Tonawanda News — Long, straight, flat, deserted. Perfect for drag racing, and there spawned an illegal drag racing culture straight out of “American Graffiti.” In turn, it begat about two dozen mom-and-pop pop stands, burger and hot dog joints, with parking lots perfect for comparing cars, smoking cigarettes and what became known as “makeout sessions.” And who knows what else.
Tonawandans of a certain age love being prompted to recite the identities of those long-past establishments. Ted’s and Anderson’s remain, but Pat’s, Brinson’s, those that went before “and many others,” as it said at the bottom of marquees advertising rock and roll touring caravans (you could see eight or so musical acts, all bands from the radio, in a single show), make the list of memory.
By the 1980s it was turning into the commercial strip we know today. The Town of Tonawanda had long stopped behaving like a rural outpost; housing developments grew north and south of Sheridan and the road became the main drag of the northern suburbia.
I should add that western end became an industrial powerhouse after wires full of Niagara Falls’ electricity pumped through it, around 1910, and a power plant was built in 1916. Factories required workers who required trolleys and buses and roads to get to work.
Sheridan Park was built for workers and their families. So were surrounding World War II barracks for workers, and many of the structures remain. East of Military Road, Sheridan Drive becomes progressively more gentrified, if you can attach that term to a state highway (NY 324), and by the time it reaches its original terminus (Niagara Falls Boulevard) and passes into Clarence, still named Sheridan, you can practically hear its jewelry rattle.
Here is what I want to know about Sheridan Drive: everything. We have here a road that grew with its environment, and grew in importance as it nurtured its community, a historical case study. If you do anything in Tonawanda these days, you likely drive down Sheridan to do it.