Remembering Forgotten Buffalo

I am what you might call a “fake” Buffalonian.

I was born in Connecticut, and my family moved here when I was almost six for my mom’s job. Before that, we really didn’t have any ties to the area; my dad went to Buff State and grew up in Rochester, but that’s the closest we go. We certainly don’t have generations of Stefano family members living in South Buffalo, Kaisertown, or wherever it is Germans and/or a conglomeration of Italian and pretty much every other European country would live.

We live in the suburbs — always have, despite my constant pleas, once I entered high school, to move into the city — and I’m probably the family member who’s in Buffalo proper the most. I left the area for school with, I confess, every intention of not returning.

My accent is mostly Buffalo — using “the” before highways, flattening my A’s, etc. — but, having first learned to talk in Connecticut, there’s a slight enough New England tweak to it, even 21 years later, to make my freshman year roommate balk when she heard my “real” Buffalonian boyfriend say “haackey.”

(To which I would say — really, Bostonians making fun of our accents?? But I digress…)

Despite all of this, we (my family and I) consider ourselves Buffalonians. It’s not like five is old enough to really have ties to an area, despite how much I bawled my eyes out when we left. Connecticut/the east coast is a foreign, preppy world that I (not-so-secretly anymore) now thank God I didn’t grow up in. I would be an entirely different person had we stayed in Connecticut.

But the thing is, sometimes I feel like a “fake” Buffalonian because I don’t remember so many of the things that make Buffalo Buffalo. And, with the exception of my dad in city of no illusionscertain cases, my family doesn’t either. Clearly, not being alive in the 1970’s, I’m not going to remember how the city looked before the steel mills closed and we put a highway through the East Side, but sometimes I wish I could remember it more, if not through my memories, then through those of my family.

Then, in my Easter Day boredom, I came across Forgotten Buffalo. Of course I’ve heard of the organization before, and I knew they did tours, but what I’ve been most enthralled with for the past couple hours are the pictures they have on the website and Facebook — old buildings, the steel mills alive and operating, hilarious (in that why would you put a roof over Main Street??) plans for the Metro Rail, and many, many more. They’ve built a little collection over there through the best historians you can find — the people who lived it.

I have my own, slightly newer and younger version of those memories — some day I will be telling my children about “this really awesome place called New World Records that I used to spend hours in after school. It’s now that [insert whatever; hopefully still SpOt].” — but I want to know about the more distant ones. The history of this area fascinates me — not so much the stuff they taught us in 4th grade social studies (though that’s interesting in its own way), but the social and cultural stuff that you learn about through family stories that begin with, “There was this club called The Continental…”

So, as you’re perusing the site with a post-Easter dinner ham hangover, tell me your stories. Show me pictures. Give me website links. I want to hear about your favorite old hangouts, closed restaurants and clubs, and all those other memories. Mostly, I want to know — where the heck was the Thruway Mall?? Seriously, Google turned up zilch, and I didn’t even know such a place existed.

But after that’s answered, I want to hear all the good stuff, too.

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5 thoughts on “Remembering Forgotten Buffalo

  1. Google thruway plaza. It was never really a mall. That was the big place to shop in the 50’s and 60’s. Harlem & Walden. The one shoe store had a goldfish pond in the front window. WNYheritage press.org is a great site for memories…

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    • Yeah, I spent some more time Googling yesterday and found it, along with a lot of other old malls/shopping plazas that I never knew existed around here.

      Also, thanks for the website, I’ll have to check it out!

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  2. Gabe says:

    If you came here at age 6 and mostly lived in the Buffalo area since then, you pretty much grew up here for all intents and purposes.

    I was born in Boston, family moved here when I was 5, have pretty much lived in Buffalo since. I consider my upbringing Buffalonian. The early-childhood Boston memories are too vague and surreal to really constitute a large enough fragment of my identity.

    In other words, you’re a “real Buffalonian” just like me.

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