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Steve's Other Blog:
The (Almost) Daily Photo Blog
Photos and more from Buffalo's Pop Culture history: Radio, TV, stores, people, places, politicians from Buffalo's near and distant past.


Steve Cichon is a bow tie wearing Buffalonian. He's an author, publisher, historian, journalist, husband and city home owner. He has fat fingers, an absurd sense of humor, and vivid if not sharp memories of most of his life's experiences. He believes most people are good, but too many are just too physically and intellectually lazy to be good. He lives on hamburgers, black coffee, and chocolate. About most of these things he writes here. There's more about Steve here.


staffannouncer.com was created in 2004 in an effort to start filling in some of the details of Buffalo's Radio, TV, and pop culture history on the internet. Millions of views later, we say we're here to celebrate our shared experiences of the past and present... everything that makes Buffalo, Buffalo! You're guaranteed to find something to jog your Buffalo memory on our pages... stories, photos, sounds and video-- all digitized from the staffannouncer archive vault-- things you won't find anywhere else. Sound like fun? Our homepage is a good place to start.


I'D BE HONORED IF YOU ALSO READ...

Me and My Ol'Man.

My dad died at age 58. I've really become accustomed to dealing with grief by writing about the people and things I love, and what it is and why it is that I love them. Written in the weeks following my dad's death on Palm Sunday, 2010. The story of his last week alive, and a reflection of our relationship and time together. Read it here, and download it as a free e-book.


Good Ol'Max the Dog, 2001-2011.

Steve Cichon's memories of the life and times of his faithful canine companion. Filled with photos and the great stories and the sad end of it all. Read it here. Sorry. It's a tear jerker.


The Complete History of Parkside.

A history of the Frederick Law Olmsted designed neighborhood, from its place in the history of the Seneca Nation, to its role in the War of 1812, to Olmsted's design and the turn of the century building out of the area, and the neighborhood's 20th century evolutions. Included are discussions of the area's earliest colorful settlers, Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House, Delaware Park, The Buffalo Zoo, and the stories and anecdotes of many more struggles, individuals, and institutions that have made Parkside one of Buffalo's premier historic neighborhoods today.

After 4 printings of the 2009 softcover, now read it in .epub format for $5.99, or get an autographed paperback for $14.99
Available for immediate download at the staffannouncer store.


Irv! Buffalo's Anchorman The Irv, Rick and Tom Story

A story of a TV anchorman so universally loved in Western New York that only one name is necessary. From the 1950s through the 1990s, Irv Weinstein informed and entertained generations of Buffalonians with his unmistakable style of writing and delivering the news. Together with Rick Azar and Tom Jolls, Irv was a part of the longest running anchor team in history, and their story is the story of Buffalo over the last half century.

Available in paperback for 13.95, or .epub format for $5.99.
Available for immediate download at the staffannouncer store.

Seriously, How Are you?
Better now, Thanks!
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com May 3, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - "How are you doing?"

It's one of those phrases that we throw around. Most of the time, the words fall out of our mouths without even realizing what we're saying. But even when we are really interested in how someone is doing, how interested are we, really?

I have learned through the years that there are some people of whom you can't ask that question, because they will tell you, in painstaking detail, exactly how they are.

Even worse, is when you ask someone you love "How ya doin," and you really want to know, but that person won't share their pain or their joy with you.

When someone responds FINE because they don't want to burden you with their troubles, or even worse, when they don't want to seem too prideful and won't share their jubilation... that hurts.

Having someone be willing to listen to what really vexes you is a great gift. Having someone trust you with their inner most thoughts is a great gift, too.

But what made me really think about all this, was a friend -- closer to acquaintance than BFF-- asking me with care and sincerity how I was doing. A blanket ask. Open ended.

Not overly concerned, or concerned for the sake of drama, just honestly interested in my well-being. No strings attached. Beautifully simple.

I was taken aback a bit. Here's someone who doesn't know, but cares about whatever it is.

Asking that question, and meaning it -- for my benefit -- is a big commitment.

It was wonderful. It was powerful. It was the sort of reaching out that I have to imagine happens less and less in an age where more and more communication and more "being a friend" is done through fingertips on the glass face of a smart phone. But there is was, honest to goodness, real human care and compassion.

Like everyone else, I have all kinds of troubles and concerns. Piles of nonsense vexing me. This to worry about, that to be angry at. All that was true at that moment as well.

But you know what? I answered, honestly, "I'm doing pretty damn good."

Although I didn't, I should have followed it up with, "Because you care."

Thanks, friend.

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I'm Listening to Your Eyeballs...
no matter what your mouth is saying
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com April 25, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Lately, I've been keeping a closer ear on people's eyeballs.

We've all trained our mouths to be our servants.

They express what we want them to express. We chose and use our words, our tone, our volume very deliberately, if not consciously.

Quite often, for the sake of appearances, the sake of making it through life, our mouths don't match what we feel at our core.

When your mouth starts matching your heart, chances of trouble greatly increase. Especially when for one reason or another, what's in our hearts is something disruptive to the fabric of our life or being. What our heart truly wants may be even forbidden.

So these inner most thoughts aren't allowed anywhere near the lips. The words are never spoken.

But, again, I lately find myself listening more and more closely to eyeballs. Most of us allow our eyes to say things we'd never let our mouths say.

We don't even realize what we let our eyes say before its already all out there.

The thing about eyeballs is you don't need much time. In less than one second, I can see down to your very soul. Thousands of words just poured out of those peepers, and there's no pulling them back.

It's often fast and accidental, but its done. And you both realize it. It's a new reality, this hundred chapter conversation in a glance...

But for the same reason our mouths don't say the words, we go on as if this pupil to pupil transfer of knowledge never happened. But it did. Instead of discussing with someone that we just stood naked in front of each other, we desperately search for something comfortable to talk about.

In spite of our basic elemental human desire to discuss this new extraordinary deep connection, at a time when real connections with people are so rare, we don't dive in. We desperately grasp at anything else to talk about. "Wow, look at the rain."

As much as we need these connections in our lives, I guess we need even more that it not get weird. To avoid the weird, I think many people have just tuned out eyeballs, for fear of making such a powerful connection. I think it's part of the reason why people's guards are down. I guess most folks just don't need that in their day.

But listening to those eyeballs, I find life richer. Weirder but richer.... also more fulfilling and less fulfilling at the same time. Closer yet never more distant now. I'm sure I could say it all better in a half second glance.

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Rest in Peace, Larry Felser...
Memories of a great writer and great friend
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com April 24, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - It's one of those opinionated days, and all of my opinions are on my friend Larry Felser today. Larry used to weave silly observations into gold in columns that started this way. I'm just writing down a bunch of memories of my old pal and sharing some great audio clips.

For about a decade, I got paid to hang out with Larry Felser on Mondays for an hour. I produced his radio shows on WBEN and WNSA Radio. Larry was one of those special guys who was able to move comfortably among millionaire athletes and sports owners, and just as easily among 16 year old kids who worked in radio and loved hearing his stories. Well, at least this 16 year old kid.

My friendship was cemented with Larry the day his car broken down a few blocks from the station in the middle of the Elmwood/Hertel intersection. He called from a payphone saying he'd be late, so I drove down there, let him take my car to the station, and waited for Triple-A with his car. He mentioned that all the time, never forgot it. I think he may have even mentioned it the last time we spoke.

He was like that. Those were the kinds of stories he'd tell you about people. He could sum up a Hall of Famer be describing the time he had breakfast with him in a hotel lobby.

To know Larry Felser was to know the heyday of print journalism. He was a Buffalonian in the way we used to mean it. He was the smartest, best mannered lunch bucket guy, but he knew he was no better than the kid he went to Canisius with who was working at the mill. And while Larry wasn't throwing around 100 pound bags of feed, he was one of the hardest working guys I ever met. Even after he was "retired" from the News.

"Now here's a guy...." as Larry would say, who just loved to talk and listen. Larry is the only person I've ever met who I could see, 1940's movie style, get on the phone, and tell an editor, "Stop the presses! Have I got a Cracker Jack story for you!" He had that gutty old school newspaper man feel about him, even though he was at least a generation removed from working in that old, old school environment.

Some quick hit Larry memories::

"Fast as wood." It was fast as wood, or skates like wood... This phrase was written by Larry about Dave Andreychuk, I believe. But I know for a fact it was one of Jim Kelley (the hockey writer)'s all-time favorite line, and as he repeated it so often, it's become a favorite line among those of us who loved both Jim and Larry... namely Randy Bushover, John Demerle, and me.

Larry was one of the best storytellers around. His delivery was plodding, but he made up for it with his keen and scathing observation skills, and his ability to turn a phrase. The best stories, of course, came during the commercial breaks. I don;t remember what precipitated it, but one day Larry went on the most wonderful, colorful, captivating description of how he used to sneak off to "The Palace Burlesk," and give a very vivid diatribe about why "Rosie La Rose" was the favorite dancer of him and his friends.

I remember word for word the 1940s slang phraseology used in that discussion of Ms. La Rose, and supplemental offerings she'd provide above and beyond the other entertainers at The Palace. For Larry's sake, I'll keep it to myself right now, but I'll never forget it. In fact, I use the line often. In 1945, it was almost certainly vulgar. Today, it simply makes people laugh.

Another line I heard Larry say often, one which I almost always credit him when I use it.. "My most creative moments in front of a keyboard are when I write my expense accounts."

I'm picturing Larry's whole face smiling as he'd say that. Larry's whole face smiled. It filled a room with warmth.

Toward the end of his career at the News, he grew a full beard. The line I heard him use on more than one occasion... "When I started growing the beard, I was going for Hemingway. It's come out more like Box Car Willie." He had the beard for quite a while before the News updated his photo.

One year, he gave me a book for Christmas, and told me that if i wanted to be able to picture what football used to be like in Buffalo in the 40s, that it was just like this book. I've read this book about the Baltimore Colts and their fans about 10 times. I wish I asked Larry which other books I should read.

One book I decided to read was Larry's on the AFL. I bought it and took it with me on vacation one week, and loved it. Read it cover to cover very quickly, and I still can't put into words what happened when I got to the last page. Larry went through a list of thank yous. NFL and AFL owners (all his friends). Hall of Fame players(all his friends). Some of the greatest sports writers of the 20th century(all his friends). Some of the great sports writers and broadcasters from Buffalo (all his friends). And me.

I was just thunderstruck, and to this day, I don't know what to say. While he has the ear of most of the most important people in sports; that Larry even knew the name of some chump kid from a radio station really shows something about the man. That he'd memorialize our friendship on the same page that he did with Lamar Hunt and Will McDonough is still beyond comprehension to me.

But Larry is beyond comprehension to me. I'm better at an awful lot of things for just having been in his presence. Thanks, Larry.

Here are some Larry moments from WBEN and WNSA Radio in the time we worked together. Enjoy.

He wouldn't know if a football were blown up or stuffed....

Larry Felser heard about the end of WWII while he was at a Bisons game at Offerman Stadium....With John Murphy on WBEN 1996

Baby NFL and Bills players need diapers... they are children....With Howard Simon on WNSA 2003

On Bob McAdoo.... with Mike Schopp on WNSA 2001

Technology made him a better writer....With Howard Simon WNSA 2003

On Canisius and Little 3 basketball.... With Rick Azar, Jim Kelley, and Bob Koshinski WNSA 2000

on the 1970s Bills....With Rick Azar, Jim Kelley, and Bob Koshinski WNSA 2000

a half hour's worth of Monday Night Quarterback with John Murphy and Larry Felser in 1996. NBA, Bob Kalsu, and Baseball in WWII among other subjects. My late friend Ed Little with the news as well.

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It was 20 Years Ago Today...
Two Decades in Radio Goes By in a Flash
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com April 20, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - It's nearly inconceivable to me, but it was twenty years ago today. The letter that started my career at WBEN.

As a 15 year old high school sophomore, I would have been happy getting a job at Tops.

But neither Tops nor Bells would hire someone under 16. My birthday wouldn't come until the end of summer. I needed something to do for the vacation.

I'd been earning money for years already. Helping out at a used book shop. Helping a farmer down the street pick potatoes. Cleaning up cigarette butts and cutting curly fries at a nearby hot dog stand.

I liked working and I liked earning money.

But radio? Why not, I guess I thought.

I had always loved radio, and for the few years my dad's job took us to Massachusetts, I had a friend whose dad worked in radio. We used to go to work with him when he was the Saturday morning jock on a big station in Boston.

As an 8 year old, my first real taste of living a life in radio came when I had to be ready for Mr. Bob to pick me up at 5am to head into WHDH. No problem. Loved every minute of it.

On those Saturday mornings, My friend Jarin and I would "do production" for the "station" we ran in his basement, made up of real, but cast-away decades-old radio equipment.

When my family moved back to Buffalo, and Jarin's moved to Maryland, he gave me some of the castaway equipment, and I built a "radio station" of my own in my bedroom.

We'd each "do shows" on cassette and mail them back and forth to one another.

I was 7 or 8 years into that "radio career" when, during my "job search," I was struck with an idea.

I have no idea from whence the thought of an internship came, but I loved radio, and wanted to work in radio, and that's what I set out to do.

I opened the phone book, and called every radio station listed, asking for the station manager's name.

When I say every radio station, I mean every single one. Buffalo. Springville. Lockport. Niagara Falls. Batavia. I just wanted to get in. Anywhere.

With those names in hand, I knew to whom I should address the letters I was about to write on our Tandy 1000EX computer. The one with 256k of memory.

It was quite a few 29 cent stamps.

The letter I wrote had to have been a classic 10th grader essay on my love for radio, and my knowledge of radio equipment, with, of course, some big words thrown in for good measure (because that's how I've rolled for years now.)

So, somewhere between 15 and 20 of these letters went out. And I waited.

And waited.

At the mail box everyday, I'm sure I looked like Ralphie looking for that Little Orphan Annie decoder ring.

If you think about that scene in a Christmas Story, when Ralphie excitedly says "My ring!!" and runs in the house, syrupy violin music comes in to set the scene.

In my mind, that same hokey musical accompaniment plays when I opened the mailbox to find that gleaming white WBEN stationery staring at me, with my own name typewritten on the front.

It was providence. The station I listened to, the station I loved, was the only station to respond. At all. The only letter I got.

Its really almost unfathomable.

Think of some bad sitcom where a kid has a dream about pitching for the Yankees.

The focus is soft and fuzzy around the edges.

The kid's sitting on the bench when Billy Martin, wearing a blue hat (but without a Yankees emblem) points at him and hands him the ball.

But, instead of the Yankees manager saying, "You're in, kid!" in a dream, I got the real deal.

There really couldn't have been anything better than getting a letter from Kevin Keenan inviting me to WBEN. And there was that letter, right there in my hands.

I'll never forget that first day. Kevin looked like a 1993 radio newsman from central casting; white shirt, tie, suspenders.

We talked about WBEN, and I can't imagine how hilarious it was to have a 15 year old know your programming inside out, talking about how my alarm clock was set for 6:23am, so I could wake up to the Osgood File.

He loved that I had called "Ask the Mayor" only a few days before, and had talked to him and Mayor Griffin about one of the big issues of the day: The debate over whether Jay Leno or David Letterman should replace Johnny Carson.

I showed him I knew how to put up a reel of tape, and how to bulk erase a cart.

On the tour around the station, I met sports man Rick Maloney, and sat in to watch a Craig Nigrelli/Helen Tederous newscast.

I was floored when Kevin offered me the chance to intern during the summer.

What a summer of triple bus transfers from Orchard Park to North Buffalo... And my dad acting as my radio chauffeur.

Eight or nine hour days, every day, all summer. I learned from everyone I met. Busted my hump with a smile. Loved every minute of it.

When I went to help set up WBEN's remote at the Fair, Kevin gave me a WBEN t-shirt. I had earned it, and I loved it. I don't know that I've ever been more proud to receive anything.

As I headed back to school, now a well-heeled Orchard Park High School junior, I was offered a weekend board operator job. Best of Limbaugh on Sundays.

Screw Tops. I was pulling in my $4.25 an hour working in radio. My heart is racing right now, thinking about the pride and satisfaction I felt.

I was living the Doogie Howser dream. And it's continued from there.

That day in Kevin Keenan's office 20 years ago today was my last job interview.

I've been tremendously blessed to have had so many mentors who've looked out for me, taught me their secrets, looked out for me, and allowed me to coattail along on their rides.

I feel a lot like a kid who went to bed waiting for one of those radio stations to respond to my letter, and woke up News Director at the radio station I really hoped would answer.

Everything I know about broadcasting, about radio, about TV, about journalism: I was taught either by direct instruction or by example from the tremendous people I've worked with at WBEN, Channel 4, and the Empire Sports Network.

I'd love to write about a few of the people, but it just wouldn;t be fair, because the list really has hundreds of names on it. I'm not sure how or why I've been so blessed, so lucky, to have so many amazing, talented people take an interest in my life and my career.

There's not a single task I do every day that doesn't carry along with it the embedded lessons of those people who've taken me in as an apprentice and son.

I'm like an orphan that was raised by the community. So much of any success I've had is because so many people own a piece of my success, but it couldn't have happened without each on of them.

Twenty years of incredible luck and love. I'm not sure it's fair that one person should be so blessed... But for two full decades now, I've been indescribably thankful, and mindful to never waste even a little bit of it.

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Solitary Man:
You don't always win, even when you don't take the risk of losing
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com April 8, 2013

Bowtied Buffalo! BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - For sure, in life, the cards don't always dance at the end. So is solitaire really so hard and frustrating that we need to play with the "winning deal" option?

I was terribly, actually mad when I realized that the setting on the solitaire game on my iPad was changed (probably during a software update) to "winning deal" instead of "random deal."

Solitaire can be a boring and mind numbing game, but I like to play as if there is something real at stake. Nothing specific, but something important. Even if my score is down to zero, I keep going until there's absolutely no way for me to solve the puzzle. Move cards from the top piles back down to the stacks to be able to move over that 4 with three cards underneath it. Go through the pile of flip cards an extra time.

Of course, even with all the effort, about half the time, I lose.

But losing is a part of the game. Its not that I don't always want a win any less, its just that sometimes, a win isn't in the cards. You do everything you can, and you lose a lot. As often as you win.

For me, a hard fought loss is always an inspiration to hit shuffle immediately and keep on playing until those cards dance across the screen. When you've lost two or three or seven games in a row, and you really should be going to bed, or getting back to work... Man, those dancing cards are great.

It's a completely different mentality when your dealt a hand you know you can win. It's boring. The thrill of "I'm going to try everything, because I don't know what's under that 4" is replaced with, "c'mon, idiot. Why can't I get this."

In the end, the temptation is to hit that help button to see where you went wrong, and to see the cards dance, even if you didn't really earn it all yourself.

But you know what? If I've just done the best I can, worked on the game til I felt like I couldn't work on it anymore, and decided I had to stop because there was no where else to go, I don't think I want to know where I screwed up.I certainly dont want the big card locomotion party for all my hard work.

I know all the rules of solitaire inside and out. Been playing it for years. Even with actual real cards back in the old days, sometimes with cards missing... Talk about NEVER WINNING!

And whether you're being dealt a winning hand or a random hand, sometimes you miss putting the red 5 on the black 6. You perfectly damn well know that's the right play, and you missed it. Sometimes you can go back and fix it, sometimes you can't. Sometimes you get lucky, and despite a mistake you can make the cards cha-cha across the screen. Sometimes a mistake costs you, and all you can do is start over and try again.

I accept that sometimes I'm going to lose, and I often enjoy a hard fought loss. I don't know that I'd enjoy solitaire so much with the burden and expectation of winning on my shoulders every time.

Don't hit the "always win" button. Life's experiences are greater when you take a chance on losing.

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Wow. Three Years Already:
Thinking About Dad Today
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com March 24, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - It's definitely a different feeling, but I'm not sure I can quantify how.

Dad died Palm Sunday, 2010. Three years ago today.

Today's a different day, though. I'm writing this in an attempt to figure out how or why it's different. It just is.

Time just brings up different feelings, is all. I haven't accidentally thought, "I've gotta go tell Dad" something for a while. Thinking about that makes me sad. Even the deepest recesses of my brain and being know I won't be conversing with the ol'man til the other side.

Of course, I can never forget my dad. But every once in a while, I'll think of a phrase or an action that I hadn't thought of in years-- something that was in the ol'man's repertoire.

This, too, leaves a painful hurt. I think of these usually silly, often violent sounding things, and I can't stop myself from repeating them... because I just don't want to forget anything about my dad. It's not even something I do on purpose. It's deeply embedded.

A few of the ones I've forgotten and remembered lately:

"Get over here and let me put a dent in your face," was a typical way dad might tell you he didn't like what you were saying or doing. It could have been one of the variants like "break your head," "bust your face," or "I'll punch your lights out if you don't stop fighting with your brother!"

If he was in a particularly playful mood, sometimes he'd just ball up his big meaty fist, point it at you with an onomatopoeic crashing sound,"DUHSHJZ!" As I write this, and try to figure out how to spell "duhshjz!" that I don't think I've ever head that anywhere else. It sounds kind of "Polishy."Is that sound familiar to anyone?

Anyway, as far as the ol'man was concerned, there was really no threat or even thought of actual roundhouse punches to be thrown. It was just the way he talked. And, being programmed that way, it's how I talk. I forgot the "dent" line, but often what starts in my mind as, "Boy, I really dislike that you are doing that," comes out of my mouth as, "You deserve a punch in the face." I really have no desire to inflict violence on anyone, but it does seem like a perfectly reasonable way to explain myself if my guard is down. Sometimes I want to punch myself in the face.

"You look like nobody owns you," was usually immediately followed by grabbing of a shoulder, jerking one of us into the bathroom, and soaking our head in Vitalis Hair Tonic before we went somewhere important, like to church. I don't remember what made this one pop into my head, but it seems to be stuck there for the time being.

Dad really was something else. If I was writing a cartoon or a sitcom, Dad could be a character just as is. No changes. But he was more than that. He was a beautifully complex sonavabitch. At least I hope "beautifully." Because it looks like in more ways daily, I'm heading in the same direction.

I'm still not sure why it feels different now, but about now dad would be calling me a lemon, and threatening to dent my head.

About half of the things written on this blog are about the ol'man... including the little book I wrote while I was trying to write his eulogy... all about my ol'man, and the kind of dad and person he was. You can scroll down and find numerous blogs, and that book in pdf form, by scrolling down. The book is here.

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Gnarled Roots of a Family Tree:
But its Great To Be in Contact with Extended Family
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com March 10, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - What a week in family history.

After last week's blog post, my dad's first cousin, Karen, wrote to reinforce the story I'd read in an earlier email:

As my mom, Olga, and her twin sister, Mary, related the family story to me about their dad's arrival in the United States, the history unfolds thuslyÖ.John Cichon came from Poland on a ship that landed in Portland, Maine, and he entered the country through the Custom House (which still stands there today on Commercial Street. Wikipedia has a nice picture of it). Aunt Mary told me he was befriended on the ship by a Jewish man, who offered him garlic to ease the nausea of the voyage! In Maine, they were unable to find work, so they decided to go to Canada. From Toronto, John eventually made his way to Buffalo where there was a large Polish immigrant population. That's the story as the Cichon twins told it.

The ship immigration manifests make it pretty clear that Jan was heading to the Niagara Region of Canada, and he pretty quickly made it down to Buffalo. By the 1915 New York State Census was taken, he was living a block away from what would become the family homestead on Fulton Street. He was single on the boat, married to Mary in the 1915 census.

Also interesting, on the boat, Jan Cichon traveled with Maciej Korona, from the village of Zawierzbe, only a few miles from his home in Milczany. In 1915, John Cichon had a boarder named Martin Korona at 43 Van Rensselaer St. The census document shows both men had been in the country for two years. While not certain, it looks like these two stuck together from Poland to Germany, where the boat left from, and then on to Maine. Then from Maine through Ontario, and into Buffalo. Martin Korona (sometimes Mike) lived with his wife Sally on Oneida Street on Buffalo's East Side into the 1940s. Click to open a larger view of great Grandpa Cichon's buddy.

Armed with all this new information, I asked a friend for some ideas for a next move. He sent me to a wonderful East Side genealogist, who sent me a big long list of places to research around town and maybe pump some more information out of resources that I'd been using all along.

One idea was the to go back and double check marriage license lists at the downtown library. Now I had searched several times for a Jan Cichon/ Mary Pochec wedding. I had even paid the city clerk's office to run a check for me, and called several churches where the wedding might have happened. I wasn't confident, but went through the library materials again with a fine-tooth comb.

