Tonawanda News — A digital photo album exists on the Town of Tonawanda’s website. Many of the pictures are historical in nature and from the archives of the Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society, but one in particular isn’t. Taken from a 1931 newspaper, and under the headline “Crooner Entertains Aged,” its caption reads thusly:
“The old folks have not been forgotten by Bing Crosby, famous radio star, during his week in Buffalo. Yesterday Bing brought a note of happiness to the ladies of the Wheel Chair Home in Kenmore. He is shown presenting his audience with a box of sweets in a pre-celebration of Mother’s Day.”
And there he is, in a bow tie, offering a big box of chocolates to his elderly and female fans.
(The Wheel Chair Home, you should know, occupied that grassy knoll adjacent to the Eberhardt Mansion at Delaware and Kenmore Avenues. A twin of its next-door neighbor, it was demolished in 1978 to make way for, well, a grassy knoll.)
Funny, what a person can learn from trolling the Internet. A few generations later, Keanu Reeves shot a movie, and greeted his fans one afternoon for an autograph session, across the street from where Bing Crosby performed. (Yes, Bing did a gig at the Wheel Chair Home. “My Wild Irish Rose” evidently rocked the place.)
The photo, the story, tells a lot. Yeah, celebrities occasionally wander through Kenmore; Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, Franklin Roosevelt, a rap artist whose name I forget and recorded some material in Kenmore’s Select Sound Studio, the aforementioned Mr. Reeves, all took care of some business here.
It also speaks of the way stardom was done in the old days. A guy like Bing Crosby, as big a star as could be found in the radio days (and movies and recordings, and later television), came to Buffalo for a week to promote, to generate interest, to generally beat the drum for his next project, then moved on to another city of similar size and clout.