FDR in Buffalo as President & more Buffalo Radio in the 30s

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

President Roosevelt talks to reporters holding WBNY and WBEN microphones outside of Buffalo City Hall, 1940.

Only weeks before he was to be elected to his second term as president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Buffalo to dedicate the city’s new federal building at Niagara Square on Oct. 17, 1936.

The visit was Roosevelt’s first time in Buffalo as Commander-in-Chief — although he had visited countless times during his four years as New York’s governor. The courthouse was a federally funded New Deal project and was designed primarily by Buffalo architect E.B. Green.

The president’s dedication was carried on radio stations WKBW, WBEN and WBNY.

“I need not compare the Buffalo of today with the Buffalo as I saw it the last time I was here,” Roosevelt said in Niagara Square. “You will recall, I am sure, those years when I had the privilege of being the chief executive of this state. Already in 1930 the problems of unemployment and depression had become severe and you will recall also that it was in 1931 that I, as governor, called the Legislature of the State of New York into special session to provide relief for the distressed unemployed of the state and New York was the first state in the Union to definitely accept the responsibilities of seeing to it that as far as the state’s resources could prevent it, none of its citizens who wished to work would starve.”

Wider view of President Roosevelt’s 1936 address, with the Niagara Square side of the Statler Hotel seen prominently in the background.

“We can’t honestly say that Buffalo is the largest market in the country,” wrote the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation in a 1936 ad in a national magazine, “But we can truthfully claim that it is one of the best and has been consistently so for many years.”
Philco radios were among the available in 1932, and The Wm. Hengerer Co. was selling this seven-tube model in the downtown store’s seventh floor radio shop for $49.75– which amounts to just under $900 in 2020 dollars.
Photos of the women of early radio are far and few between—and that’s because unless they were singing, there just weren’t many women on the radio during the first two decades. This 1933 photo shows Lillian Kaye, WGR’s “crooning contralto.” Her voice was heard regularly through the 20s and 30s on Buffalo radios and around the country on network shows on NBC.
The story of Clint Buehlman’s first five years at WGR were told in a comic strip that was included in a booklet commemorating the milestone and distributed by the station in 1937.
The Hall Baking Company, sponsors of Clinton Buehlman’s Musical Clock Show on WGR, was located in the large bakery building that would later be home to the Kaufman’s Bakery on Fillmore Avenue at Main.
Following the Musical Clock Show, Buehly and technician Lew Shea would hop in the WGR Mobile Studio car for programs around town at places like Hengerer’s and Shea’s Buffalo.

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

Torn-Down Tuesday: The Employed Children’s School

By Steve Cichon

From just about the moment that construction on Buffalo’s City Hall was completed on Niagara Square, the mostly Italian immigrant, mostly poor neighborhood became the target of those wishing to “give the city a cleaner look.”

The Working Childrens Home

One front page Courier-Express headline read, “6,000 dwell in slums in the shadow of City Hall. 85 acres of misery near civic center.”

The story goes on to call the blocks behind City Hall “the most wretched in the city,” noting the area ranked second in murders committed, second in tuberculosis and social diseases. Words like ramshackle, dilapidated and reeking were used.

The 1936 article never specifically mentioned that it was a district of mostly Italian families, but the story of life inside of one building with a hole in the roof left the reader with little doubt.

This drawing accompanied the front page story about the neighborhood behind City Hall, 1936.

Before City Hall was built on Niagara Square, city fathers tried to address the poverty in the area through education. More than anywhere else in the city, children worked to help feed their families.

State law was changed in 1922 to say that all children up to age 17 must receive at least half a day’s worth of schooling. With that new law in mind, Buffalo’s board of education bought an old furniture warehouse at the corner of Georgia Street and Caldwell Place (which was later Newark Alley) right in the middle of this poor, overcrowded neighborhood.

The old brick factory was to become Buffalo’s first “part-time school” for children who worked. They needed special and intricate accommodation according to educators.

“Adolescent working children, it is declared, possess individual differences to a much greater extent than those children without the worldly experience which comes through contacts made as employees,” read the newspaper account announcing the opening of the school.

The school’s primary objectives were to prepare students for citizenship and to “stimulate the moral of these working children, to help them obtain and hold an optimistic viewpoint on life and then keep them on the road to successful, useful, and happy citizenship.”

The building came down during one of many urban renewal projects in the neighborhood over the decades. Neither the buildings nor the streetscape survives. The spot where the school once stood is the in the midst of the government subsidized senior housing which is fronted along Niagara Street behind City Hall.