Arrested for ‘insulting Buffalo’ in 1914

       By Steve Cichon

When a 15-year-old boy got tired of big-city life in New York, he hopped on train and wound up in Buffalo.

1914 newspaper headline.

Nathan Kurtz’s long-term intention was to head out west, and maybe join the Army to fight some Indians. His short-term intention, however, was to see what Buffalo had to offer.

His youthful mistake was making an inquiry that a well-known Buffalo-backing police officer found insulting.

“Who’s the big noise in this small burg?” was the flippant question that “got the goat” of Patrolman William E. Jordan of the Franklin Station, according to the Buffalo Courier.

“What?” asked Jordan, who the paper called “one of the most ardent supporters of the slogan ‘A Bigger and Better Buffalo.’”

“I asked you if there was any chance of finding a regular hotel in this village,” defiantly repeated the 15-year-old scofflaw.

Feeling that the city he loved and called home was being insulted, Jordan collared the boy and brought him to the Franklin Street station, where it was learned he was a runaway. The young man’s parents were alerted so that they might send for their son’s return to New York.

When Jordan died in 1950, he was celebrated as one of the most colorful members of the police department.

His nickname was “Stormy,” and his arresting a kid for insulting Buffalo wasn’t the most unusual event of his career. He was the first Buffalo patrolman to arrest an airplane thief. His obituary in The News also proclaimed he was part of the department’s “treat ’em rough squad,” and he was tossed out of the department by Mayor Frank X. Schwab. He was later reinstated and promoted to detective before retiring in 1933.

A story in the Courier-Express explained, “Mr. Jordan had his ups and downs in the department, but none the less, he made his name feared by criminals of all types.”

Before the ‘paddy wagon,’ Buffalo had the ‘Black Maria’

       By Steve Cichon

We all know that a paddy wagon is a truck that police use to transport a whole bunch of perps at once, either from a crime scene “down to headquarters,” or from jail to court or from court to prison.

Buffalo’s Black Maria, the city police’s drunk wagon, 1905.

The term came into wide usage in the 1930s, and references either the fact that a lot of the big city police officers of that era were Irish (thence “Paddy”), or it’s an allusion to the fact that the most frequent riders in paddy wagons were drunken brawlers – and many of them in that era were Irishmen.

The term is used less frequently these days because of that chance of offense. That same sensibility was part of the end of the previous well-known term for police transport vehicles.

Modern etymologists have traced back the cop slang “Black Maria” for a “paddy wagon” back to a champion New York City black race horse of the 1820s named “Black Maria.” Shortly thereafter, the black, horse-drawn carriages used to transport criminals quickly became commonplace from London to San Francisco.

The term is used heavily in Buffalo newspaper reports in the 1870s, and refers to the shiny black carriage used mostly for rounding up drunks from the streets.

In the early 1870s, a Buffalo Police officer named Bob Sadler took the reins behind the horses of the Black Maria, and drove it every day for 28 years. Never a day off, never a weekend or a holiday.

Buffalo’s Black Maria makes its first pick up at Station No. 1 at Seneca and Pearl, 1905.

“Bob handled a couple of generations of criminals and was in continuous contact with the lowest stratum of human life for nearly 30 years,” wrote The Buffalo Express upon his death in 1900, “But Bob didn’t have a mean word or a rough hand for the poorest devil of them all.”

“It’s my business to be adrivin’ this rig ’n I got no business to be anywhere else,” The Express quoted Bob as saying often during those three decades.

In 1905, a Buffalo Express writer took a ride on the Black Maria as it made the rounds picking up the drunk and disorderly.

The Buffalo Express writer about to climb into the Black Maria.

“After one experience it would be hard to find a man who could wish for a second ride in this vehicle of woe,” wrote the uncredited scribe, who spent a morning with five hung-over prisoners, jostling along the streets in the dark, hard-benched box on the back of a wagon with no springs or any other manner of comfort.

For nearly 80 years, the common parlance – and even the official – name for the drunk tank vehicles in Buffalo was “Black Maria.” In 1938, Buffalo Police wanted to make an official break and change the image of the transport vehicles.

Police Commissioner Glenn McClellan thought “Police Ambulance” was a more dignified term, so the Black Marias were rechristened, right down to small red crosses on the side. The Red Cross objected though, and lost to history is what the trucks were called officially from there on out.