In casting a wider net, I hauled in the fish I'd been chasing for a long, long time. John and Mary Cichon were married August 19, 1914 by Fr. Peter Pitass. A quick web search shows that Fr. Pitass, the nephew of the founder of St. Stanislaus Church, was at that time, the pastor of Holy Apostles Ss Peter and Paul Church, on the corner of Clinton and Smith.

Click for a larger view in a new tab.

What made this marriage certificate so hard to find? First, the groom was listed as Jan Cikon, a misspelling, no doubt. He's listed as 21, from Russia (Poland was split between Germans and Russia then), a laborer, and living on Fulton Street. Sounds perfect. The bride's first name is listed as Maryjana. My great Aunt Mary said that her first name was Marianna in the old country. Great. From Russia, 21 years old. Dead on. Everything on the certificate, even the nearby church, is perfect, except one whopper.

The problem comes with her last name. Pochec is Mary's maiden name according to all family knowledge. It's listed that way in her Buffalo News death notice. John Cichon's bride that day, however, was listed as Mary Ganaboska.

I've always felt there was something fishy about my great-grandmother's background. She completely disappears before 1914, under the name Pochec or Ganaboska (or any close spelling variants of those two.) No ship manifests, no immigration lists, no address for the time she lived here before meeting her future husband.

The marriage license says she did shop work, and lived at 1013 Broadway before getting married. The Broadway Market is 999 Broadway. She lived literally next door to the market. That is, of course, if any of this is true. I'll have to do some more research to see what I can find as far as how Mary lists her name on other legal and church documents, like her older children's birth and baptism certificates, and maybe the death certificate of son Czeczlaw, who died at only a few months old.

I have a few theories about why all the secrets, but I'd like to research them each a bit more.

The other great part of doing this research early Saturday morning, was going to the downtown library, and running into my great uncle Pat. He's my Grandpa Coyle's brother. Talking to him was eerie, because not only does he look like my grandpa and have many of the same facial characteristics, the cadence of his speech and the way he talks is very similar.

Uncle Pat was doing family research there, too, and we exchanged e-mail addresses to share some of the information we have with one another. I'm very excited to have sent him copies of scans I made a long time ago, of some of my grandfather's snapshots. Here's a photo of Uncle Pat and my great Grandmother standing on Elk Street in the late 40s or early 50s. I'm sure he'll enjoy this photo (right) he hasn't likely seen in 60 years... of him with his mother, who died 35 years ago.

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Watching My Family Tree Grow:
Finding More Ways To Reach into My Family's Past
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com March 2, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - It's been just about two full months since I've had DNA test results from Ancestry.com, and I may have had my first useful hit.

I've had 4 or 5 different "matches" that Ancestry.com says are 96% certain to be 4th or 5th cousins. But either there's no good lead in the family tree they have posted, or their family tree is private, and they haven't responded to messages. That's a bit crazy to me. Unless you're adopted and don't know your roots, why else would you take this test other than to grow your family tree...

So the "certain" cousins are already taking family-like liberties and doing things like ignoring emails. Sounds like my family for sure. More like 97% that we're related.

The one neat lead isn't much, but it's enough to help prove something I've suspected.

The analytics say its a low percentage possibility that I'm distantly related (5th to 8th cousins they say) to one guy. This person's great grandmother has my mom's maiden name. Margaret Coyle was baptized in Ireland 18 months before my great great great grandfather was born in Ireland. Could they be "Irish twins?"

I know John Coyle was born in Ireland in June, 1846, and came to Pennsylvania as a teen. He was a farmer, unable to read or write. This comes from census information, but its all I know. I've never been able to find any immigration information. There was a John Coyle baptized in July 1846 in Ireland, but to fully assume that he was my John Coyle might be a stretch. A good chance, but by no means a certainty with such a common name.

Well, that John Coyle who was baptized a month after my John Coyle was born, and the Margaret Coyle I'm probably related to didn't have matching information on the baptismal records. Not the same father, not the same county.

But some searching found the two counties, Meath and Cavan, are right next to one another. The two churches are about 10 miles apart. Sounds like a pretty solid case that these two Coyles were cousins when you mix in the DNA results.

This is exciting because it opens up the Irish Coyle line in a part of Ireland that appears to have pretty well preserved records. I'm looking forward to doing that digging.

CICHON

One of my great obsessions in life, at least one I can talk about in polite company, is finding out any information at all about the Cichon branch of the family tree.

As I've written before, the backwards progression comes to a grinding halt with my great grandparents in Buffalo's Valley neighborhood the late 1910s.

Census data and family tradition would indicate DziaDzia and Babcia Cichon each came to Buffalo from Poland in 1913. Family tradition says they came here separately, met at a party on Fulton Street, and were married in Buffalo. No record of any of that anywhere... Not the city, not any likely churches.

There are records for at least a dozen Jan Cichons who came to the New World 1912-14. However, not a single record for a Marianna Pochec or any Pochecs in that time frame.

There is the hope of good information coming from my great-grandparents' death certificates. Death certificates are sealed for 50 years unless you can prove direct lineage to the deceased.

That would mean I'd have to have my birth certificate (no problem), my dad's birth certificate (I don't think he ever had one, though I bet his death certificate would do) and my Grandpa Cichon's birth certificate (he's in a nursing home and almost certainly has no idea where that might be.)

My great-grandfather died in 1967, so I have 4 years to wait. I remain undaunted in trying to milk the information I have, and building on it bit by bit.

I recently re-read an email from a Cichon cousin that mentioned that my great aunt Mary said my great-grandpa came to Buffalo through Canada. My grandpa has also said that he came through Maine.

Well I've found a Jan Cichon, who came from Poland in 1913, who fits both of those circumstances. The boat landed in Maine, and this guy's final destination was a brother-in-law's house Ontario. It's a great lead, but by no means a sure thing.

Muddying up even worse, the ship manifest is hard to read. I have no idea what this guy's mother's (potentially my great-great grandmother's) name is... And there is no town in the Russia/Ukraine/Poland area that shows up in searches with a name anything close to what's written there.

The search continues.

ACTUAL ITEMS

I mentioned my great aunt Mary. She served as a nurse in the Navy in World War II. Her twin sister, Olga, was an Army nurse overseas. Doing a Cichon search, I came up with Aunt Olga's wedding announcement in a Maine newspaper. The photo shows a beautiful Lt. Cichon in her Army WAC uniform. Clicking the photo takes you to the full wedding announcement from 1946.

In a separate search for Scurr, my dad's mom's maiden name, I found a newspaper account of the sad story of Grandma Cichon's brother, Terry Scurr. You can read that below.

He was just out of the Army, and was at Letchworth with a bunch of friends. He died trying to help a friend who'd slid down a cliff.

Once I was talking to Seneca Street fixture "Tony the Barber" Scaccia, and mentioned that Tony's cut the hair of five generations of my family, from my cousins' kids back to my great-Grandpa Scurr. Tony told me the story of Terry's wake, in the Scurr's upstairs Seneca Street apartment.

History and family history are amazing. When you learn a little bit, it starts to grow exponentially.

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Don't Defriend Lightly:
Think Twice Unless You Plan on Never Talking to That Person Again...
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com March 1, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - "I'm cleaning out my friends list. If you're reading this, congratulations, you made the cut!"

I've cringed every one of the hundreds of times I've seen this or similar messages on Facebook.

Why?

Walter Cronkite once bawled out Stuttering John for using the word "friggin'" when asking him a question in one of those set-up interviews he used to do for the Howard Stern Show.

"Frigging, now what does that mean," bellowed Uncle Walter condescendingly.

"It-it-it-it-AAAAUUGHit gives, ya know, augh, emphasis," said John.

"But what does it mean?," drilled Cronkite. "A word should have meaning, shouldn't it?"

That's the long way of saying "Defriending" someone means something. You've said something there, whether you like it or not. You know that. You've been defriended, or "unfriended" as Facebook puts it. If you weren't hurt, you were at least indignant. "Well, I never liked that sonava-- anyway," you might say. Even if that's true, you don't want someone putting up that "Add as Friend" hand in your face without provocation, or at least not knowing why.

In olden times, maybe people dropped off your Christmas card list when you'd lost contact or interest. I'd say that's akin to hiding someone's feed on Facebook.

Defriending someone, however, is like ripping their address out of the little book you keep in drawer by your phone, and, when they send you a Christmas card, you scrawl an Elvis style "Return to Sender" across the the pretty red envelope.

We wouldn't have ever thought to do that in olden times, but we're generally less considerate these days.

People make all sorts of excuses for why they defriend people they know, but they are just that-- excuses. Just like most things in life, if you need an excuse... Deep down, you know it's not wholly right.

To me, finding I've been defriended almost always comes with some bit of sadness. I don't do a lot of "stalking" on Facebook, so I usually find out when I try to send someone a note. Usually a congratulatory note, or a "hey, thought of you--" note, or maybe I found an old photo or piece of audio I know they'd like.

So it's not just "you defriended me," but "here I am looking to rekindle an old friendship, which you found worthless."

I had worked on a few assignments with one young lady a few years ago. Didn't really know her well, but we hung out with each other and helped each other quite a bit on a project. We got along well, and were Facebook friends. I recently saw some of her work in the national spotlight, and was going to write her a note, but--- yep.

In this case, I was more perplexed because she doesn't get it. Nor do the braggart defrienders. To me, that sort of relationship is what social media is about. Contact with people I will likely never go to lunch with, never see, never call.

Life is about relationships. So much happens when you are willing to explore those relationships, or at least not cut them off. Today's superficial Facebook friend could be tomorrow's next job referral. Or he could be the guy who says, "oh yeah, I knew him.. Jerk defriended me on Facebook."

Selfishly, if not for the greater good, is it really worth pissing someone off or hurting their feelings for no reason other than you're clearing deadwood? Your Facebook account isn't a forest. Deadwood doesn't increase the risk of fire.

Have I thought about this too much? Probably. Have I defriended people? You can count the number on one hand, in 6 years. A few were people who came to my page to agitate. Only one I knew personally.

I always say, "if I offend... Defriend." But in this self-centered, consequences be damned culture we live in, I hope you think about it for a moment before you do. And I hope you don't try to be all friendly with me in the grocery store, and act like you didn't open my photo and click defriend.

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I Really Love Winter:
Until I freaking SNAP!
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com Originally appeared on WBEN.com, February 18, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - I'm a Buffalo guy, born and raised. All of my great grandparents called Buffalo home. My Buffaloness runs deep, which is probably in part why I was having a familiar conversation just last week...

"Man, this winter's been pretty easy!"

Not easy like last winter when we didn't really have winter, but an easy real winter. With plenty of real snow and real cold. And there I was on Valentines Day, like, "Meh! No problem!"

But the temperatures last week were in the high 20s and mid 30s, and there was still snow on the ground. Conditions that are truly winter, but-- the best case scenario winter. You can't get much warmer or get much less snow and still feel wintry.

And though it was certainly subconscious in my case, I'm certain now that there was some element of, "Well, the worst has to be over now!"

Of course, it wasn't. My pleasant winter of 2012-13 came to an end at 8:36am on Sunday. I saw a little snow on the car out the window, but I wasn't concerned. Weeks of non-stop snow can be annoying, but generally, snow doesn't bother me. Certainly hasn't this year. The end of the cheery face about this winter came as I cracked open the opened the front door and was sucker punched with a windy 16 degrees.

I didn't expect this rage against winter to happen, but it happens every winter. You'd think after 35 Buffalo winters, I'd be standing square, ready for that haymaker right from Ol'man Winter. It's true every time. I can stand in for 7 or 8 rounds, but winter just waits for that moment my guard slips. KO. Glass jaw shattered.

Every year, I'm like the President of the Chamber of Commerce until that day arrives. I'm our winter's biggest backer from the first snow of November through sometime into the New Year.

I'd rather have warm, but, "Hey, this is Buffalo." I snow blow my whole block. I wear warm-but-silly hats. I poke fun at ex-pats and out-of-towners on Facebook gripping for when 2 inches of snow shuts down their non-WNY communities.

But this time, since I got through January and half of February, maybe I was being a little cocky. I'm not sure. But all I know is right now, I can't write the words I have for winter on a family friendly website.

And yes, I know, I know. Spring is technically one month from today. "Just around the corner." Well, what's here right now is my desire to leave winter behind. I want spring Veruca Salt style. NOW!

I'm done. Get me outta here. I can't take it. I'm a cold, broken man. At least until April or so.

I'll probably take it in Buffalo stride when that inevitable Bisons home game gets snowed out. By May, you'll probably hear me reflect on Buffalo's great four full seasons of weather. Come November, you'll probably even see a smile on my face as I yank the pull start on the snow blower for the first time.

Until then, however, shut up. I'm done with "our beautiful winters." And please be kind, because if your break hasn't happened yet, it's probably right around the corner.

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20 Years Ago Today:
The Houston Comeback Game
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com January 3, 2013

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Bills games were big doings in the late 80s and early 90s, but they were always big doing in my house. Among my earliest memories of listening to the radio is sitting in our 1977 Mercury Monarch with mustard colored nugahyde seats, listening to Van Miller describe Joe Cribbs run with the ball. It was only a 5 minute drive from our South Buffalo home to Grandma Coyle's South Buffalo home, where watching my grandfather watch the game was more fun for me, hearing him curse about Joe Ferguson.

Fast forward a few years, when the Bills actually started winning, and my dad would have his 5 brothers over to watch the game. Football for me became an endless walk to the fridge for another beer for someone.

I remember the excitment, I remember the cheering, I remember getting Bills clothes for Christmas every year, and being able to wear them to school on the "Bills Spirit Fridays" before games days and weeks later.

But the actual games themselves all blend together for me before I started working in sports radio. That's true with only one exception: The Houston Comeback Game. I remember that I was alone in the living room listening to the game on the awful stereo my dad got for free somewhere. No screaming uncles looking for beers. No one swearing when the team was getting killed. Just me... a high school sophomore, Van Miller, and that cruddy stereo.

I was already taping most of the things I listened to on the radio, but I didn't tape the game for some reason... Maybe because they were losing early, and then I got caught up in the comeback... I don't know. But I did tape it the next day, when they played back the second half and OT. And here it is, 20 years later.

In Part One, WGR's Art Wander introduces a collage of highlights, and then the second half of action with Van Miller, Marc Stout, and Greg Brown at the score 28-3 Oilers. (The audio is low quality so that Bills fans reliving the glory days don't shut down my website.)

Hear Part One

In Part two, the second half continues with Van Miller, Marc Stout, and Greg Brown... After overtime and the comeback complete, Paula Green does the news, and then briefly hear John Otto gush about the Bills. Its my favorite part! (The audio is low quality so that Bills fans reliving the glory days don't shut down my website.)

Hear Part Two

I've been listening to this and thinking a loy about it, and realizing that a few months after taping this, I started working at WBEN. Then soon producing the Bills games on the radio, and covering media day at the stadium. The starting at WBEN in someways seems like only yesterday. That memory of sitting in my living room listening to this game seems like a a book I've read, but not something I actually lived. I seems so long ago. But it's certainly a great memory... I hope you have some memories jogged listening top these, too.

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Why I TMI:
And maybe why you should
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com December 2, 2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - I freely and openly admit it. I often share terrible and ugly and embarrassing things on social media that at the heart of it, even I would rather keep to myself.

The latest example: Kidney stones. After laying in bed writhing and screaming for about two hours, I started to think about what good could come of it. That's usually how it happens, these TMI moments. Now I can scream and not sleep and annoy my wife (who was, as always, an absolute sweetheart), and just be miserable, or I can try to A.) in some small way cheer myself up by being stupid about this awful predicament, and B.) more importantly, maybe help someone by sharing my experience.

I'm not a whore for attention. Believe me. You should see some of the crap I don't put on Facebook. But, if something I'd really rather keep private might help someone, I have to share it. We all have suffering in life. It' up to you what you are going to do with it.

Putting up a photo of a kidney stone is gross. People I don't know, some of whom I don't want to know, are now privy to my most personal business. But I gotta tell ya, every time I talk about something that doesn't come up in polite conversation, I wind up talking someone through something similar. Or pointing out a red flag to someone. Or make something gross and impolite a little less so, so that people address problems in their lives that are easy to avoid because no one wants to talk about them.

So I talk about kidney stones. And poop. And colonoscopies. And you should see the private messages I get. You can't talk about Celiac Disease or Gastritis without talking about bum problems. Apparently, given the crap I write (get it?), people are willing to talk to me about ways to makes themselves healthier. And if my shitty health (again, hilarious) and my experiences in trying to be healthier can help someone from making mistakes I made, isn't that worth offending the sensibilities of some Victorian wannabe.

You should be talking about your pains and poop and craziness, too. It could literally kill you.

Physical pains and problems got much easier to talk about when I took pen to paper and laid out feelings about death and relationships here. It's something else I've found to be helpful to me and to others. I don't know how I could have gotten through some of life's biggest traumas without writing about them, sharing them, having others learn from my pain, and drawing an amazing amount of strength from that.

Maybe about 10 years ago, when my dad was in the ICU at the VA Hospital, I was sitting in the waiting room as they were doing something that necessitated me being out of the room. As you may remember, in the days before smartphones, people would read magazines in waiting rooms. Remember?

Well, this time, I read a long story by Mike Wallace about his long struggle with depression. As someone who has struggled in a small way with depression for as long as I can remember, this was the first time I'd ever read about someone struggling with it. And nearly losing to it. And coming back again, only to be beaten down again. Mike Wallace, the peppy guy I'd been watching on TV every Sunday for my entire life, felt the same way I felt sometimes.

What a freaking revelation. I read that at a time when I really needed it. I haven't thought much about what I'm about to say, but I think it really changed my life. For the better. I don't know what would have been had I not read that.

I'm thankful that Mike Wallace wrote about the most painful chapter in his life to make my burden a little lighter to carry.

Everything that sucks in life sucks a little less when you're experiencing it with someone else. I draw strength from those who've been there and encourage me, and I draw even more strength from those who look to me later for encouragement.

And, just like finding a dead body on the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina or having my union locked out of my job at Channel 4, there are some life experiences that you'd just rather not have... but when you have them, you'd better learn from them. And if you learn and don't share, what they hell is wrong with you?

TMI? Sure. But share something that matters to you, no matter how personal, and you'll reap the rewards, I promise.

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What I'm Thankful For:
The Hard Way... with no buts
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com November 22, 2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Since the beginning of November, many of my friends have taken to Facebook and Twitter with something they are thankful for each day.

This is all very nice, people thankful for their spouses and jobs and children and blue skies and flowers and candy.

I don't diminish that, and I am genuinely thankful for those things everyday. I tend to think most people who are writing about them are, too, but the way it's written makes it sound to me like "I'll spend the next 24 hours being thankful for the gift of sight. Then at midnight, I'll forget that and be thankful for my favorite Keurig K-cup flavor."

And since I, too, have a tremendous feeling of thanks for "Donut Shop," I might have kept my misgivings about these thanksgivings to myself, had my wife not at one point said to me, "I'm thankful for this stuff every day! What the heck!!" I was never more thankful for her than right then and there. Or maybe I was sad that my cynicism is rubbing off on her.

I began thinking, though, about how I could put together a list of things I'm thankful for, while still passing my own pretty difficult test of triteness.

I think Thanksgiving is about "thanks with no buts."

We have buts for everything.... however, for the rest of the way here, I'm working my "buts" off, and explaining why I'm thankful for even some of the bad and terrible parts of my life.

One of the saddest times of my life also offered me some of the most strengthening and reassuring lessons of my life.

I'm thankful for my dad's death, which of course left some parts of my heart hollow and empty, but the resulting caring and love from so many helped me to understand that there's a tremendous amount of love and support from so many people for me always, and that all I have to do to take it in is be open to it.

I'm thankful for having people I have wronged as friends and Facebook friends. Even with their forgiveness, their faces serve as a humbling constant reminder of how not to behave, and how to forgive wholly, and how sometimes the hardest person to forgive is oneself.

I'm thankful for people who hate me and tell me so or make it pretty clear one way or another. It hurts, but makes me strive to be a better person. It also reminds me even in dislike, to never hate and always forgive.

This one's hard, but its true. I'm thankful for the deaths of two little babies I never met, for the understanding their lives and deaths brought to me about life and living. They may have never breathed a breath, but their lives and the joy and pain they brought were not in vain.

I'm thankful for the daily, nagging pain in my joints and eyes, caused by autoimmune disorders. My achy inconveniences give me a distant view of the terrible and deadly illness so many deal with, with a lot less bitching and complaining than I do.

Similarly, I'm thankful for the occasional panic attacks I've endured that I better understand and grow in compassion for my brothers and sisters who from time to time lose some ability to control their minds.

I'm thankful for "friends" who've let me down... For showing me how special real friends are.

I'm thankful for those relationships that are almost entirely fake-- where someone says the right things, but quite clearly doesn't like or want anything to do with you. Again, very painful, but I find these people carry a certain measure of pain in their lives, and generally need kindness and compassion more than the rest of us.

Many of these awful situations have given me new insight, and made me, I think a better, less judgmental, more loving person.

Maybe I'm most thankful for people who without some terrible circumstance are inertly good and accepting of people.... I'm working on it, but in so much in life I am doubting Thomas. That is, I cannot accept or know until I see it somehow.

"Blessed are those who have not seen and believe."

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Thank You For Serving:
Some Vets Whoíve Impacted My Life
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com November 11, 2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - I knew what a veteran was from the earliest of ages.

I'm sure I started asking my dad about his tattoo as soon as I could talk. "STEVE," it said on his forearm, in sloped writing, with a Celtic cross underneath. To say Celtic cross makes it sound better than it was. It was a stick figure cross with a circle where the horizontal and vertical parts of the cross met. It was actually a pretty horrible tattoo, which he said he gave himself when he was a Marine. I never heard the full story of the tattoo, or whether he actually remembered giving it to himself, or if a buddy told him he did it.

Dad always told us not to get a tattoo, but it was more like advice than an order. He didn't like his tattoo, but I don't think he considered it a mistake. He never hid it, either. I think in some ways that sums up the way he felt about his service in the Marine Corps. He was quietly proud of it, but didn't like it.

I know he joined the Marines in 1969 as a way to "get out of the Valley," the poor working class neighborhood he grew up in. He saw the world as a Marine, and had his education paid for by the GI Bill. But he was also struck with illness that initially almost killed him, but that also started downward progression in his health that culminated with his death at the age of 58.

My dad had few heroes and people he looked-up-to in his life, but one was his big sister Tricia. He was a Marine when her kidney disease came to the point of needing a transplant. Dad was on his way home to see if he could be a donor when she died. I don't know that he ever loved anyone more than her. She took care of him and understood him. He didn't get to say good bye to her because he was half a world away.

To make it worse, he had one of those awful Vietnam era welcomes. Walking down the street in his uniform, he was taunted and sneered at. Having heard this story dozens of times since I was very little, the image that pops into my head is my father walking down Seneca Street in front of what used to me Grandma's Donuts (now Abbott Pizza, I think) with people throwing bottles and trash at him. That's not what happened, but that's the image my dad's telling of the story put in my head.

He was proud of his service, but wasn't about to join a club or line up for a parade. He was the most humble veteran at the VA Hospital, always thanking roommates, nurses and doctors for their service to our great land.

Dad's instilling in me such a high level of respect for men and women who have served has made me keenly aware of those who've been a part of my life who have given of themselves for our common good.

Dad's grandpa had two brothers die at sea during World War I. Grandma Cichon had pictures of Uncle George and Uncle Gordon and kept her uncle's memories alive. Gordon was in the British Mercantile Marine on the SS Trocas when a German U-Boat torpedoed the tanker. George was a seaman aboard the SS Hazelwood went it hit a mine. The internet has helped fill in some of the details, but my dad knew these stories, and while was proud of his service, looked at his great uncles as heroes.

But Veterans Day is about remembering those who went through hell and came home. Or even put their time in in New Jersey or Kansas, saluted one last time, and never looked back.

As a kid growing up on Allegany Street in South Buffalo, we had a few proud veteran neighbors. Pops was an ancient, tiny liver-spotted old man who used to stand in the driveway, chew tobacco, and tell us about his service in World War I and his fear of "the gas," which I now know to be mustard gas Germans used on American troops. It filled the trenches, and ruined the lungs of soldiers, painfully suffocating thousands.

