The Relegated Role of Women, con’t.

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

Almost forty years into broadcasting in Buffalo, not much had changed in where one might expect to hear a woman’s voice. Speaking to women about women’s issues was about the extent of women’s roles. There were growing numbers of exceptions, but they were clearly exceptions.

World War II changed things briefly, but not a lot.

As many of WBEN’s announcers went to war, the station took the unprecedented step of (temporarily) hiring a woman as an announcer.

 Vera Holly, shortly after leaving WBEN signing on ABC, 1947.

But a 1943 memo from the station’s top brass told all emcees, telephone receptionists, and the publicity staff that she was not to be referred to while announcing, that she wouldn’t use her name while announcing, and that program hosts should refrain from mentioning her name or identity on the air.

Vera Holly was a very popular entertainer on the station for a decade. She was a singer and emcee on WBEN in the 1930s and 1940s, and had top billing on “International House Party,” but wasn’t allowed to identify herself for the nearly six months she was reading station breaks and newscasts on WBEN.

A CBS gig on “The Jerry Lester Show” landed her in front of the same microphone as the biggest star of 1943– Frank Sinatra.

“I had a great kick working on the same show as Frank,” Holly told The Buffalo Evening News. “Confidentially, he really is cute. And much nicer than I expected.”

When she was picked up for a network show in 1946, she was called “one of the most promising young stars of radio.” Holly went on to announce her own network programs on Mutual, CBS, and ABC.

A decade later, the advent of TV doubled the number of announcing jobs, but not for women— except for a very particular announcing job at the weather map.

Joy Wilson, WBUF-TV “Weather Girl,” 1956

As a genre, the “Weather Girl” made its debut on WBUF-TV in 1956 “in what is billed as an amusing and novel presentation of the temperature readings and weather conditions.”

The Courier-Express reported that “an attractive young brunette” would be joining Roger Lund at the weather map on WBUF-TV.

“Beauty and the barometer will meet Monday evening on Ch. 17 when Joy Wilson of Kenmore becomes Buffalo’s first TV weather girl on a new five-minute program telecast weekdays at 6:45.” Wilson worked in the station’s office.

Around the same time, Janice Okun was the Milk for Health spokeswoman during WBUF-TV’s newscasts, bringing television experience from her time as the second host of Ch.4’s “Plain and Fancy Cooking.”

Janice Okun

She later appeared for the Dairy Council on Ch.7’s “Farm & Home” before moving to The Buffalo Evening News as Food Editor.

It was another woman, however, who combined being the Milk for Health “milkmaid” along with delivering the weather forecast.

Without the benefit of doppler radars or advanced computer imagery, Paula Drew would read the same information provided by the Weather Bureau like any other (male) announcer, and follow the forecast with a live commercial for Western New York’s dairy farmers.

At various times through the 1950s, her reports as “The Milk for Heath Milkmaid” were seen on Chs. 2 and 4.

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.

The elegant Paula Drew also made regular appearances at the Fort Erie Race Track through the 1950s, always wearing pearls and mink, even in the barns.

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.”

Paula Drew on an AM&A’s remote, Ch.2

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.

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 through the 1970s until 1983.

Doris Jones modelling Buffalo’s own Birge Wallpaper.

Though she broke into TV as model and women’s host, Doris Jones was eventually Buffalo’s first woman staff announcer.

Doris Jones hosted a radio show on WHLD starting in 1957.

Jones was still in high school when she started modelling on Ch.4 and later was short-lived WBES-TV’s “All Weather Gal” sponsored by Phoenix Beer.

As Ch.7 signed on the air, she was “femcee” of the station’s daily audience participation show For the Ladies, “a pleasant half-hour planned for the housewife,” reported the Courier-Express as the show debuted in 1959. “It includes interesting fashion news, a fair sample of live music and assorted singing and dancing. Blonde Doris Jones is the charming hostess.”

 In 1965, she was hired as a “weathergal” at Ch.2, but union rules dictated she become a full-time staff announcer—making her Buffalo’s first woman in that role.  She wound up doing weather during the 6pm news, anchoring local newscasts during the Today Show, emceeing a Fantasy Island kids show, giving skiing and boating reports, and hosting “TV’s first card game,” Pay Cards.

This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC,, and Steve Cichon

Beginnings of a Teenage Revolution: The Hound, Lucky Pierre, & Hernando

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

The Hound Dog made a permanent mark on the pop culture history of America with his nightly show on WKBW from 1954-58. Starting in the late 40s, George Lorenz was known as “the Ol’man,” “Ol’Dad Lorenz,” and “Daddy Dog” before “The Hound Dog” stuck as a nickname.