Buffalo in the 60s: Satchmo, Basie, Duke, Brubeck headline Buffalo Jazz festival

By Steve Cichon

The word unbelievable is thrown around — but the lineup at the 1960 Buffalo Jazz Festival at Offerman Stadium was pretty close to unbelievable.

Buffalo Stories archives

The old baseball park behind Freddie’s Doughnuts at Main and Michigan played host to Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa and a half-dozen others.

In 1951, Main & Michigan and the area around Offermann Stadium was much more densely filled in. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The run up to the event received plenty of coverage in the Buffalo Courier-Express, The Buffalo Evening News, and The Niagara Gazette.

Co-produced by Ed Sarkesian and George Wein, in association with WEBR disc jockey Joe Rico, the festival features a lineup of entertainers that reads like a “Who’s Who in Jazz.”

The idea for staging a Buffalo Jazz Festival represents the collective thinking of professional producers and interested local businessmen. Producers Sarkesian and Wein regard Buffalo as one of the top five jazz markets in the country, based on the  record of successful shows staged at Kleinhans Music Hall and local theaters.

–Buffalo Courier-Express, July 24, 1960

The Niagara Gazette reported that a ‘”Living Stereo” sound system was to be installed in Offermann Stadium at a cost of $6000, “assuring that the audience will hear every chord struck by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, every run from Louis Armstrong’s golden trumpet and every note played and sung by Dinah Washington, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Gene Krupa, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and the other stars who will appear.”

The Buffalo Evening News previews the show.

As far as the show itself:

Kenneth Gill’s review of the first day of the two-day festival from the Courier-Express. Dave Brubeck, Dinah Washington, Art Blakley, Count Basie, and Dizzy Gillespie were among the performers. WEBR disc jockey Joe Rico was the emcee. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Gill also reviewed the last day of the show for the Courier.

The second part of Buffalo’s first Jazz Festival concluded last night at Offermann Stadium where again some of the top names in music produced an evening of fine entertainment for an enthusiastic audience.

The total attendance for the Saturday and Sunday night shows was 16,000.

On stage last night was an array of celebrities equal to the standards of the opening edition. Such personalities as Chico Hamilton, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, Oscar Peterson and Louis Armstrong were on hand. It also marked the first Buffalo appearance of Jackie Cain, Roy Kral, and Cannonball Adderley.

Hamilton’s Quintet, which is built around his fine drum work; Ellington’s orchestra in the blue mood of the old master, Krupa’s torrid drums, and Peterson’s great piano playing highlighted the festivities.

Armstrong’s appearence brought the usual reception for the great “Satchmo,” whose trumpet and gravel voice are a must for any succesful jazz gathering.

Cannonball Is a Hit

Cannonball Adderley and his alto sax, backed up by his side men, brought about interesting improvisations on the jazz standards. The integration of vocal sounds with those of the instrumental, placed Jackie Cain and Roy Kral well up in their
chosen classification.

Local talent again received its opportunity. Patti Leeds, accompanied by the Sammy Noto Quintet, was as vocally pleasing as she was visually appealing.

She turned easily from sultry ballad to belting chorus, with all the accomplishments and polish of a top professional. All indications are that her future it very bright. (WEBR disc jockey) Carroll Hardy provided the program introductions.

Among the odd stories from weekend festival– it was the first major event where The Buffalo Police Department’s new K-9 squad was given a public appearance.

Working out of the Franklin Street station, “The dog, his handler and the van patrolman-driver form a team which check trouble spots anywhere in the city,” reported the Courier in a follow-up article. “No job is too small — roaming through pool parlors, mingling at crime scenes, even issuing traffic tags.

“Their finest hour was handling the crowd at the recent Jazz Festival in Offermann Stadium. Not one disturbance took place during the concert or on any streets afterwards. The promoter told Lt. Carr it was the only peaceful concert on his tour.”

Buffalo Stories archives

A few years earlier, Joe Rico, then with WWOL, brought another amazing show to Kleinhans Music Hall:

Buffalo in the ’50s: Basie, Gillespie, Billie Holiday headline Kleinhans show

Torn-Down Tuesday: Buffalo police headquarters in 1937

By Steve Cichon

The City of Buffalo has purchased the old federal courthouse on Niagara Square for $1, with plans of making it Buffalo’s combined police and fire headquarters.