Further up Allegany, on the other side of the street in the big light green house, Mr. Smith used to give us cookies and hard candy, a very kind old soul who was retired from the railroad. Occasionally, he'd proudly show us his perfectly preserved US Army uniform from World War II, or the box filled with medals and ribbons. I know I thought it was "cool," but I hope i was properly respectful and reverent, too, as a 5 and 6 year old.

A few years later, when I was in third grade, my school bus driver, George, was finally awarded a bronze star, over 40 years after his heroism saved some of his fellow soldiers from Japanese attack. He cut out the photo of him holding the award that was in the local paper, and taped it up in the front of the bus. I was proud of him, and I wish I remember more about his story.

My Grandpa Cichon was one of 8 brothers and sisters who served in World War II and Korea. Even my twin great aunts, Olga and Mary, were nurses in the Navy and Army respectively. Gramps was an engineer in the Army at the end of World War II. He was in the Philippines, and likely saw some pretty terrible things there that he doesn't talk about.

Great Grandpa Wargo was a plane mechanic in Guam during the Second World War. Indirectly, because of his service, I met one of my favorite vets ever. Grandpa W was in the VA Hospital, and my dad had little use for the rule that kept kids under 15 out of most hospitals. He'd take us to visit everyone, because who doesn't love seeing a little kid, right?

Well, as recently as the early 80s, when this happened, there were smoking lounges on every floor right next to the elevator at the VA for the guys who were in there. Dad would ditch us in there, and bring great grandpa down to see us. One time, there was an ancient, ancient hunched-over man in there smoking. He was wearing a bright red bathrobe, had the darkest black skin you can imagine set off against his crazy sprouting bright white hair. Dad flippantly asked the guy to keep an eye on us, because he was going to get gramps. Well, apparently, this was just about the best damn thing that had ever happened to this guy.

He offered to hide us in his bathrobe if the nurses got close, his face lively and excited at not only being able to play with a couple of kids for a few minutes, but also to be a party to this rule breaking. We sat down, and he stood up with his back to us. He spread open the robe, so that we couldn't be seen from the door. He was laughing and giddy about it the whole time, til gramps walked in.

A few years ago, I interviewed a friend's dad about his role in the D-Day invasion. Michael Accordino described in vivid, terrible detail, sitting in the water, and watching guys run ashore, and watching many of them be shot dead on the beach. And waiting for his turn to go. And watching his buddies die around him.

My friend Ed Little always spoke in a sort of blasť way about his service in the Army Air Corps during WWII, but what he did was nothing short of spectacular and heroic. He would flying along on bombing runs in the Pacific, and using 1940s technology, record play-by-play of the bombings that were taking place for playback on radio back home. Another broadcasting friend, Fran Lucca was radio man in the Navy. His ear saved thousands from U-boat attacks, and his incessant record keeping has made the war much more real for his dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Letters between him and his mother, official documents, dozens of pages of wonderful material for his years at war have been collected and preserved, and Iím honored that he's allowed me to learn from and make a copy.

Tom Kane was another friend in broadcasting. He was the security guard at the WBEN/Channel 4 building. One day, I noticed that he went from wearing sergeant stripes on his uniform to lieutenant bars. I congratulated him on the promotion, and he told me that after almost 50 years, he'd finally become an officer. He told me about his time in Korea, and how he'd never been so cold in his life. So wet and cold. For almost a year. Being freezing and afraid of freezing to death, but having to jump into the water or be killed. Tom earned the commission, for sure.

Once in a conversation with my friend and broadcaster Mark Leitner, something about the horror of Vietnam came up. He said nothing with his mouth, but in two seconds his eyes told a wretched story leaving detail unnecessary.

My friend Pat Kavanagh, talks about the fact that he and the men he went to war with were really just about children, and that they used to call their 25 year old Sarge "Pops" because he was so old, and really felt like a father figure. Pat turned his sense of unfinished business with the war into a project to honor those who never came home: He collected the obituaries of every Western New Yorker who was killed in Vietnam during the war. Dozens of visits to libraries, historical societies, and private homes later, Pat's work is another step in insuring that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

My dad's big brother, Uncle Chuck, is also a Vietnam veteran, and also lives with the lasting effects of Agent Orange. I hold a lot about Uncle Chuck's service in my heart, and knowing that he wouldn't want it written about here, I won't. Suffice it to say, he's the best brother man could ask for, a great uncle, and hero.

I don't know that Uncle Chuck or any of the men and women mentioned above are comfortable with that label "hero," especially when each of them can clearly see the face and hear the voice of someone who didn't make it back to the rest of their lives.

Many heroes are like my friend Len, who has told many great fun stories of his days in the Air Force. Clowning around, having fun, traveling to exotic locales for a day or two just 'cause he could. What Len doesn't bring up is the weeks he spent in New York City following 9/11, and the problems that he and thousands of others are fighting because of it, whether our government admits it or not.

Len, Uncle Chuck, and all these folks are heroes. They were all willing to kill or be killed for not only the common good, but for every American alive while they served, and every American who'll ever live free.

I know so many newer, younger veterans, too, and their close friends and family. Their sacrifices are much more present in our lives, and in some cases, still open and bleeding. Because the final chapter hasn't been written in most of their cases, itís hard to write about them in the same way as I do some of the sacrifices of the more distant past. For most of the older folks, I think while the wounds are forever tender, they've healed up a bit, and have, upon years and decades of reflection, become a part of who they are, and in some fragile way, accepted.

My prayers are most with our most recent vets, and really all of those, who are still coming to terms with the hell they've endured while proudly wearing our flag on their shoulder. I pray that the final chapter on your service is one of acceptance and an ability to move on with your life, with the memories and realizations of your time spent in harm's way woven productively into the fabric of who you are.

I have many more friends and loved ones who have served our great nation who've I've failed to mention here. To each of you: I beg that you please know that while I don't know firsthand what you have endured for our country, I am proud and humbled to carry some part of your pain and sacrifice on my own heart. You have done what I havenít. You needn't have served in war to have sacrificed; you needn't have never come home to be a hero.

To all veterans, though it's not enough, please accept my humble thanks this Veterans Day, and every day.

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Building Story:
Our Home
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com October 23,2012

The Buffalo Architecture Foundation asked me to present a building story at one of their events.


BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Here's an august Buffalo structure, a fine example of a turn of the century single family dwelling.

Nestled in a "Parkside" streetscape and neighborhood designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the American Four Square was designed by renowned Buffalo architect E.B. Green and built in 1909 and 1910.

And sometimes, even a house like this, is just a house unless someone comes along to tell its story.

My then girlfriend and I stumbled into this house's story when we were house hunting in Kenmore. If you can remember all the way back to 1999, there was mostly the Home Finder and the weekend drive to find a house. We'd spent the better part of a few months worth of weekends cruising the streets of the Village of Kenmore; with it's character-rich homes, friendly tree-lined neighborhoods, and relatively affordable prices.

But we were at wits end. We were willing to do some work on a house, mostly because we couldn't afford one move in ready in the places we wanted to live. Until one day when we were stopped at the light right before the 33.

We'd traveled through the Parkside neighborhood dozens of times on our trips between Monica's parents house and the village of Kenmore, but this time, a great old house-- like the ones we'd been looking at, caught my eye.

We'd become accustomed to what to look for: Exterior nice, but not too nice, you pay for that. This house had it. And we found out, at a price that we could afford.

The bones of the house, as they say, were perfect, but there was little else (if anything) that was.

Lots of bleach and elbow work; not a single wall or window that didn't need attention. No problem, though. My grandfather bought an 1880s house with no heat aside from fireplaces and no electricity in the 1950s. He updated it himself. As my grandma famously said, "They had their bedroom in every room" of their house on Hayden Street in South Buffalo.

Despite a ridiculous amount of work that needed to be done, we bought the joint for a song, and I figured, with my 22 year old wisdom, that if I spent all my free time working on the house, we'd have a completed "This Old House" looking home 6 months later. 12 years later, we're just getting to the upstairs.

The house was built for Laura C. Geib, who had inherited the land. Her sister had already built a house just across the way and Miss Geib, who was a German and Latin teacher at Fosdick-Masten High School, watched her home, one of the first on the block, be built.

In 1909, being a school teacher was not among the better paid professions. In fact, a teacher's salary barely allowed one to rise to the burgeoning middle class. You can see Geib's lack of funds in the very sparce decoration. The house is probably the least of any home designed by E.B. Green, and the original elements that remain, like leaded glass windows, the dining room chandelier and sconces and some door hardware, all give the mismatched feel of a Home Depot bargain bin. Our own lack of finances during the remodel continued this tradition.

It may have been finances, or just not wanting to live alone in such a big house. Either way, in 1914, Geib sold the home to Fred and Lucy Walter, who lived there for the next 46 years.

The didn't have any children, but Uncle Fred and Aunt Lucy were remembered as a "wonderful, cute little old couple" by a niece I was able to track down.

They also had some strange habits. One time working in the attic, I found about a decades' worth of tax returns and Sisters hospital bills jammed into the wall cavity. The fact that our deed lists "Lucy Walter, invalid" as the seller of the home in 1960, leads one to believe that she may have been suffering from some form of dementia.

The O'Day family bought the home in 1966, and spent the next 34 years raising a huge brood of kids, and always throwing open the doors to cousins or friends who needed a place to stay. The house wasn't a museum piece or cold "don't touch sort of place during those years, it was full of life and well lived-in. Mr. O'Day seemed to be a nice enough guy when we bought the house, but I'd be lying it I didn't admit to cursing at him as I toiled in breathing life back into the house.

Wanting to know more about the house that once stood on the empty lot next door was really the beginning of my exploration of the neighborhood's history that culminated with the publication of my 2009 book "The Complete History of Parkside, " which was mostly written at the dining room table in this house.

The dining room was our first living room, while the living room acted as a workshop staging area.

The photos show the walls having been de-wallpapered and re-plastered, the 4 layers of paint stripped from the wainscotting before 7 or 8 layers of finish were applied. The ceiling, so cracked and marred, that we turned to a trick my uncle told me about: We wallpapered the ceiling using embossed wallpaper. It really gives the look of an old fashioned embossed tin ceiling, but it does come at a price. Wallpapering that ceiling is as close as Monica and I have ever come to divorce over the course of our 11 year marriage.

You really get to know a building when you are essentially rebuilding it from within, piece by piece. We've never been really sure of what we're doing, but always have had an eye towards what a house like this "should" look like, whatever that means.

Our kitchen remodel started with a really leaky faucet which was so badly damaged that it couldn't be fixed. But I couldn't put a new faucet in such a grungy sink... Nor a new sink in such a low-grade cabinet. My poor wife came home to her kitchen torn down to the studs, and about 6 months of doing dishes in the bathtub.

But luckily, those studs, the bones, are good. That's amazing, given the number of beer bottles we've found jammed in walls and in crawl spaces before the were sealed up. It's like a tour of the breweries in business in Buffalo around 1910. The craftsmen who built the house may have had a beer buzz for some part of it, but there is also proof of the workers pride in what they were doing.

Throughout the house, the blue-crayon signatures of workmen adorn the backs of wood work.

In the years that I've been working in the house, I've kept up that tradition with untold numbers of Sharpie signatures and dates, so some future caretaker can know by name who to curse at as he takes down a gerry-rigged something or other.

The last room of the downstairs portion of the house we completed just this past spring, working up to the moment our house was featured on the Parkside Tour of Homes.

One of the first things I did when we got the keys on Valentines Day 2000 was take all the doors down, and strip the paint off the cabinets in the original butlers pantry. Those doors sat in the basement for the next 11 years, again having just gone up this spring.

During our first spring clean up outside, we found a McDonald's coffee cup that dated back to the 80s, like the one at the right. It had been in the yard at least a decade, mixed in with the composted leaves and broken beer bottle bits.

We were slowly able to plant a few $5 plants, add a little each year, and watch it all grow. We were finally able to put a deck on this past spring, and now really enjoy another part of our home.

It's a continuing story. It's one we're happy to be a part of.

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History's Garbage Bin:
Sharing the Garbage Picked Goodness... Again
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com October 9,2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - To save everything because "it's old" is just silly. To toss everything away because "it's old" is just silly, too. Somewhere between those two extremes is where most of us try to live.

I get both sides. I'm a saver, who wishes sometimes I could live more of a clutter-free life. But a healthy portion of my clutter comes from big piles of important stuff that otherwise would have no home.

Depending on how you look at it, I have been blessed or cursed with the ability to see the possibilities beyond a pile of garbage. My home is a great example. It's taken over a decade of hard work for my wife and me to make it shine, taking it from a worn-down relic to a stop on the Parkside Home Tour.

Over the last two decades, I have garbage-picked, purchased, been asked to copy, or reluctantly accepted thousands of hours of audio and video, almost always locked away on some sort of format that made it impossible listen to or view. Or even know if there was anything there.

Basically, I've been collecting "potential."

Twice I've garbage-picked boxes of old film reels. These boxes were in the garbage for good reason; the film was infected with "vinegar syndrome," a decomposition of the materials in the film, which renders it unviewable. Worse, one "vinegared" film can jump start the degrading process in other nearby films as well.

The relatively small group of folks who had decided to chuck these boxes has literally thousands of reels of film to worry about. As a member of that group I agreed. But as an individual, I decided that I couldn't see this film simply thrown away. I garbage picked the film, then spend lots of time and money picking out the few good bits from the mangled messes inside those decaying boxes and film canisters, cleaning those good bits, then properly storing them to avoid more vinegar problems and further degrading.

The same is true of a pile of old video cassettes. The TV station I was working at was taking "the best" of some of the video that was on an old, dying format of videotapes, and dubbing them to the format they were then using. It made sense, as these dubs were being made on the station's last working machine that played the old format tapes. The old tapes were being hauled to the dumpster. I grabbed as many as I could for "safe keeping."

In both of these cases, I was holding onto what I knew was great video, but had no means to share it or even watch it. In some cases, this stuff had been in my possession for over a decade. Waiting.

Having been lucky enough to turn a bit of a profit from my book "Irv! Buffalo's Anchorman: The Irv, Rick, and Tom Story," I gathered up most of that film, and many of those video tapes, along with others that I'd copied or recorded myself over the years, and sent them off to be properly and professionally digitized. A painstaking and expensive process, but one that was the end result of saving them from the trash in the first place-- whether I knew it at the time or not.

Being able to treat my relatively small collection with a great deal of care and respect has allowed me to begin sharing some interesting moments reported and recorded by Buffalo television journalists over the last 60 years. You're seeing the fruits of it on YouTube.

A Stan Barron obituary piece was the first item from the hours of "new" old video I shared...

The second was a true Western New York treasure. Who among us in Buffalo hasn't replied with a sarcastic "Fun? Wow!" when asked a question? The phrase, of course, comes from TV commercials for Fantasy Island, which ran over and over and over and... I can remember asking my parents to go to "Fun Wow," not realizing the actual name of the place.

The iconic commercial forever ensconced the phrase "Fun... WOW!" in our collective lexicon. Type "Fantasy Island" into Google, and the term "fun wow" follows as a suggested search term. Some how the commercial has eluded the Internet, until uncovered in that pile of tapes that time had forgotten was remastered.

There are two wonderful memories supplied, and there's plenty more to come as well. Literally hundreds more quick videos to come for all of us to pause and remember for a moment.

Video especially has a great power to transport us back to another time and place like no other medium. That's why I can honestly say that I don;t think I've ever been so excited about a project as the one I'm embarking on here in putting this video online to share with the world.

What it comes down to for me is.... my stuff is useless unless it can be of some use to somebody. I've already seen the smiles from these small bits already released that proves the usefulness. I won't make a million dollars on my finds... In fact, I'm in the red getting them ready to share. But it really hurts my brain to know that many of the wonderful archival videos you'll see, in fact, much of what is posted at staffannouncer.com, could have just as easily made it's way to the land fill.

No matter where you fall on the "saver/saves-nothing" scale, I ask you to join me in finding good use for your saved stuff, or finding a good home for the stuff you want to get rid of.

One man's trash can become an entire community's treasure.

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My Last 10 Minutes:
Why I Need to Step Away from Facebook
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com October 3,2012

Note: The writing here is difficult to follow in spots. I realize this, but I left it that way because that's the point. Sorry.

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - I am scatterbrained. The reason I thought to write about it, is because I thought to write about flu shots, and how I'm a big wuss when it comes to needles and getting blood drawn, but whatever part of my brain triggers fear with needles isn't triggered with flu shots, because the needles are small, and for three straight years, including yesterday, I have had actual pain-free flu shots. Not even a pinch.

This thought popped into my head, because Howard Goldman put a photo of a flu shot sign on Facebook. I also thought of a funny post for this thread... I wanted to put a photo of one of those old-fashioned vaccine guns on his wall and say, "run if they bring this out!"

When I did a google image search for polio vaccine gun, I found out that it wasn't a polio shot, but a small pox innoculation that gave me the big welt on the back of my leg. I always thought it was polio. So I searched vaccine gun, and found the photo to post. Perfect. Hilarious.

Somehow I get notifications when some friends post things. ( I don't know how this happened.)Libby Maeder put up a New York Times article about "defriending" people in the days before Facebook, and told the story of a woman who sounds like my late Grandma Cichon. Tell it like it is, great story.

Then I get a notification that Airborne Eddy has commented on the flu shot photo, and I see that big gun photo and feel a twinge of guilt. So I think that as a public service, I should really write about the fact that flu shots don't hurt.... and I could talk about how I have panic attacks driving to Quest Diagnostics. They are weird sort of panic attacks, though, because I can remain cool and collected, and realize I will be fine, but there is still some part of my brain that wants to either curl up in the fetal position or get the hell out of there.

Then I'd say the flu shot is nothing like that at all for me. Get one, you'll enjoy it, and you'll enjoy not getting the flu... Especially since people don't really know what the flu is. People think they get the flu, but don't. It's just a bad cold or infection. I had the flu a few years ago, and that's when I started getting flu shots... because I felt like I was stapled to the bed for about a week. Couldn't move. Couldn't do anything. That's the flu. Get the shot.

But after thinking of writing that, I decided that I'd better just shut up, because I have a presentation for a Buffalo Architecture Presentation that I have to put together by the end of the week, I have to get a Parish Council coffee and donuts session organized (because I just realized I can't be there because of an out of town wedding the day before), I have a 15 page voice freelance job to mark up for recording tonight, and I have to get started on an upcoming presentation at Forest Lawn cemetery about Buffalo's Great Broadcasters....

AND, I have about 15 half-written blog posts and ideas for pieces I'd like to write, which I really want to sitdown and finish, but i just don't have the time.

I've been working on a piece about some of the old guys in my neighborhood growing up, men whose example really helped shape who I am today. Some day, you'll be able to read about mr. Smith and Pops at length, and maybe even grumpy old Joe the retired cop, who provides a good retrospect lesson for me.

That's also made me think about some of the other people who've shown upin relatively small ways in my life but who've made a lasting impact. I want you to meet some of them, too.

I've wanted to write at length about the fact that I'm gluten free-free, and how that's scary, but the lousy doctor who screwed things up some how... Circuitously helped put me on the right track. And how after almost 6 years without it, plain ol'white Wonder Bread tastes like dessert. Melts in my mouth like something as opulent as butter or chocolate. And how I've put on 10 pounds (at least) reaquainting myself with glutenous good stuff.

I've also started to write about how sad I am that sports no longer interest me for the most part. I'll watch, but it's like eating a rice cake.

And there's other stuff, too... For someday when I have the time. Well, I have to make the time. Where to cut? Facebook seems like a good place to start, mostly because I'm like a Facebook binge drinker.

I can stay away from Facebook pretty easily, but I can't just enjoy a quick convo with a friend. I look at my page "for a quick sec," and the next thing you know, I'm passed out in a bar I don't remember walking into. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Truth be told, I'm really scatterbrained enough without thousands of interesting posts and articles zipping my mind and enegry in every which direction.

And since I have some important stuff to do, so I'm stepping away from Facebook. I'll still be on, and still post stuff, but I have to figure out how not to waste so much time there.

It's not Facebook's fault, it's mine.

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Family History Mystery:
Either 'Truth Uncovered' or 'Stunning Coincidence'
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com August 26,2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Every time I visit my grandpa in the nursing home, he wants to know if I've tracked down the "Cichons in Brazil" yet.

The family legend is that three Cichon brothers eventually came to America, my great-grandfather and his two older brothers. My great grandfather stayed, his two brothers went on to Brazil.

For decades worth of research and genealogical digging, I've have found out exactly NOTHING about the Cichons. We have great family stories, mostly from my grandpa and his sister Mary, but no records, no documents. Don't know which Polish towns my great-grandparents are from. Don't know what their parentsí names are. Don't have anything like the ship manifest that took my great-grandfather and my great-grandmother separately to the New World around 1913. The trail ends cold in Buffalo's Valley neighborhood.

Cichon isnít the most common name, but itís common enough. Especially when you are looking for information on John and Mary Cichon.

The story is, they met and fell in love in Buffalo on Fulton Street, both having just arrived from Poland, and then got married. As far as I can tell, there is no record of their marriage. Not in the likely several churches I checked, not at Buffalo City Hall.

Great-Grandma Cichonís maiden name is Pochec, a very unusual name. I contacted a guy in Canada with the last name Pochec and an obviously Polish first name. He says all the records of his familyís existence were destroyed in war... The world wars and any other number of wars that have marred that part of Eastern Europe for centuries. Pochec has been a dead end. She was half Polish, ďhalf Turk,Ē as my grandpa says. Her dad was a baker in the Turkish army.

Great-Grandpa worked as a laborer for National Analine in their railroad yard for about 40 years. Back in Poland, he was a cobbler. Gramps said his pa always kept the shoe making tools he brought with him from Poland, just in case.

This is about all I have to go on, so when I see some bit of information with potential, I get excited.

My great-grandfather told 3 or 4 different census takers and the World War I draft board that he came here in 1913, so that seems legit. Around 1913, there were no fewer than 8 or 9 guys named Jan or John Cichon taking boats to North America. Anyone of them could be my great grandfather, or none of them could be. One of those ship's manifests really has set my mind to wonder, though.

It shows 20 year-old Jan Cichon from ďKurowa?,Ē son of Tomasz, sailing from Holland to meet up with a friend in Connecticut in October 1913. This has the right date, the right name, and this Jan is the right age, but thereís nothing for certain that points to "steerage passenger 13" on the SS Nieuw Amsterdam as being my great-grandfather.

But in going over this two page document, having to shift back and forth between two jpgs of this horizontally long ledger, something that's just too odd to overlook caught my eye yesterday.

Passenger 21 is a 19 year old German young lady of Polish decent who is on her way to the New World as well. According to the ship manifest, Emilie Rakowska told Immigration officials that sheís on her way to rendez-vous with her brother Heinrich. Heinrich Rawkoski lived in Buffalo at 909 Perry Street. That's about 10 houses away from the house that the Jan Cichon who is my great grandfather would buy and spent the next 60 years living in.

It's either an amazing, colossal coincidence, that some other 20 year old guy named Jan Cichon from Poland got on a ship in Holland headed for the US in 1913, and just happened to be on a ship with a woman who was bound for the exact block where another Jan Cichon would arrive in the same year... or Great-Grandpa Cichon wound up in Buffalo chasing a single chick, his age, that he met on the boat ride over here.

I'm just about convinced that this is my dziadzia. How could it not be? I'm going to do some more research on the decent amount of information provided on the John Cichon who was on the New Amsterdam that day, and see if it fits into some of the family stories and lore.

History and genealogy really are cool. Sweeping the cobwebs off the front door is going to have to wait.

Here are the difficult to read documents (edited to make it a little easier):

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The Grass is Greener With A Splendid Hat:
My 80 Year Old Twin
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com August 15,2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Not to be a downer, but itís true. There have been a number of heavy questions soggying down my brain lately. Some of those questions are being pondered and explored necessarily as part of life, some are likely just a part of some minor level (I hope) of insanity and mental disease.

I'm trying to be amusing, but physical health issues are always troublesome, and waiting months for tests starts to play with my mind.

As someone who has dealt with chronic pain in my joints and gastrointestinal tract for decades now, I can tell you that it's been my experience that they can't get rid of pain. Some medications can change the nature of pain, but filling my bloodstream with otherwise toxic chemicals to change a sharp, throbbing pain to a warm, intermittent pain just isn't worth it. (I've probably been on 15 different arthritis meds since elementary school. More harm than good so far.)

