Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reflections on Writing Postcard Views

Respected author, publisher and educator Joseph F. Bieron shared with us a behind-the-scenes look at the birth of his excellent book, Postcard Views, A Walk Down Main Street Buffalo, New York, circa 1910:

                I was extremely fortunate to have a long professional career as a college professor teaching chemistry to talented students. A major part of this experience was writing; lesson plans, research papers, grant proposals, public interest science articles. Over the years, I came to enjoy writing as a way of learning and recording interesting ideas.

                As a youngster I also liked to collect and organize memorabilia, postage stamps, foreign coins, commemorative cards of presidents, and baseball cards from packs of bubble gum.

                I also have had a life-long interest in history, especially local history. It was probably only a matter of time when all these interests came together.

                About 20 years ago, I acquired a collection of old postcards that featured scenes of Buffalo and Western New York. I was doing research on another history project when I took advantage of becoming the proud owner of 1200 postcards.

After sorting and organizing the postcards, it became clear that the exercise was a wonderful way of learning the history of Buffalo, especially around the time period 1907-1914 which was the high point of postcard circulation in the history of our nation.

 And so an idea was born! A book that featured historic postcards around a turn-of -the century time period would be an enjoyable and effective way to highlight the history of Buffalo.

Postcard Views, A Walk Down Main Street Buffalo, New York, circa 1910, is a book that reproduces postcards and maps in color along with a narrative and sidebars. It shows scenes of Main Street when Buffalo was one of the largest and more vibrant cities in America. The time period also coincides when the technology of printing postcards was an art form that made it extremely popular.

The premise was made that Main Street was in large part representative of the city in general. Chapters in the book begin at the Buffalo harbor and walk up Main Street to the edge of the commercial district. Topics include transportation, business, shopping, commerce and entertainment sectors. Maps and sidebars show details and describe life style features.

The postcards serve as an excellent framework for doing historical research. A single building can prompt research on an entire commercial enterprise; banks, department stores, hotels, theatres and markets.

Main Street also provides an opportunity for exploring a number of architectural landmarks. Not only are these buildings on the Register of National Historic Landmarks like St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Guaranty Building but there were also buildings that were equally significant but torn down like the Erie County Savings Bank at Shelton Square.

My postcard collection has grown to over 1600 postcards that can be cataloged in over 30 different topics. I used one section to partially illustrate a book, The History of Orchard Park. A collection of Crystal Beach and Erie Beach postcards highlight an oral presentation about the beaches on the Canadian shore. Numerous examples of postcards make up an illustrated presentation of the Olmsted Park system in Buffalo.

 So if you want to tell a story about Buffalo around 1900, consider postcards for harbor scenes, schools, hospitals, parks, suburban towns, Niagara Falls, architecture, Delaware Avenue, and sports venues.  From my experience, I can assure you of one observation - postcards are more interesting than collecting stamps or baseball cards.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Delight for Buffalo Foodies: Local Recipes for Every Season

A new book published by Buffalo Spree is a food lover’s treasure-trove. Food for Four Seasons showcases more than 80 recipes from 56 area restaurants. Spree food editor Christa Glennie Seychew compiled this full-color tribute to culinary delights. As part of our continuing effort to give readers a behind-the-scenes peek at how regional books are born, we asked Christa to share some insights.

Q:  Why did you decide to compile Food for Four Seasons?

While Buffalo Spree has been covering various aspects of living in WNY for nearly 50 years, we’ve never published a book before. Assembling a cookbook full of recipes that, together, accurately reflect the variety of independent, locally owned restaurants we have in our region seemed like an exciting and purposeful way in which to enter the world of book publishing.

Q: How did you go about the gargantuan task of choosing recipes and local chefs for inclusion in the book?

Rather than handpicking chefs, we really wanted Food for Four Seasons to include recipes from all kinds of restaurants, from soup and sandwich lunch joints to fine dining establishments, from pubs to ethnic eateries. We really reached out to everyone. We used a variety of methods for obtaining recipes—we sent multiple letters via snail mail to every restaurant we could think of. I also called a lot of chefs personally. Finally, for our more tech savvy chefs, we provided an online link for uploading a digital recipe. 

Q: What were a couple of the most interesting facts or "nuggets" that you

unearthed that perhaps surprised even you?

Because we allowed the chefs to submit any recipe they wanted, we ended up with a book chock-full of their personal favorites. Chefs love to eat! So the book includes an appreciable number of lamb dishes and quite a few recipes calling for pork. Pork has come a long way in recent years, not only with the bacon mania that seems to have taken American by storm, but also with the appreciation of good, locally raised heritage breed pork—something many WNY chefs are lucky to have access to.