This is the police headquarters building that was abandoned in 1937 when a new Buffalo Police Headquarters building was opened at Church and Franklin. Buffalo Police are expected to leave that building to move to the old federal court building on Niagara Square in 2017. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The “new” building was dedicated as Buffalo’s federal office building by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on a visit to Buffalo weeks before the 1936 presidential election, which makes it a year older than the building Buffalo Police brass will be vacating at Church and Franklin. That building was ready for occupancy in 1937.

As Police Commissioner Ralph V. Degenhart looking on, the Rev. Jacob Ledwon blesses new police cars in 1985 outside the building that has served as Buffalo Police Headquarters since 1937.  (Buffalo Stories archives)

The Church and Franklin building replaced a much earlier structure that stood a couple blocks away at Seneca Street between Erie and Franklin. The Skyway onramp runs through the property now, which is across Franklin from the back patio of The Pearl Street Brewery.

A 1933 report from the state Corrections Department called the old building “unfit, inadequate and unsafe.”

The report went on to lament the Depression and how plans for a new headquarters were scuttled by the economy crisis. “The building has been condemned for many years and destructive fires have occurred which required large expenditures for its restoration. The close proximity to the railroad, with the consequent noise and grime, makes the location objectionable.”

Buffalo Police headquarters, Seneca and Franklin, 1920s.
Buffalo Police headquarters, Seneca and Franklin, 1920s. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The report was the last straw — and city lawmakers insisted on a new headquarters. After wrangling between city, state and federal funding sources, preliminary plans for a new building on city owned property at Franklin and Church were unveiled in 1935.

“When completed, the new police headquarters will be a most up to date building,” said Mayor George Zimmermann. “The plans were drawn only after the best features of other modern police headquarters were studied, and they also include suggestions from Commissioner Higgins. The City of Buffalo can well be proud of the new building that will replace the present antiquated structure.”

Jan. 31, 1937, was the day Buffalo Police moved into the new $800,000 headquarters. Commissioner James Higgins personally directed the crew of 30 telephone lineman, upon whose order, “Cut now!” communications were disconnected at the old building. Exactly 15 minutes later, the same lines ran to the new office.

“Everything worked out so smoothly and quickly the police department did not miss a single call,” Commissioner Higgins said.

Twenty members of the mounted squad spent about 10 hours moving hundreds of pieces of furniture up Franklin Street, to the “thoroughly modern” building complete with a crime laboratory, a lie detector and a ballistics microscope.

What it looked like Wednesday: The Edward M. Daly police boat

By Steve Cichon

Called “the guardian of the waterfront,” the Edward M. Daly was Buffalo’s police boat from 1921 to 1936.

The craft was named after a Buffalo patrolman who enlisted in the Navy during World War I. He was lost at sea when German U-boats torpedoed the transport ship USS President Lincoln off the Irish coast in 1918.


More than 2,000 spectators were on hand, and Daly’s parents were guests of honor as the 60-horsepower motorboat was christened in August 1921 as a replacement for the old police steamboat “Grover Cleveland.”

The Daly was stationed at various times at the foot of Ferry Street or the foot of Amherst Street, and one of its primary tasks was watching the international border for motorboats trying to smuggle rum and ale into the United States during Prohibition.

 In 1930, Patrolmen Timothy J. Meegan, James McCarthy, Thomas J. Thompson, and John Galvin were among the ten officers assigned to the Daly.

In 1930, Patrolmen Timothy J. Meegan, James McCarthy, Thomas J. Thompson and John Galvin were among the 10 officers assigned to the Daly.

With a gasoline engine and wooden construction, the Daly’s top speed of 11 miles an hour made it obsolete by 1936 when Commissioner James Higgins sold it for $415, with the proceeds going toward the purchase of a newer, faster boat — to be used only when needed, not on regular patrol.

Buffalo in the ’30s: Buffalo Police Lt. George Uhl slain in gun battle

By Steve Cichon

The morning after he was slain by two bandits, his Buffum Street neighbors described Buffalo Police Lt. George Uhl as a quiet, home-loving type. Uhl was killed in a gun battle with members of the Bruno Salek gang in 1934.