There are also changes in diet which can help mitigate pain or terrible symptoms or potential outcomes. Depending on how much a part of your life this food you're forced to abandon is, the physical pain that's relieved by abstaining from it can lead to similarly toll-taking mental anguish. (I'm in the sixth year of eating gluten-free, and I'm just starting to accept it.)

Exercise is a great way to get rid of pain caused my not moving around as much as I should, and "knocking the rust off" actually feels pretty good. But it's by nature, working out is accompanied by the "good pain" of exercising. ďGood painĒ is still pain. (I should exercise more, but I am lazy. When I do hit then gym, I don't pussyfoot around. I get a good workout and hurt afterwards. Like ya should.)

Having dealt with and thought about these ideas most of my life, it shapes my thoughts on the other big issues also sloshing around in the stormy seas between my ears. I've learned through years of personal experience and shattered notions, that any measure of the "grass is greener" philosophy is a fairy tale.

Pain canít be eliminated, but it can be changed. Sometimes for the better. So too can the nature of the grass be changed.

To stretch the metaphor too far, a different shade of green doesn't make it any more green. To stretch the metaphor to the point where a reader might want to cause physical harm to the writer, you might have to mow that species of grass over there half as much, but you might not realize you have to water it twice as often.

Desired change always begets unanticipated change. And while sometimes overall change is needed, it kills me bracing for those unanticipated changes and deciding if those as-yet-unknown changes are worth it.

None of this is any kind of breaking news flash; it's what most of us face on a daily basis. But it seems a little more weighty on this end lately. We all get bogged down from time to time. Maybe I just need to find some gluten-free fiber supplements.

But today, as I took a quick walk to knock out the cobwebs and get refocused, my countenance improved greatly just by the sight of a guy walking my way.

Now my wife can probably just about picture the guy I'm talking about. When we're people watching, I can't help but make comments about happy-go-lucky, smiling little old guys. It's really what I want to be when I grow up: a white-haired smiling man, walking a bit slowly, taking in and loving life.

From 100 yards away, looking at this guy today I knew he had it all going on. His gait was a bit slow, but cool. He was wearing a beige straw fedora; a dapper, perfectly fitting-yet 20 year old navy blue suit, a fresh flower on his lapel, and a handkerchief in his breast pocket. He was also carrying a leather briefcase.

As he got closer, it was obvious this gentleman was likely around 80, and I got the impression that this was an important day out, and that he was quite pleased with having the occasion to have an important day out. I'll bet the briefcase hadn't left the closet shelf in a few years, but was a necessary accessory today.

Just as I was about to say, "Good morning, sir," as this fine fellow approached, his smiling face beat me to the punch with an identical "Good morning, sir." Not only the same words I was about to use, but even the same cadence and inflection. I was like I was talking to myself 50 years into the future.

"Good morning to you, sir," I responded, "and how are you?"

"Splendid," said the man in the straw hat and lapel flower, as he strolled on to his day's affairs.

I want that kind of splendor. To hope to be as splendid as this man appeared is like hoping to win the lottery. Or for me, like hoping to eat normal bread someday. It's not a healthy thing to be fixated with, but it's something nice to daydream about from time to time.

While I know the grass isn't always greener, it's all worth the effort to pay it forward; to aim to be splendid enough to have my splendidity spill over, to share with people who might need a little bit. Just like this gentleman did today.

Splendid thought, isn't it?

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It's An Internet Column, Not a Blog:
Please Just Agree To Humor Me
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com July 13,2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - There are few things in life which give me more pleasure than translating into the written word the oddities which are constantly percolating through my brain.

I guess writing is now my hands-down top creative outlet, which is only pretty recently the case.

For many years, radio production was a creative outlet. As a producer of talk radio, you heard my audio fingerprints in the shows I helped put together. Small nuances helped set the mood of the show, made it a smidge more interesting. I did what I could with the limited role I played.

Back then, creativity was manifest in finding the right music beds, or sound bites, or editing together production pieces like show opens and station promos. The intent was to make it all a little more fun and interesting.

In my current job, that's what I like to think my writing does for the news, as well. Make it a bit more fun and interesting. I've become more adept at writing in a style that's all my own, be it for broadcast or print.

And in my world, writing is special. It's something that's all me; purely my voice, sharing my own thoughts in a way I've come up with myself.

No one ever showed me how to write, I never actively apprenticed myself to someone. That's unique for me. I learned how to be a radio producer from John Demerle. Period. I took what I learned from him and made it my own, but it was him at the core of it.

Even way I sound on the radio, my delivery, is actually little pieces of other people. As I was learning to be an announcer, I'd like the way Ed Little or Mark Leitner or George Richert or Susan Rose or Van Miller or Dan Neaverth said something, and I copied that piece, and it became mine. It became part of who I am when my voice is coming out of your car's dashboard.

Even after 20 years in radio, I listen to myself and know that I said something like George Richert. You wouldn't know it. George wouldn't know it. But I know it. And it's why I think I am so proud of the written aspect of what I do. It's more purely me.

People enjoy my "unique style" on the radio. And its often admittedly unique. But again, in a dangerous glimpse into my own mind, to me its little more than the sewn together pieces of my interpretation of what someone else has done before. It's a quilt. There is beauty in a quilt, but there's also that mutt, leftover scraps facet of a quilt, too.

True artistry isn't about copying someone else's style, it's about reaching deep inside yourself to show the world something that is uniquely your own. That's what writing is for me. I won't call it artistry, but I am doing my best to give you a peek inside the chasm that is my brain.

So anyway, I'm writing. But what am I writing? There are certain things implied, I think, when one says, "I'm blogging."

To me, most blogs, however literary and well constructed, feel like 30 years ago, they would have been written in beautiful long hand, probably in a nicely bound journal or diary.

Others would be lovingly crafted, mimeographed, and mailed out to the few hundred "subscribers" who read about the "newsletter" in the classified section of a magazine.

I imagine that 30 years ago, I would have been clanking away at a typewriter, maybe just putting what I've written in a box under my bed. Or trying to get the occasional piece printed in the newspaper's Sunday magazine.

Its probably all the same thing. I don't think what I write is any better than a blog, in my mind, it's just different is all.

And at the end of the day, what I've got here is a blog. And I guess that makes me a blogger. I'd just kindly prefer you don't remind me. Just remember, though, that its just that which is what this blog is about: The almost always different, and admittedly often stupid way my brain works, and the completely ridiculous things I waste my time thinking about. Self-introspection of my looney tune self.

Welcome.

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A Few Words About Bacon:
BLT is the new LSD
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com, at sea aboard the Carnival Legend, somewhere in the Caribbean, July 16, 2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Everyone seems to have something to say about bacon. Allow me to stand up on behalf of the silent majority on the topic.

Like just about anyone who has ever eaten the stuff, I find bacon to be one of the most palette pleasing food stuffs available anywhere.

The hickory smoke cured flavor, mixed with the perfect combination of grease laden smoothness and fried crisp crunch can only be a gift from God the Father, made available to us to eat by Jesus Christ himself when he told his apostles to leave behind the pork-banning food laws of the old covenant.

But in my life, and I know I can't be alone, bacon is in the same category as alcohol and driving fast. That is to say, the momentary pleasure pales in comparison to the often much longer lasting after affects.

I had two drinks last night and a couple of slices of bacon for breakfast. My body tells me neither of these were good ideas.

My guts reject two Jack and diet Cokes like a fat guy trying to pick up a model. More specifically, a smelly fat guy driving a '98 Ford Escort trying to pick up a bitchy super model with a body guard.

In other words, not only total, should-have-been-expected rejection, but there's also an ass-kicking involved. Drinking is bad. That's a well-travelled line of thought.

But the fact that two slices of pretty lean looking bacon ignites esophageal flames that would scare the people who fight wildfires, that's a story that is just too often ignored.

Just as often as I'm told liquor is bad, and society says I deserve sickness after booze... Bacon is celebrated. They put it on freaking ice cream at Burger King.

It's like I'm some sort of a freak or an outcast for wanting to avoid this crap, which probably accounts for half of the heartburn in America.

In a fleeting moment of weakness this morning, in that moment of truth when that waiter asked if I wanted meat with my eggs, I buckled. I was ready to say ham, but I guess I said bacon. My wife said she heard me say it.

But I was honestly surprised when the plate came out with that processed meat that is creation of God, but is used by Satan himself as an instrument of foul temptation.

I literally had no personal knowledge or memory of how that bacon wound up on my plate, but I certainly didn't send it back. Just like the fat guy wouldn't turn down a date the super model away even he wasn't asking for one.

I am personally sick of all the laudatory talk about bacon. It's delicious, but it makes me sick. It makes you sick, too. If you don't think it makes you sick, you are just a junkie too far gone to realize or care about your insides and bacon fighting like Democrats and Republicans.

There is nothing good about bacon, except that momentary high as you masticate that nearly perfect combination of pork, grease, and crunch. After that, nothing but heartache and heartburn.

Doesn't that sound familiar? Momentary gratification but a lifetime of regret? I call on Congress to add bacon to our nation's war on drugs.

Where is Nancy Reagan when the country needs her and her anti-drug message? Add bacon now to that list of illicit narcotics to which people everywhere should "just say no."

You wouldn't let them sell heroin or cocaine at a convenience store, so how can you have bacon on every buffet line and in every supermarket meat case, there to tempt the weakest of society to a lifetime of blood pressure, cholesterol, and acid reflux meds?

It's a question we need to ask ourselves, America.

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Music Takes Ya There:
Even when you'd prefer to be elsewhere...
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com, on assignment at isla Roatan, Honduras, July 19, 2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - I'm laying in the sun, slightly shaded by a gently swaying palm tree on a white sand beach in Honduras, listening to my iPod.

Paradise. Not a care in the world, except whether it's worth moving to get a piŮa colada.

A few jazzy uptempo but lounge songs, I think, had been setting the mood very well. I have a lot of "lounge" music on my iPod. If I'm ever trying to set a mood in my mind with music, it's usually the mood that is born of swingin' lounge music of the 50s.

That's where I was mentally, and it only enhanced that feeling of paradise. And there's something about that music that makes you feel that a piŮa colada might be a good idea.

Then paradise lost. It happened just as if some loud guy plopped his ass on the lounge chair next to yours on a wide open beach; blowing cigarette smoke and obnoxiously cackling loudly as he loudly repeats (incorrectly) lines from Adam Sandler lines to friends he just met at the bar.

Ok, not quite like that, but it just as effectively shattered that feeling of paradise.

Six kettle drum hits in less than a second were like a car crashing into a tree.

The fast moving percussion makes up the opening notes of "Move Closer To Your World," a fast moving brassy piano piece written by Al Ham.

In Buffalo, the piece is known colloquially as "The Eyewitness News Theme" or just "Irv Music."

Hearing it takes me back to work. Back to thinking and worrying about the problems and concerns of my real life. But the song is on my iPod for a reason. I love the song. I've loved it since I was 2 or 3 years old.

I have spent my whole life loving this music and loving news. But while I still love news, the thought of it is increasingly becoming more of worky-headachy feeling than a sitting-down-enjoying-the-papery feeling.

It's all like being in love with a beautiful, fun, bipolar maniac. Half the time it's the greatest adventure of your life, the other half the time she's trying to shoot you in the leg for buying 2% instead of skim.

But its in my blood. Its comfortable. Sure, maybe even too comfortable. There's not a lot I can do about it at this point. Love and hate. An abusive relationship. Or like eating bacon (see above.)

But to hell with it. Writing is like therapy, and I'm ready to enjoy the sun.... So it's really Ok, the Irv music on a beautiful Honduran island. But now some bastard is chain smoking up wind.

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Let's Display Some Cool Looking History:
Hey! Wanna hang up WBEN's old board?
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com July 4,2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - I spent this 4th of July morning trying to figure out how to hang this classic WBS/Ward Beck Systems audio console from the wall of my garage, where it's lived for most of the last 11 years or so. This was WBEN's newsbooth board from the time of the 1974 remodel of the WBEN Radio studios until 2000, when WBEN moved to Amherst.

Over on Facebook, in posting this blog, I'd love to come up with a comprehensive list of the great WBEN personalities and newspeople who've regularly sat at this board. Just in the time I worked there from 1993-98, there was Kevin Keenan, Mark Leitner, Susan Rose, Tim Wenger, George Richert, Claudine Ewing, Kathleen Donovan, Brian Meyer, Mark Webster, Mike McKay, Howard Simon, Rick Maloney, Dave Kerner, Kevin Sylvester, Marty Biniasz, Joe Sviatko, Dave Debo, Michael Mroziak, my wife Monica Huxley, and of course Ed Little, who made the final WBEN broadcast from the Elmwood studios sitting at that board (See 1980s photo of Ed at the board below.)

Before my time there, great broadcasters like Jack Ogilvie, Jim McLaughlin, Lou Douglas, Virgil Booth, Fran Lucca, Marty Gleason, Stan Barron, Mark Hamrick, and a one-time WBEN radio newsman named John Murphy.

There are dozens that haven't leapt to my mind, but believe me, this boat anchor has some history.

I got it from a friend... who bought it from a guy who garbage picked it (or maybe stole it?) when WBEN left its Elmwood Avenue studios for Corporate Parkway in 2000. The friend had hoped to use it in recording his band, but the truth is, the thing barely worked when it was in service. When he realized it was little more than a momento, he called me and I put it in my garage.

It's been in the back of the garage, on the floor behind the snow blower and infamous Pepsi machine. It deserves better than that. And I got to thinking, that if there is some place better than my garage wall where it can be displayed, it should be.

I'm asking for ideas that you can help make happen. Where can we put this piece of Buffalo's broadcast history for all to enjoy? To hang from the wall, you'd need a space four feet wide by 5 feet long. (Less than that, but I forget to measure.)

If we can find a legit public place, willing to hang it like the artwork it is... I'll fix it so the lights light, the VU meters move, and maybe even the small cue speakers could play a loop of an old Clint Buehlman broadcast which people up close would be able to hear (optional). I would also work out any signage of addition display items that need to accompnay the piece.

It's more than history... Its a cool retro art piece, really. I'm willing to permenantly or temporarily loan it to an appropriate place that wants to display it. It'll be cool in my garage, but again, it really deserves better. Any takers?

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I'm a hoarder, But what I hoard is cool:
so that makes it ok?
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com June 24,2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - There are two kinds of people: Those that save, and those that throw out. Me? Um, are you really asking?

The problem is, I have bunches or really cool stuff that make other people jealous. Stuff that I don't need, and would be happy to get rid of, until someone reminds me how great it is.

I really have a hard time watching TV shows like "Hoarders," because I know I'm only a bad break in life away from being that way. Every piece of nonsense I own has a story, and a possible future use. Every once in a while, I get brave and do a little cleaning. I bring a few bags to the curb, a few bags to AMVETS, set aside another pile for future eBay sales.

As a junk collector of some renown, and having produced two books and millions of web hits to staffannouncer.com mostly through the efficacious use of my junk, I now not only find my own new junk, but have people bringing it to me. I'm like Oscar the Grouch... "I LOVE TRASH!!"

I use the pejorative junk, because that's mostly what it is to most people. But just like some amazing people can turn utter refuse it amazing art, I can turn old magazines and newspapers and store receipts and slightly soiled napkins and other nonsense into memory joggers for people. I love it, but it's dangerous. It's like a heroin addict working in a methadone clinic.

I'm making light of it, but it really is a borderline problem. I have rules about what I allow myself to even look at, let alone buy. Paper stuff, as in two dimensional things are OK. And it has to be related to Buffalo. Local stuff only. These are all things that I can share with people on my website, and allow them to share in my love of my junk.

I'm slowly weeding out of my pilesóerr collection-- anything that doesn't fit into those categories. I have huge stamp, coin, and sports cards collections that someday I'll get rid of... Doesn't fit the profile, even though these collections date back to when I was 6 or 7 years old.

This was the stuff I wanted in 1st and 2nd grade. There was an antique store on Seneca Street near my Grandma Cichon's house. Grandma Cichon, an unabashed garbage picker, junk collector, and total hoarder. Anyway, in the window of that antique shop, there was an Iroquois Beer light. It was $10, and I was saving up to buy it. I was 9 or 10. My grandmother bought me that light for Christmas that year. Major encouragement in junk collection. You losers were getting Transformers, GI Joes, and Barbie dolls. Me? Iroquois Beer lights. Old Buffalo stuff. I couldn't have been more happy. Of course I still have it.

All this came to mind as I thought about the old Pepsi machine in the back of my garage.

I was 12 or 13 years old, and had $20 or $25 burning a hole in my pocket. I wanted something cool to spend it on, and *the* place to look for cool stuff, aside from SuperFlea, was the SwapSheet. Should you not know, this was a weekly newspaper filled with classified ads from all over Western New York.

I remind you that we lived in Orchard Park, when I found the very sparse ad (they charged by the word) that said something like "PEPSI MACHINE. $25. (Wilson)" That's the Town of Wilson, waay up north in Niagara County. I called, and made arrangements. He still had the Pepsi machine. It was soon to be mine.

I can very clearly remember sitting on the school bus on my way to Orchard Park Middle School thinking how cool it was going to be to have a Pepsi machine in my room. It was going to be like Silver Spoons, where Ricky Schroeder had all those video games in his living room. There were so many questions I forgot to ask. I was picturing a tall machine where the front was a light box, with some vintage illuminated Pepsi logo on it. He said there was a light. It's all I thought about for days. Not that I did math homework anyway, but I'm sure I didn't then.

What made me want to write about this was thinking about my dad in all this. He was generally an impatient man, didn't know how to get anywhere, terrible with directions, and not very mechanically inclined. There weren't many times in my childhood that all these obstacles were overcome solely for my benefit, but getting this Pepsi machine was certainly one of those times. I know my ol'man was probably just as excited as I was about getting this thing as I was; it was the only way it could have happened.

I know we had to pull the back seats out of our 1985 nightwatch blue Dodge Caravan. This almost certainly involved cursing by the ol'man. We then had to drive from Orchard Park to a farm in Wilson. I know we spent at least an hour getting there, and got lost at least once. More cursing. We pulled up to the garage, and the guy opened the door...

I was terribly disappointed by the short, ugly not all-that-lit-up 1965 Pepsi machine of which I was about to take delivery. But I really couldn't say no, especially after the long ride--- So somehow, this heavy, molding barn smelling, one-time automated purveyor of ice cold soft drinks was loaded into the Caravan, and was driven back home to OP with the back hatch open.

I tried to fill it with the then-available 16 oz glass bottles, but they were too long, wouldnít fit. The way the slots were rigged, you can't put cans in the machine. It was made for obsolete 8 oz glass bottles. I had an ugly pop machine which I couldn't fill with pop. Neither the coin mechanism nor cooling system worked. I had fun yanking them out and taking them apart, and dropping the weight of the beast by a little bit, anyway. There wasnít much else I could do it with it.

It was a cool enough thing to have in your room, a Pepsi machine, even if it was a dumb disappointing one. It was in my room until I moved out of my parentsí house. For the last dozen years, it's sat in the back on garage, and I've given it very little thought.

Until today. Trying to be droll in explaining on Facebook that I have too much junk, I mentioned I even have an old Pepsi machine sitting in my garage. This was meant to leave people with a sense of, "My goodness! What massive amounts of total crap this guy has!"

Instead, it was met with, "How cool! Can I be you friend because you have a Pepsi Machine? I will buy it from you for millions of dollars!"

First of all, where were you people when I was in middle and high school and needed Pepsi machine friends. But second, it made me think, maybe for the first time ever, as this clunker as something more than a boat anchor and a net negative and drag on my life.

Yesterday, I probably would have given it to someone to take it out of my garage, which would have made my wife immeasurably happy.

But just like that, today, itís a very nostalgic piece intertwined with my relationship with my dad, my relationship with junk collecting, and something I'm trying to figure out how to get restored to at least look (and smell) good.

It's the problem with being someone who keeps things. When you want to get rid of something, you have to strike while the iron is hot. Because it doesn't take much to decide that something you were just ready to get rid of has all the sudden become a treasured heirloom.

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A Friend & Brother at 40:
Hopefully this is better than a lightbox sign with the message         "LORDY, LORDY, LOOK WHO'S 40!" on your lawn
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com May 24,2012


BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - To call this guy one of my best friends just doesn't feel strong enough. For months, as his 40th birthday has approached, I've tried to think of some fun or funny or nice or meaningful way to let him know that I love him... or at the very least, make him laugh and remind him of his own mortality on this day that he enters his fifth decade on this planet.

It's been tough coming up with something that has just the right feeling to it. Forty pink flamingoes on his lawn would be perfect, but this is a guy who'd actually like that a little too much.  I had some ideas for "stuff" or "events" that we'd both probably think great, but our wives not so much.

However, like many things in my life, I was filled with intentions, but it only got that far. "Marty's Birthday" appeared on at least a dozen to-do lists, and wound up like many other things on those lists-- undone.

So here I sit, the day before that big day, with nothing to show for it, except for what I am about to write.  Now I fully realize that a blog post as a birthday present is really about the grown-up equivalent of a homemade card with macaroni and glitter glued on,  but it's the best I've got right now.

I was a 16 or 17 year old board operator at  WBEN when we met; he was just finishing up college, and had joined the weekend news staff at WBEN.  We both thought we were pretty freaking cool, living the dream working at W-freaking-BEN.

There's really no doubt that providence brought us together. 

We share a love for news and politics, and seem to come at it from the same perspective.

We both shared a love for Buffalo and its history, especially it's broadcasting history. We both had the same 1959 WKBW aircheck memorized when we met. Just ask him what happened at "the fire at the George Root, Jr. farm in the Cattaraugus County Village  of Randolph" the next time you see him.

We're both Polish-Americans, interested in learning more about and celebrating our roots. We're both garage sale shoppers, garbage pickers, and packrats, which has now helped up both celebrate Buffalo's pop culture history on our websites. We both shared an interest in hearing the stories of people like our friend and co-worker Ed Little. 

The kicker was, we both wore bow ties, at a time when Irving R. Levine and Pee Wee Herman were the only other two people in America doing so (even Charles Osgood was mixing in the occasional necktie then.)

I remember thinking then, "Wow! Radio's great! A few months in, and I'm already meeting people who are just like me," thinking that dorks like us grew on trees, and that I'd be meeting similar people left and right. Luckily for society, the day I met Marty almost 20 years ago, was the last time anyone has even come close.

Marty is like a brother to me, really the big brother I never had; a mentor and someone I have really looked up to since those weekend days we worked together at 2077 Elmwood Avenue.

He introduced me to many of my Buffalo radio and TV heroes for the first time. I'd met Danny Neaverth at Bells as a tiny kid, but Marty introduced me to him broadcaster to broadcaster. That same night, I met Irv Weinstein, John Zach, and Taylor & Moore, too. My head was spinning. He took me to tag along at great broadcasting events he'd been invited to, or to stop by Stan Jasinski's show on a Sunday morning. Or over to Jack Mahl's house.

Marty'd give me a call, and ask if I wanted to go to Cleveland or Hamilton to take some photos or check out the sites. We'd climb into his Honda Civic, and I couldn't have thought of any better way to spend my time. Not as great, but still there for me; Marty also drove me home the first time I ever got drunk in that Civic. I was about 17 and it was at a WBEN Christmas Party.

He gave me an autographed picture of Ed Little as a high school graduation present. "JUDAS PRIEST," says the inscription. I  laugh every time I think about what Ed must has said when Marty asked him to sign that.

It might not sound like much, but these were some of the great experiences of my young life. Discovering a friend with the same strange interests in the same weird stuff.

I wouldn't be who I am today were it not for my brother Marty Biniasz, who continues to blaze the trail, inspire me with his passion and hard work, and nudge me when I need it. The guy has done more before 40 than most do in a lifetime.

So, this is a really crappy birthday present... a rambling essay just to let you know that I love you, brother. But it was either this, or a YouTube video featuring some really embarrassing audio that was at the end of a tape you dubbed for me once... I think its a 15 year-old Marty pretending to be Danny Neaverth introducing Perry Como records. You have to be pleased I chose this.  And of course, there's always hope that Eddy Dobosiewicz will do something with flamingoes.

So "sto lat," and Happy 40th Birthday to my mentor, my friend, my brother.

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Cichon on the Corasanti Jury:
There but for the grace of God go I....
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com June 1,2012
Originally appeared at WBEN.com

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - People base their opinions on any given subject on the amount of information they know about that subject. Sometimes the knowledge is vast; sometimes not so much.

