Tonawanda News


February 22, 2013

Back when we weren't afraid of the dark


Tonawanda News — ‘Twas not always thus, kids. While second and third work shifts tended not to be the preferred way of making a living, they were prominent parts of the economy, and the rest of the trades catered to them. If you were not working that way you know people who were.

These days our cellphones, pagers and other devices give employers the luxury of making us think we’re on the job all the time, but it’s essentially a nine-to-five world in a 24/7 economy. 

Delaware Avenue, two in the morning. There were bars and restaurants open, of course, and I knew of two places, car repair places, that seemed to work all night. Drive past, in any weather, and a garage door would be open, a car was on a lift and a shower of sparks would emerge from the underside of the vehicle and seemingly clank down the driveway. The men inside may have been working on their own cars — I dropped in once, just to see, and the strangers greeted me warmly — but there you are, all-night welding.

Even radio catered to what was called “the night owl,” with call-in shows, programs for truck drivers, insomniacs asking questions and getting answers from other insomniacs, so you’d drive at night, to someplace or from someplace and listen to people with perfectly good reasons to be just like you, more in touch with the moon than the sun. These days, radio at night tends to offer more of the same as the daylight, and all those people likely get their needs met by something more web-based.

Places simply did not close as early, if ever, back then. Plots were hatched in donut shops all night, people got psyched up or came down in there and three in the morning was as honorable as two in the afternoon. Those who closed down the bars are now the old-timers you see at McDonalds in the morning. Even Kenmore’s Panera Bread, a welcoming place which encourages loitering, conversation and coffee-swilling, shuts down at 9 p.m.

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