Forgotten Buffalo: Historic & Hip...An Urban Explorer's Guide to the Buffalo-Niagara Region: Unique Landmarks, Historic Gin Mills, Old World Neighborhoods, History, Nickel City Oddities, Tours and More!
I grew up on Detroit Street with my brother and sister from 1955 till I left in 1971 to join the Army. I cherish all the memories of those times and places and believe they shaped me into the person I am today. I was a choir boy at St.StansSchool from 1962 to 1966. We were an all boys choir and we all started as sopranos and ended our career as altos. We sang all over Buffalo and the surrounding area, especially around Easter and Christmas. The choir was featured during several concerts at KleinhansMusic Hall which were even televised on the local channels. My relatives in Toronto even saw these concerts which were carried there also.
Joseph W. Piskunowicz
I am 56, was born on 909 Sycamore St. next to St. Transfiguration Church. My father was a custodian there. My mother cooked in the school cafeteria. My mother, sister and I all worked at Sattler’s, then the Broadway Mkt. My maiden name is Zakulski. In 1956 we moved to Eden, but still worked in Buffalo at Sattler’s and the Market. I went to Bryant & Stratton. Now I live outside of Ft. Lauderdale FL. and still go to the Market when I visit Buffalo and go right to Wardynski's by St. Stan's to the packing house and load up with sausage and hot dogs to take back to FL.
Ann Strickland, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
My name is Tom Kaminski, born in 1957, and I lived on Blake Street in Buffalo, near Genesee and Bailey, in a house that was built for my Grandfather back in 1926. I was thrilled with your web page because there were so many people mentioned that I knew. First of all, in your letter, I knew Fr. John Gabalski well as he was the pastor of Queen of Peace Church for a while. He was a wonderful man with a great singing voice. His father, John Gabalski, Sr., was a proud usher. I sang in the choir there and occasionally substituted as the church organist, sometimes for the Polish masses. I taught religious education at St. John Kanty during High School (Bishop Turner). In Dick Virkus' letter, he mentions an Easter card from Emily Kaminski - that would be my aunt who worked at Sears. My father (his sister) is 84 years old and still lives in Hamburg. Aunt Emily died in 1966. Another letter is from Rita Tomaszewski - who I knew as a young girl while I worked in her father's print shop - Grider Press. I cleaned his presses, swept the floor, and planted tulips for him. My cousin Paul Couzens also worked there. I helped clean out his attic and I kept a school desk that was originally from Queen of Peace School, the type with the drop down seat on the front. I still use it as a lamp table. Thanks for getting everyone to share their info.
Queen of PeaceChurch was also a hub of Polish-American activity. They had a Polish mass at every Sunday. Our choir was led by Ed Witul who I believe is the organist for the Chopin Singing Society now. My Aunt Irene was President of the Rosary Society and, when I was a young teenager, would take me on trips with the ladies as a "chaperone". We went to the Our Lady of Czestohawa (sp) Shrine and the Silver Floss Sauerkraut factory. The ladies sang songs on the bus and said the rosary. I actually had a pretty good time.
Wallace's Grocery Store was on the corner of Genesee and Blake Street, across from Queen of Peace Church, next to Grider Press. Wallace Kijunka and his wife Jean ran the store for years - they used to tell me I was their first customer because my mom wheeled me in there in a stroller! He sold fresh meats, groceries, and penny candy and told jokes that were real groaners. My mom helped out with the store when Wallace died.
Now I live in Rochester, NY with my wife and three children. They are always interested in the Polish background and we have kielbasa and pierogis at my sister's house in Hamburg, NY on the holidays.