As we were cataloging the recipes, another interesting trend that became apparent is the use of eggs. Ten years ago, eggs were for baking or for breakfast. Today eggs are used as a delicious and economical way to add protein and flavor to all kinds of recipes. Warm poached eggs are a welcome addition to a spring salad; gently fried they can elevate pizza, pasta, and a sandwich or burger instantly. We received so many recipes that called for a poached egg that we created a universal recipe for the process and included it in the back of the book.


Q: Are there one or two recipes that stand out as personal favorites?

There are so many recipes, and such a variance in the degree of difficulty, that it is hard to choose. I think Elm Street Bakery’s healthy and very appetizing quinoa salad is a miracle. It has just a few ingredients, couldn’t be easier to make and, if seasoned properly, is utterly delicious. I also love the dish that’s on the cover; it’s lamb with gnocchi, spring vegetables, and mint pesto. It’s from chef Bruce Wieszala at Tabree. There are a lot of steps, but it’s not difficult—I hope a lot of intermediate cooks give it a shot. Finally, Own No Koksware (sic.) from Sun Restaurant is the most delicious chicken soup you’ve ever had! We are so lucky to have a Burmese restaurant here in Buffalo, and I’m so thrilled Kevin Lin chose to share the recipe with us. It would be tough to find anything on his menu that a typical diner wouldn’t find both comforting and tasty, and there’s the added bonus of the sense of adventure one feels when discovering the flavor profiles of a new cuisine.

For more information on Food for Four Seasons, visit our web site at While you’re visiting the site, you might want to check out another popular local cookbook. Buffalo Cooks With Janice Okun serves up tasty recipes and many fascinating tales about the region’s love affair with food.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Buffalo's Sports Legacy....One Day at a Time

There has never been a book about our region’s twist-filled sports legacy quite like Budd Bailey’s Today in Buffalo Sports History: 366 Days of Milestones. Savor the special moments – one day at a time. In our effort to give readers a behind-the-scenes peek at the birth of regional books, Budd has shared some insights with us.

Q. Why did you decide to write the book?

A. I had written a daily series on what had happened in Buffalo sports history for The Buffalo News during the course of two years. I realized at the end of that series that I had collected a great deal of information on the subject that did not make the series. Based on the reaction the newspaper articles had received, I knew it would be interesting to people. It was just a matter of finding the right format. When publisher Brian Meyer suggested a book, I became quite excited about the possibilities.

Q. How did you go about researching the topic?

A. I obviously started with the record books of the local teams – Bills, Sabres, Braves, Bisons, Bandits, local colleges, etc. Then my imagination went to work. I looked up people who were inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. I’d be reminded some of some obscure fact or incident, and head for the computer search.

 Sports books were obviously helpful, and not just the ones that have been locally produced. I was reading a book on baseball anti-trust law and discovered that Hal Chase had sued to get out of his contract with the Chicago White Sox in order to jump to the Buffalo team in the Federal League in 1914. It was the first time a baseball player had ever used anti-trust grounds to try to win his contractual freedom. That made it historically significant, and thus worth a note in the book.

Q. What were a couple of the most interesting facts that you unearthed?

 A. It’s tough to start with a couple. My favorites are the obscure but important stories that came up. The reserve clause allowed baseball teams to maintain the rights to its players forever, and thus was the most important part of the relationship between owners and players for more than 85 years. The National League added it to its bylaws during a meeting in Buffalo in 1879.

I didn’t know that Henry Aaron was scouted by the Boston Braves while playing in a Negro League game in Riverside Park in Buffalo, and was signed by the Braves a short time later. I didn’t know that the Boston Red Sox were supposed to be in Buffalo when the American League formed in 1900, but Ban Johnson opted to take the franchise to Boston and run it himself. I didn’t know that Tonawanda had a National Football League franchise … for one game, in the 1920s.

Q. What has the reaction to the book been like?

A. When most people see the title, they probably think this is simply a recap of the famous moments in the area’s sports history. It is that, of course. But they seem to be surprised about how every sport is covered, including such topics as boxing, bowling, track and tennis.

Here’s an example of the reaction: Someone attended an exhibition baseball game in 1963 between the International League All-Stars and the New York Yankees in War Memorial Stadium. He didn’t have many memories of the specifics, and thus was delighted when I had an entry about the game – including the score and its participants.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

The "Good Old Days" at Crystal Beach

The Cyclone. Laff in the Dark. The Wild Mouse.

