In Buffalo, Paula Drew is probably best remembered as the raven-haired spokeswoman for Milk For Health in the ’50s and ’60s and Tops Friendly Markets in the ’70s and ’80s.
In a simpler time for television weather reporting, Western New York’s milk producers would sponsor the weather forecasts and Drew would anchor the late TV news weather update, as well as do a live commercial for milk. At various times through the 1950s, her reports as “The Milk for Heath Milkmaid” were seen on Channels 2 and 4.
Aside from being a television spokeswoman, Drew also wrote a weekly column called the “Milky Way,” which appeared in newspapers around the region. As the local ambassador for dairymen, she also made regular lobbying junkets to Albany and Washington on behalf of the farmers and producers of milk products.
In 1959, dressed in a fur stole and a pill box hat, Drew was received at the White House, bearing a gift for President Eisenhower from the Niagara Frontier’s milk producers. The 8-day-old Holstein came from the Genesee County dairy farm of Clarence Johncox.
Drew was also part of a New York State dairy contingent that toured European dairy farming and production facilities. In reporting back to Chautauqua County’s dairymen, she told the group that she “drinks at least three glasses of milk per day … although she likes coffee, tea and an occasional highball when on a date.”
An accomplished opera singer, Drew attended Juilliard School of Music, training as a coloratura soprano. While attending Juilliard, she was signed to a Universal Pictures contract.
In post-war 1940s Hollywood, she made movies with Red Skelton and Hugh Beaumont — better known later for his role as Ward Cleaver.
Her greatest Hollywood fame came not as much from her acting as from scandal. As a 23-year-old in 1949, she married 56-year-old Dr. Ira Altshuler, who was also from her native Detroit.
A month and a half later, the news that they were suing each other for divorce landed in gossip columns in newspapers around the country. After 43 days of marriage, his divorce suit said he couldn’t afford her extravagant lifestyle.
She counter-sued with allegations of physical and emotional abuse, saying he was using his skill as a renowned psychiatrist to make her crazy.
After working in Buffalo for most of the 1950s, Drew moved onto other corporate public relations work in Toronto. Her last regular gig in Buffalo was as the voice of Tops Friendly Markets, from the 1970s until 1983.
In Buffalo we seem to start thinking of winter the moment the Erie County Fair ends. A generation or two ago, winter was something that needed a bit more preparation than it does in 2015—especially if, back then, you were getting your brother or sister’s leaky hand-me-down boots to wear every day from November to March.
Putting on socks, then bread bags, then boots was a routine of chilly Western New York winters for decades.
In my neighborhood, we looked to tell something about kids from their bread bags. Colorful polka dots on a white background meant you were wearing Wonder Bread bags on your feet. This was basically the Lacoste alligator emblem of dry feet.
Yellow, orange and brown bags sticking out of the tops of your boots meant that your parents drove an extra couple of blocks to shop at Bells.
But most kids—including my brother, sister, and me—always had the red, white and blue of the Tops bags shown below, on sale this week 40 years ago for 39¢ a loaf.
Even with the jamming of every spent bread bag in that special drawer in the kitchen for the whole year-round, there never seemed to be enough bags for all of our playing and walking to school all winter.
Pepsi was “the choice of the new generation,” and Coke was busy reformulating “New Coke” and then bringing back “Coke Classic.”
The cola wars were fierce, and all children of the ’80s certainly had picked a side — even if they didn’t always get to drink Coke or Pepsi.
Thrifty Buffalonians have always enjoyed off-brands of almost anything. Supermarkets and department stores like Tops, Bells, Super Duper, Twin Fair and Two Guys, among others, offered store-brand soda pop, but brands like Faygo and the RC Cola family of beverages were considered a slight step above — even if they weren’t in the trenches of the cola wars.
By Steve Cichon | firstname.lastname@example.org | @stevebuffalo
BUFFALO, NY – In the 1950s, grocery shopping was done primarily at what we’d now consider small-to-medium-sized grocery stores like A&P, Park Edge, Mohican, Red & White– along with small neighborhood corner stores, many of which had been in operation for decades.
As the suburb helped create the supermarket to replace the smaller stores, many of the more successful smaller scale operators became players in the Buffalo supermarket business. The owners of Super Duper, Bells, and Tops all had years of grocery experience before opening the larger stores. The same is true of Wegmans, which didn’t come to Buffalo until the late ’70s.
The only Buffalo name to last is Tops. Tops Friendly Markets grew into a Western New York institution by expanding through franchising, first with Tops Markets, then with B-kwik markets, then with Wilson Farms stores, bringing three different levels of grocery service to Western New York.
Tops had only been on the scene for 6 years early in 1969, when Niagara Frontier Services took out a full page ad in the Courier-Express, looking for new franchisees, and bragging about the new stores that had been built in the previous few months.
These are the photos of the Tops, B-kwik, and Hy-Top Pharmacy stores which were built in the second half of 1968, along with the brief franchising pitch.
B-kwik Main St, Delavan NY
B-kwik, Ensminger Rd, Tonawanda
B-kwik, Seneca St. This store was on the corner of Kingston Street. It moved to the current Tops location several years later when B-kwik took over several area “Food Arena” stores.
B-kwik, Walden Avenue, Buffalo
B-kwik William St, Buffalo
Hy-Top Pharmacy, Main Place Mall
Hy-Top Pharmacy, Maple at North Forest
Tops, Chalmers Ave, Buffalo. Across the street from the Central Plaza
Tops, Clinton Street, Cheektowaga. Current site of Consumers’ Beverage
Tops, Lockport-Olcott Rd. Currently Family Dollar, across the street from current Tops.
Tops, Maple at North Forest. Was VIX, now vacant.
Tops, Medina, NY
This post originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com