"S M I T T Y ' S"
Like most ethnic neighborhoods, there are a few watering holes, in South Buffalo, that act as front-line positions, in the continuing political Tong Wars. Lads from differing factions and clans gather nightly for a few rounds, to talk over the happenings of the day.
"Smitty's " (now Doc Sullivan’s) was like "Cheers.” You always knew somebody and they always knew your name. During the 70’s the place was run by a prince of a man named Ed Smith. His family was large and both fierce and out spoken in their loyalties. One day, a New York State Assemblyman, from an opposing faction, was served his beer and advised it would be appreciated if he finished his drink and "got the hell out". There were no ambiguities here. "For us or against us "was the code.
This particular establishment had a long and colorful history. Always a hangout for the local politicos, it had made the transition over the years from Republican to Democrat, as the demographics of the area changed. During W.W.II , servicemen drank for free. If they were a little short on money, they could also count on help from the owners.
One night, as I talked quietly with friends at the bar, no less than four separate fights broke out within a 45 minutes period. One involved an incumbent Legislator, who fractured his opponents leg. The next slaked the ire of a future Streets Commissioner and a local policeman, whose gun and holster flapped obscenely through the wrestling match in the snow. The others were routine punch 'em ups and not worthy of comment. None made the news. In this neighborhood, you took your lumps and were quiet about it.
The then Buffalo, Police Commissioner, James (Whiskey Jim) Cunningham, verified the code. He said that complaints of Police brutality were non-existent in the area. If the boys in blue were a little rough, you figured that they got you this time and maybe you would even up at some future date. Perhaps, it was the legacy of a sprawling frontier canal town. And if occasionally, the plate glass window in front had to be replaced, because someone sailed through it in a bit of exuberance, like two of my grammar school classmates who were involved in a brief tussle. Sure, it only added to the charm of the place.
Joseph Xavier Martin