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"No Buffalos And No Wings"

This column goes to exotic places all around the world, 
but I'm taking today to tell you about our home town... 
at least as I remember it. 
I subscribe to a Buffalo history group, 
and I'm reprinting here some of the things I've posted. 

There is an ongoing discussion about how Buffalo got its name, 
seeing as how there's not a buffalo within a thousand miles. 
The buffalo or bison was an icon, a symbol of the "Wild West", 
which had a powerful mystique at the time, 
and the "West" was considered a lot farther east in those days. 
Chicago was sometimes referred to as a western city. 
Maybe whoever named our town 
wanted people to think that we had buffaloes... 
that we were a part of the West. 
I believe I just heard a discouraging word. 

As I may have mentioned ad nauseum, 
Misty and I were both born in the Millard Fillmore Hospital, 
in Buffalo, New York. 
We hadn't met before that, and wouldn't meet at all 
until we bumped into each other in Miami years later. 
We've been bumping into each other ever since. 

There were no Buffalo Wings then, 
just Texas Redhots and Beef on Weck, Buffalo specialties. 
There were no malls, 
so for a big day we went downtown window-shopping. 
They had symphony concerts on the Art Gallery steps, 
overlooking Park Lake. 
You could rent a canoe, chase girls, or just listen to the music. 

People complained a little about factory smog, 
but everybody had a job. 

Chlorophyll was the hot product additive, 
and we would buy anything that contained it. 
It promised to prevent breath odor and body odor. 
It didn't do either. 

The early jeans were called dungarees for no apparent reason. 
Maybe it has something to do with the first syllable. 
They came dark blue and stiff as an ironing board. 
They had to be soaked in a bathtub full of bleach until wearable. 
Even then they were heavy, high waisted, and shapeless. 
Dungarees were one length, and worn rolled up at the bottom, 
with white socks and penny loafers. 
Cool. 

When I lived in Western New York, 
there was an unhealthy trend toward disfigurement 
in the name of remodeling. 
Good wood was to be covered with Formica, 
innocent houses were hidden under cheesy siding, 
antique upright pianos had to be cut down to "studio" size, 
and mirrors stuck over the keyboards. 
Wooden porch railings that complimented a house, 
were replaced with wrought iron that didn't. 
Porches were torn down, and picture windows put up. 

My parents spoke of a saloon named Gaughan's on Delaware. 
They said my grandfather played piano there occasionally. 
I've only seen pictures of the house, my grandfather, and Gaughan's. 
Being less than one year old, I couldn't get served. 

My parents were on a trip to Mexico, 
and my grandmother was left in charge of me. 
She tried to get rid of the Christmas tree 
by burning it in the big expensive white fireplace. 
The firemen couldn't save the ornate fireplace or the wall. 
I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time, 
but for years there were a lot of laughs at Grandma's expense. 
She responded with absolutely no expression, 
until the hilarity passed. 

My vocal quartet The Dawn Breakers recorded a radio commercial 
for Everybody's Daily, a Polish newspaper. 
We recorded it in the Churchill Tabernacle because of the good acoustics, 
and sang it first in English, and then in Polish. 
I don't speak Polish. 

Then we had a regional hit record in the northeast on Coral Records. 
I had listened to morning radio personality Clint Buehlman all my life, 
and he hurt my feelings by knocking our record on the air. Jeez! 
The Houndog wouldn't play it at all 
because our manager gave it to another DJ first, 
Herb Knight (WKBW). 
I found a clip of the record in the Emory University Library. 

I remember a particular winter night in Buffalo... 
A teenage girlfriend and I were walking slowly around Soldiers Place, 
the snow was swirling past the old-fashioned streetlights 
like in those glass winter scene globes you shake. 
It was a seriously romantic moment, 
even though the relationship later melted away. 

My favorite time in Buffalo 
is mid-September through December. 
It would be nice to visit my home town, 
and try to put some of these old snapshots together. 

Someday. 

Copyright  August 26, 2006 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission.

 

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