Sandy Beach starts his 52-year run in Buffalo Radio

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

His famous laugh filled Buffalo airwaves for more than 50 years, and the jingle that opened his WBEN talk show for 23 of those years says Sandy Beach is “bigger than life and twice as loud.”

Sandy Beach, inside the KB studio

That may be, but News critic Jeff Simon added this in 2007:

Sandy Beach “may be the most talented figure in (the) storied history of Buffalo radio,” and Beach was the “last legend still heard daily on Buffalo radio.”

Aside from a brief stop in Erie, Pennsylvania and four years in Milwaukee, Beach has been a constant in Buffalo radio since arriving at WKBW to take over the night shift there in 1968.

Listening to even five minutes of his show – any of his shows – over the course of 52 years is explanation enough for why News critic Hal Crowther dubbed Beach “the Needle” shortly after the deejay landed on the Buffalo radio scene.

In a 1972 interview, legendary WKBW Program Director Jeff Kaye said that within four years of arriving in Buffalo, Sandy had “worked every shift on KB except morning drive, and improved the ratings in each part.”

Beach spent the 70s, 80s and 90s in and out of Buffalo as a disc jockey, program director and eventually a talk show host. After leaving his post as KB Radio’s Program Director in the early 80s, he held morning show jobs at Buffalo’s Hot 104 and then Majic 102.

He hosted talk shows on WBEN and WGR before leaving town for the mid-90s, but when he came back to host afternoons on WBEN in 1997, he was ready to make the change permanent.

“I liked playing the oldies,” Sandy said coming back, “but you can only play ‘Doo-Wap-Diddy’ so many times.”

Six years later, he would play oldies once again, this time at WBEN’s sister station and his old stomping grounds, now sporting the call letters WWKB. For the three years KB played music of the 50s and 60s from 2003-06, Beach was a disc jockey mid-mornings and a talk show host for afternoon drive on WBEN.

The show was never edgy or provocative just for the sake of being so—but Beach was strong in proclaiming his often-conservative views and left little room for opinions (or leaders) he thought were weak or unfounded.

Stan Roberts, Dan Neaverth, Sandy Beach. Late 60s.

When he left WBEN in 2020, management called Beach a “provocative and edgy talk show host” who entertained with “distinct humor.” And an unforgettable laugh.

Watching TV rarely gets you on the front page of the paper, but it seems appropriate that it did for the staff at Tonawanda’s Jenss Twin-Ton Department store in 1969.

That man would step foot on the moon is an unimaginable, superlative, epoch-defining feat in human history. But that more than half a billion would watch it happen live on their television sets made it a definitive moment in a broadcast television industry that was barely 20 years old at the time.

Gathered around the TV “to catch a few glimpses of the Apollo 11 events” were Mrs. James Tait, Margaret Robinson, Marian Feldt, Jack Dautch, Grace Hughes, Dorothy Wiegand, Rose Sugden and Rose Ann Fiala.

By the time of the 1969 moon landing, Jenss Twin-Ton’s future was already in doubt as city fathers in the Tonawandas were looking to expand already present Urban Renewal efforts to include the store at Main and Niagara. Jenss Twin-Ton closed in 1976 when the building was bulldozed as urban renewal caught up.

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

Torn-Down Tuesday: Tonawanda’s notorious vice district, Goose Island

       By Steve Cichon

If you’re visiting the City of Tonawanda these days, taking a nice ride from, say, Gateway Harbor – the home of Canal Fest and summertime concerts – over to Old Man River for a hot dog and an ice cream, you might not realize the trip includes passage through what was once one of Western New York’s most infamous red light districts.

Goose Island, City of Tonawanda, 1925

The area that’s now home to a Tops Market and the police station was once known as “Goose Island,” a small man-made island formed when the Erie Canal cut off a triangle of land from the rest of the city bounded on the other sides by Tonawanda Creek and the Niagara River.

It’s no surprise that Tonawanda’s expansive lumber industry eventually made use of the island, but initially it was developed with residences for more well-to-do Tonawandans.