Tom Kaminski, Rochester, NY
My father owned and operated Broadway Kirby on the corner of Broadway and Person St. on the East Side while I was growing up. Often I would help my father and grandfather at "the store" on Saturdays. Being near the center of Polonia, I heard about the PolishSaturdaySchool and was intrigued since my Babcie, Nan, Mother, Great Aunts and many people I knew spoke Polish. I wanted to learn. So it was that I began taking courses in Polish and became part of the great heritage of the PolishSaturdaySchool. After class I would help at my father's store and would also have the opportunity to go often to the Broadway Market. I can remember the sights and smells, the various people who treated a little boy with great care and lavished candy and cookies and all sorts of good things! I would always stop at St. Stan's Church and make a visit after SaturdaySchool, sometimes the twin spires of Corpus Christi would entice me to go inside and be in awe over the beautiful church, sometimes I would even catch the tail end of a funeral or wedding and hear the beautiful organ music! I remember Fr. Anthony Konieczny who was Pastor there and was so kind and always had time for a young lad with lots of questions. I remember going to St. Adalbert's Basilica, and St. Luke's and St. John Kanty where my great aunt Sr. Mary Jerome was teaching. I was always taken with the beautiful music in these churches and the mighty organs. I wanted to play like those I heard, especially like the brilliant Peter Gorecki! When in high school, I landed a job by the gracious generosity of a now deceased priest, Fr. Wilbur Yaeger, at St. Bernard's. While the parish was not established to be a Polish Parish, there were many Polish people who were part of the congregation. My PolishSaturdaySchool lessons paid off and at14 I was organist for a church. During those years I would also play the Polish Mass for Fr. Lex at Our Lady of Czestochowa, just a few blocks away. A generous, gracious and kind man, Msgr. Ed Kazmierczak took an interest in this young man who played the organ and could sing in Polish. Often he would invite me to play for a special event, the most special being the visit of Karol Cardinal Wojtyla! One could ask for no kinder neighboring pastor than Msgr. Ed! After several years, I was offered a position by Msgr. Stachewicz at St. Andrew's in Sloan. Monsignor was the height of priestliness and decency. Monsignor Henry embodied all that is good, all that is honorable, all that is attractive about the priesthood. I enjoyed working with this saintly man with whom I have remained in communication for nearly 20 years! Why do I write about my jobs in the Polish Churches of Buffalo? I write about these places and the men who served them because they portray all that is part and parcel, all that is vital to being Polish and growing up Polish in the Western New York area. These men and these places were the cradles of faith, the places where awe was inspired and wherein I found the beginnings of what is my life's calling. I find myself using devotions and liturgical practices here in Florida where I am the Director of Liturgy and Music for a large East Coast oceanside parish. These fine traditions steeped in the Polish heritage have traveled many miles to serve yet another community in a distant place. My growing up in Polonia have provided me with not only memories that are cherished and warm, but have also given me roots from which to grow. My parents, grandparents, extended family, priests, good Sisters especially Sister Mary Susan Wawro, FSSJ of happy memory with whom I corresponded for the past 30 years; Sr. Loretine, Sr. Agnetta, Msgr. Gabalski, Fr. John Kilian, and so many others have enabled me to take the precious gift of my Polish heritage and share it with countless others. Through my roots I have had the distinct honor of not only meeting Pope John Paul II while he was Cardinal, but also eating at his table in the Vatican in Rome! I was fortunate to have loving parents and a caring community of fellow Poles who nurtured a young boy trying to learn Polish on Saturday mornings and helping his Dad at Broadway Kirby. To this community I will be ever grateful. I will always refer to those good women and men who gave their lives in service as my personal heroes. They are the pillars of Polonia and the reason for my being the person I am today. I say a heartfet "dziekuje bardzo" to Polonia!
Stan Zerkowski, S.F.O.
Ormond Beach, FL
I thought I'd share this memory of the old East side with you. I can't think of a more popular place with kids from St. Stan's than "Mary's", a small deli/candy store located directly across the street from St. Stan's church on Peckham Street. It was the socializing hub before, after, (sometimes during) school and church activities. I am sure that much of the money intended for the collection basket, ended up here. Mary Nowak and her relatives catered to this mostly school aged cliental, and had to have the patience of a saint to put up with all the shenanigans. If only those wall could talk! In the later years, this fine establishment was taken over by a Polish family, and ultimately closed.
It was with great pleasure I "stumbled across" your website recently. The history on your pages brought back numerous stoic memories of my childhood on Buffalo's East Side (I was raised to my early teens on Guilford St. (Broadway-Fillmore area) and the historic photos are great material for reminiscing! The photos and stories on the Buffalo taverns, Ruda's records, Polonia, etc. brought back fond memories of my early musical career (I was one of the original Dyna-Tones, spent a few years "on the road" with Marion Lush and spent the last 15 years of that career with Big Steve)-I must have played one time or another at almost all those East Side taverns! (Especially the Broadway Grill and the Market bar.) My grandparents (Adam & Julia Pilarz) had a tavern at 1012 Sycamore in the 40's (called "Adam's) before my Grandmother bought the original "Big Apple" on Old Union Road after my Grandfather's death. By the way, as a side note, John Banaszak (Promo the Robot) was also my accordion teacher!
