Snow-covered streetcars, buses, cars and pedestrians share the 400 block of Main Street with Hengerer’s, Shea’s Century theater and Buffalo Savings Bank’s gold dome in this shot from 77 years ago.
Buffalo News archives
On Jan. 30, 1939, Buffalo was dealt a surprise 8.5 inches of snow. Two people died as a result of the storm — both as they drudged through the weather on downtown sidewalks. The fact that news accounts mention that the weather event was not an official blizzard, leads one to believe the storm was wicked enough to use the shorthand of “blizzard” whether it strictly fit the meteorological definition or not.
From 1948 to 1973, the children of Buffalo knew who the one, true Santa was — and it was the guy who read their letters on Channel 4.
During most of the 25 years the show aired, Hengerer’s sponsored the show to run from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve for 15 minutes on weekdays, a little longer on Saturdays. In 1956, the show that delivered approximately 50,000 letters to Santa through its run became Buffalo’s first locally-produced show regularly presented in color.
Two men played Santa on Channel 4. Announcer Ed Dinsmore was the first St. Nick from the show’s inception until his death in 1954. Station program director Bill Peters — who was also known on the Van Miller Show as Norman Oklahoma — played Santa from 1954 until the end of the show’s run 19 years later.
Santa, however, was barely the star of the show. Forgetful the Elf, played memorably by WBEN copy writer John Eisenberger, was there for the entire run of the show from 1948 to ’73. Not only was the elf he played forgetful, but he was silly. Most shows revolved around Forgetful trying to paint Santa’s sleigh with polka dots, or trying to convince Santa to get rid of his “old fashioned” red suit for something as bit more modern. Hundreds of times through the show’s quarter century, Forgetful was seen greasing up the reindeer’s antlers, with the hopes of making them go faster.
This clip is the only known remaining video from the long run of the Santa show. It’s not from the broadcast of the show– but from 8mm home movies shot by a Channel 4 crew member. This brief video shows Peters as Santa, Eisenberger as Forgetful, and Brook as Grumbles.
The soundtrack for the film is Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” which was used as the show’s theme song. It was also frequently used during the Christmas season by WBEN’s legendary morning man Clint Buehlman.
No full episodes or even short clips of this show — which ran for 25 years — are known to exist. The show was usually presented live, and recording was a more costly and difficult endeavor than it is today.
Santa and Forgetful had plenty of helpers through the years, all of whom — just like Peters and Eisenberger — had other jobs around the station. Grumbles the Elf was played by executive director Gene Brook and then floor manager Bud Hagman. Another director, Warren Jacober, played Freezy the Polar Bear. There were countless other puppets and guest stars, but none rising even close to the popularity of Eisneberger’s Forgetful.
The show ended along with Bill Peters’ death in 1973. Eisenberger died in 1984 at the age of 72.
Eisenberger as Forgetful and Peters as Santa. (Buffalo Stories archives/Steve Cichon collection)
Fifty-five years ago this week– the last week of August, 1960– The News’ special back-to-school section featured articles on the latest in education inside and outside of the classroom, and, of course, plenty of back-to-school ads.
Clothes shopping was a much more gender-specific endeavor in 1960 — while many larger department stores and discount stores obviously offered accouterments for both sexes, there were also plenty of specialty shops that catered to only boys or girls.
Girls were looking for dresses and skirts as they found new school clothes 55 years ago; most schools banned girls from wearing slacks.
Goldin’s, Morrisons and Oppenheim Collins all catered to women and girls.
Hengerer’s, Kobacher’s, Neisner’s, Sattler’s and the Sample sold men’s and women’s fashions.
“Family Affair,” starring Brian Keith as bachelor-uncle who becomes the reluctant parent to his young niece and nephew, was one of 1970’s most popular TV shows. Among the show’s most popular stars was Anissa Jones, who played Buffy.
Sadly, Jones died of a drug overdose at the age of 18 in 1976.
After agreeing to give a lecture at Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery about some of the city’s great retailers of the past, I was deluged with people offering up their memories, and thirsty for the memories of the stores of Buffalo’s grand old stores.