Goose Island “resorts” with doors and windows nailed shut following vice and liquor raids in the 1930s.

Tonawanda Mayor Christ S. Warren was born on Goose Island in 1879, when the Tonawandas were the world’s largest freshwater lumber port. As a boy, he helped his grandfather operate a grocery store which catered to the canalers.

“Many a morning I got up at 3 o’clock to drive a team and a covered wagon to the Buffalo market for supplies,” an 81-year-old Warren remembered in a 1960 interview.

But times changed. There were several destructive fires there in the early 1890s. In 1899, speculators bought up much of Goose Island as it was named as a possible site for a series of docks for lumber and grain ships – but those docks were ultimately built on Buffalo’s Squaw Island.

Whether it was a direct result of that crazed land buying gone bust or not, over the next 20 years, Goose Island became known as a “notorious district,” made up of “disorderly houses.”

“Goose Island has had a shady reputation for years,” reported the Buffalo Times, “and had come to be well-known throughout this section of the country because of the escapades credited to many persons visiting it.”

The infamous area was commonly referenced in divorce proceedings of the time. Mrs. Lumley was granted a divorce after her husband was fingered as “one of three boon fellows” joined by “buxom women companions” at a “wild party” on Goose Island in 1925.

It was around the same time that Erie County Sheriff Frank A. Tyler called the conditions on Goose Island “downright immoral,” and threatened that if Tonawanda Police wouldn’t clean up the place, he’d send deputies to “remove this stigma from Erie County.”

After a late night visit to the district Tyler told the Buffalo Courier, “I have positive evidence that women are soliciting openly in the streets.” He went on to quote letters from parents who said their sons and daughters were “ruined” by visits to the district.

Despite “more than 20 houses of ill-repute operating with two to four women attached to each house,” Goose Island hotel owner Philip Perew said he’d been living on the island for years and saw no problems with conditions there.

“Everybody knows what Goose Island is for,” said Perew, who lived on Sweeney Street.

“A survey of Goose Island yesterday by a reporter revealed there are two streets in which nearly every house contains two or three women wearing gaudy dresses and having highly painted faces,” reported the Buffalo Courier. “The women make no secret of their business and laugh at reports of the impending cleanup.”

Aside from the vice, “the free flow of intoxicating liquor” was also a problem there during the height of Prohibition. In some quarters, Goose Island was known as “the wettest spot in New York State.” A Buffalo man was arrested in 1925 driving a truck with 30 barrels of beer on River Road. Often that beer didn’t make it too far– plant operators on “the island” had a difficult time keeping employees sober. As many as 500 people a night were visiting the Goose Island “resorts.”

The drinking and prostitution both were open secrets. That lead to the 1936 arrest and trial of a sheriff’s deputy accused of trying to extort money from Perew and other “Goose Island resort operators.”

Tighter policing through the 1930s saw the decline of the area as a prostitution center, as arrest rosters showed people with nicknames like “Tiger Lilly” and “Tony the Wop.” The filling in of the canal along Niagara Street during that decade also reconnected the island to the rest of the city.

A billboard touting the urban renewal that was slated for the City of Tonawanda in 1966.

Urban renewal efforts of the 1960s further wiped any remnants of Goose Island off the map. Planners bragged efforts in a 45-acre parcel downtown, where all the wooden frame buildings – many dating back to the 1860s – were to be replaced with modern brick and concrete structures.

“When the project is completed in January 1968,” predicted Urban Renewal Perry A. Wilson, “Tonawanda will be one of the most modern and beautiful cities in Western New York.”

Urban renewal saw the deomlition of the remaining original Goose Island structures in the mid-60s. This century-old Chestnut Street house was torn down in 1966.

With that work, the old Goose Island – and years of illicit history in the City of Tonawanda – was plowed under.

Though the following was written during one of the earlier crackdowns that didn’t quite last, this 1918 reflection in the Buffalo Times sums up the end of Goose Island well.

“The passing of the island as a ‘red light district’ with painted women thus marks the elimination of a spot that for a long time has been a thorn in the side of respectable residents of Tonawanda.”