I'll always treasure the train excursions for Cleveland Indians baseball games which started in the massive and beautiful Central terminal and ended in Cleveland's train station. Hundreds of people went on these which included tickets to the ball game My dad and I and cousin and uncle always went on these annual trips which were a great family time. My dad worked at Fuszak's meat market on Jefferson St.and my uncle at New York telephone's Scajaquada St. garage.
John Fehr, Hamburg,NY
I was born in Buffalo in 1937. We moved to OrchardPark in 1943. My Dad worked in the Sears store on Main at Delavan, and later managed the store on the corner of Broadway and Fillmore. At the time the area was known as Buffalopole. The Polish Everybody's Daily, the Polish language newspaper was published across the alley from the store's auto center. Things were a lot different then; the store was closed on Wednesday because Sattler's was closed. About the only place that did any business on Wednesday was the Broadway market. No one was opened past . I was fairly young at the time, in my early teens. I remember how wonderful and warm and caring the people who worked in the store were. My favorite story from that era happened when my family was going on vacation to Florida. We were all packed into our 1948 Pontiac, the first new car we had after the end of WW2. It was Easter Sunday and my Mother realized that she had not gotten Easter cards for us. As it happened, one of the ladies in the store had given Dad an Easter card. Mom gave the card to my 6-year old Sister. She asked what the writing was at the bottom of the card. Mom said that the words were Emily Kaminski and that meant Happy Easter in Polish. I saw the Wardinski sign and immediately heard the radio commercial "Don't give me that baloney, I want Wardinski's." I remember a radio station, I can't remember which one, which did the Rosary on the hour and Hail Mary's on the half-hour. They sure were a help to a nice Presbyterian guy that would end up spending a lot of time in Roman Catholic churches with dates. I haven't lived in Buffalo since 1959. For many years, when we would visit, I would go down on William Street where they made sausage, and buy 20 or 30 pounds to bring back to New Jersey. Wow, did my car smell of garlic for a while after each trip!
Dick Virkus, Tom's River, NJ
It's great to remember our Broadway area the way it was. I especially loved the picture of Gramza's Cigar store. Many fond memories of going there after school (St. John Kanty's) for my penny candy - having Mr. Gramza try to cheat you out of your change! We used to have to get cigars for my DziaDzia on occasion, and get to keep the change. Can you imagine selling cigars to children now? I was probably 7 years old! We grew up on Ashley Street and then later on Peck. My family name is Jablonski. My parent's big night out was going dancing at Romway. My dad even took us as kids to the local taverns when he had to watch us for a quick cherry Visniak and beer nuts as he enjoyed his Schmitt's (sp?) beer.
Elise Jablonski Wright
I was raised on Lathrop St. in the latter 1930s and early 1940s. So long ago. Yet to this day my 3 daughters and I make a pilgrimage from Lockport to the Broadway Market at Easter time. The Easter dinner would not be the same without goods bought at the market. Years ago my Grandpa would seat me in a wagon to go to the market. Going there I enjoyed the ride. Coming back was another story since I had the choice of sharing the wagon with a live chicken and duck or walking. Not all fowl are friendly. Our family life centered on St. Adalberts church. Life was much simpler then despite the hard times before W.W.II.
Just want to say I visited your website and it was soooooo wonderful to see so many things that reminded me of the wonderful times I had growing up in Buffalo on the east side. Working at the Broadway Market, as did almost everyone I knew. I moved to West Seneca in 1976, but my parents still lived on the east side for many years after that. I now live in GA and miss a lot of the Buffalo things. My oldest son still lives there and so do my brothers and my sister. There were a few places that I thought of that maybe if you could find any info on you can add to your site. Such as The Evening Star Bar and Restaurant (it was a few blocks from St. Stans), Schunke Drugstore - White Tower -Polish Falcons and Transfiguration Church and School all on Fillmore and Sycamore.
