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January 17, 2014

ADAMCZYK: Memory so green you need a visual aid

Tonawanda News — It was a recent discussion with someone about the origin of the churches in my hometown of Kenmore that got me looking at dozens of photographs, and that’s when it occurred to me:

The beginnings of Kenmore, indeed that of Buffalo’s boom-town days (a city so romping and stomping in the period 1890-1910 it required its own custom-made cool suburb, and that was Kenmore) coincided with the rise of photography as a popular communications medium. Out in Rochester, George Eastman was turning cameras into hardware as abundant, and easy to operate, as pencils, and all over the world, people were taking pictures of things.

While developed photographic film was brittle, flammable and impermanent, the “positives” were on durable paper, stackable and had something of a forever quality to them. Hence, pictures, uncountable numbers of them, litter attics, basements, Dumpsters and memories.

Foster Brooks’ hot dog stand occupied a Sheridan Drive corner where a bank drive-up now stands. Cannot find a photo of it, although it’s not hard to find one of Brooks in his Las Vegas and Hollywood days, now only available in photos himself.

A treasured memory out here is the drag-racing culture that permeated Sheridan during the 1950s, 1960s and beyond. I know it’s treasured because, in presentations on local history I offer, smiles arise and heads begin nodding (they must have been there!) when I bring up those mom-and-pop burger joints where the kids met to check each other’s rides, etc. Pictures, though? No, not many.

Ken-Ton had the occasional Klan rally, and history records the dropping of illegal bottles of booze onto Delaware Avenue sidewalks when the cops were around during Prohibition, but I do not expect to see pictures of that sort of thing.

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