Torn-down Tuesday: Seneca Mall and Park Drive-In, 1968

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Here’s a look at the building boom in West Seneca just off Thruway exit 55 in 1968.

Buffalo News archives

This is the 51-acre Seneca Mall site about three months before the first stores opened in the spring of 1969. The 53-store project was one of the largest development projects started in Western New York in 1968.

Among the main tenants of the mall were the William Hengerer Company and JC Penney.

Buffalo Stories archives

Hengerer’s was in the spot to the right in the overhead photo closer to Ridge Road, and Penney’s was on the other end closer to Orchard Park Road.

Across Orchard Park Road and over the bridge was the Blatt Brothers’ Park Drive-In.

Buffalo Stories archive

The Park Drive-In was taken down in 1988 and work began on a $6 million medical park currently on the site. It took several years to tear down the abandoned Seneca Mall, with most of the work done in 1994. Tops Markets and Kmart now fill part of the mall’s footprint. The grass field at the top left of the overhead photo is now the site of Wegmans.

Buffalo in the ’80s: Electronic games from Hengerer’s, Brand Names

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Long before the days of smartphones and tablets, kids from toddlers to teens got their fill of electronic gaming not on iPhones and Kindles, but from Merlin and Simon.

Buffalo News archives

Just before Christmas 1981, Hengerer’s downtown store devoted a special section to electronic games, and it was enough to get News photographers in the door to check out the latest in what every kid wanted under the tree.

Buffalo News archives

If you got one of these games, even if you did scope it out live in the store — you likely circled it in your Brand Names catalog, too, just to make sure Santa knew whether you wanted the Coleco or Mattel hockey game.

Buffalo Stories archive

Buffalo Stories archive

According to these pages from the 1980 Brand Names catalog, most of these games cost between $35 and $50, which according to US Labor Department statistics, would cost between $101 and $144 in 2016 dollars.

Buffalo in the ’30s: Nearly a blizzard on Main Street

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Snow-covered streetcars, buses, cars and pedestrians share the 400 block of Main Street with Hengerer’s, Shea’s Century theater and Buffalo Savings Bank’s gold dome in this shot from 77 years ago.

Buffalo News archives

On Jan. 30, 1939, Buffalo was dealt a surprise 8.5 inches of snow. Two people died as a result of the storm — both as they drudged through the weather on downtown sidewalks. The fact that news accounts mention that the weather event was not an official blizzard, leads one to believe the storm was wicked enough to use the shorthand of “blizzard” whether it strictly fit the meteorological definition or not.

Buffalo’s Christmases Past: Channel 4’s Santa Show

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

From 1948 to 1973, the children of Buffalo knew who the one, true Santa was — and it was the guy who read their letters on Channel 4.

During most of the 25 years the show aired, Hengerer’s sponsored the show to run from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve for 15 minutes on weekdays, a little longer on Saturdays. In 1956, the show that delivered approximately 50,000 letters to Santa through its run became Buffalo’s first locally-produced show regularly presented in color.

Two men played Santa on Channel 4. Announcer Ed Dinsmore was the first St. Nick from the show’s inception until his death in 1954. Station program director Bill Peters — who was also known on the Van Miller Show as Norman Oklahoma — played Santa from 1954 until the end of the show’s run 19 years later.

Santa, however, was barely the star of the show. Forgetful the Elf, played memorably by WBEN copy writer John Eisenberger, was there for the entire run of the show from 1948 to ’73. Not only was the elf he played forgetful, but he was silly. Most shows revolved around Forgetful trying to paint Santa’s sleigh with polka dots, or trying to convince Santa to get rid of his “old fashioned” red suit for something as bit more modern. Hundreds of times through the show’s quarter century, Forgetful was seen greasing up the reindeer’s antlers, with the hopes of making them go faster.

This clip is the only known remaining video from the long run of the Santa show. It’s not from the broadcast of the show– but from 8mm home movies shot by a Channel 4 crew member.  This brief video shows Peters as Santa, Eisenberger as Forgetful, and Brook as Grumbles.

The soundtrack for the film is Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” which was used as the show’s theme song. It was also frequently used during the Christmas season by WBEN’s legendary morning man Clint Buehlman.

No full episodes or even short clips of this show — which ran for 25 years — are known to exist. The show was usually presented live, and recording was a more costly and difficult endeavor than it is today.

Santa and Forgetful had plenty of helpers through the years, all of whom — just like Peters and Eisenberger — had other jobs around the station. Grumbles the Elf was played by executive director Gene Brook and then floor manager Bud Hagman. Another director, Warren Jacober, played Freezy the Polar Bear. There were countless other puppets and guest stars, but none rising even close to the popularity of Eisneberger’s Forgetful.

The show ended along with Bill Peters’ death in 1973. Eisenberger died in 1984 at the age of 72.

Eisenberger as Forgetful and Peters as Santa. (Buffalo Stories archives/Steve Cichon collection)

 

Buffalo in the ’80s: Hengerer’s becomes Sibley’s

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It was November 5, 1981, when the sign for the William Hengerer Company was replaced by Sibley’s.

Buffalo News archives

Hengerer’s had been in downtown Buffalo for 105 years when the name was changed. Buffalo’s Hengerer’s and Rochester’s Sibley’s had long been owned by the same parent company.

The downtown store in this photo was closed in 1987, and Sibley’s was eventually merged into Kaufmann’s in 1990. Most remaining Kaufmann’s locations became Macy’s in 2006.

The Golden Age of Buffalo’s Great Retailers

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY  – The outpouring was amazing.

After agreeing to give a lecture at Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery about some of the city’s great retailers of the past, I was deluged with people offering up their memories, and thirsty for the memories of the stores of Buffalo’s grand old stores.

Consider this page a taste of the Golden Age of Buffalo Retailing talk that’s been seen by thousands of Western New Yorkers (and can become a part of your next meeting or event. )

Take a stroll down memory lane, and play some classic jingles while looking over some images of Buffalo’s by-gone retailers.


Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com