by Chris Wendel
This is the weekend I want to call the "Rip VanWinkle Experience". The "Farewell, Old Friend" event at the Buffalo Convention Center was the final chance to celebrate Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium and realize again how quickly life and time can pass one by.
It seemed like more then a coincidence that the Aud was conceived the last time our country was going through a horrific economic struggle. The building was built as a WPA project driven by the Roosevelt Administration to to put people to work and stimulate a dead economy during the malaise of the Great Depression. This time around the circumstances were a bit different; a new arena has already been built and the now obsolete Memorial Auditorium is slated for the wrecking ball.
The events this weekend centered around the auctioning off of leftover Aud blue section seats and portions of the dasher boards, along with autograph sessions with former Buffalo Sabres, Braves, and Stallions. I never figured out where in a rec room or basement the dasher boards would fit in and I don't know if I would make it through a half of any game watching at home in the wooden chairs. Still it was intriguing to see the seats that were nicely refinished and purchased for up to $750 (for four).
We set up a table along side other card and memorabilia vendors. Although we had no product in hand to sell (yet), we passed out postcards with book information to hundreds of interested fans and many former Braves season ticket holders. Several former team employees stopped by and revealed antidotes of the Braves that I had never heard before.
Ernie DiGregorio, Randy Smith, and Dolph Schayes were also in the house today signing autographs. All three stopped by our table afterwards to look over the book chapter excerpts and like the other fans, they are anticipating the book release in February.
Hall of Famer Schayes spent a good ten minutes looking at pictures of his first year as the Braves coach, telling compelling stories and talking to fans in an incredibly polite and patient manner. Age the age of 80, it was amazing to see someone voted to the list of NBA's top 50 players work the crowd so well, even when many younger fans lacked the historical perspective to know exactly who he was.
As the live auction event in the other part of the hall wrapped up, former Sabre Danny Gare told the story of his first game in the Aud, when he scored 18 seconds into the contest. After hearing his short but moving speech of how he remembered the Aud, it was obvious that Gare is a true fan of the old building like the rest of us.
So now that the final celebration and acknowledgments are over, we all have our physical or mental pieces of Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium. May the old arena rest in peace.