Father Justyn’s Rosary Hour & around the dial in the 30s

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


“If St. Paul were alive today, radio is the medium he would use,” said Fr. Justyn Figas, who began his own Polish Language broadcast of the rosary in 1927 over WKEN, before creating a six-station rosary network in 1931 from Buffalo’s WEBR.

Fr. Justin Figas, WEBR

His broadcasts were heard in other cities with large Polish populations like Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Scranton and Pittsburgh.

“I greet you dear friends, with the words ‘Praise be to Jesus Christ.’”

The Franciscan priest’s manner made him the perfect man to reach out across the airwaves; everyone at his Broadway-Fillmore parish of Corpus Christi loved him. One parishioner remembered him as “stern but kind, always with a warm sense of humor.”

Almost immediately, Fr. Justyn (also spelled Justin) was leading millions in Polish-Americans in prayer. And, almost immediately following his success, he was criticized in some circles for speaking in a foreign language on American radio and “promoting hyphenated Americanism.”

Fr Justin Figas

With eyes keenly focused on his mission, he would often wear a coat or a hat that had seen better days. When kind people offered him a few dollars for a new hat, he’d gladly accept—but instead of a new hat, he’d put the money towards one of his many projects– like building St. Joseph Hospital in Cheektowaga and St. Francis High School in Hamburg.

He became a world-renown broadcaster, but first and foremost, he was a Franciscan—caring deeply about every person he encountered. Despite growing fame and responsibility, he always exuded joy while taking on the mundane physical tasks of running a parish community. 

Fr. Justyn hosted The Rosary Hour for 31 years until his death in 1959.


Sacred organ music was broadcast over WKBW and Rev. Clinton Churchill preached on “One Thing Every Sinner Should Know,” on the day when four new electric signs—including a 30-foot red-and-white porcelain cross—were dedicated in 1937 at the Churchill Tabernacle at 1420 Main Street.

The new cross was the gift of Pastor Churchill in memory of his mother and in honor of his father. Hanging beneath the cross, a large sign and two illuminated electric clocks.

The building became WKBW-TV’s Television Center in 1958, and remained Ch.7’s home until moving to the current location at 7 Broadcast Plaza in 1978.

The wall on the right side of the photo was the first home of Tom Jolls’ “Weather Outside.”


Airing weeknights at 11 on WGR from 1938-46, Mr. QED was one of Buffalo’s most listened to radio news programs. QED was actually Hamburg High School history teacher Edward T. Schweikardt. The program came to an end when Schweikardt was offered a professorship at Toledo University. When this ad ran in 1940, Manru’s Schreiber Brewing was one of at least nine local breweries operating in Buffalo.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Austin Roche was an early proponent of radio, first as a means of outreach—he wrote and starred in a weekly “crimelogue” program on WKBW.

A strong believer in what radio could do for crime fighting, Roche pushed for the creation of Buffalo Police station WMJ, which signed on in 1931.

WWMB, Border Patrol radio in Buffalo

In 1936, the Border Patrol put radio to use to “tighten the gates of the Niagara Frontier.”

WMMB was located at the foot of Arthur Street at the Niagara River. The 200-wtt transmitter broadcast every half hour. Thomas McDermott, shown above, was the station’s chief operator.

Among the hardworking staff in this BBC election night photo are Roger Baker (with cigarette at the typewriter) and Clint Buehlman (far right).

In the middle at the mic above, and in the photo below is “effervescent emcee” Cliff Jones, “your aireporter.” The Nichols grad joined WGR in 1935 and later was heard on WBEN, WHAM in Rochester, and WBTA in Batavia.

Cliff Jones, BBC


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, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

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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.