Over the last few days, I have found myself correcting factual or legal errors in people's angry conversations and Facebook posts about the James Corasanti trial and verdict. In doing so, I've been accused of trying to stand up for Corasanti, of trying to encourage people to physically go after Corasanti, of making excuses for the jury, and of trying to encourage hatred towards jurors. A reporter is usually satisfied that he's doing his job when he gets criticism from all sides.

At the end of one such volley on Facebook, I wrote something along the lines of "that I'm merely offering facts I know to be true from the courtroom, to try to make what some people are having a hard time understanding a little more understandable."

Someone then asked if I understand. "Understand what," I asked. Understand, he said, why the jury voted the way it did.

I don't understand, but I think I might have a better insight than most. Over the last year and a half, I've sat through two big trials gavel-to-gavel (Muzzammil Hassan's beheading trial and Riccardo McCray's City Grill murder rampage), and sat through good portions of the Corasanti hearings and trial as well.

Covering and listening to a trial as a reporter isn't all that different from listening to a trial as a juror.

I can tell you that sitting through a trial, you're trying to keep track of dozens of different lines of questioning and trails of evidence, much of it presented and described in terminology and verbiage that is completely foreign. For legal reasons, it's often presented in a way that is often painfully tedious.

It's not Law and Order. Most testimony is boring and can quite often be confusing; especially when something refers back to something that happened days before, or uses unfamiliar jargon.

But that's where it gets much easier for the media. Kinda like a jury gets to do at the end, we get to go into the hallway during the breaks, and discuss among ourselves what we just heard, and how to understand it. Quite often, we grab a lawyer walking by and ask him or her what this word means, or whether we understand something right.

On one occasion during the Corasanti trial, two defense lawyers whose names you'd recognize, gave us reporters completely different versions of what a single legal term meant. Even the lawyers can get a little confused.

I personally reported on the radio at least 3 times in the days and hours leading up to the Corasanti verdict that I was confused by something that went on in the court room. I ran right out of the courtroom to report on something said in "legalese" that was difficult to follow and synthesize, even with the help of my fellow reporters.

Jurors have it worse. At least journalists can talk it through with one another several times a day. Jurors have to suffer through their misunderstanding or desire to clarify a point or even just seek reassurance that they heard something properly. Jurors are not allowed to talk about a case to anyone, period, until deliberations begin.

Most of us can't even get through an episode of Law and Order without asking our spouses if "that was the guy from earlier who did that..."

So after a month, with all the questions you might have swimming in your head, you are given two hours worth of legal instructions with so many parsed words and phrases put together in a way that satisfies the law, but not necessarily satisfies the understanding of every day people. In fact, for me, the explanations of the laws often obfuscate my understanding the law.

Having sat through a few trials, I know how the process is going to work, and I have my seatbelt fastened, and I still have a hard time keeping up with understanding the laws as the judge reads them. If you get caught on a bit and try to think it through, you miss the next bit. I can ask Claudine Ewing or Pete Gallivan in the hall. A juror adds it to a list of dozens of things he's not clear on.

My point is, I can see how every day people who are jurors can walk into a deliberation completely dazed. All this incredible and contradictory information that your been hearing for a month. Where do you begin? I think for most people, you begin by listening to the guy with the biggest mouth, and see where that takes you. There was one juror who seemed more agitated that the rest, and I'll bet he was among the first to do some talking.

Until you've sat through a month long trial, you can't understand what it's like. I've sat through a couple of humdingers, and I won't pretend to understand what its like to be a juror on a case like this one.

And of course, if the defense has a pulse, there is always doubt. The difference between some doubt and a reasonable doubt is explained by the judge, but its legal language that isn't in every day soeak, and it's a few paragraphs in a few hours of legal explanations.

Every time the judge lets the jury off for lunch or a 5 minute break or to go home for the night, the instruction is always "don't talk to anyone about the case; keep an open mind." It's not "use your gut, and don't forget your common sense."

Now if you've made it this far, you might be saying, what, was Cichon's mother on the jury? No. I'm not making excuses for the jury, and I would guess that some jurors on the Corasanti trial or any of the others that I've covered might be angry with me for calling them confused. I'm not calling any juror confused.

I'm merely saying that it's not an easy job being a juror, and I'm not really sure how fair it is to ask someone to be a juror in a month long trial like this one.

In my heart, having sat through some of the trial as a reporter, I know how I would have voted. However, if my seat was moved 10 feet to the left into the jury box, I know I wouldn't have had the same grasp of the material presented. And given that, I certainly can't say for sure how I would have voted.

Contact WBEN News Director Steve Cichon at scichon@wben.com

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b-kwik, The Brain, Tim Hortons, And With Your Spirit:
My brain is a mess.
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com March 14, 2012


BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Unlike many people, I don't fear change. I thrive on it. It's sad, of course, when something good changes, but you never know what good thing is going to come of it. Then you have two good things, the old one you remember, and the present one you can enjoy.

I don't know what i would do if everything just always remained the same. And while I sometimes wonder why some people are just universally opposed to anything different; in many respects I get it.

Does our brain "harden" as we get older?  Am I ever going to be able to relearn things apparently more firmly implanted in my mind than I could have ever thought?

We all like to think we're so smart, but I for one know I'm a mess. My mind is like the back room of some old office, with rusty file cabinets with papers hanging out and drawers that don't close all the way.

It's amazing to me how many things are hard-wired into who I am, and its only, apparently, conscious effort that allows me to do something different.

It's never been more apparent to me than at mass. The new Catholic mass. Back in November, they changed the words around ever so slightly, to the prayers and responses I have been saying my entire life. Now I know all the new responses. I can say them to you right now. But if I don't shut down all other programs in my brain, and am concentrating at any less than 90%, forget it. All the sudden, I'm the one guy dropping a "it is right and just to give him praise."  (An old response that has been replaced with 'It is right and just' for you non-Catholics.)

I realize this is new, and it's only been 4 months after 35 years the other way. But I can guarantee that should I still be counted among the living in 2030s, at least 5 times in that decade I will offer the wrong response at mass, and be angry with myself.

There's a lot that is hardwired for me, and it frankly scares me. I drink a lot of coffee. Love Tim Hortons coffee, and I order lots of it. I'm fine to order my usual medium black coffee, and will get exactly what I want. The problem comes when I want something different, usually a size smaller.

Now about 15 years ago, US Tim Horton stores made the size shift that Canadian Tim Hortons stores made over the last few months. The smallest cup was discontinued, the medium became small, the large became medium and the extra large became large. 



When the picture of the cup that has been a small here for over 15 years pops in my head, I think of it as a medium. If there is time for me to have this rational discussion in my head, all is well. If I'm not paying attention, or am rushed, or change my mind quickly, I often get something different from what I ordered, and drop a "SONAVAB-" on myself.

Similarly at Mighty Taco, there was an order I used to make all the time, but can't anymore. Every day, on my way home from work, I would stop at the Mighty Taco at Elmwood and Forest, (long gone!!) and order two super mightys, medium, no cheese. It cost $4.16. This was a ritual for maybe three years or so in the early 90s.  

Fast forward to today, and I have been on a gluten free diet for 6 years, and eating a flour tortilla could potentially put me in the hospital. Still, if rushed or distracted, I will order two super mightys, medium no cheese, and  not even realize I've done wrong. My wife has stopped this from happening at least 4 or 5 times. I don't think I've ever actually received that order, but i know I'd throw it out, disgusted with myself, and figure that at this point i just deserve to starve.

Is it really that hopeless to try to learn something new? I mean really learn it, make it the brain's new default position? And is it a matter of a hardening brain, or it is that the brain is full and needs somehow to be defragged?

When I first learned how to read, I remember was reading everything and memorizing it. I knew the names of the side streets off McKinley Parkway in South Buffalo, because I'd read the signs and memorize them because I could. I can still go Como, Kenefick, Hubbell.... But I now have to think 3 or 4 seconds about the name of the street one block away from my house, which I have been able to see out my kitchen window for the last 12 years.

I have a hard time grocery shopping, because with maybe 70% of my attention, I'm looking for a box of something. After a minute or two, I'll often realize that I'm looking right at it, and the box was changed in 1994.

With pretty good regularity, I go for the clutch when driving, even though I've had an automatic for 7 years.

While my specific examples might be unique, I know I'm not alone. I was in line at Dash's not too long ago, when the woman blathering on her cell phone said, "I'll call ya right back, I'm in line at b-Kwik." After the woman left, I asked the young cashier  if she even remembered b-Kwik. "Yeah, from when I was in like second grade," she said. Like a decade ago.

It's also apparent in people's voices. I spoke to Rick Azar at great length while researching my book on him, Tom Jolls, and Irv Weinstein. It was great to hear his voice get a taste of Spanish accent to it as he reminisced. 50 or 60 years of broadcasting with perfect diction can't take away that beautiful espanol sound engrained in you as a kid.

I just marvel at the brain, and would love to know the mysteries of how and why it does what it does to each of us. I just wish it wouldn't do whatever it is to me when I'm trying to order in the drive thru.




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I'm a scofflaw. Don't judge.
Why you won't see me leaving the library with books....
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com March 13, 2012


BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - This is embarrassing, and I feel like I have to explain myself.

I love libraries. I mean, even for people who love libraries, I love libraries. I was a library aide at Orchard Park Middle School. On the off chance I had lunch or an off period in high school, I was in the library.

I can honestly say, in college, I probably spent more time wandering the stacks at the Lockwood Library-- and learned more there-- than I did in class.

I know the Grosvenor Room at the downtown library like the back of my hand. I can tell you almost to the shelf where many of the best books or collections of books are located in that glorious room. And though it was likely the vinegary smell of disintegrating turn of the century pulp paper that caused it, I wept for a moment when I stumbled upon my own book in those stacks. It really means that much to me, seeing my book there, I've never felt more like a legitimate author and historian. It meant so much more than having the finished books in my hand, or seeing them for sale at a book store.

I've even had the honor at speaking at the library. Downtown. Right between the escalators. About the book I wrote, available for borrowing from the library. Available to you, that is. But not me. You see, I don't have a library card.

"WHA-A-A-A?," you ask in a stunned voice. And it's something that shames me; it really does. I can't get a library card. Don't hate me when I tell you that my library card was revoked when I was in middle school. A few hundred dollars in fines and lost books.

It wasn't me. I know that no man in prison is guilty, but I'm really not. I hate to speak ill of the dead, but it was my scofflaw father who left me in this dire strait.

It was well known by the South Park High School Library, the Daemen College Library, the Niagara University Library, and, yes, the Buffalo and Erie County Library that my ol'man wasn't too good at returning books. He would tense up at the thought of calling this theft, but that's pretty much what it was.

I don't know if he'd ever planned on returning volume after volume and it just got away from him, or whether he really thought one day he'd take them back when he was done with them. But suffice it to say, once when he was trying to write a book about world religions or something (It kept changing, and he rarely finished a project) he drove me to the library, and asked me to take out this big pile of big books. I was in 6th or 7th grade, and these were graduate level theology texts.

Somehow these books wound up in the same place where my parents kept my $120 in First Communion money for "safe keeping." Neither the books nor the cash was ever seen again.

I had assumed the books were returned, until one day I tried to take out a book and sirens blared and an armed guard escorted me out of the library. Not really, but they said I owed hundreds in fines and loss charges. Dad promised to pay. Never did. I ribbed him about it for years, and always said he'd take care it. Didn't.

There was always that thought, though, that if I really needed a library card, I'd go get a check from the ol'man and it'd be all set. Now I've got nothin'.

A few years ago, I applied again, but they bounced me. Its a shame I live with, but now feel a little better for having it out in the open.

Aside from good ol'books, one could go through a history lesson in audio/visual media in looking at what I've been barred from borrowing. I haven't been able to take out record albums, VHS movies, CDs, movies on DVD, and now books for my NOOK.

So don't tell me about how you can borrow e-books from the library. I've spent a lifetime (at least since I was 13) convincing myself that if a book is good enough to read, it's good enough to own and put on the shelf.

And since I'm not shelling out that couple hundred bucks anytime soon, it's something that I guess I'm going to have to continue to believe.





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The Wiping Willow Winter:
Muddy Dogs Make Prayers For Snow
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com February 23, 2012
Originally appeared at WBEN.com

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Maybe you hear it in my voice. As a journalist, I'm supposed to, and do, tackle my assignments without prejudice and with a willingness to hear both sides.

I hope you haven't heard it, but over the last few months, I just haven't been able to hide my disgust. As I read the weather forecast.

I'm not a skier or a snowmobiler, so I really don't mind the lack of snow. And since I don't play pond hockey, the fact that the lake didn't freeze causes me no real alarm (except that typical Buffalo expectation that we'll all be under 37 feet of snow on April Fools Day.)

Really, I love the warmth and sunshine maybe even more than the average guy. But this year, nothing ruins my day like seeing a high temperature of 43 or 39. Above freezing. Well above freezing. There's no snow to melt, but the ground does get soft. 

There really hasn't been much of a winter at all, which is why the winter of 2011-12 will forever be remembered in the Cichon house as the "Winter of the Muddy Paws."

If you are a dog owner, how can you be excited to hear that its 30 today, but tomorrow we could hit 38? Can you really feel the difference between 30 and 38? Even if you can, good luck enjoying those "warmer temperatures," since in my house a quick 25 seconds outside in the backyard can equal up to 5 minutes of paw, leg, and belly cleaning.

Willow is good. She sits and will even hand you a paw to be cleaned; very regal for an SPCA mutt. But if you've just about finished wiping, and a squirrel pops his head over the fence.... forget it.

I really don't want to be one of those people who finds something to complain about everything, and I'm generally not that way. Even about our usually mundane winter tasks like scraping of windshields and snowblowing the driveway. No problem. But these dirty paws, five, six or thirteen times a day, sometimes just to do the quick run out and come in for a treat.

It's affecting my marriage and showing my flaws. So far deep into the spare bathroom towels, I'm not sure whether I'm about to pluck a "good towel" from the linen closet or not. And saints preserve us if there's an unexpected muddy paw and I reach for the good dish towel.

Even as a lifelong Buffalonian, I don't know that the weather's ever had such a lousy effect on me. Another month of snow? No problem. I have furry hats to keep me warm. There is no kind of head gear to get you through muddy paws.

About now is the point in my rant when someone will mention that they saw these cute little booties for dogs' paws, so that you can put them on when they go out, and take them off when they come back in. These were obviou sly designed either by someone who has never been around a dog, or by someone who hates dog owners. Willow would, and rightly so, go out in the muddiest part of the yard and roll around in it, covering herself in mud trying to get those booties off her paws. Her paws would stay clean, but the rest of her would be caked in mud.

At this point, if taking out the ice boom means spring is here, for the sake of my mental well-being, I hope the solid-ground-part of spring is around the corner really fast. To think it could be another two months of picking mud covered grass bits from between the toes of this animal could actually have me hoping for a blizzard. I'm losing grip with reality on this.

I really wish I could be one of the proud Buffalonians who can think only of Mr. Softee trucks and shorts when we hit 42 degrees in February, and most winters I'm with ya. But this year, that excitement is marred by the same mark as my kitchen floor: a big muddy paw print.

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Rubbery Chicken & Canadian Puppets:
Being Home sick takes me back to Childhood and Mr. Dressup
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com February 21, 2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - There's something about the old days. I know, news flash, right?

But really, upon examination, they really weren't all that better than today. Unless you are a miserable Luddite, i.e., someone who hates or fears technology, living is easier now than ever before. Easier isn't necessarily better, but when virtually everything (except 'getting away from it all') is easier, it's got to be better on the whole.

Still, even the worn-in feeling and familiarity of even the most uncomfortable things of our past bring us some level of comfort, especially when the going gets a little rough.

Today, I had a type of day which has been rare for me in adulthood; a sick day where I wasn't bed bound or just too nauseous or pained to really want to do anything.

It was supposed to be a vacation day, but I have a lousy cold. The kind of day that wouldn't normally stop me from going to work, but not a day where I'd get much more than the bare minimum done, between filling up the tea cup, blowing my nose, and generally feeling a little beat up and a little run down.

But instead of putting in a solid 'C+' day down in the salt mine, I sat at home with all sorts of great plans for the day.

Those plans just weren't to be. With my sinuses feeling like they're filled silly putty and the rest of my head slogging around like wet cotton balls, well, the cold just took the sails out of my wind. I think. When you're not sure, without deep thought whether you're saying it right, or quoting former Bills Head Coach and King of the Malaprop Hank Bullough, it's time for a rest.

Home alone, and too sick to do anything good, but well enough to want to do something. Just try to remember that euphoric feeling after the bus went by, and you were assured a day home from school.

That's really about where I was this morning. Not being one to 'bang in' unless there is death, vomiting, or no voice (important for me!) in the forecast, I go to work, so I'm left to think about sick days as a little twerp, and immediately it's a thought that brings comfort between anticipated sneezes that never come.

After a nice bath ( who has time for a bath anymore!), I made a can of soup on the stovetop. Normally, the thought of all that salt is enough to raise my blood pressure, but not today. It's incredible to me, but even that awful processed single piece of 'chicken meat' in the can took me back to a simpler time.

And I used the stove top for the tea kettle, too. We didn't have a microwave until my teen years. I can survive waiting more than exactly 2 minutes and 29 seconds (I stop it before the beeps) for water for my tea.

Not even really on purpose, and not even really thinking about it, I started my vacation day just like a good ol'sick day.

While I hadn't planned it to be like that, I was thinking about now, and how nice, how comforting it would be to run through the sick day staple TV lineup. For me, it started with Jerome and Rusty on 'The Friendly Giant,' and then Casey, Finnegan, and the Tickle trunk on Mr.Dressup on CBC.

Then Bob Barker, Johnny Olson, Janice, Dian, and the beautiful Holly on the 'Price is Right' on Channel 4, before a quick switch to Channel 2 at noon for the Flintstones.

Of course, the Price is Right remains, but to me in name only. When grandmas would wear homemade t-shirts because they'd been watching Bob since he was on Truth or Consequences, and then would jump for excitement when they win a news washing machine, that was real.

Hipsters wearing too-tight t-shirts they paid to have made at a kiosk in the mall, who feign excitement because it's ironic that they win a washing machine because they don't bathe; that just doesn't do it for me.

But, then there's YouTube. Technology of today, soothing my fever induced nostalgia.

I watched 'The Friendly Giant,' and didn't have to fight with my brother over who was going to get to sit in the rocking chair if we ever went to visit the Friendly Giant.

I also got to watch Mr. Dressup make a pretend clarinet out of a paper towel tube, and I got to listen back a few times to my favorite Mr. Dressup sounds: his scissors and his markers. The only way I could have had a better childhood is if my scissors made that crisp a noise as they cut, and my markers that fantastic a whine as they whizzed across the paper.

I also got a good helping of the original 'Come on Down!!' man Johnny Olson, and Bob Barker with a mahogany colored head.

As always, the past is a nice place to visit, but one really shouldn't live there. It's dishonest to live there. It's our amazing present, with YouTube on smart phones that helps make it happen.

But still, its really amazing how rubbery chicken bits and decades old video of Canadian puppets, and the memories they rekindle can make a lousy day a little less so.

It's too bad. I really would have enjoyed today if I wasn't sick.

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John Otto's Love Rubs Off:
The best ever never lost his fire and passion
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com February 17,2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Sometimes the way life lines a series of seemingly unrelated events like lights on an airport runway can make a guy pause and question his sanity, because the answer is almost too clear.

For the past three days, I've been filling in for John Zach on Buffalo's Early News on WBEN. The four-hour news show starts at 5am, and John does most of the writing when he's here. For me, that meant getting up at 2:45am, in order to give myself about 90 minutes to put the local news together. John gets here earlier than that, and has been doing it just about every day for most of the 50 years he's worked in radio.

I question myself often, would I be able to do this; get up like this. I did early morning weekends for a few years, but in 19 years of broadcasting, never a regular Monday-Friday, in-to-get-the morning show ready gig. John, who has worked the morning shift in parts of 7 different decades has said, "You never get used to it."

I've filled in on the shift before, even for just a week or two, and always walked around feeling like a two-hour old grilled cheese; still crusty and gooey, but crusty and gooey in the wrong places. I just didn't feel right, and never felt like I sounded as good as I could or should. And it always bothers me that when I set my alarm for 2:45am, my wife is rattled awake, too.

But this week, in the midst of working this early morning shift, one of the guys at work was cleaning out some files and handed me an old envelope he thought I might be interested in labeled MASTER TAPES-- JOHN OTTO HALL OF FAME. Aside from being a master of the English language, the father of talk radio in Buffalo, and one of the top 5 broadcasters to ever grace the airwaves in Buffalo, John is somewhat of a personal hero to me.

Needless to say, I snatched the envelope, and delved inside not only to find hours of reels, cassettes, and DATs (an early digital tape format), but I also found a paper-filled folder labelled "John Otto."

On top were a couple dozen e-mails and cards sent to WGR in the days following John's death. Touching memories from fans and friends far and wide. Beautiful and filled with raw emotion. Then came John's handwritten professional biography, tracing his radio career from the early 50s to the late 90s, only a year or so before his passing. (I know what you're thinking, and I'll be sharing all this soon enough at staffannouncer.com.)

But what I found most gratifying were the notes that had been sent back and forth over the years to a succession of 5 or 6 supervisors at WGR. And while even a John Otto note complaining about a co-worker's tardiness or an equipment problem flows across the paper the way a ballerina glides across the stage, that's still not the point.

It started to strike me when I saw the note he wrote in 1995 asking to work Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve, and New Years Day. He was begging to work those days. Days most of us would curse the boss who forced us to work, but here, 43 years into his broadcasting career, and John's tone was nearly inconsolate, worried that some other program might pre-empt his conference call of all interested parties.

In case the point be lost, John writes it quite plainly in one note. "The very principle on which I've always conducted myself, to wit, if one is in radio, you want to be on radio at every opportunity."

After an illness took him off the air for a spell, he wrote in another missive that he's ready to come back "if you'll have me," adding, " My appetite is restored, miracle of all, my taste buds are a-bloom once more. You've got no idea what life is like without the ability to taste... 'til you've not got it."

John Otto, almost 50 years into his career had such a fire in his belly for it. Not a soul better, universally lauded; but still fearful that it could be taken away. Would that we all felt that way about anything in our lives, let alone our job.

It made me think of my friend Ed Little, who was that way, too. He worked a tremendous 62 years in radio, starting as a child actor. I was with him in 2000 when he delivered his last newscast on WBEN, also the last program to originate from the studios on Elmwood Avenue.

Septuagenarian Ed couldn't get a handle on the new computers, despite going through extra training on his own. Within a few months, he passed away. His heart was bad, but I know it was a broken heart, too.

Twenty years ago, my fire was inexhaustible. I can remember going to work as an 18 year old within hours of my grandma's cancer death.

Thinking back on it, it makes me sad that I went in to board op Buffalo's Evening News that night, and didn't spend the time with my family. But that's what I was and what I did. I think I've learned a little about life and about work since then.

Family's much more important. I write books. I have a website. I'm on Boards of Directors, and I give talks about Buffalo History. I also work a pretty much 9-5 job these days. It's not often I'm challenged to see how hot that fire burns.

I know it there, because it has to be there to be working in radio, or in any number of jobs similar in that there really isn't much money. And its not the fame or the notoriety,either. Its having the blessing of doing a job that thousands would line up behind you to do for free. And just having that job, and being blessed with the gift of it, and being able to live a dream. And not wanting to give it up for the world.

So I've been thinking about whether or not I could work the morning shift, and the answer is of course. And though I sometimes play the curmudgeon, and complain about getting up early on those days when the job calls for it, the fact of the matter is, I'd do just about whatever they told me to do to keep it going. And this week, I even loved the early mornings. Loved every minute of hosting that show with Susan Rose. Loved it with that John Otto fire.

Just today, I read a Forbes Magazine article, which talks about the only three questions employers need to ask perspective employees. I say, you only need to ask one of those three. Will you love this job?

If the answer is no, go find something else. When I say love, I mean LOVE. Not 'like the hours,' or the pay, or the doors it might open. Love the job. Put your heart into it. Life is just too short.

"You know me," John Otto closes one note with, "I just want to be on the radio." Me too.

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Jack Anthony's Legacies:
Squeezing out Every Last Opportunity to Give
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com February 10,2012
Originally appeared in the Parkside Community Association E-mail Newsletter

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Jack Anthony is larger than life in many ways.

