By George Thomas Apfel:
I still vividly remember the day I excitedly announced to my 4th grade classmates in Miss Heintz’ class at PS 21: My family was moving to Las Vegas! The announcement was followed with oohhs and aahhhs and I was one very excited 10-year old. I stopped by my old neighborhood on Homer Avenue to bid farewell to my best friend Jim Shaus. Fast forward 47 years and now I’m saying farewells once again–this time to my Las Vegas friends as Friday May 21 I will once again be a citizen of Buffalo.
I became terribly homesick for Buffalo shortly after settling into Las Vegas, I was a Buffalo kid out of his element and talked funny. The homesickness faded over the years and I acclimated to my new home but I always missed all we take for granted in Western New York. Las Vegas being a relatively small radio market in the 1960s helped make it possible for entry into broadcasting. For over 38 years I have been a friendly voice on the radio in Southern Nevada, working as a DJ for 25 of those years; now I’ve stepped away from the microphone to work in engineering.
Vegas has given me a great career, and a great life–I’ve raised a family and seen the kids start their own family. But I’ve always held a special place in my heart for the city where I was born, and have never gotten over being homesick for Buffalo. Plus, all the memories from the Las Vegas of the ’60s and ’70s have been imploded or the people have moved away. Ten years ago I joined the Yahoo Buffalo History group and the spark of interest for “home” grew brighter. I began making friends on the History list and discovered through my genealogy research I have hundreds of cousins in Western New York.
The light guiding me home grew brighter still when I discovered the various online outlets like Buffalo Rising online, where I learned of an effort to entice expats to take a look at Buffalo: Buffalo Homecoming. I came home (after writing about wanting to move back) for the first time in 44 years to participate and wrote about it in BRO. Newell invited me to a regular contributor to BRO and many of you may have read my stories. My family history research discovered many, many ties to Buffalo’s past. That research turned up some very famous folk who have ties to Western New York and me, like my 5th cousin Brigham Young.
I started volunteering for Buffalo activities, helping Buffalo Old Home Week and the 100th anniversary of Old Home week Buffalo Homecoming, an event now branded Citybration. I saw Michael Gainer and Buffalo ReUse and jumped right in to help, now I’m the ReUse database admin and was honored recently as ReUse’s “Longest Distance Volunteer”. Even though I was on the other side of the continent, I’ve already been helping out my hometown. My overlay maps of the Erie Canal Terminus have been well received.
My first time seeing Buffalo as an adult in 2007 re-affirmed my desire to return to my roots, as Buffalo is the only place that truly feels like “home.” Yeah, she’s frayed at the edges and beat up in spots but I see a bright future for Buffalo. If more people follow my lead to return to this often maligned area we may just be able to accomplish something. One of my inspirations was the work accomplished by the late Mike Miller who we recently lost. Mike and I became good friends as we shared our common experiences growing up in Buffalo, we both attended Our Lady of Lourdes and lived a couple of blocks from each other in Cold Springs… and both our families were part of the mass exodus from the city’s core, me moving to North Buffalo and Mike to Kenmore.
Monday May 24 I begin my new job as Chief Engineer for Entercom Buffalo and their seven radio stations. I am dedicating my return home in the memory of Mike Miller. Mike… I’m coming to carry on your mission. – George Thomas