Lt. George Uhl led the detail which captured members of an East Side gang in 1933. (Buffalo News archives)

Lt. George Uhl led the detail which captured members of an East Side gang in 1933. (Buffalo News archives)

Uhl was the second officer on the scene when a patrolman pulled over a car on Dodge Street thought to be connected to a rash of robberies across the city. Uhl was pulling up just as one of the car’s occupants pulled a gun on the other officer and threatened to “blow his guts out.”  A hail of gun fire ensued, and Lt. Uhl was left mortally wounded.

Buffalo News archives

(Buffalo News archives)

Bruno Salek and Stanley Pluzdrak each had three guns on them, “loaded and ready for immediate action.” The mothers of the teenaged offenders pleaded for mercy, with Pluzdrak’s mother pointing out her son was a Boy Scout. They were both convicted in the slaying and died in the electric chair at Sing Sing.

The young patrolman whose life was likely saved by Uhl’s arrival celebrated the birth of his first child two days before the execution.

“Certainly, knowing George Uhl, knowing the fineness of him, his great heart, his great humanity, I can’t feel otherwise than that the petition of Boy Scouts in favor of Salek and Pluzdrak is distinctly out of order,” Patrolman Harold Milhauser told The News.

Honor guard escort for Lt. George Uhl. (Buffalo news archives)

Honor guard escort for Lt. George Uhl. (Buffalo News archives)

Born in 1884, Uhl came to Buffalo as a young boy with his family from Meadville, Pa. He attended School 33 and Central High School. After several years as a yard conductor for the Lehigh Valley Railroad, he was appointed to the police force in 1909, and made a lieutenant in 1925.

Uhl’s widow was awarded a pension of $50 a month.

What it looked like Wednesday: Fire at Western Auto on Main Street

By Steve Cichon

Western Auto began as a catalog concern in 1909 — selling to the niche “horseless carriage” market. As cars became more popular, so did Western Auto, which began operating storefronts as well as the catalog.

Buffalo News archives

The 1940 fire at Buffalo’s Western Auto caused $65,000 in damage, but allowed the store to be modernized in a rebuild. When opened at Main and Tupper in 1928, it was one of 46 Western Auto stores.

Buffalo Stories archives

But as the Number 9 Parkside Zoo Peter Witt street car ambled along the tracks of Main Street heading for the DL&W Terminal at the foot of Main Street, the store was one of 250. By the 1950s, car parts were taking a back seat to an array of items meant to capture the imaginations of men and boys, as Western Auto was carrying a wide range of products beyond car parts and accessories.

This isn’t the first time this intersection has been featured in the BN Chronicles. In 1981, the Ansonia Building at Main and Tupper was being considered for a $500,000 facelift with the thought that locations along the coming MetroRail route would be increasing in value.

Buffalo News archives


Buffalo in the ’70s: Go-Go Girls (just another Friday on Chippewa)

By Steve Cichon

Cops on the Chippewa beat today are looking for rowdy young people and underage drinking. It was a different world on Chippewa Street in 1977, when Franklin Station officers David Schweitzer and Larry Rammuno were walking the prostitute-filled streets of what was then Buffalo’s red-light district.

Buffalo News archives

The officers are standing in front of what was then — and is now — the Calumet Building. Today, Go Go Girls and the Chippewa Army & Navy Store have been replaced by Bacchus Wine Bar and Mighty Taco. Behind the officers, just out of frame, was the infamous Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant — now the site of Soho.

Across the street, other infamous gin mills and dance joints like House O’ Quinn and Cosy Bar are visible. These were rough places for real characters — a far cry from the sanitary Michelob Ultra atmosphere of Chippewa today.

Buffalo in the ’30s: New in the BPD arsenal — tear gas

By Steve Cichon

From April 21, 1938:

Buffalo News archives

Huge projectiles from stubby shotguns created formidable tear gas barrages in Centennial Park today as new equipment was demonstrated to police. Commissioner Glenn H. McClellan, Patrolman Walter Jabcuga and Lt. Alfred Sendker of the mounted squad examined equipment.

The Peace Bridge is visible in the background.

Buffalo in the ’80s: Commissioner and sheriff are bicycle cops for a day

By Steve Cichon


t’s the kind of photo op we don’t see as much anymore.

To promote a statewide bicycle safety campaign, Buffalo’s two top cops — City Police Commissioner James Cunningham (white belt) and Erie County Sheriff Kenneth Braun — hopped on a customized bike built for two and rode around Niagara Square.

Buffalo News archives