Who can forget all those wonderful memories at Crystal Beach?

Author Erno Rossi captured the magic in his wildly-popular book Crystal Beach: The Good Old Days.

In our continuing effort to give folks a behind-the-scenes peek at the evolution of some well-known regional books, we chat with Erno about his literary adventure.

 Why did you decide to write Crystal Beach: The Good Old Days?

There was no book about Crystal Beach when I started the research about The Park. This was unbelievable that millions of people had loved this place and no one had shared this affection in a book.

How did you go about researching your topic? 
I advertised that my oral history about Crystal Beach Amusement Park would love your feelings about it, good or bad. The emails have never stopped arriving—92% of respondents loved the place.

What were a couple of the most interesting facts or "nuggets" that you
unearthed that perhaps surprised even the author?

I was amazed that the Harvard Trainer plane crashed into Lake Erie when it buzzed the Crystal Beach Boat full of kids and adults. An accident that killed only the pilot when it very nearly was a major disaster. There were several thousand adults and kids on board the boat that day.

I was working at Crystal Beach Park on Memorial Day in 1956 when fights broke out on board the Crystal Beach Boat on its way to Crystal Beach Park. Then the brawls continued in the Park between Black gangs from Buffalo. This ended the Crystal Beach boat’s life at this park. And these “Race Riots” as the media described them were bad for business there. I saw gang fights not Race Riots.

What chapter of the book would you label your personal favorite? Why?
My favorite part of this book is the reaction to it that I receive by email or on my website on Facebook or by phone. Truly an out pouring of love, affection and nostalgia for the Good Old Days.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Closer Look at Knox Farm State Park

A new book focuses on a regional gem that was once a working farm and a private summer retreat. "Knox Farm State Park" offers fascinating insights into this special spot located in East Aurora.

As part of our continuing effort to give readers a behind-the-scenes peek at how regional books are born, we chat with authors Gerald L. Halligan and Renee M. Oubre.

Q: Why did you decide to write the book?

Renee: Knowing that Knox Farm was in need of help and exposure, I suggested doing a video of Seymour walking Knox Farm, telling about its history and his experiences there. Then I remembered Gerry was looking for a book topic. Gerry and I met to discuss the project, then we proposed it to Seymour who said, "Why not!"

Gerald: Renee arranged for a meeting with Seymour Knox IV in January 2012. After several conversations, I was privileged to receive a personal tour of the farm by Seymour. During the several months following this first tour, I was considering writing about the famous Buffalo business leaders who interacted with the Knox family through the generations. But immediately following a second tour of the farm with Seymour in September 2012, the inspiration came that there should be a book written about the new Park. It was our intention that the book could be used as a tool by the Friends of Knox Farm to raise capital to support their efforts to preserve the Knox Farm.

Q: How did you go about researching your topic?
Renee: In our preliminary research, we were astonished to find that there were no existing books written on the accomplished Seymour H. Knox family. Being from East Aurora, I am familiar with the history of the area and its residents. Gerry was intrepid in his research efforts near and far. We traveled to Russell, NY, the birthplace of Seymour H. Knox to visit the historian there and to see the trio of Tiffany windows he dedicated to his mother and donated to the town school.

Q: What were a couple of the most interesting or surprising facts that you
Frankly, there were many. I was personally impressed with the history of Seymour Knox I. His childhood in Russell, New York, the collaboration with his cousin F. W.Woolworth in the early years of the Five & Dime industry and the deep love for his parents and community in his creation of Tiffany Stained Glass windows .These are preserved to this day in the local high school in this western Adirondack community. I had never heard of Russell NY before our first conversation with Seymour Knox IV.
Seymour H. Knox virtually saved the Mambrino King lineage with his purchase of the stock from the Hamlin Farm sale.
Helen Knox had the Shipman gardens plowed under two years before her death.
Q: What chapter would you consider your personal favorite and why?
Gerald: This is difficult. However, the chapter on the Shipman gardens in which I did the research at Cornell University is probably the most significant for me. It was through reading the correspondence between Ellen Biddle Shipman and Seymour Jr. & Helen Knox about the development of the gardens gave great insight into creativity of these fine people. In addition, Mr. Knox Jr. was an excellent writer. In reading his personal books in the Rare Book Collection in the Buffalo & Erie County Central Library, Mr. Knox helped us gain a sense of his love of his family, his horses and personal interests related to Knox Farm. I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to have been involved in this collaborative project to support this new New York State Park.
I love the images with the Knox children and grandchildren at the farm. They are sweet images of idyllic childhood days.
Next, I adore the images of the animals - playful, smiling dogs in the Rolls Royce and the beautiful horses in the pastures.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Looking Back on a Century of Screams

For generations, summers in Western New York were highlighted by visits to Crystal Beach.