His physical presence is commanding. At first it's the tall frame and broad shoulders of a man you wouldn't want to tangle with that you notice, but then it's the smirk and gleam in his eye that capture your attention and leave you to wonder what fun this guy's about to get into.

And while most of us hope to leave a legacy of some sort, Jack lives among legacies too many to count. He's hoping to add one more big one.

Having grown up in the Parkside neighborhood, Jack has been a civic leader here for parts of seven decades. A lifelong member and leader at Central Presbyterian Church, he was also a co-founder of the Parkside Community Association 49 years ago. The reason for that first meeting in his parents living room was the invasion of unethical real estate people whispering that 'blacks are moving in and it's time to sell.'

Jack stood up to say 'yes they are, and welcome.' It wasn't a popular notion in 1963, but it gained steam, and helped save the neighborhood we love today from being overrun by those sales people only looking to make a fast buck by buying low and selling high at any cost.

His most recent neighborhood effort was at the forefront of getting The People's Park up and running, where dozens enjoy a nice break next to the TriMain Building on Main Street.

Jack's also a family man, with second and third generations of his big mixed clan involved in the affairs of the neighborhood. Spending decades as a Buffalo school teacher, he spread a message of being good to one another to a couple generations of kids.

But even with all those accomplishments and legacies, the biggest impact came as the Director of Cradle Beach camp. Jack gave his summers for decades so thousands of kids who may not have had much else to look forward to had not only some fun, but maybe walked or wheeled away with a slightly different outlook.

After a life of service to others, Jack is spending more time this days trying to keep his own brain going properly. He suffers from Lewy Body Dementia, as you may have seen when his photo (right) was featured in the Buffalo News a little bit ago.

Even as dementia slowly steals away the mind of the man who has spent a lifetime giving so much, he's working on the biggest plan yet, and hoping to raise $125,000 to build the Jack Anthony pavilion at Cradle Beach Camp, so that he might continue to help future generations of campers once he's no longer able to be there physically.

Many of you know Jack, and will want to help. Even if you don't know Jack, and have enjoyed a Parkside Tour of Homes, Chili Cookoff, Halloween Party, or even a nice walk through our beautiful neighborhood, you owe Jack. Please consider a donation to help this great man and man of the people fulfill another selfless wish--

https://www.cradlebeach.org/donation.

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My Cardiac Adventure:
What I learned on a trip to the hospital
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com November 28, 2011

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Its with mixed emotions I find myself morphing into my dad more and more on a daily basis.

I'm really amused by some of the small things, and, in the way that slowly seeped into my being after spending so much time with my ol'man, I just don't give a shit (pardon my language, but it's Dad's way) about some things, and just find it a waste of time to think about it.

Over the years, and especially since he died, I've stopped resisting, and actually started enjoying being more like my father. That is, in every way but one.

A big part of the reason Dad's looking down on us now is because he didn't take care of himself.

To be certain, he had a load of health problems, from a bad back, to Diabetes, to leg amputation, to heart disease; the last of which actually killed him.

And while those are all serious, Dad treated them less than seriously. He'd ask me to bring him donuts in the hospital while he was in the ICU recovering from diabetic coma. It's not that he didn't care; I just think he was a little overwhelmed by it all, and donuts seemed to help.

I've been acknowledging to myself for a while that I really need to get on blood pressure and cholesterol meds; that cleaning up my diet hasn't done enough. The problem is, there's always a good excuse to not go to the doctor- starting a new job, new book coming out, whatever.

Until it comes to a head at 3:30 one morning, and what the hell.

It felt kind of like heartburn, but a little more intense with a slightly different sensation. As I normally do when I get heartburn, I chugged a little Pepto Bismol. Didnt do a damn thing. The dog was looking to go out, so we went downstairs. The walk up left me feeling worse. My arms started to hurt. I really didn't think I was having a heart attack, but I really didn't know what was going on. I just knew it was different than anything I'd felt before, and also that my dad never felt any of the heart attacks he had, even the big one that weakened his heart to the point it stopped pumping a week later.

I tried to go back to sleep, but the combination of pain and anxiety lead me to think, "if this doesn't stop by 4:30, I'm waking up Monica to take me to the hospital."

That's what happened. Ridiculously high blood pressure and family history had them run a battery of tests, including a stress test. That stress test is why I spent the night, because they couldn't do one until the next day.

All the tests were fine, and they were making fun of how well I did on the stress test (they stopped at 13 minutes. I would have kept on going.)

So I have "heart like bull," and all is well. I will be going on blood pressure, cholesterol, and GERD meds, like I probably should have a year or two ago. And I will take them. Like dad, I put it off. Unlike dad, I will take them, like the cardiologist said.

I do have to admit, though, given that the hospital was a setting dad did so well in-- both mentally and physically, I can see why he liked it in here. He really did, for all his complaining, enjoy his stays in the hospital.

I really do feel bad that people feel bad that I'm in here (I'm writing this as I await discharge), and feel even worse that people feel the need to come visit. I feel and know I am extraordinarily blessed for both, but now have a better understanding of why dad used to say, "Why don't you guys go home?"

I used to wait until he asked me to go home three times before I'd leave. I always broke my heart when I'd have to leave before he told me to "get outta here."

I was in here one night, and had 7 visitors, including Fr. Duke Zajac, who was visiting people anyway, but I feel blessed to have had his company, and the company of all my family who were here. I resisted the urge to tell them to go home; except for Monica. She wasn't very happy with me when I told her she could go home, but I think she understands. Or maybe not. I never fully understood dad until now.

Just like dad, I got in trouble a couple of times for being too respectful to nurses. "Ma'am?," said one today. "I have your chart here. We're the same age." My response was, that anyone who has my life in their hands gets all the respect I can muster.

Although I respect everyone I encounter, and calling a person sir or ma'am is part of that respect my ol'man instilled in me. If you can't handle respect, thats your problem, not mine.

Also, like dad, surprisingly, I enjoyed the food. I've been visiting people in hospitals my whole life, thinking that the meals look and smell like dog food.

But it was with a combination of hunger and excitement that I welcomed last night's dinner of gluten free pasta with meat sauce. It was really amazing. I laughed thinking of my dad, as just like him, I stopped just short of licking the plate... Though I might have had there not been people watching.

I kicked it up on the dadometer when today's lunch came. Now I was starving, having not eaten breakfast because of the stress test. When the tray showed up with an egg salad sandwich on gluten free bread, I told Monica (who didn't go home), " I'm not eating that."

I've never eaten an egg salad sandwich. Ever. It looks gross. I was an extremely picky eater as a kid, and some of those things I've held onto, like egg salad. So I'm not eating it. But I did eat the green beans, and pudding. And then I unwrapped and inspected the egg salad sandwich. Took bite. By the time Monica looked up, the sandwich was just about gone. Best egg salad sandwich I've ever had. That's something my dad would have said, even if it wasn't the ONLY egg salad sandwich he'd ever had.

So, I really don't mind being like my ol'man in most ways, but I think my quick stop in the cardiac wing of the hospital will wind up being a lot like that egg salad sandwich.

They were both interesting, in many ways probably necessary, and even a little enjoyable , but from here on out, I'll be doing everything necessary to make sure that this is my last trip to the hospital, and to make sure that's the last egg salad sandwich I'll eat for a long, long time.

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Donuts & Booze:
Happy Birthday 60th Birthday, Dad.
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com December 10,2011

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Today my ol'man would have been 60 years old. I miss him, but he's really not that far away... He fills my heart and my brain.

For example, were he around today, it would've gone like this: We'd walk in the door, and he'd yell in an exaggerated voice, "WHERE's MY PRESENT? DID YOU BRING ME A DONUT?"

He was racked with pain and depression most of the time towards the end, and it was always nice to see him happy and fired up.

Now as far as that present, I think he knew more often than not what I'd be giving him, but I don't think he allowed himself to expect it. To add the gravitas of it all, I often brought it over unwrapped in it's natural state.

The boisterousness would instantly turn to whisper, and his Marine Corps-bred instincts would kick in.

"Don't tell your mother," he'd much too loudly whisper, brown bottle in hand. As he'd begin to think of a good hiding spot, it would dawn on him.

"Why didn't you get me the bigger bottle?," he'd demand, back in that same tone as Where's my present but at a hushed volume.

RIGHT: DAD DRINKING AN OLD MILWAUKEE TALL BOY, 1984

It was an ongoing discussion between Dad and me. He'd rather have a $7 two gallon jug of whiskey from the paint thinner aisle of the liquor store, but I'd always buy him one of those smaller, flat-plastic-flask-shaped bottles, like you find laying around the park on a Saturday or Sunday morning. The kind of bottles they keep behind the counter. The kind of bottles Kesslers or Old Grandad don't usually come in.

Dad wanted more, and wanted it to be cheaper for me. I wanted to give my ol'man a taste, but not too much. He was a diabetic, was on about a million pills. The booze messed with his blood sugar and some of those pills. He didn't care. He liked a little whiskey in his iced tea or diet ginger ale or diet lemon-lime.

The bottle also had to be plastic, because the diabetic neuropathy dad had in his hands was so bad, he could barely feel them. His hands didn't work too well.

So it was a small plastic bottle, and I was happy to be the ol'man's hook up. Of course you hope he'll live forever, but if you told my dad that by giving up booze he'd live another six months, he would have comically shoved a glass in your face and told you to Fill'er up.

He smoked on and off from the time he was in grade school, and ate more donuts than any other diabetic heart patient in the history of man. Those were his choices. And though they made me sad, and I'd encourage otherwise constantly, I couldn't make the decision for him. Same with the booze. The only thing stopping him from having a drink was his inability to get to the liquor store.

Now he wasn't an alcoholic or anything, but he liked a drink. And didn't care what it did to him. His rough physical state of well being was actually better than his sorry emotional state, so making him happy was important to me. And I'm pretty sure getting that bottle as a gift made him happier than the actual drinking did.

Also, inevitably would come the reminder that we had to be nice to him because it was his birthday, and because he was moving soon, and not going to tell us where he was moving to.

"Some honey just told your ol'man he looks like he's about 28," he'd say, just like he had at probably every birthday since he was 29.

Dad died way too young, but I'm glad not before at could laugh at his stupid jokes and the dumb things he'd say over and over again. I see a few people I'm close to finally appreciating their parents as people for the first time, and enjoying them with all their faults. It's tough with parents, because it's literally a lifetime's worth of baggage we carry in dealing with them.

For dad's birthday, please do him the honor of trying to accept some of the stupid stuff your mom or dad might do. And please give them a hug and tell them you love 'em.

I did that all the time with dad, and it still doesn't feel like it was enough.

Happy birthday, ol'man.

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Taking 9/11 Out of it's Box:
September 11th, Ten Years Later
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com September 11,2011

I've been writing this for a while, but felt moved to finish it this 10th anniversary morning. It's really about my struggle with coming to grips with 9.11. I really can't bear to think what the struggle's been like for those who lost someone, or had their lives directly altered forever.

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - My feelings on the September 11th attacks on America are really a lot like the box of recordings I made that day; preserving for posterity the radio coverage which I was a part of on our country's worst day.

When the first plane hit, I was sitting in a cubicle with some radio and TV equipment, listening back to Bills Head Coach Gregg Williams talk about the Bills season opening loss to the Saints.

I looked at a TV monitor (they were everywhere... I was working at Empire Sports Network and 107.7 WNSA), saw the smoking tower, and remember seeing some television reporter standing on the top of another building with the smoke as a backdrop.

Terrible accident, I thought. Didn't that happen to the Empire State Building during World War II?

Interesting, but my job was to get sound bites ready for the day's sportscasts. I was wearing headphones and was engrossed in listening about Rob Johnson's paltry performance as quarterback.

I know I sat there even after the second plane, wanting to keep busy, not wanting to be a part of the wild speculation and fear that was going on in front of those TVs. My friend Ricky Jay, a sportscaster at WNSA, seemed almost crazed when he came over to talk me, saying we're at war now. He was ready to take up arms.

I didnít want to be crazed. A.) I wanted to process this all, eventually, but B.) I had to be able to perform my job. I had learned from the age of 15, working in the WBEN newsroom, that you often had to buckle sown and suspend reality to get through covering news. Couldnít worry during snow storms, or cheer during Bills games. The pressure was greater this day, but it was the same matrix for me.

Howard Simon was on the air, and really having a hard time of it. I remember hugging him as he sobbed, watching his hometown of New York, looking like a war zone; worrying about his parents. This wasnít a football game or a snow storm, but I pushed it out of the way to get the job done.

My main job then was producer. I helped put talk shows together, then technically ran the radio station while the shows were on. My fellow producer Neil McManus left early that day to go get his kids; and I can remember spending most of the rest of the day... From mid-morning to evening, mostly alone in the radio studio, running CNN's audio, with the occasional legal ID, and just recording.

There alone, of course, was a lot to think about. But I used all the will I had, however, to not think about it.

I had that job to do, and getting emotionally involved in this would prevent me from doing my job. So I stoically blocked it out. Iím really still paying for it to this day.

Suppressing my worry for our nation was one thing; but I was also dealing with some pretty big personal questions relative to the day.

Were my fiancťe and I going to have to cancel our wedding two weeks away?

I'm sure I fielded calls from Monica that day, but I don't really remember. I know we were worried about our wedding, and our European honeymoon, complete with transatlantic flights already long booked.

But at my station, behind the controls I stayed, until it was time to go, around 6pm. The ride home was perhaps the longest I've ever taken.

It was 9 hours after it all began before I'd allow myself to even consider what the hell had happened in New York, to our country, to our world.

What had spread over the course of the work day for most people was hitting me like a rainstorm of bricks; but I also felt the guilt of not expressing any emotion during the day. I was a mess.

At home, I remember our couch was in our dining room as we remodeled our 100 year old house.

I'm sure I was happy to see my fiancee, and sure we talked about our wedding, but all I can remember is laying on that couch in the dining room in the fetal position, weeping, watching TV coverage, and letting the day's emotions catch up with and wash over me.

It was back to work the next day in a different world. We talked about sports on the sports talk station, But only insofar as a Bills game being cancelled for the first time since the JFK assassination. I recorded it all. I can also remember recording WBEN that day.

Mike Schopp had the idea that he'd give a dollar to the Red Cross for everyone who called the show and just talked about what was on their mind. I liked it and also pledged a buck per call. In the end, dozens of pledges and hundreds of calls meant thousands of dollars for the Red Cross relief efforts. I recorded these shows.

Mike also had the idea to start playing Ray Charles' America the Beautiful to end every show.

I know a bunch of us from the station went to a noon mass on September 12th. For a few, it was the first trip inside a church for a long time.

My then fiancťe and I joined Chris Parker and the then very pregnant Kirsten Parker on a MetroRail trip from our Parkside homes downtown on the metro rail for the big candlelight vigil in Niagara square.

We all felt a need to come together and be a part of something larger, something that meant something.

As the days, months, and years passed, the new normal that we all have become used to took hold.

Some have even watched TV shows and read books about that horrific day, many so that 'they don't forget.'

I guess that's part of the reason I spent the hours and days following the attacks on America recording what was going out over Buffalo's airwaves-- I did it so I wouldn't forget. But the little box with all those tapes from that day... Remains taped shut, with the same tape I applied in mid-September 2001.

But now, it's a decade later, and even with all that's changed, I havenít come close to forgetting.

Today, my wife and I have a little trip planned to celebrate our 10th anniversary. I watch The Parkers' son, a big 9 year old, grow up and enjoy life on Facebook. The conversations about life and beyond I have Ricky Jay these days are some of the most fulfilling and meaningful, soulful conversations that any two men might have with each other. I'm also back on 107.7, as WBEN now simulcasts on the station where I worked then.

In my world, relationships and feelings have grown and changed since that date, September 11, 2001.

Perhaps the only relationship that is exactly the same, still as stark and vivid as it was that day, is my relationship with that day's events themselves. I don't need to open that box.

I haven't watched any documentaries; I've avoided any prolonged exposure to people talking about that day. I see the footage, I change the channel.

When I say I want that box kept closed, I mean it. I too easily feel that same pit in my stomach that I felt laying on the couch 10 years ago. It's just as strong. I wept as I edited a story for WBEN about this 10th anniversary. I felt moved to vomit as I looked at photos from that day to put on our website.

I don't want to open that box, but today I am, letting audio clips and feelings see their first light of day in a decade.

Not because I want to, and not because I think anyone's forgotten. How could you forget? Iím opening the box for the other reason I rolled all these tapes on that day: For the sake of history. It's history now.

Some college kids, certainly high school kids and younger, have no good direct memories of that day.

I don't think any of us that were around will ever forget, but now, a decade later, we're all charged with making sure the next generation knows.

It's quite painful to open the box, but we all owe it to the thousands who lost their lives that day.

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Lightning Does Strike Twice:
Running into Friends Halfway Around the World
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com October, 2011


BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - When you travel, there's always a Buffalo connection; some reminder of home abroad. Whether you run into someone wearing a Bills hat in Mumbai or a hot dog cart selling Sahlen's in Dallas,  chance encounters with vestiges of home while on the road are really so commonplace, it's almost to a point where they're expected.

Those "six degrees of separation" stories are a little more unusual. On our most recent cruise, a woman who worked for a big national corporation wound up sitting next to the parents of a man who worked for the same company half way around the country. But a minute into the conversation, the woman realized she worked very closely with their son, and knew him quite well, if only over the phone and e-mail.

When stories like these would arise, I'd always tell the story of how Monica and I randomly ran into my friend, one time co-worker,  and Channel 4 news anchor Jacquie Walker at Epcot Center. Neither of us knew the other would be in Orlando, over one thousand miles from the TV studios where we both worked. To think of how many cosmic events must have lined up to run into a fellow Buffalonian just outside the Hall of Presidents floors me every time I think of  it.

Once in a lifetime occurrence, right? Well, not quite.

Fast forward about 12 years, and Monica and I are shivering our way through a hop-on/hop-off tour of the Canadian city of Halifax. It was the final port of call on the New England/Maritime Canada cruise we were taking in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary.

As the classic double-decker London bus we were riding came up to a stop, I looked out the window to see a gentleman who looked very much like our neighbor David Lampe. A lot like David, in fact.

But truth be told, David is a retired English professor with a penchant for tweed caps. In  other words, a historical tour of one of North America's oldest cities is exactly the  type of place one might expect to see a David look-a-like, if not multiple David looks-a-like.

So as the bus was coming to that stop, and as I was about to point out the David look-a-like to Monica, the woman next to the David look-a-like turns around to reveal herself as a Ruth Lampe look-a-like.

Quite flabbergasted, I very plainly said to Monica, "That's Ruth and David Lampe," as if I'd seen them on the yogurt aisle at Wegmans.

She saw immediately who I was pointing to, but despite my incredulous tone, thought I was playing a game we often play, pointing out people who remind us of other people.

It sounded nonsensical, seeing couple who live 2 blocks away back home, here in a different country and a different time zone, but there they were. "No, seriously, that's David and Ruth." 

The next bus stop was actually around the corner, so we hurriedly hopped off, and had to run a bit to catch up with them.

Ruth and Dave were just as delighted and flabbergasted as we were.

Unbeknownst to us, while we had taken a Carnival cruise, they had taken a Princess cruise with a very similar itinerary. 

We chatted for a few minutes, and then went our separate ways in Nova Scotia, although I think we were all a little stunned, and the whole conversation was every bit like we were on the produce aisle at Dash's Market.

A few dozen times over the last few days of our vacation, Monica and I laughed and shook our head in disbelief, running into our friends and neighbors so far from home; and thinking about how it was amazing that this had happened to us twice. 

See you in Sheboygan?

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Max the Dog:
15 Jun 2001- 14 May 2011
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - As I begin to write this, I'm sitting here, typing with one hand on my phone, petting Max with the other, waiting for the call from the vet to bring him in. For the last time.

He hasn't eaten in 5 days, won't even look at food. Can't drink more than a few laps without spitting it up.

X-rays show a big tumor blocking up his belly.

Max came to us from the SPCA almost a decade ago. He was Monica's first real pet, and the first pet I've ever had any real emotional attachment to...

We had dogs growing up, and they were ok, but in a house of 5, I was certainly less connected to Buckshot, Snoop, or Casey than my parents or brother or sister.

Casey fell in love with Monica when we were dating, and it was that literal puppy love which helped Monica get over the emotional scars of a dog bite from when she was a little girl (even though she'll still tell you 'Butch is in hell.')

With Butch in hell,emotional scars healed, and us newlyweds in a big house, Monica decided she wanted a dog. When Monica decides she wants something, she starts researching.

Early research took her to the SPCA website, and the page featuring a friendly mutt named Max.

I don't remember exactly what was in that write up, but he sounded like my kind of dog, and the photo showed he was a handsome and sweet looking character. It did mention that he was a mixed breed of unknown origin (they said shepherd/lab, but who knows?), and they said that though he showed some signs of abuse (his tail was chopped and his ears were cut), he was still very loving.

When we went to go visit this young man at the SPCA, Max was the only dog sitting quietly with anticipation, while the rest were barking and trying to get our attention.

I walked up to the chain link cage he was in, put my hand up to it, and he gave my hand a quick, dry lick. One of my big hang ups-- any dog we got couldn't be a slobberer.

That quick visit, and that dry lick, had me convinced on Max. In her heart, Monica was, too, but this was an early instance of a discussion we've had many times during our marriage. I always say, if you've found something you like, and it's reasonable, just pull the trigger.

Even though Monica's patience has saved us hundreds on airfares, for example, this time it cost us a dog we both wanted.

She really liked him, but said let's think about, let's wait. So, we didn't get him that day.

When, a couple days later, we went back, convinced on Max, ready to sign the paperwork, we found his cage empty.

He'd been adopted. Very traumatic, especially for Monica who'd had her heart set on this creature.

We went home and regrouped. Scanned the SPCA website again, and were ready to go meet some more animals.

We pulled in to the parking lot, and there, literally being taken out of a minivan and back into the shelter, tail wagging the whole time... None other than Max the Dog!

You wouldn't have believed it if it was written this way in a Hallmark movie, but here it is playing out on Ensminger Road.

He was too energetic, said whomever it was that tried him on for a few days.

Clearly, divine providence brought this fur bag into our lives. I have believed this from day one.

There's always that feeling out period for both the dog and the people... He was deathly afraid of the crate, so we blocked off an area in the front hall with baby gates. He was afraid of the baby gates, too, this 60 pound dog.

Eventually, though, he gained free roam of the house and our hearts.

For about two years, I woke up every morning to the sound of him killing the washcloth Monica had just washed her face with. Actually, I woke up to the sound of him thrashing the washcloth in his mouth about half the time. The other half, I woke up to Monica swearing about the dog and the washcloth.

We agreed early on that we'd keep him off the furniture, and I'd yell at him if he was found on the couch or on the bed. What I eventually found out, was Monica was letting him up on the couch and bed when I wasn't home. All and all, it's fair to say Max got more use out of my bed over the last decade than I did.

After he gave up the washcloth, this beast found a new way to wake me up. He'd repeatedly back his rump into the bed, until I reached over and gave the whole area around his tail a good scratching, then he'd hop into bed, and lay with his back stretched out against mine, laying like a human with his head on the pillow.

This dog really had a near perfect personality. He was always happy and hopeful. A bit high maintenance, but he paid it back. He'd just walk up, give you one of those dry licks on the hand and walk away. Nothing wanted, nothing needed. Just a hello.

He was a great dog, but he had a pea sized brain. He knew quite a few words. There were three different words for outside.

Outside is where you went out the back door. Porch is where you went out the from door, and the side door, well, that's from where you went for a walk. Probably half of his vocabulary revolved around walks. he knew the work walk, the word leash, and if you just said the word, "Go," and left it dangling the right way, he'd think you were inviting him for a walk whether you were or not.

Other words he knew: Bowl, as in his food bowl; bed, as in it's time for bed, so I'd better run upstairs and try to claim my place on the bed; he also knew toy; and Momma and Poppa, as in, Where's your Momma. He'd always take me to Monica.

I tried to insist that I wasn't a poppa, but a 'male owner.' Max never understood that.

His favorite word though, beyond a doubt: cheese.

He could hear the cheese drawer open from anywhere in the house, even the yard. He also knew the sound of American cheese singles being unwrapped, and could some how differentiate between that and other plastic wrappers.

