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WHY STOP BOOSTING BUFFALO?

Every once in a while I get a phone call from a person who says something like: "I moved to Western New York from New York City, as you did, and certainly understand why you like this area. But I believe I speak for every other person who came here from New York City when I make a simple request. Please stop boosting Buffalo. Let's keep it a secret."

Those words came to mind this week when I heard about the Greater Buffalo Chamber of Commerce's plan to stage Buffalo nights in different cities across the country. I will note for the sake of those who missed the report that the main purpose of the new campaign is to recruit support for Buffalo's application for a big-league baseball franchise.

Well, I don't intend to stop boosting Buffalo. And I can assure the former New York City residents who have called me that they won't live long enough to see prospective residents discouraged from coming here. Such a discouragement of potential newcomers is a function of one branch of the state government in Oregon.

No, they don't have to worry about that, because there isn't enough money available here to launch a campaign that would change the image of Buffalo from a place where the only two seasons are winter and the Fourth of July.

A couple of years ago I suggested that professional Buffalo boosters obtain endorsements of our lifestyle from three former Western New Yorkers who had important jobs at the three major television networks. They were Phil Beuth at ABC-TV, Gene Jankowski at CBS-TV and Tim Russert at NBC-TV. Jankowski has left CBS, but still is a powerful television figure who is as ready to endorse Buffalo as the other two men.

Today I have another person for the Chamber officials to consider as an endorser. His name is Bob Christopher, and he is a respected travel writer from Milford, Conn., who is best-known in his field for his book "Around the World on $80."

Yes, a dollar stretched longer in 1952, the year the book was published, but not enough to get a person without Christopher's ingenuity through 17 countries. And only someone with a surfeit of grit could do what Christopher did while researching what is more of an adventure story than a guidebook.

Many years ago the magazine I worked for published Christopher's account of how he had hitchhiked across the United States dressed as a Russian soldier who was carrying a dummy atomic bomb. And during a recent visit to Buffalo he came by my office to talk about the past and the present.

Many of the observations he made that day went into the tickler file for further consideration. I thought of my displaced New York City callers when he said: "I have been in 300 cities in 110 countries and Buffalo is the best-kept secret I have discovered. And I repeat that observation when I am lecturing in different places.

"When asked to elaborate on that statement, I talk about many things. Like the fact that Canada is just across the river. There are not many cities that have the two-country culture factor you enjoy here. Not enough people appreciate that. Nor do enough people here appreciate that Niagara Falls is one of the wonders of the world. Also, I am sure that few natives include the Chautauqua Institution when talking about the pluses of Western New York.

"Visitors have trouble believing your low prices on every item from houses to hot dogs. All in all, this area has a lot going for it."

One last matter. There is another excellent reason why Christopher has a special feeling about Western New York -- his wife, the former Mary Ellen Hipkins, is from Kenmore.

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