I was raised on the East side of Buffalo, attended Queen of Peace School and then Villa Maria. Also graduated UB. I’m living in GA now, just north of Atlanta. I have lived in CT, NJ, and AZ. This area is very new with little or no strong European ethnic group visible. When I visit Buffalo, I always bring home some Weber’s mustard. Once in a while I visit Redlinskis and bring home their pork sausages and smoked kielbasa. It is a treat I don’t indulge in often…but if I do, I only buy Redlinski. My father owned a print shop on Genesee Street for 33 years…Grider Press. It too is long gone but it was a center of both business and political activity during it’s time.
Rita (Tomaszewski) Vance
I treasure my Polish Background and growing up on Fillmore Ave. between Peckham and William Streets within the St. Stan's Parish Area. Memories of growing up and graduating from St. Stan's Grammar School and VillaMariaAcademy (called Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy in 1953) have been and remain among my finest. Our families all lived nearby and I had friends on each one of the streets surrounding the Parish because of the association with the family. In 1954, my parents moved to Depew, because my father worked there and it was the first home they owned. I married in 1956 and immediately went back to the old neighborhood until 1961. I remember the Old Broadway Market where there was sawdust on the floor in the butcher's market, getting chickens live and having my dear grandmother prepare them for the table. I remember the duck in the black leather shopping bag, with its head sticking out and then having Grandma make Czarnina with Homemade noodles or dumplings. How I miss the processions, the May Devotions, Corpus Christi Day Processions where the homes were decorated with Altars, Nieszpory on Sunday afternoons (These traditions have all but disappeared) Our Easter Swieconka was always a big celebration and we continue to celebrate it today.
Patricia Kozminski Sobolewski, Depew, N.Y
I was fascinated to see in your latest edition a story about the Visniak beverage company. During my days in Buffalo--I've lived in New York City for more than a half a century--I knew the company as Wisniak (with the "w" pronounced, as you know, like the American "v"). My late father, Joseph John Michalak, not only sold the Wisniak products at his store across the street from Darling & Company's Milsom plant on William Street in Cheektowaga, but I was also a personal friend of Ray Pijanowski's while attending SloanVocationalHigh School. The school, where Ray and I played basketball together, was then situated on Harlem Avenue, just north of William Street and south of the massive number of railroad tracks that ran under the Harlem Bridge and on to the then bustling Central Terminal, also mentioned in your current write-up. I assume that the Ray you mentioned, who was nicknamed Pigeon, was the son of the founder of the company before it moved into Sloan. I have not seen Ray since those days, but my daughter Katharine, who was born many years later, also came to know Ray, and just recently we talked together about him. If you have occasion to see or to talk to him again, please pass along my best wishes. I trust he will remember Joe Michalak. I also was taken with your mention of the Spolka store (with the tilde-like diacritical mark over the"l,"), which I believe was situated one block east of Fillmore Avenue, on Broadway. A lot of my boyhood clothes were bought there by my mother, with me in attendance for sizing purposes. I might add that in those days, running into my early 20's, I was a regular attendee at the Little Three's basketball games, which in those days packed the Aud to its capacity of about 11,000 on every occasion when Canisius was confronted by your alma mater, St. Bonaventure, and your current employer, NiagaraUniversity. In those days, the teams had a far stronger impact throughout Eastern college basketball than is true of the current era. I generally pulled for Canisius, but in the end I was on the side of whichever of the three teams was doing the best job of progressing toward the tournaments like the National Invitation, which in those days amounted to more than the NCAA's efforts. Since then my attention has turned to at least a couple hundred of Bills football games--including three Super Bowls--that I have attended while often holding season tickets despite living 450 miles away from OrchardPark. And, of course, there's my extended family, almost all of which lives in Western New York and with whom I spend many happy hours, usually including, a couple weeks of weeks with them in Buffalo's delightful summers, which no one elsewhere ever hears about for all the TV talk about snow.
I only wish I could find the time to write about my old neighborhood, the First Ward in Lackawanna, where I grew up. I went to CatholicSchool at St. Hyacinth's and Polish was drummed into me because the church and all the Traditions were just that. Mass said in Latin and Polish. All the songs sung in Polish. My parents ran a grocery store on Holland Avenue until the late '60s. It closed after I graduated from NiagaraU. and went to work for Loblaws. The neighborhood now is basically in rough shape, much like what you describe happening in Buffalo's Polonia. I rarely drive to Lackawanna;s First Ward now. It breaks my heart to see what was once a great neighborhood.