He begged for cheese in the same way he'd beg for at dinner. It wasn't really aggressive, it was just passive and pathetic. Sitting at attention, eyes fixed on the prize, drips of drool in the corners of the mouth ands on the floor, and the occasional paw in the air or on the leg. He knew he had to 'sit' and give 'paw,' two more of his words.

Sometimes he wouldn't beg, but use the tricks he'd learned to get what he wanted. Like ask to go outside, make a quick circle on the back porch, and head back in expecting a treat. He was funny with treats. He'd look in your hand; if it was empty, he knew to look in his bowl. For something extra special, you could tell him, upstairs... and he would run to the top of the stairs to wait for his treat.

Max was probably a world record holder in two categories. Number of photographs taken of a dog, and number of nicknames. He knew all of his nicknames. Most curse words he responded to, but also Stinky boy, smelly man, The Stinky Man on Campus, little man, Mr. Man (like the old lady on the Blues Brothers), young man, old man, gray beard, fur bag, fur ball, fur burger, MTD the PYT (think Michael Jackson), buddy, pal, really you name it. Many of these were also set to songs. There's a third record. No dog has ever had more impromptu songs written and sang about him to him. Ever.

It's also a little known fact that Max talked. It was through me,but he did have his own distinct voice. He mispronounced big words, and made a lot of jokes about Monica, but he always apologized. I think it's comforting for both Monica and me that some how Max can still communicate with us from the other side.

Whenever we'd walk in the door, most times you'd see one of two things: Either him standing on the landing on the stair case wagging his tail, or, if we fumbled around outside enough, you'd see nothing but a tail wagging through the window on the door on the other side of the foyer. Maybe a nose sticking through if that door was cracked open.

When I was home and Monica wasn't, there wasn't a sound he loved more than the sound of her car doors locking with that half beep. He'd be watching out the front window, nosing open the curtains, tail wagging-- rear end wagging, actually, in anticipation of the whole family being together again. He get really excited at the notion.

When sitting in the living room, we often knew the other was home by the thump-thump sound of Max jumping off the bed in the bedroom above us. He was getting up to greet. Part of his job, along with sniffing and licking.

He'd stand on the porch and wiggle if someone'd open the front door. A greeting from Max meant you're home.

He loved to sniff bags as we came home from shopping, and liked clothes and shampoo as well as food.

Good ol' Max was a lover, not a fighter. Never bit anyone. Never. Not even playing. He'd growl pretty mean sometimes, look like he was going to bite, but then lick.

He did this most nights, when it was time to leave our bed, go outside, and then go on his bed.

Just a 'Hey, Max...' and he knew what was up. Sometimes he'd go without a fight. Sometimes he'd try to be dead weight and not move.... Growl when I'd grab his collar... and then sometimes, if he really didn't feel like going, he'd go and sit on Monica. Oh yeah, Max was a 60 pound lap dog.

He wasn't tough at all. One time, on a walk, a big dog came running off a porch at us; Max got behind me.

Another time, a little bunny got stuck in between the rails of our iron fence. He was really jammed in there good. Max just sat there, in the rain, and whined.

There weren't many rabbits in the yard, because that was Max's territory. He walked the perimeter a dozen times a day on patrol.

In the winter, you'd look in the smallish square city backyard, and see paw prints all around the outside, but no tracks at all in the middle.

And though it was across the street, he also considered the walkway into the park part of his territory. Which meant a lot of barking, every time someone walked with their dog into the park. Dozens of times a day. It was a friendly bark though, more or less trying to get the other dogs to come over to play, tailing wagging the whole time. That is, except for the ugly dogs.

These three or four rare breeds live around the corner from us, and their owner takes them on walks, one right after another. Max's fur gets up, and its an angry bark when these dogs use his path into the park. He did not like these ugly dogs. Not one bit. They may have been the only creatures on this planet Max ever hated.

Aside from warning us the 16 times the ugly dogs walked by everyday, Max did have one real watch dog moment in the sun.

One Saturday morning, Max was barking, strangely, out the back window very loudly.

We let him outside, and he was barking crazily with fur up at the garage door.

The lock was broken off, and the crack head was still in there. My good boy barking like crazy sent the crack head out the back window into a neighboring yard, where he leapt over a 6 foot fence. Dude must have been high as a kite.

It's still a popular debate whether Max would have licked or bit the guy had he run out the front door.

I could write stories for days, but the bottom line is, this bag of fur has brought more joy and left me more in awe of God's wonder than few other other things in life.

The end came quickly. Tuesday we went for a great walk through the park and through the neighborhood.

Wednesday, we woke up to vomit all over the hallway. He didn't get any better Thursday, and wasn't eating or drinking. Still throwing up, and going to the bathroom in the house.

Friday, the vet does x-rays, gives some medicine, says let's see what happens tomorrow. My heart sank. I knew what had to be done. Monica was texting me from work, asking what's going on at the vet. I tried to be vague, but Monica is too smart for that.

His last day, that Friday night, he spent a lot of time laying in that yard he used to patrol. Listless. Trying to drink a little, only to spit it up.

Monica and I sat with him on the grass, and petting him, trying to make him comfortable, and at least happy that the family was together.

I know I was thinking of the times when he'd run in circles around the yard, started off with a 'Hey Max!' and taking an exaggerated step in his direction.

He spent his last night on our bed with us, a treat usually only reserved for thunderstorms or when we'd feel guilty about leaving him home alone too long.

None of the three of us slept really well; so we got up early that Saturday, and went to sit on the porch. Porch was probably Max's third favorite word. He laid there, very weak after having not eaten or been able to keep down even water for 4 days as we waited for the vet to call.

We knew what was coming, but it was still like a sucker punch to hear the vet say euthanasia that morning.

He had been doing a little better that morning... Even though we knew better, we had hoped with the kind of hope that Max showed every time we put sneakers on (No Max, we had to tell him... We're not going for a walk.)

But Max was happy when they brought in the fluffy bedspread for him to lay down on, another rare treat from the hard tiled floor at the vet's office.

Monica and I were both crying. She sat in the chair petting him, I got on the floor and cradled his head on my leg and pet his neck. With his collar off. Man, he loved getting his neck scratched underneath his collar.

They sedated him, and when he was comfortable on that bedspread on the floor, as I held him, and Monica pet him, the vet gave the final injection. It wasn't even 30 seconds when I watched my little buddy's eyes roll up in his head. I'm glad I was there, actually, I owed it to him. But I really wish I hadn't seen his eyes roll back. I'll cry whenever I think about it for the rest of my life.

Once he was gone, my attention quickly turned to Monica, and we held each other, and pet our great friend one last time.

The thing about a dog is, it's only his presence, his company. He doesn't remember your birthday, he doesn't help you move, he won't do a lot of the stuff you hope for, or even expect from, a great friend.

But the one thing dogs are.. is there. They are there. Always. It's never more stark than when they aren't.

Right now, there are empty spaces in my heart that I never even realized were full.

And yes, I know I'm talking about a dog here.

Max laid with us when we were sick, relaxed with us, protected us, loved us.

The skeptical ask, love? And I say, yes; maybe not like on our human level, but yes.

What is love? The desire to be with someone; to feel safe with someone; to be willing to be vulnerable with someone; to lay your head in someone's lap and sigh loudly, knowing you're in a good place.

Now Max's pea sized brain may not have been able to combine all of those emotions into the single, complex human emotion of love, but on his level, I know he loved me.

I know because I felt it every day, and still do.

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Fathers Day 2011:
Some Thoughts on All the Fathers in my Life
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - I've been blessed with fathers in my life. I was lucky to have the best dad that anyone could ever ask for; which is what every son and daughter created in their old man's image will say. I mean how can I not: from my stubby fingers, to untold numbers of personality traits both wonderful and not-quite-as wonderful, I'm a spitting image of my dad in so many ways, how can I deny it?

The Real Steve Cichon, a Tribute to My Ol'Man
My ol'man, Steven P. Cichon, died Palm Sunday, 2010 at the age of 58. Losing a parent is unimaginable, even when you spend the decade up until the death imagining it over and over again.

My dad was a very sick man the last 8 years or so of his life. He lost a leg to diabetes, and had a very serious heart condition. He made regular trips to the hospital by ambulance, and spent weeks at a time in the hospital.

During those times when he was very sick, I tried to prepare myself for his death. Tried to think it through; imagine what it might be like, so it would all be easier to deal with.

No dice. Youíll read that itís all unimaginable. An extension of yourself is gone. Thereís a hole in your heart. All sorts of vital information is gone. Itís like somebody lit the reference book youíve used your whole life on fire. Youíll read, too, about quite a few things Iíd do just for dad, that I sadly have stopped doing.

Heís been gone about two months as I write this, and itís still hard. I have no doubt that it always will be. But putting all the swirling emotions Iíve felt into writing this has been wonderful.

Itís the story of my dadís last week on this planet, and the story of his life on this planet, and, mostly, the 32 years he spent on this planet as my Dad, and Dad to Greg and Lynne.

Read the book:

Click to read it embedded right in this page, in its entirety

Download a pdf


I've written a lot about my dad, and I'd be honored if you read it... It's posted at the links to the right.

I love and miss my dad every day, but what I'd like to talk about today is the other fathers in my life, and I'm lucky to have and to have had many.

I'm so blessed to have enjoyed the love and care of three grandfathers.

First, Stephen Julius Wargo, my great grandfather, after whom I was named. My mom's grandpa. He lived a few blocks away from us, and when I had to go home for lunch in first grade, I would occasionally bring a can of chicken noodle soup over to Grandpa W's house for us to share, with enough left over for his dinner. He also famously fixed my Dukes of Hazard big wheel, when the piece between the handlebars and the big wheel broke. I sadly dragged the pieces down to his house, but triumphantly rode my orange plastic treasure home a week later. He was always smiling, kind of a troublemaker, and happy that as a revered old guy, he could get away with it. Like on Christmas, when he wouldn't fully open a gift; but would only lift up the edge of the paper to see what was in there. A master aggravator!

Jimmy Coyle was my mom's dad. He took over sending out cards and such after my grandma died, and I know I got at least one signed "Jimmy Coyle" from gramps. A big strong man, Gramps was the old fashioned kind of strong silent type that you might see in the westerns that he loved. When I was little, and we'd be there for dinner, he'd come home from work, and within moments be sharping the big knife in anticipation of carving up the big roast beef that Grandma just pulled out of the oven moments before. I always felt an extra compulsion to behave and eat everything on my plate, with my regular seat next to Gramps. We would often be at Grandma and Grandpa's house the night he did grocery shopping, and he would buy a special treat for us for 'helping' put away the groceries (I was no more than 5 or 6, and I'm the oldest... So I don't think we were much help.) It was usually green Chuckles (like the spearmint jelly candies) and we earned 'em. I also remember going with him in his old green jalopy of a pickup truck (it was actually a van with the back some how cut off) to the hardware store, where I can remember him using his old wooden fold out measure to see how much wood he needed. I don't think he ever used a metal measuring tape. As we all got older, you could tell how satisfied Gramps was when his house would fill on holidays. One of his last great thrills though, came on one of his saddest days. On the day of Grandma's funeral, he took 'all of June's gambling money,' and funded an impromptu Irish wake at a hole in the wall bar. He had so much fun drinking and really just hanging out with his kids and especially his grandkids, he talked about it with a smile until the day he died.

I'm blessed that Grandpa Cichon is still as loving and lovely a man you'd ever meet at the age of 85. If the world had a few more people like Eddie Cichon, there'd be fewer coupons to go around, but a lot more happiness and love. Gramps always delighted in whatever kids were around, especially any of us 20-something grandkids. When we were small, he'd take us to the park, and sit and watch us play until we wore out. One of his classic lines, Go catch grandpa a bird, would leave us kids sneaking up on birds seemingly forever. We never caught one. Dinner was a little different at Grandma Cichon's. The table was completely set, everyone was in place, waiting for Gramps to get home from work. His seat was a direct shot from the front door, he'd sit right down, say the fastest grace on record, 'BlessLordGiveBoutToReceiveChristLordAmen,' and quickly add a 'OK, let's eat.' And eat you did with Gramps. A child of the Depression, he clipped coupons, and stored them under a couch cushion. He'd try to use expired ones. And he'd buy it whether he needed it or not. "But Huns," he'd tell Grandma, "It was on sale." Then he'd try to make you eat it or take it home. For as hard a time as I have had with my Dad's death, poor gramps not only lost a son, but a best friend. My dad used to bring him donuts to the nursing home whenever he'd visit. It had probably been at least a year since he had one, when I brought two up a few weeks ago. He's blind, so when I told him what a I had there with me, he said, with all the gravity and earnestness you can imagine, 'Stevie, donuts are as good as gold.' And there's no doubt he meant it.

September 29, 2001, I some how shanghaied my beautiful wife into saying 'I do,' and I gained not only a wife, but a whole family. I don't even like referring to Howard Huxley as my father-in-law, because father is really enough. He's probably tearing up reading this, and that's what I love about him. He loves his family, and loves and appreciates that his family loves him.

He's really the ultimate proud parent, traveling to just about everyone of my brother-in-law's baseball games. And the games were an hour and a half away, at night, and he had to be up for work at 3am. And just this week, he was there shooting video of my well-into-her 30s wife, as she took the slide into Jell-O for charity, with no less excitement than when he was there taking pictures at her 1st grade dance recital. I know it's tough on him that his other daughter and granddaughter are in Florida, but it really makes the times we're all together that much more special for him and all of us. Personally, I'm thankful and blessed that all this love and pride has extended to me, too. Howard's my biggest fan, showing up to all my silly events, always listening to the radio, and just being a good guy, good friend, and good dad.

Growing up, I also became close with the fathers of a number of friends, like Bob Cohen, the late Dr. Fanelli, and Don Brindle. Each of them cared for me not only like the friend of a son; but like a son, and I them like a parent.

I think I've made it pretty clear that I think Fathers Day is about more than just biological dads. We actually call our Catholic priests 'Father,' and two in particular have meant the world to me.

Msgr. Francis Braun was really the first priest I'd ever gotten to know and love on a personal level. He's from the same no-nonsense old school as my Grandpa Coyle, has the heart of my Grandpa Cichon, and a lot of the 'I'm doing what's right-get out of my way' attitude of my dad. I'm glad he's enjoying his retirement with his fellow retired brothers in Christ, despite his having told me more than once that 'old priests are a pain in the neck,' and not always using the word 'neck.'

Fr. Braun was the pastor at my church, so it's pretty clear how he came into my life. But it's a little less clear how Father John Mack did.

He is the little angel who sits on my shoulder,and helps shine the beacon of Christ's love into places I didn't know existed.

I'm humbled by his continued guidance and friendship, and I consider myself blessed to have a spiritual father to love and trust right here in the flesh. His prescence in my life (and my Facebook life) "keeps me honest."

Of course the big guy, the Father of all men, is also someone that I have to be thankful for; for blessing me with all these great men and great memories and great hope for the future.

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Happy Birthday, Dad...
His First in Heaven
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com originally posted on Facebook December 10, 2010

 


Dad and Uncle Ed, Dec. 10, 2007. He may have been celebrating it at the VA, but he still loved his birthday.

 Buffalo, NY (staffannouncer.com) - Today is the 59th anniversary of my ol'man breathing his first breath, born December 10, 1951. He was born a couple of months premature, and in 1951, that was usually a death sentence.

Born in the middle of a raging snow storm, on the 4th or 5th floor of a big tenement-looking, now long-torn-down apartment building right behind City Hall, my grandmother put him in the oven to keep him warm until an ambulance could take him the few blocks up Niagara Street to Columbus Hospital.

Nurses quickly christened him right on the spot, not expecting the little oven warmed preemie to make it, but he did.

Although that first birthday was a rough one, Dad loved his birthday. It was his favorite day of the year. Around September, he'd start reminding us that his birthday was coming up, and that he'd want a BIG PRESENT... the words said with his arms outstretched and his eyes opened wide.

By November, he'd be getting into specifics. Occasionally, he actually needed something, which was great. Otherwise, we'd have to come up with something on our own. Despite what you might think about someone in your life, rest assured, that my father was indeed, the hardest person ever for whom to buy a present. Until I turned 21.

The Ol'man spent the last decade or so of his life barely ambulatory. He was a diabetic, and went through several unsuccessful surgeries to save his foot; there were then several surgeries to remove his leg right below the knee. He was greatly weakened by all the surgeries, and laying in hospital beds, and never really got the hang of the prosthetic. He was, for all intents and purposes, wheelchair bound.

Dad wasn't a heavy drinker, but he did like the occasional, or slightly-more than occasional whiskey. It was never straight, but he'd mix it with just about anything. Iced tea, Diet 7-up, Diet Ginger Ale. Though his tastes changed often, I think Ginger Ale was his favorite.

Though he'd eat three doughnuts with impunity, he always drank diet pop because of his diabetes. At one of his last birthday dinners at his favorite restaurant, Danny's in Orchard Park, he tried to order a whiskey and diet ginger ale, but they didn't have diet ginger ale. He ordered something else, and when the waitress went away,  he whispered to us, talking out of the side of his mouth, "No diet ginger ale? In a fancy place like this?!?"  The stuff he'd come up with, being a veritable shut in, was often pretty damn good.


 I think this is from Fathers Day, but you get the idea. He'd put it right back in the bag, or roll down to his office and put it in the drawer so my mom wouldn't know. Yeah, right.

Anyway, he couldn't make it to the liquor store himself anymore to get a little booze. He was reliant on other people to bring him a taste every once in a while. And in what I now look at as my last great gift to my father, I was his hook up.

 "Give me a big bottle of the cheap stuff, instead of that little bottle (of the good stuff)," he whisper to me.

I'd get grief for bringing him a little 'Old Grandad,'  'Kesslers,' 'Philadelphia,' or 'Old Crow,'  because even a little too much would send his blood sugar out of whack. But it was his last joy in life, and I couldn't deny him.

I'd get him the little bottle, though, with the hope that he'd only have one drink; try to stretch it out a little more. And that usually worked.

Father's Day, birthday, Christmas. Dad knew what was coming from me, and he'd always try to devise some sort of ruse to make sure my mother "didn't know" he'd just gotten some booze. As he was executing said ruse, he'd quietly, but with the tone implying yelling, ask me why the hell I didn't get him the big bottle.

 As is the case with almost any loving father, dad took more than his share of good-natured jibes all year. But none on his birthday. He loved it. And loved even more when someone would let one slip, and he'd remind, "Not on my birthday!"

Today is the ol'man's first birthday in heaven. Though the polka song says there's no beer in heaven; on December 10, I know there's cheap, crappy, blended whiskey in heaven. And Dad's drinking it by the gallon with plenty of diet ginger ale. They must have it in a fancy place like heaven.


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The Real Steve Cichon
A Tribute to My Relationship with My Ol'Man

From the Preface:

My ol'man, Steven P. Cichon, died Palm Sunday, 2010 at the age of 58. Losing a parent is unimaginable, even when you spend the decade up until the death imagining it over and over again.

My dad was a very sick man the last 8 years or so of his life. He lost a leg to diabetes, and had a very serious heart condition. He made regular trips to the hospital by ambulance, and spent weeks at a time in the hospital.

During those times when he was very sick, I tried to prepare myself for his death. Tried to think it through; imagine what it might be like, so it would all be easier to deal with.

No dice. Youíll read that itís all unimaginable. An extension of yourself is gone. Thereís a hole in your heart. All sorts of vital information is gone. Itís like somebody lit the reference book youíve used your whole life on fire. Youíll read, too, about quite a few things Iíd do just for dad, that I sadly have stopped doing.

Heís been gone about two months as I write this, and itís still hard. I have no doubt that it always will be. But putting all the swirling emotions Iíve felt into writing this has been wonderful.

Itís the story of my dadís last week on this planet, and the story of his life on this planet, and, mostly, the 32 years he spent on this planet as my Dad, and Dad to Greg and Lynne.


Read the book one of three ways:

read it as an embedded PDF on this page, in its entirety

Download a pdf,

Buy a copy at The staffannouncer.com store.

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Remembering WWI Vets:      Uncle Gordon & 'Pops'

And Remembering the old neighborhood, too.
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com Originally posted on Facebook February 28, 2011


Buffalo, NY (staffannouncer.com) - It got me to thinking as this piece of news crossed the wires:

America's last surviving veteran of World War I has died. Frank Buckles was 110. A family spokesman says Buckles died peacefully of natural causes at his home in Charles Town, Va.

There have been two World War veterans in my life, one I never knew personally, one I did.

The first was my Great-Grandpa Scurr's older brother Gordon.


William Gordon Scurr was killed by a German U-Boat in 1918.He was a British sailor in the Merchantile Marine, a Second Engineer on the SS Trocas, and was 26 years old when the steamer was torpedoed by German U-boat UC-23 on January 19, 1918 in the Agean Sea.

I heard stories about his sacrifice growing up, and remember my grandma showing me photos of her uncle who had died in the Great War. The photos were in the box underneath the couch, right next to where grandpa used to hide his coupons under the cushion of the couch. (It was always an adventure as a little kid at Grandma Cichon's house.) My grandma was a wonderful story teller, and I'm glad that I listened closely and listened often. I just wish that I had taken better notes. I am proud of the sacrifice made by my forebarers, and will make sure its remembered as long as I'm around.

I have a personal, very strong recollection of another World War I vet. "Pops" is how we knew him. He lived with his son a few doors down from us on Allegany Street in South Buffalo.

He was very tiny and very old. He wore the same sort of big plastic VA glasses that my dad did in the early 80s, and wore very old working man's clothes, including suspenders to hold up pants that were a bit loose on him. His skin was blotchy with age spots, and he was probably at least 80, but for all I knew, he could have been 150.

Like so many of the characters on that street growing up, there was a warmth about him that made us kids want to talk with him and listen to his stories. I don't remember any of the stories he told, but I remember him standing in the driveway telling the stories, and us standing in the driveway listening.

 


Pops would stand in the driveway where the red truck is. The trees weren't as big then, and the street was much more bright.It seems in my recollection that he was almost immobile, standing in the driveway; just out for some fresh air, hoping one of the neighborhood kids would give him a "Hi, pops."

The only other thing I remember about him, and perhaps this also leads to why he was standing in the driveway, was that he chewed tobacco. It was usually wadded up into a lump in a paper towel. He'd pull it out of his pocket and take a bite, then stand there and spit out the juice. Come to think of it, this had to be why he was standing there all the time.

I'm not sure why we called him Pops, or what his name actually was, or anything about him, really. As I think about this more than I have in 30 years, maybe he told us something about "gas," like the mustard gas Germans used against US troops in France. Maybe that's just my brain playing tricks on me. I can't even really be certain that he was a World War I vet, but I know I've thought that my whole life, and will continue to do so until I find out otherwise.

In thinking about Pops, and growing up on Allegany Street from 1980-1984, I visited Google Street View and took a look at what Allegany looks like now, and it brought back a few more memories. We were at 45 Allegany Street, a house so much smaller than I remember. Next door was the phone company, or at least that's what we called it. Its apparently still an answering service. I remember very pretty disco-era women working in there.

 


45 Allegany, the house in the middle here, where I lived 1980-84.

As a matter of fact, when I think of 'generic disco-era women,' this one woman who worked there is who pops into my mind. Long blond hair, lots of eye makeup, lots of perfume, high heels, and she drove a blue Chevelle. The boss there drove an faux-wood panelled AMC Pacer, and used to make Donald Duck noises to us.

Next door to the phone company, two doors from our house, was Art. Art owned Toby the Dancing Dog, which was some sort of terrier, or maybe a small poodle. The dog would jump, his paws on our shoulders, and dance with us. One time my brother mouthed off to Art, who knew my great-grandfather.

"I'm telling your grandfather on you, you little bastard," Art said. I'm sure my brother laughed, which only enraged poor ol'Art even more. He drove a big green early 70s Buick.

Then there was a nice older lady named Kay, and then I think was Pops' house. Mr. Walsh lived next door to Pops, and the only reason I mention it, is because he was friends with Noodles the Mailman. Sometimes Mr. Walsh and Noodles would sit for a while on the porch in the cool 'ultra-mod' orange cloth folding chairs that looked like they'd have fit in perfectly on an episode of Laugh-In.

Anyway, sad the the last solider left standing from the 'war to end all wars' has died.

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Dad Died A Year Ago Today...
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com originally posted on Facebook March 28, 2010

 

Buffalo, NY (staffannouncer.com) - One Year Today.

