Buffalo in the ’80s: Transit Road’s rooftop punch bug

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

If you were a kid riding in the back seat on Transit Road in the 1980s, you quietly waited, hoping that your sibling forgot about the “sure thing” that was coming up.

Buffalo Stories archives/Buffalo News

Just past Cambria’s and Ralph’s Food Valu heading from the north — or just past Zorba’s and Lucki-Urban Furniture from the south — was a free, no-doubt-about-it punch for the kid who was paying attention.

Of course, nearly every set of siblings from the ’60s through the ’80s played the “punch bug” game with the original Volkswagen Beetles, produced for American drivers from the 1950s through 1977. Millions of Bugs meant millions of punches — as the game went, the first to see a “punch bug” was able to lawfully, under kids’ law, punch the person next to them as they exclaim “punch bug!”

It was about 1980 when Jim Abdallah, the Jim of “Jim’s VW Service” on Transit Road, took the engine out of a 1968 Volkswagen Bug and hoisted it up onto the roof of his repair shop.

From the small blurb in a 1985 Buffalo Sunday magazine, it’s unclear whether or not Abdallah was aware of the thousands of instances of physical violence he’d be precipitating in the back seats of family cars in the greater Depew/Lancaster/Cheektowaga area. There, however, the punch bug remained until some point in the ’90s — when the roof-borne bug was replaced with one painted on the side of the building. That still might be enough for some brothers to punch one another.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.