Tonawanda loves to remember the Delaware Pool

       By Steve Cichon

The removal of the Sheridan Drive pedestrian bridge is stirring memories of the generations of kids who ran across the bridge in anticipation of a jump into the Delaware Pool.

Delaware Pool, Town of Tonawanda.

Sheridan Drive was built as a “super highway” in 1925, connecting Clarence, Amherst and Tonawanda to the waterfront and to Niagara Falls via Niagara Falls Boulevard. The divided highway remained most rural and mostly in use for its original purpose until the postwar expansion of the 1950s brought a dramatic number of homes to the former farm country and the Youngmann Expressway became the preferred route for quickly crossing the suburbs just north of Buffalo.

More than 20 large subdivisions were either built or in the works by 1955, along with supermarkets like Park Edge, hot dog stands like Ted’s and Pat’s, and custard windows like Anderson’s.

Signs touting new Sheridan Drive area subdivisions in the Town of Tonawanda, 1955.

To support the quickly growing area, the Town of Tonawanda built both Herbert Hoover Elementary School and the “glistening” Delaware Pool, both near Delaware Road on Sheridan.

Swimming lessons at Delaware Pool, 1955.

The pool cost $250,000 to build in 1954. The 80-foot-by-120-foot pool was built by contractor Howard Stimm. During the first year, 2,500 residents were using the pool on warm weekends. More than 60,000 people used the pool, and more than 5,000 took swimming lessons in 1956.

The foot bridge over Sheridan Drive was conceived of only months after the opening of the pool. The $40,000 price tag was seen as steep in 1955, but also necessary to keep the free flow of automobiles along Sheridan Drive. A footnote in one 12-paragraph story in 1955 mentions the safety of the children crossing the busy highway, as well.

After years of bickering and a gubernatorial veto by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, it wasn’t until 1965 – 10 years after the bridge was first proposed – that the state finally gave permission and some funding to allow the pedestrian bridge to be built. It was completed just in time for the 1967 school year.

The pool was such an institution, that the town sponsored a big celebration of the pool’s 25th anniversary in 1979, featuring synchronized swimming and salutes to those instrumental in the building of the pool.

Delaware Pool slide, 1956

Numbers of swimmers had dwindled dramatically from the glory days, but Tonwandans were still using the Delaware Pool until the early ’90s, when, in 1993, it was replaced by the Tonawanda Aquatic and Fitness Center in preparation for Western New York’s hosting of the World University Games.

The foot bridge across Sheridan Drive is being dismantled this week. It was closed following a state inspection deeming it unsafe in 2016.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Nu-Way meets Niagara Falls Boulevard

       By Steve Cichon

When the brand-new Nu-Way supermarket opened in Niagara Falls Boulevard in 1955, the part of the “The Boulevard” just north of Sheridan Drive was still mostly farmland.

Niagara Falls Boulevard from Sheridan Drive to Ridge Lea, 1951

The map that accompanied the Nu-Way ad announcing the grand opening isn’t to scale, but it shows the landmarks on the rural stretch between Sheridan Drive and Ellicott Creek Road. The only highlights they could come up with were the drive-in and a radio tower.

Nu-Way Super Market grand opening on Niagara Falls Boulevard, 1955.

The Niagara Drive-In, which is visible on the 1951 overhead photo, was torn down to make way for Kmart, which was in turn torn down to make way for the strip mall featuring Old Navy and the Christmas Tree Store.

The WXRA radio tower was closer to the plaza with Burlington Coat Factory, JoAnn Fabrics and Outback Steakhouse. The small station was licensed to Kenmore and is probably best remembered as the place where Tommy Shannon’s Buffalo radio career began.

If we were trying to describe the plaza where Nu-Way opened today, we might say across from the Boulevard Mall – but then, the mall wasn’t opened for another seven years. OK, then, you might say, “The Boulevard between Sheridan and Maple,” but Maple wasn’t extended from Sweet Home Road to Niagara Falls Boulevard until the early ’60s.

The Youngmann Expressway didn’t cross over then, work wouldn’t even start on the I-290 until the mall opened. New York State’s first McDonald’s, now near Maple, wasn’t opened until 1959. Same with the Henry’s Hamburgers at Sheridan Drive. The Swiss Chalet opened in 1965.

Nu-Way was the futuristic brand name for the 1950s-style supermarkets operated by longtime Buffalo grocer Danahy-Faxon.

Among the features at the new store were register receipts that listed your exact change and the “new convenient food-o-mat,” which was called “the latest in shopping convenience” as shelves restocked themselves as ladies shopped.

Shopping the modern way inside a Nu-Way, 1955.

The Nu-Way brand name was eventually absorbed into Acme Markets, and in the mid ’70s, local Acme stores were bought out by Bells.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Sheridan Drive, early 1960s

By Steve Cichon

A snowstorm and a couple of jackknifed tractor-trailers had Sheridan Drive backed up from just after Harlem Road all the way to Niagara Falls Boulevard in this early 1960s photo.

Buffalo Stories archives

The “C. Hettinger for Rambler” car dealership is in the foreground on the right – today, it’s about where Northtown Kia and Northtown Mazda are located. Charles Hettinger opened for business in the spot in 1960.

Next door, Herb and Burt Wallens opened Sheridan Lanes and its “broad expanse of 48 precision Brunswick Lanes” in February 1957. It was billed as “one of America’s finest bowling establishments, for your bowling pleasure” upon opening.

Beyond is Kinney Shoes and the final legible sign off in the distance, which belongs to the La Hacienda Sheridan Restaurant.

