’d stay late at Grandma Coyle’s house, and we’d take our baths there.

Sometimes, Grandma Coyle would have a beer– in an old school pint glass just like this one– while reclining on the couch watching TV.

It fills my heart even now to think about walking into the living room on Hayden Street in our pajamas, and seeing Grandma smiling as we walked in, all freshly scrubbed.

She smiled every time we walked into a room… and if that isn’t the greatest thing ever.

I’m so glad I decided to have a beer tonight– and that it took me to this story.

Having a beer with Grandma Coyle

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Sometimes we’d stay late at Grandma Coyle’s house, and we’d take our baths there.

Sometimes, Grandma Coyle would have a beer– in an old school pint glass just like this one– while reclining on the couch watching TV.

It fills my heart even now to think about walking into the living room on Hayden Street in our pajamas, and seeing Grandma smiling as we walked in, all freshly scrubbed.

She smiled every time we walked into a room… and if that isn’t the greatest thing ever.

I’m so glad I decided to have a beer tonight– and that it took me to this story.

Julius Wargo and Elizabeth Kotis, 1906

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Doing some crazy 1000+ result wide cast searches on one of the ancestry websites came back with a great hit, and gave me the info to order my great-grandfather’s parents’ marriage certificate from the New York City archives. His name was misspelled when transcribed, and her name is actually Kotis… but somehow it popped up.
Gyula Varga and Erszebet Kotis came to the US from Hungary in 1906 and settled in Pennsylvania for a decade before moving to Buffalo around 1917. They obviously stopped long enough in New York City to get married upon their initial arrival.

It’s the first time I’ve been able to find anything on either of them from before the 1910 census, when they lived in Pennsylvania coal country– and told the census worker that they came from Hungary in 1906.

From Marion Heights, Pennsylvania, they moved to Abby Street in South Buffalo around 1917, and Julius got a job a few blocks away at Donner-Republic Steel along the Buffalo River.

He died in January, 1919, leaving his widow with six kids and a very limited knowledge of English.

I wish I had a photo of him– especially since his first name is my middle name (I was named after his son, my mom’s grandfather, Stephen Julius Wargo.)

Elizabeth Wargo lived until 1962– and is fondly remembered by many of her great-grandchildren (including my mom.)
My great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Kotis Wargo, holding my grandmother, June Wargo Coyle, 1931.

 

Happy Birthday, Grandma Coyle

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Grandpa Coyle took this picture of his girl while they were dating some time in the late 40s. Today, they’re celebrating her birthday together in heaven. She’s no longer here, but the love she gave to us continues to grow and flourish every day. She was about as good as they come. Happy Birthday, Grandma!

June Marie Wargo, late 1940s.

People have told me my grandpa was the toughest guy in Seneca-Babcock.

Jimmy Coyle, the toughest guy in Seneca-Babcock, in front of a gin mill with an Iroquois Beer neon light.

He was a bouncer at the Southside Athletic Club and ran the Seneca-Babcock Boys Club.

Gramps met his match with this little 5’2″ lady.

Chicken Paprikash

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

2° calls for some serious ethnic comfort food. Chicken Paprikash on the way!

This is the way I’ve been making this dish which came down from my Hungarian great-grandfather’s family for about 30 years now.

Chicken Paprikash

Ingredients:
A whole split chicken or split breasts or whatever parts are on sale
Medium onion coarsely chopped
Few stalks of celery coarsely chopped
Few carrots coarsely chopped
—-
oil
Salt
Pepper
Paprika
—-
Potatoes for mashed potatoes (or white rice)

Bisquik biscuits (or the cheapo refrigerated biscuits) for dumplings

Directions:
In a stock pot, cover chicken, onion, celery, carrots with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the chicken starts falling off the bones… or… the longer the better.

Strain and keep the broth. Spread the chicken and vegetables out on a cookie sheet to cool. (Everything but the meat is going in the garbage… but it’s a bit of a challenge to pick out the meat.)

While the meat cools, peel and cut potatoes for mashed potatoes. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then simmer. Potatoes are traditional, but I’ve also served this over rice… I like mashed potatoes better.

Follow the Bisquik recipe for biscuits and mix that and have it ready… (or have a can of the small, cheap refrigerated cardboard tube of biscuits on standby.)
Once meat has cooled, carefully pick the meat out of the stuff on the cookie sheet, and shred it— being careful to get rid of bones. (This takes forever, and is the primary reason why I don’t make this more than once or twice a year.)

Add salt, pepper, paprika to chicken shreds. You’ll need quite a bit of dollar store paprika to get any flavor… but the good Szeged Hungarian Paprika (I like to use the sweet version, not the hot version) only takes a couple of shakes. If you get the hot one, be careful—it’s the kind of heat that sneaks up on you. It’s not immediate, but hits you as you eat.

Heat some oil…. And toss the chicken in the oil and fry up the shreds a bit. You can add a come more shakes of paprika as you toss the chicken.

After some of the chicken is fried up a bit… add the broth back to the pan. If it doesn’t cover the chicken, add water to cover. Bring to a boil.

Scoop spoonfuls of the biscuit mix onto the top of the boiling broth. (This part I’ll call optional. These dumplings are my favorite part, but Monica thinks they are disgusting.) Cover and simmer.

Drain and mash potatoes.

To serve, I put mashed potatoes in a bowl… chicken and broth on top. (Dumplings on mine, no dumplings for my dumpling wife.)

To eat, mix it together— might need salt.

It’s a lot of work for the resultant slop… But generations of my family loves it.

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.

Rump Roast at Grandma Coyle’s

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Grandpa Coyle used to buy the rump roast– which was great with a big hunk of fat on top which kept the whole thing most. This is some fancier cut.

When I was a kid, my job for dinner was to walk up to b-kwik on Seneca Street to buy rolls. Looks like I’ll be heading to Dash’s (the former b-kwik) on Hertel for rolls now since I can’t stop thinking about them.

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.