Tonawanda News

Columns

February 22, 2013

Back when we weren't afraid of the dark

Tonawanda News — Things are different these days. Of course they are. They’re supposed to be.

Another specimen in the “what we’ve gained, what we’re missing” canon was evident to me, one just-past-midnight early morning, when I noticed my car and I were the only visible things moving on Sheridan Drive. Oh, there’s nightlife, somewhere; certain bars in certain neighborhoods are busy and the town’s Greek restaurants remain open, but there was a time urban Western New York didn’t know what time it was.

I’ll now use a phrase a lot of readers have never heard: third shift.

Harken back to the days when this was a manufacturing hub, a place where people built stuff, and in periods of heavy demand, which was all the time in some industries, factories and offices and labs always had the lights on and working around-the-clock was a 24/7 endeavor.

That meant service industries kept the same schedule. Men and women who got out of work at 2 a.m. often sought a place to eat, so restaurants accommodated them. Breakfast was available whenever a customer wanted breakfast. Steak and mashed potatoes at 7 in the morning? No problem. 

The area’s surprisingly liberal bar-closing schedule (to wit: 4 a.m.) is a remnant of those days. You might want, need, a beer at three in the morning because you got out of work at two in the morning.

It was not that long ago the avenues Delaware, Sheridan, Hertel and others were busy places after midnight. We post-adolescents tend not to live that way, these days, and I miss it.

Among the things we can do late at night are the pumping of gas and the visiting of ATMs. There is essentially no shopping, and little eating, available. Only on special occasions do movie theaters offer 11 p.m. or midnight showings.

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