Buffalo in the ’50s: Jackie Gleason eats at Ted’s dogs

By Steve Cichon

When “The Great One” rolled up to Ted’s Jumbo Red Hots on Sheridan Drive on March 10, 1955 – 62 years ago today – he was one of America’s biggest TV stars.

Buffalo Courier-Express headline, 1952. (Buffalo Stories archives)

“The Honeymooners” didn’t debut as its own show until later that year, but Ralph, Alice, Norton and Trixie were stars of the most popular sketch on “The Jackie Gleason Show” – which was America’s second most watched TV show right behind “I Love Lucy.”

Apparently on the way to Niagara Falls, Gleason’s bright-red custom car, with license plate “10-JG,” pulled into Ted’s around 2 p.m. A man got out of the car and ordered “a tray filled with pizza and hot dogs,” which he took back to the car while Gleason and two women waited back in the car.

At least 20 people saw the TV star sitting in his car, but he never got out or talked to anyone there in the 20 minutes they were eating while parked there.

Ted’s has been in the same location on Sheridan Drive since 1948.

An ad for Ted’s from 1957. (Buffalo Stories archives)

A 1969 obituary described Theodore S. Liaros as “an early 20th century Greek immigrant who built a pushcart business into a citywide chain of park concessions.”

Until a stroke at the age of 78, Liaros had spent most of 57 years working 16-hour days, slinging popcorn and peanuts first from a wagon, then starting in 1927, hot dogs, loganberry and even pizza from a small shack that had been abandoned by construction workers after the completion of the Peace Bridge.

Even with the Peace Bridge stand operating, Ted’s lunch wagon was still a familiar presence at the Clinton-Bailey Market until the Sheridan Drive location opened.

Liaros’ death on Oct. 24, 1969, came only weeks after that original stand at the foot of Massachusetts Street near Niagara Street was bulldozed on Sept. 15 to make way for an improved I-190/Niagara Street interchange.

In 1957, the Liaros family built another stand near the Peace Bridge in Front Park near Porter Avenue, and occupied it through the early 1970s, when they built another restaurant on Porter Avenue.

Ted Liaros worked 16-hour days for 57 years.

But even though the TV stars visited Tonawanda and the Front Park shop was successful, the namesake of Buffalo’s favorite dog stand always loved that first wayward shack where he spent hundreds of thousands of hours during six decades.

“It was the place my father really had his heart in all these years,” Ted’s son Spiro Liaros said upon his father’s passing and the tearing down of the original Ted’s.

The original Ted’s was torn down to make way for easier highway access to the Peace Bridge in 1969.

The Liaros family still operates Ted’s.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Henry’s Hamburgers, Sheridan at the Boulevard

By Steve Cichon

Back when living along the Tonawanda/Amherst border was like living in a real-life version of “American Graffiti,” Henry’s Hamburgers at Sheridan and Niagara Falls Boulevard was one of the many places a cruise down the strip could have landed.

Buffalo News archives

By the time the photo was snapped about a year into the operation of Henry’s in 1960, the Western New York version of guys like Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss and gals like Mackenzie Phillips and Cindy Williams had already eaten 720,000 hamburgers and 33 tons of French fries. The numbers were easy to hit when hamburgers were 15 cents each — or a bag of ten for a buck.

Within a year, there were three Henry’s locations — this one, another on McKinley Parkway in South Buffalo across the street from Park Edge (later Bells) Supermarket, and another across Union Road from Airport Plaza — right about where the Kensington Expressway eventually cut through.

Through the ’60s and ’70s, at least a dozen different Henry’s locations came and went around Western New York — most notably, the two (one at Main and Dewey and one on Jefferson) owned by Bills great and Channel 2 sportscaster Ernie Warlick.

The Main and Dewey location is the only one that survives as a restaurant. It’s now Tony’s Ranch House.

As far as the Sheridan Drive location, the area has obviously lost the rural feel of this photo. The gas station selling 26¢ gas at its two pumps was soon replaced by a Firestone shop. The Henry’s lot has been filled in with a small strip plaza and a former Denny’s restaurant.

Buffalo in the ’70s: Twin Fair is closed on Sundays, but Two Guys is open for business

By Steve Cichon

Forty years ago this week, retailers and shoppers in Buffalo were grappling with a holiday shopping question so weighty it got ink in The News: Should department stores be open on Sundays?

Buffalo News archives

Christmas shoppers in Amherst had it both ways. The Two Guys store on Sheridan Drive near Niagara Falls Boulevard (now the site of Home Goods) had a full parking lot, while Twin Fair on Maple Road (now the site of Tops) was empty, dark and closed on Sunday.

Buffalo in the 60s: Forget McDonald’s; Buffalo had Henry’s Hamburgers

By Steve Cichon

The Henry’s Hamburgers run in Buffalo started in the early 1960s and lasted through the late 1970s.

This ad appeared in The News in 1964.

City locations included spots on Hertel Avenue, McKinley Parkway, Jefferson Avenue and Main Street at Leroy Avenue.  Some of the early success for the franchise locally came from Buffalo Bills star Ernie Warlick, who not only invested in several franchise locations but was often found behind the counter serving up the burgers and fries by the pound himself.

Suburban locations included on Delaware Avenue in Kenmore, Main Street in Tonawanda, Union Road in Cheektowaga and Military Road and Pine Avenue in Niagara Falls.

Each restaurant was owned by different franchisees, and promotional advertising often only applied to a single store. Such was the case for this “free hamburger” coupon, which could be redeemed at the store on Niagara Falls Boulevard at Sheridan Drive.