Niagara Falls was a industrial city with low unemployment and a solid middle-class population. Ethnic neighborhoods ruled; with unions and organized crime an integral part of daily life. We boasted to visitors that on any city block you could find a church, a tavern, and a funeral home. From my home on 24th Street, you could walk to one corner and get married, to the other to get inebriated, and across the street to get embalmed. Pine Avenue was “little Italy” while East Falls Street was predominately Polish. The Irish ruled in some neighborhoods as did the Jews in others. African-American neighborhoods were small and scattered throughout the city.  I do not remember a Hispanic influence of any size in the city. Factories lined both sides of Buffalo Avenue for miles along the upper Niagara River. Chemicals, abrasives, and steel were the main products. Driving along Buffalo Avenue was a “breathtaking” experience that often made your eyes water and your lungs burn. In spite of the blight of heavy industry, Niagara Falls was a thriving city and viewed differently by visitors. It was the Honeymoon capital of the world. Beyond the factories and on the fringe of the city was Pine Avenue, the main access to dozens of motels. During the summer months “no vacancy” signs glowed brightly on the marquees of many motels along this thoroughfare.  Among all of my relatives, I had an aunt and uncle who were unusual risk takers by my families standards. Uncle Joe and Aunt Frances moved out of town and built a home on Pine Avenue. Soon after, they began taking in tourists. They named their business the White Eagle Tourist Home. Business flourished because of a combination of impeccable service and my aunt’s culinary talents. They saved all their profits for an annual two-month vacation to Florida. Each January and February, they were enjoying the warm beaches of Clearwater while we mucked through two feet of perpetual ice and snow. “Smart” Smugglers The morning was perfect - cool and bright with dew still glistening on the green grass. I was on my bike in a flash and pedaling off to my buddies house. Joey lived on 16th Street, two blocks over from me, and was out on his second-floor porch waiting when I turned his corner. As soon as he saw me, he bounded down a flight of stairs, slammed out the side door of his house and was on his bike joining me as I passed by. We were headed for Stoney’s - our partner in arms and all adventures, big and small. Stoney lived one block over and was waiting on his bike in front of his red brick house when we pulled up. Seconds later we were zooming down Ferry Avenue, feeling the cool morning breeze in our faces. Falls Street was only a few blocks away and, more importantly, Canada was one bridge beyond that. Riding down Falls Street, we checked out the marquees on the Strand and  Cataract movie theaters. We were steady customers and were hoping to see...Wow! There is was, in bold black letters, “Creative From the Black Lagoon”. This was going to be a great week. We got to the end of Falls Street, crossed over to the park, and down to the four-lane entrance of the Rainbow bridge. It was time to get serious and get our stories straight. After all, we were about to enter a “foreign” country. We stayed on the perimeter sidewalk and approached an American customs officer standing in front of the guard booth. Another officer was carefully examining the opened trunk of a car idling in front of the guard booth. A moment later he slammed the trunk shut and waved them on. The officer standing along side the guard booth now focused his attention on us. He was at least seven tall. Looking down from under the shiny visor of his cap he said, “Good morning, boys. Going to Canada, today?” “Yes, sir,” we replied in unison. Hoping our nervousness wasn’t showing. “What are you going to do in Canada, boys?” he asked. “Oh, we’re going to ride around the park and maybe get some lunch, Stoney replied as convincingly as possible.
Niagara Falls is really two falls. The falls in the foreground of the above photo is the American Falls while the cataract in the background is the Horseshoe or Canadian Falls.
Mist from the falls in the winter, froze on all of the park trees and on every other surface. Trees laden with too much ice became overhead hazards. Falling limbs and branches could cause severe injury and property damage. The parks were occasionally closed when these conditions occurred but the winter wonderland was still visited by thousands of people, both natives and tourists.
The Carborundum Company employed my father as a drill press operator for most of his adult life. The company’s buildings stretched for blocks along Buffalo Avenue and from the avenue  for several blocks to the Niagara River’s edge.
Motels and tourist homes lined both sides of Pine Avenue for miles. My aunt and uncle first opened their home to tourists and eventually built a six-unit motel behind their home.
White Eagle Motel
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