As part of our continuing effort to share with readers insights into the origins of our growing line of regional books, we chat with author William E. Kae about "Crystal Beach Park: A Century of Screams."

Q: Why did you decide to write Crystal Beach Park – A Century of Screams?
I didn’t intend to write any books. I was living in Tampa, Florida during the 1990s and I was passing through a town called Crystal Beach on the Gulf Coast just north of St. Petersburg. For the hell of it, I stopped in at their small library to find out of there was any information about the town c started or got its name. Turned out it was also founded by John Rebstock who founded Crystal Beach, Ontario. On subsequent vacations back to Buffalo I began combing through 1880s newspapers on microfilm at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library to learn more about Rebstock and the early years of Crystal Beach Park just to satisfy my own curiosity. Then it just snowballed.

Q: How did you go about researching your topic (make you sure mention any interesting avenues that you pursued).
A: First, I began combing through newspapers on microfilm, then census records. Once I realized that I was amassing so much information I began considering writing a book. There was just too much information for a comprehensive history on Crystal Beach in one volume, so it became three volumes… Steamers of the Crystal Beach Line, Crystal Beach Live, and Crystal Beach Park - – Century of Screams.

Since each book is on a different aspect of Crystal Beach History, the research was complicated and ranged from searching through archival records of Great Lakes Maritime institutions, patent office records, archives of ride manufacturers, interviews with surviving members of the musicians that entertained at the park, amusement industry trade journals… its endless.

Q: What were a couple of the most interesting facts or "nuggets" that you unearthed that surprised you?
A: I was expecting to find information about the religious retreat that is considered to be the start of Crystal Beach in 1888. But there was nothing about this retreat or any activity on Point Abino Bay until Crystal Beach opened in 1890. All the elements of the 1888-1889 retreat perpetuated as the start of Crystal Beach are in fact elements of the Crystal Beach International Assembly that began five years after Crystal Beach was established.

Q: What chapter/section of the book would you label your personal favorite? Why?
A: I do not have a particular favorite chapter, however, I think I found development of the sites plans that illustrate how the park physically evolved with the positioning of the rides interesting. In a transcendental way, they capture the century of Crystal Beach Park history
without words.
Check out "Crystal Beach Park: A Century of Screams" at .

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Birth of "Buffalo Treasures"

Every so often, one of our regional authors will share insights about the "birth" of a book. The author will reveal how a specific book was conceived, discuss research adventures and perhaps highlight a favorite chapter.

East Aurora resident Jan Sheridan kicks off this occasional blog series. Jan has written several books, including National Landmarks of Western New York and Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo and Western New York. Her first book was Buffalo Treasures: Downtown Walking Guide & Driving Tour of Frank Lloyd Wright Homes. Jan shares some thoughts about this popular book.

What spurred you to write Buffalo Treasures?
Writing the book came in stages. I was teaching Art Appreciation at Erie Community College and decided to take the students on field trips to appreciate Buffalo’s outstanding architecture. I found only one book on the subject so I started researching the background of each building. I contacted architectural historian Austin Fox and ended up contributing 14 entries to one of his books. When I told Brian about my research into downtown Buffalo architecture, we decided to write a book about it.

How did you go about researching your topic?
The libraries and archives at the Albright Knox Gallery and the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society proved to be the best sources of information about the buildings and their architects. I took all the photos myself.

What were some of your favorite nuggets that were unearthed during your research mission?
I was surprised to find more than 25 significant architectural sites in downtown Buffalo which can be seen in a short 2 hour walking tour. The variety of interesting buildings also fascinated me – from restaurants to churches and buildings redesigned to serve new purposes.

Is there a section in Buffalo Treasures that ranks as your favorite?
I am a visual person so those buildings with artistic design qualities are my favorites. In this case, they would be the City Hall, the Calumet, the Old Post Office/ ECC campus and many more.

Can you share a few significant milestone dates that are highlighted in your book?
·        In the 1880,s the entire interior of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral blew up in a gas explosion.
·        In 1825 the French General Lafayette made a speech at what is now called Lafayette Square.
·        In 1896 the largest office building in the world was constructed in Ellicott Square.