Known for his hep records and jive talk, he refused to give the time and temperature on the air. When he did commercials for Mother Goldstein’s wine, he’d sample it on the air.

After spending time at a few smaller stations, in the mid-50s, The Hound took his rhythm and blues program– featuring the music which would soon be known as rock ‘n’ roll– to 50,000-watt WKBW Radio.

The powerful signal allowed “The Hound” to introduce the evolving music genre to the entire northeastern United States. “The Hound” was the Godfather of rock ‘n’ roll radio, not just in Buffalo but around the country.

The Hound with Bill Haley and His Comets.

As a teenager working at a gas station, his first radio job came as an actor in dramas in the late 1930s. He got the job “because of his ability in imitating various dialects,” the Courier-Express reported, adding that he’d “often been cast in the role of the slicker in the racketbusting plays.”

A decade later, he was doing his Hound Dog routine on Niagara Falls’ WJJL. By the mid 50’s, Lorenz’s hip daddy style, and the fact that he was spinning soulful records from the original black artists — not the sanitized crooner re-sings heard elsewhere on the radio — made him an institution.

An unlikely hero of Buffalo teenagers, “The Hound” made it about the music and bringing rhythm and blues to a wider audience. It went beyond the records. Events promoted by Lorenz usually included black and white artists playing together at a time in the mid-50s when that wasn’t always the case. Those audiences were also mixed racially.

A Hound Dog record hop at the Hadji Temple, 118 E. Utica Street, with both black and white teens in attendance. The Hound’s secretary, Betty Shampoe, is to the left on the stage. This photo is from her collection.

When his voice came through the speaker on your radio, you knew you were hearing something you weren’t going to hear anywhere else. He was rock ‘n’ roll even before the phrase rock ‘n’ roll existed.

Ironically, the man who introduced Elvis at Memorial Auditorium was out at KB when the station went rock ‘n’ roll full-time in 1958. Lorenz wanted nothing to do with a Top-40 format, and was known to give the time and temperature at the beginning of his show, and told listeners to “set their clocks and thermometers, because that was the last time they were going to hear that for the next four hours.”

Elvis Presley and George “Hound Dog” Lorenz, Memorial Auditorium.

While inspiring many of the changes that came to KB and many other stations around the country, the Hound stayed true to his style and founded WBLK Radio, where he continued to uncover and spotlight new rhythm and blues artists in Buffalo and to a syndicated audience around the country.

Hernando’s Hideaway hit Buffalo radios in 1954 from the studios of WXRA, which was licensed to Kenmore, but broadcast from studios on Niagara Falls Boulevard, in a spot that was later the long-time home of Swiss Chalet (and today is a vacant lot in front of Outback Steakhouse.)

With a Spanish accent, it was Phil Todaro behind what The Buffalo Evening News called “Hernando’s delightfully fanciful nonsense.”

His show ran evenings every day but Saturday, and from the rhythm and blues music he played, to outings at Crystal Beach and serving bottles of Canada Dry and Oscar pop at his remote broadcasts, the program was clearly geared to the burgeoning teen demographic.

After making offerings on the air, Hernando received more than 3000 mailed requests in two weeks for his “Slang Slogans” dictionary of teen-age vernacular.

The one day he was off in the evening, “Hernando on Campus” was heard Saturday mornings, where “the popular DJ spotlights top tunes determined by survey of the local high schools and colleges and includes a calendar of their upcoming social events.”

He eventually made his way to evenings on WGR Radio before leaving radio for music full time. Among his musical offerings most memorable to Western New Yorkers came as co-writer of Wild Weekend with Tom Shannon. The Rockin’ Rebels hit was an instrumental version Shannon’s radio theme song.

Lucky Pierre, the back of this card says, was born in Paris in 1934, and goes on to say his “rapid rise to popularity, accomplished in the few short years since his arrival in Buffalo, is a result of his rare combination of old-world charm and modern effervescence. His refreshingly different qualities have captured the imaginations of young and old alike.”

After coming to Western New York radio in 1954 at WWOL, where he was not only a disc jockey—but as an amateur boxer and semi-pro football player was named sports director as well.

He moved on to WHLD briefly before heading to WEBR in 1955, and then WBNY before leaving town for Los Angeles, where he’d spent most of the next 60 years on the radio and pioneering the disco and dancing format in the market, as well as hosting a TV cooking show for housewives in the early 60s.

