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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
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.
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