 


The Cichons. c1985

To put it in words he would have used, it's been a year since my ol'man checked out. In fact, I'm sure I heard him start dozens, if not hundreds of sentences with, "When your ol'man checks out...."

Anyway, my dad died a year ago today. March 28, 2010. Palm Sunday 2010.

He was 58 when he died. He was very sick for most of his last few years, a combination of diabetes (which lead to a leg amputation), heart disease, and a serious case of indifference in dealing with and caring for those two conditions.

So he wasn't always on his A game. He was sick a lot, and often pretty crabby. But when he was feeling good, man,he just wanted everyone to feel good. I really miss the way he could fill a room with joy, even when half the jokes were at his expense.

But for me, its all right there-- I can see it, and just about feel it, but it's just beyond my physical reach. The past year has been one of reflection upon all the great gifts my father gave this world. My heart floods with joy thinking of the very pure love that he doled out straight from the heart.

He was a thinker, and never afraid to tell anyone what he really thought about something. some of you reading this (and me writing this) may have found that out the hard way. I'm glad that I inherited the thinker trait from my ol'man, and I'm happy to have his example, to understand for myself, that sometimes its best to keep what you think to yourself.

The hardest part of the last year, are the times when I've forgotten he's gone. It's not that my full brain has doesn't remember... It's just that I'll be having this little side conversation with myself, thinking about something in an almost subconscious sort of way, and it'll lead to "I've gotta tell dad about this."

That thought is only there for a fraction of a second, but it's like a hard punch in the face. Just happened a few weeks ago, standing in the kitchen at work pouring coffee. BLAMMO.

By the way, this also happens with my diet. I've had Celiac Disease for 5 years. Haven't had a doughnut in 5 years. Saturday, we drove by a Dickie's Donuts, and my brain asked itself why I haven't had a peanut stick in so long. Some parts of my brain have paperwork to catch up on.

Of course there's more to write, plenty more. But the last reflection I'll share on the last year: I now know some bit of Dad's pain. Grandma Cichon died in 1996. Dad's mom.

Inevitably, whenever we'd talk about grandma, which was often, we'd be smiling, but Dad's face would turned pained. He'd sigh and say, "ooh, Mom..." or "ooh, Grandma..."

It's the same thing I do now when I think about Dad.

In the days and weeks following his death, I wrote a brief book about my dad and our time together. There's an e-book/pdf version at this page:

http://www.staffannouncer.com/olman.htm

I'd be honored if you'd take a look at it. There are a lot of goofy pictures of me, if that makes it anymore enticing.

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Celiac Disease:
What I've learned So Far
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com
Originally posted at WBEN.com September 27, 2010


Steve Cichon is a reporter for WBEN Radio, and was diagnosed about 4 years ago with Celiac Disease. He's served on the Board of Directors of the Western New York Gluten Free Diet Support Group, and tries to stay up on the latest trends on and the gluten-free diet and gluten-free living for his own benefit, as well as his many gluten-free friends.

Please Note: This was written in 2010... So not all the information is current. But it's still a good representation of my experiences.- Steve, July, 2012

BUFFALO, NY (staffannouncer.com) - According to one online definition, Celiac Disease is an inherited, autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.

The good news is, Celiac Disease is very easily controlled by removing wheat, barley and rye from your diet. That bad news is those three ingredients, in one form or another, are found in a very high percentage of processed foods. More good news: Aside from wheat, barley, and rye, a gluten-intolerant person can eat just about anything taken directly from the ground or animal kingdom. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, eggs are all gluten-free in their natural form. It makes cooking and eating at home very easy, and very healthy.

But ordering a chicken breast in a restaurant, or even eating one at a well-meaning relative's cookout can be filled with anxiety, because you need to know if it was marinated, and whether the marinade contains malt flavor (made from barley) or wheat starch or any other number of ways gluten can be hidden on ingredient labels. Sometimes it is clearly labeled, but gluten is not one of allergens the government requires manufacturers to list on labels.

As Celiac Disease becomes more pervasive, I've tried to offer help, assistance, and just a friendly ear to acquaintances, friends, and friends of friends who are new to dealing with Celiac Disease.

It's simple to manage, you just stop eating food that can kill you. (Yes, untreated Celiac Disease can cause several different cancers along the lower GI tract.) The problem is, in the process, you really tear down your entire life and rebuild it. Food is life, and as a busy on-the-go type of guy, it took me quite a while to figure out how to fit this diet (which has no room for cheating) into my life. Fast food is just out of the question, with only one or two exceptions. No packing a sandwich for lunch. For me, there was a lot of anger and depression early on. But luckily now, even in the last 5 years, there are so many more resources (and good gluten free versions of favorite foods!) it's becoming easier and easier to deal with every day. And I am much better adjusted to the gluten-free lifestyle (it really is more than a diet), and while I miss fast food hamburgers and being able to grab any pizza from anywhere as a quick meal, I'm also excited at the new opportunities for gluten-free concoctions.

Like I said, I try to offer assistance to friends and friends-of-friends when it comes to living gluten free. Here are a condensed series of e-mails I sent to a friend who just found out she had Celiac Disease, trying to offer some realism, some hope, and some of the local stores, restaurants, and products I've used to make dealing with Celiac easier.

Its pretty simple, but its not easy. Wheat, Barley (shown a lot of times as Malt) and rye are in all sorts places you wouldn't expect.

Lotsa label reading, but also learning to rely on whole foods... The good stuff like plain ol'hunks of meat and vegetables. its actually a much healthier way to eat... less processed stuff. The outside aisles of the grocery store. The experts always say that's the best place to shop health-wise... and just about all of it is gluten free! I've found the easiest thing is to just change the way i eat certain things. Like sandwiches. Really no such thing anymore. There's GF bread, but its not like regular bread. I will occasionally make lettuce wraps... kinda like a turkey sandwich. You learn to adapt.

While Tops, Wegmans, and FeelRite all have great Gluten free areas, I suggest staying away from the Gluten free stuff for a while, and just trying to adapt your life. at some point you'll want a cookie... and then maybe try one of the GF models. They don't taste much like regular cookies... with a few exceptions. Pamela's double chocolate GF cookies are DELICIOUS. but there are only 9 for $3.49, and they don;t always have the double chocolate variety everywhere. Udi's GF bread is actually awesome. Sometimes (usually) the bread is very gritty-- its gluten that gives wonder bread its delicious chewy texture. This udi's stuff replicates it somehow. It might be black magic, but i don't care. Its delicious. I would also try different tops and different Wegmans locations... the selection of GF stuff varies at each store.

Eating out is very tough, especially in the beginning, when you're still trying to figure out what you can and cant eat. Eating at someone else's house is pretty tough, too. I get used to eating before i go out to dinner at someones house. Several family members have become very aware of my diet, and take special care of me. I don't like having people go out of their way for me, but a few aunts do, and it really almost makes me cry every time.

Pizza Plant (the one on transit only) has good chicken fingers and pizza on Wednesdays.. Bocce Club on Bailey in Amherst has AMAZING, DELICIOUS gf pizza that tastes like normal pizza... and you can get that anytime.... Chinese Food: PF Changs is really good... but it isn't real corner joint chinese. Golden Duck... Maple and Ayers in Amherst makes anything on the menu GF. (the issue with Chinese food is the soy sauce... Wheat is usually the number 2 ingredigent... Though LaChoy is GF) There's also a place near the Southgate plaza... My sister got a menu in the mail, and they said they do alot of different asian food GF. It's on Seneca, just across Union from Southgate Plaza... next to carolina Furniture.

Outback Steak House has a good GF menu... That's a great relief when traveling. We've been to Outbacks and PF Changs all over Florida, Ohio, and Puerto Rico. Speaking of travel, we've been on 8 Carnival cruises... in large measure because they cater to the GF diet so well, and leaves us not to worry.

Mighty Taco has a GF menu... No supermightys because of the flour tortilla, but you can get just about anything on a corn tortilla. This is a lifesaver for me. Mighty Taco and Wendys chili are the only fast foods I can safely eat.

Curly's is a really nice restaurant... a nice date place. you can get a delicious dinner and a glass of wine for 2 for a reasonable price. Tandoori's will make you GF stuff, too...

Beer? For a few years, I didn't have any beer, because GF beer was only microbrewed in a few places. Now, Redbridge is made by Anheuser-Busch... Make with Sorghum (whatever the hell that is) instead of barley. its a bit bitter... More like Guinness in flavor than say a Bud.. but its the only beer i can drink! Its at most Wegmans... some Tops. They also carry gf Bard's Ale at the Premier Store on Delaware Ave in Tonawanda.

Monica (my wife) and I have a bunch of little appetizer/dessert thingees we make for family stuff... and I'll bet you have a great family like mine... They've really gotten into making sure I can eat at least something. People think I'm a health freak the way i hit the veggie tray.. Its a better way to eat anyway. I'm always looking for easy, good GF dishes that I can bring to a party, so I can eat something, and share a good GF dish... let people know the diet isn't all that bad!!

I just noticed this weekend that Wegmans Brand rice chex are gluten free now... $2 GF cereal. Yey! It's really getting easier and easier to find GF stuff. When i first started, there were NO cereals or beer. All the Chex cereals are now gluten free (except wheat chex, but no kidding.)

Christmas Cookies. We make GF oatmeal, chocolate chip, and a few others. We sub regular flour with Rice flour in those recipes, and work pretty well. The taste is slightly different, as is the texture... but if you make oatmeal raisin walnut... or walnut chocolate chip. you don;t taste the difference. We make probably 30 dozen cookies to share with friends and family... and nobody knows the difference. there is a betty crocker mix for GF cake, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies. The cookies and yellow cake are OK, the devils food cake is good, the brownies are delicious. The only warning: the batter on all gluten free baking tastes terrible, so no beater licking. You have to wait til it comes out of the oven.

Pasta: the GF pasta really isn;t that bad if you buy the right brand, and cook it properly. You have to boil it much longer, and rinse it VERY thoouroughly... otherwise it tastes a little pasty. Tinkyada is pretty good, but the best, far and away, is Schar pasta. good stuff.

I could continue to ramble... but won't. Once you know the rules, you follow them. And then you don't get cancer,... which is what you get if you dont follow the rules. I got very depressed quite often early on about what i couldn't eat. Now, it very rarely, if ever happens.

I have a lot of gluten-free friends on facebook. it helps. They have the support group meetings. they help you to know you aren't alone. Much more on Gluten Free living in Western New York at buffaloglutenfree.org

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Cars and the Ol'man...
and telling him about the New Civic
By Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com originally posted on Facebook September 9, 2009

 

Buffalo, NY (staffannouncer.com) - My dad has always loved cars. While as a young single guy he had muscle cars (Like an AMC Javelin), and sportyconvertibles ( Like an MG), he always took great pleasure in the hunt for new cars.

MGB

He enjoyed it even when he was buying wonderful (?!) family vehicles like our 1981 chocolate brown AMC Spirit with light brown pinstriping, or our 1983 Dodge Aries faux wood-panelled station wagon. I spent many weekend days driving from lot to lot with my dad... the newspaper filled with red circles around cars that could be the next Cichon Ride. We'd always go after hours as to avoid the salesmen.

The Cichon Clan.. before my sister was born.. So probably late 79/early 80.  I think my dad still wears that shirt.

I learned alot from my dad about shopping for cars, not all of it good. First thing to check: Check to see if the door was left unlocked. Bonus checking out the seat time if yes. If not, squinting and moving your head around the driver's side window. "Can you see the mileage, Steve-o?"

There were other things to look for, too. "See, son? New tires on this one." That was always a big selling point with the old man, who seemingly never stopped shopping for a new car. My wife would laugh if she knew that during our most recent car shopping experience in particular, she was actually shopping with my dad via me. Life is much esier once you admit to yourself that, in some ways, it is inevitable to become your parent.

Dad's car obsession continues to this day, though the old man, now with only one leg, hasn't driven in probably 7 or 8 years. "I'll be driving soon," is something you'll hear him saying often. And you'll still find Autotrader magazines with big, heavy red circles all over the house.

And then there's Autotrader.com. "There's a nice convertible Saab... a '99... before they changed the front on it... Only 7-grand. Its in Ohio." Dad loves the hunt for cars as much as driving, and when my wife first decided a few months ago that it was time to get a new car (for a number of different reasons), Dad eagerly climbed into the passenger seat as we thought about various makes and models, and weighed several bargains.

After visiting my folks Friday night, we took a ride to a nearby Honda dealership (after it was closed, of course) to scout things out. We found a good car at a good price, and one of the Civics was unlocked. Really comfortable and roomy.

We went the next day to figure out the details, and with the rebates, and generous amount given for our trade in, it was a much greater bargain than either of us could have imagined, and we were both excited about being able to pick up the next car on Tuesday (dealership was closed Labor Day Monday).

I was excited, in part, because the dealership was close to the folks house, and we could take a spin by to show the ol'man the new car. Seriously, no one on the planet gets more excited about anyone's new car than Steven P. Cichon.

So, I was a little disappointed when my mom texted me to say that he went to the hospital Sunday (this happens somewhat frequently because of his diabetes problems.) He's OK, but was in ICU to get his sugar evened out; it was messed up by a viral infection he'd been fighting for a few days.

He was his normal self, though still in the ICU when I went up to visit him an hour or so after picking up the car. Happy to have company, and talkative (not always the case, in case you don't know the ol'man.) After the usual pleasantries, and getting to update on how he's feeling, I dropped the bomb.

"So dad, we picked up our new car today." He knew we were looking, but had no idea we were close to buying one. Either were we, frankly, until we got the great deal on the Civic. Its an over-used cliche, but there's no other way to describe it. The twinkle in his eyes was like a kid at Christmas.

His body stiffened, and after opening his eyes wide in anticipation for a moment or two, he sat back in the standard issue vinyl hospital room chair, dozens of wires coming off of him, closed his eyes with a smile on his face, very seriously said, "OK, tell me about it *slowly*."

I'm not one for the gadgets and features, but I always study up, because I know my dad will want to know. He loved that we got a great deal. He loved that the highway mileage approached 40 MPG. "That's almost like driving for free," he said. He loved that the dash lights were blue, the same color as one of the big puffy bandage things to keep his IVs in place.

Cadillac Cimmaron

But he stopped me on one feature that bowled him over. "Telescopic steering?!? In a CIVIC?!? They only put that in the top of the line Mercedes, for heavens sake!" My dad swears a lot, but he does try to control it. Of the 20 or so cars dad's owned, only "The Cadillac" had telescopic steering. "I'd adjust it every time I got in, he said, making a holding the wheel motion and moving it all over over the place. That's what a telescopic steering wheel allows you to do. Monica really likes this feature a lot, too. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should let people know that "The Cadillac" was actually a 1987 Cadillac Cimmaron, which is nothing more than Chevy Cavalier tricked out with leather, a V-6, a useless luggage rack on the back trunk, and apparently, a telescopic steering wheel.

And, Dad was almost disappointed when I somehow didn't figure out how to park the car outside the window of his hospital room so he could look out at it. His eyes are so bad, he wouldn't have been able to see it anyway. But he will get a spin in it once he gets home from the hospital.

I know the ol'man will tell everyone he sees and talks to for the next month about the car. Those poor ICU nurses. The women might get away without hearing about the car, but the men, and there are a lot of male nurses at the VA Hospital ICU, will likely hear a lot about it. And my grandpa. And Uncle Chuck. 


Monica's new 2009 Civic. 


It makes him so happy, I wish I could buy a new car every day.

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Several Well Thought-out Random Things about a Random Guy
eBy Steve Cichon, staffannouncer.com Originally posted on Facebook February 8, 2009


Buffalo, NY (staffannouncer.com) -This is not the order I thought of these things. I didn't number them either.

My Name: Steven Julius Cichon. Despite the fact that my dad's name is Steven, I was named after my mom's grandfather, Stephen Julius Wargo. Steven is spelled like my dad, though, so there you go. Cichon is a Polish name, and is pronounced CHEEhoyn in Polish. It means quiet person, hermit.


I think my basic purpose in life is to use my gift of seeing the absurd, ironic, and silly in most situations to make people smile. I love to do it. On the rare occasion when something I say hurts people, it really cuts me deep, and stays with me forever. Thinking about those times right now is giving me a stomach ache.


I am writing a book on the History of the Parkside Neighborhood. It's been a tiring, but absolutely amazing experience.


Saving junk is in my blood. Great Grandpa Wargo, Grandma& Grandpa Coyle, Grandma Cichon, and my mom are all savers. Of crap. Just crap. Grandma Cichon started taking me to the Salvation Army and garbage picking before I could spell "Thrift Store." But I think the biggest reason I save crap: My dad doesn't save ANYTHING. When I was little, he'd always start stories with, "I wish I had it to show to you..." That stuck.


I had the best childhood anyone could ask for. We had very little money, but I have two great parents, and 5 wonderful grandparents (including Great Grandpa Wargo.) I never heard any of them really speak ill of any of the others. I now know some of them kept a smile on for the kids, and withheld some maybe snippy comments (even ones that I make now.) That makes it all the more special in retrospect.


I include my in-laws in my family. There is no "in law." I was welcomed into my wife's family, and extended family, I love each of them as if we all had the same blood running through our veins. I'm bowled over with the luck I have in both the family that came with the package, and the one I picked.


I met my wife, in the hallways of WBEN Radio, probably right around 5:30 on a Sunday morning in 1993. I was behind the controls, she was reading the news. She didn't speak to me that morning, because she was painfully shy. Now she never shuts up. Just kidding, but I am thankful and happy for her that she has pretty much gotten over that.


WARNING: Have an air sickness bag handy... My wife is my best friend, and in many ways, my only friend. This isnít to say we live in some fairy tale... We do well together, even though we know how to press each others buttons and do frequently. I think that makes our relationship all the stronger, though.


I have Celiac Disease, which means I can't eat wheat, barley, or rye. No beer. No pizza. No fast food or processed food. It forces me to eat healthier, but I loved fast food. Not lots, but I could have a small hamburger and an order of chicken nuggets everyday, really enjoy it, and then eat properly the rest of the day. Now I eat a lot more, just trying to find something as tasty and satisfying as a Wendy's 89 cent hamburger.


I also have Psoriatic Arthritis. Sometimes my legs hurt so bad by the end of the day, they almost stop working, but I'm about to go on a medication that wipes out the disease, almost entirely, in 80% of people who take it. The sad thing is, while I'm excited about the prospect of seeing the arthritis go away, I'm secretly.. almost equally... excited that my disgusting psoriasis fingernails might grow into normal looking nails.


In November, my wife and I began eating better, and working out at least 4 or 5 times a week... Intense cardio. I feel much better, and wish that I had begun doing it years ago. The YMCA on Delaware Ave in Buffalo is cheap and wonderful.


I frequently step back from my own life, and normal human life, and realize how silly and random so many things we do are on the face of it. Why do I have an animal living in my house? My job is to take information that almost anyone can track down, re-write it, and speak it into a microphone so it can fly through the air into your car. Trying to explain these things to an Martian might be tough.


I have very realistic and vivid dreams. On occasion, I remember something somewhat sketchy, and I'm not sure if I happened or I dreamed it. I'll think about it and if Ed Little is on a horse in my living room, it was probably a dream.


I work better under deadline pressure, especially with projects in my personal life, or volunteer projects. I abhor being late. If I say I'll get something done, I do. And I don't appreciate those whose own lack of caring about deadlines makes me late.


I love church music, and I love to sing it loud. Even though I can't sing. Even out of church. On Eagles Wings. And yes, "make me a channel of your peace," (The Prayer of St Francis).


I'm a lector a St. Mark's.... 9:30 mass... every 3rd Sunday. I'm sometimes afraid I might be singing too loudly too close to the microphone.


I like to build stuff, sew stuff, design stuff. But I'm not very good at it. Or maybe I just don't have the patience to take the time to do those things right.


I am my own worst critic on everything.


I still think this is stupid, but it was cathartic. And have read every single word of each of my friendís lists, so fair is fair.


Wait! There's more!

Steve Cichon's staffannouncer.com is online to celebrate the History of Radio, TV, and Buffalo, NY.... And a combination of the three. Our purpose is to the fill the holes in the internet. There are many sites about all the above, we we here at staffannouncer.com like to think we have content you'll find nowhere else! Be sure to check out our featured pages... or use the site search feature for just about anything under the sun!
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CRYSTAL BEACH:See the sites and hear the souns of Crystal Beach from the 40s through the 80s. See TV commercials, hear radio jingles, look at over 100 snapshots from the park!! WYSL Record Charts:A collection of over 50 WYSL/WPhD Record charts as handed out by the station in the 70s. The best part: Each Chart features a WYSL jock like Kevin O'Connell, Larry Norton, or John Piccillo (plus scads more) all in their 70s glory! WBEN 1973: Hear Clint Buehlman, Van Miller and the Buffalo Braves... ENTIRE DAYS worth of WBEN in 1973, recently digitally remastered from station logger tapes unheard since the day they were recorded! Buffalo Postcards: Well over 600 Buffalo Postcards, from the 1860s through the 1980s. See Downtown, The Olmsted Parks, the Zoo, Swank Delware Avenue, Buffalo Harbor, and hundreds of others The Uncle Bobby Show Page: The World's Most Complete Tribute to the late, great Uncle Bobby Ash, including the Bimbo the Birthday Clown Song! Larry Glick! Pictures and Sounds with WBZ's Overnight Maven of Yesteryear.. the Great Larry Glick! Channel Four's Santa Show: A page dedicated to Channel 4's Santa's Workshop Show... An All Time Buffalo Classic, remembered by just about anyone who grew up in the 50s, 60s, or 70s! Christmas in Buffalo 1954: Ads and epherema taken from the pages of December 1954 editions of the Courier Express and Evening News. Mr. Dressup: Remembering Canada's Greatest Kid Show Host... Ernie Irv, Rick, and Tom: A multimedia presentation on the Eyewitness News Team of Irv Weinstein, Rick Azar, and Tom Jolls. Buffalo Radio '89: Don Postles and Channel 2 cameras visted Buffalo's Top-Rated Radio morning shows back in 1989.... WBEN, WPHD, WMJQ, WGRF, WHTT. Its Midnight: The Tom Connolly Experience: Tom is WBEN Radio's overnight mystery man, famous all across the Niagara Frontier for his hourly time checks heading into CBS News... It's midnight.

The Milt Ellis Jukebox: Milt Ellis was the PA voice of the Buffalo Sabres for the teams first 28 years. On this page you'll find all sorts of classic The History of WBEN at 75!: Check out the dozens of pictures, sounds, and stories of one of Buffalo's great radio stations... With this 75th Anniversary tribute to WBEN! Buffalo Anchorman: A
Tribute to Buffalo TV in the 70s is a look at the mustache and paisley filled era of Buffalo Television known as the 70s and early 80s. If you enjoyed Wil Ferrell's hit movie ANCHORMAN, you'll love the real life look back at Buffalo TV. the 1986 KB Radio Reunion: Pictures and memories from the the 1986 KB Reunion Weekend, celebrating Danny Neaverth's 25 years at WKBW. The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid: The NBC Project Peacock Movie starring Buffalo Radio and TV personality Jim Brinson as the Evil Pat Robbins. The Legend of Haseoke! At a long gone Buffalo Radio station, Mike Schopp and producer Steve Cichon found a box of dusty old tapes in the backroom. After listening to a few, they knew they had a hit on their hands. HASEOKE... as heard on the radio... Available only here... At staffannouncer.com! Hold the Phone: The John Otto Page:The Dean of Talk Radio in Buffalo, John made nights a little less lonely for WNYers for 40 years. The Many Faces of Ed Little: Ed Little was a staple on Buffalo radio for over 60 years... From his time as a Child actor, to his live broadcasts from the Town Casino, to his 4 decades as in the news business. The Plush, Yet Not Overly Ostentatious Norm Nathan Page: After decades as one of Boston's preeminent jazz disc jockeys, Norm was re-born late in his career as the overnight talkshow host on 50,000 watt giant WBZ. He always kept the conversation light, and kept us company weekend overnights. Buffalo TV Tetris: The Classic computer game updated for Buffalo TV fans. One game and you'll be hooked! Don't be the last one on the block to conquer the Irv Weinstein Final Round! The Puckett Dance!: Kids, its the dance sensation that's sweeping the nation... An Audio tribute to one of Buffalo's Great Radio newsmen... And My Radio tag team partner... Tom Puckett!!You must have windows Media Player installed to enjoy.

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