His most adoring fans were the girls and women who were spellbound by his accent and accompanying smooth style.

“Though he’s not very handsome, and he’s not very strong… in a cabin in the blizzard he’s the one you bring along!” chanted his opening song on WBNY, which continued, “I’m the man of the hour, I’m the man of the year… I’m the man that every living husband has the right to fear…. I’m Lucky Pierre!!”

1955 ad shows Lucky Pierre and a young Rick Azar before he headed to WBUF-TV. Nan Cooper spent more than two decades offering household tips on WBEN, including for the full run of “Newsday at Noon,” 1978-96.

This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC,, and Steve Cichon

Buffalo’s Polka King

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

As the 1950s wore on, Stan “Stas” Jasinski would become known as Buffalo’s Polka King with his daily programs first heard on WWOL and WXRA, and then on powerful WKBW. The platform and his mix of Polish and English songs and commercials gave him a voice heard by the Greater Buffalo community as well as Polish-Americans.

Jasinski went on to found WMMJ Radio, which became WXRL when he sold the station to the Schriver Family as he began plans to sign-on WUTV Ch.29. Jasinski eventually sold Ch.29 as well, but continued playing polkas on the radio for a total of 60 years when he retired in 2000.

Like many other immigrant Rust Belt cities, foreign language broadcasts were very popular in Buffalo. Matt Korpanty spent more than 40 years broadcasting in Polish, primarily on WHLD, starting in 1940. His Polish language show was produced from his private studio in the heart of Polonia at 761 Fillmore Avenue.

Radio & TV in 1950

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

From the 1949 Buffalo Area Radio-Television Guide, here are some of the names and faces from radio stations just outside of Buffalo. Stations included are Lockport’s WUSJ, Olean’s WHDL, Niagara Falls’ WHLD, and WJTN & WJOC, both from Jamestown.

In 1950, television bore little resemblance to what beams into our homes so many decades later.

The test pattern was a regularly scheduled part of the broadcast day, which on most days didn’t start much before noon.

Still, the growing number of television sets and the wonder of it all was putting dents in the entertainment powerhouse of the previous three decades.

“Radio, facing stiff TV competition, continues to seek means of holding its position in program ratings during the evening hours,” wrote the Courier- Express in 1952.

Among the general similarities between then and today is the popularity of sports on TV. But Buffalo’s favorite television sports in 1950 were live and local.

 A look at two days’ worth of programming on Ch.4 in 1950.

This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC,, and Steve Cichon

Buffalo in the ’50s: West Side Italian radio with Mama and Papa Rico

By Steve Cichon

They were the heart and the voice of Buffalo’s Italian-American community. For 50 years, Emelino Rico — known to listeners of “Neapolitan Serenade” as “Papa Rico” and the head of “Casa Rico” — broadcast Italian music, in Italian, for Italians, from his home on Seventh Street on Buffalo’s Italian West Side.

Mama & Papa Rico in their studio at their Seventh Street home on Buffalo’s West Side. (Buffalo Stories archives)

For most of five decades, come 10:30am, the Liberty Bell March would open another program of cultural pride, personal warmth and a taste of the old country. While he was heard on many stations through the years, often two or three stations at the same time, for 45 years the Ricos were heard on WHLD 1270-AM.

Emelino came to America as a movie producer in 1922. Ten years later, on a stop in Buffalo, he met Mary Pinieri, who was destined to become the West Side’s beloved Mama Rico.

Their lives, Mama Rico told listeners to their 50th anniversary celebration on WHLD in 1985, were spent highlighting the best in Italian music and culture, “helping others, and doing charitable work.”

Heavily edited publicity photos of Mary and Emelino Rico, from the Buffalo News archives.

The Ricos worked to bring some of Italy to Buffalo, and some of Buffalo to Italy, with many trips and exchanges. Papa liked to tell the story of a 1967 audience with Pope Paul VI, when His Holiness greeted him immediately by saying, “You run the Italian program in Buffalo.”

Many of Buffalo’s most famous Italian-Americans said the time spent at Casa Rico helped jump start their career — those like Tony Award-winning choreographer Michael Bennett and pianist Leonard Pennario.

Papa Rico died in 1985, Mama Rico in 1993, but the Rico name has continued on — sons Lenny and Joe Rico have continued the family tradition of broadcasting in Buffalo.