This is a sequel to the “Off Broadway” article which was published in December 2021. These are the memories of Alex Ramsey, who grew up on the East Side of the city. Interestingly, he has lived in Texas since 1977, but his fondest memories are from his youth. Alexander was born in 1956.
“The cohesion of the neighborhood itself made it a really special time and place to grow up.”
In the fall of 1976, due to circumstances unfolding in my beloved hometown of Buffalo, I began to consider looking elsewhere to live. Buffalo had begun its descent into an economic dive from which it never really recovered.
I was offered full time status at the Broadway Bells IGA after 5 years there. I had exceeded the modest sum of $2.90/hour? ! I had no interest in a career in a retail supermarket, and Bells folded anyway, as did my old neighborhood in less than 25 years.
I would have stayed in Queen City if UPS had taken me on full-time, but a quirk in union rules forced me to quit my part-time status and sign on as a “casual” driver on a “on call”. ” basic – essentially as required without any benefit. I called the hub manager. I had a great work record there, 4 years working 4:00-8:00/8:30 as a delivery preloader. Never once late or called in sick. I asked why can’t I keep my part-time status, finish the shift, then, if necessary, drive, hop on ‘The Browns’ and work my way up to permanent full-time status? The hub manager at the time – Bill Lee – had my file in hand and told me that I could keep my part-time job forever, but the union agreement didn’t allow them to retain me as an employee, as occasional driver, saying that it was possible for me to “earn” permanent full-time status in 2-3 years, but that I had to quit my part-time job. Pure and simple idiocy.
Then the straw that broke the camel’s back was a 13-state “wildcat strike” on the East Coast. The Teamsters bypassed a membership election. I showed up at work one morning, was handed a strike sign, and a union rep told me to start marching and picketing. Found out there was no dissent or option, warned not to cross “The Line” – walk your 4 hours/day instead of the $7.90/hour I was making charging the delivery trucks at that time. We received $15.00 from the union fund to walk through December and the snow season. $3.75/hour to walk in 1-2 feet of snow. No walking, no $15.00.
At that time, I was hoping to pursue my real dream (UPS was plan B) of becoming a police officer, hoping to land a job in my old precinct #11 on Bailey. I had graduated from ECC North in May 1976 with a degree in Criminal Justice (3.7 GPA) and had scored 95% on the Erie County Civil Service Test for Buffalo PD and the surrounding agencies (Cheektowaga, Depew, Lancaster, West Seneca, etc. I was in peak physical condition – weightlifting, running, etc. went.
I finally got hit with a bombshell by a Buffalo PD captain who pulled me aside and told me that all these agencies, despite my qualifications and a totally clean record (never stopped), were throwing my application for the trash before I even leave the buildings?! Unless I “knew someone” (which I didn’t know). They did not hire men of European descent (not exactly the way he told me, but a toned down version). I was really devastated; my 20 year old house betrayed me! After “strike duty” on Thanksgiving night 1976, with a few feet of snow on the ground, picketing in a snow squall, (an omen for what was to come – the Blizzard of 1977, which will be covered in my next and final episode), my landlord’s daughter and her husband Frank were visiting Buffalo for the holidays.
Frank grew up in Tonawanda, graduated from UB and worked in management at GM’s Delavan plant. He was transferred to the GM plant in Arlington, Texas in 1974. He always came to visit my parents when they were in Buffalo. That evening, I told him about my “experience” in pursuing a career, whether as a police officer or at UPS. I applied everywhere I could imagine in Buffalo – Trico, Westinghouse, Courier Express, Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo Forge, to name a few. No one was hiring; not a bite.
Frank immediately convinced me of what I needed to do, describing the upcoming growth of Arlington, TX. My decision was made. During the first week of January, I loaded up my 1971 Chevelle with my belongings, including my Admiral 12″ black and white TV, my AAA Trip-Tik, and set off for Arlington to pursue my dreams and my career.
When I landed and found my apartment, Frank pulled up with a map of Arlington (pop. 60,000 then – in 2022 about 460,000!). The first day I got a job at Southwire – a cable warehouse, as a forklift operator. I had obtained a forklift certification while working midnight at Red Star Express in Depew as a casual during the 4 month strike at UPS. Because I finally knew someone (one of the warehouse managers was my brother’s father-in-law), I found a temporary job, to help me out during the strike.
But all that belonged to my past. In the blink of an eye, I had an apartment and a job in Arlington. My first weekend off, I was flown back to Buffalo to receive my final paychecks from UPS (strike was settled in mid-December), Bells IGA and Red Star, to close my accounts, etc. ., before starting my new life in Texas.
But…Buffalo was waiting for me…to grant me my last adventure there. Perhaps to “punish” me for having left the Queen City. This will be the final chapter in my saga of growing up on the East Side of Buffalo, New York (now known as East Buffalo).
Off Broadway” Part VI
“Off Broadway” Part V
“Off Broadway” Part IV
“Off Broadway” Part III
“Off Broadway” Part II
“Off Broadway” Part I
Main image: photo by Pauline Lu