Reminiscences of Lewiston

by Michael Hibbard

    Can you imagine what it was like being a kid and having a
grandfather who owned the famous Hibbard’s Custard Stand?  It was like
winning the lottery every week.
    My earliest memories involve my parents getting me a custard (it
was free!) and then walking into my grandpa’s office in the back.  He
told me he had to make sure my custard tasted OK so he ate half of it
before handing it back to me!  It wasn’t funny back then, but it’s funny
today, because I do the same thing with my kids!
    When I was 14 the family put me to work.  My grandpa, Jim Hibbard,
taught me how to make custard the same way his father, Harold, taught
him.  There really is a secret recipe and all the ingredients are
precisely measured.  I had an opportunity to do everything from taking
the milk off the truck to mixing the fresh strawberry and raspberry
purees.  It was fun and my cousins and I took pride in what we did and
enjoyed seeing all the people lined up every summer night to enjoy the
famous treat.
    The family business has a fascinating history.  My
great-grandfather, Harold, actually opened a gas and service station on
Center Street in the 1920s.  It was sold and eventually became
Philbrick’s Gas Station which used to be next to the current Brickyard
Restaurant. He also owned a gas station in Youngstown.
    Harold enjoyed staying in Florida during the winter.  In the 1930s,
his friend and neighbor ran a frozen custard stand.  Harold thought this
would be a great thing for Lewiston.  So in 1939 he got the recipe,
built a 25 x 25 foot stand in the same location you see today, and
opened his new business selling frozen custard.
    The business took off and exceeded his wildest expectations.  In
the 40s and 50s, thousands of people from Niagara Falls would make the
weekly trip — some of them called it an “excursion” — and drove the
harrowing Lewiston Road down the winding escarpment, under the railroad
tracks, and right to Portage Road, to get their custard fix.  People
would tell my grandfather they came as far away as Rochester and
Syracuse.  Back then, a single cone was sold for 10 cents and a double
for 20 cents.  There were times when over 10,000 cones were sold during
one weekend.  Amazingly, over the course of 78 years, millions of people
have been served.
    Standing in line for a custard has become a time honored ritual
that has spanned the generations.  The business became legendary and
spurred several other Hibbard businesses including a liquor store, dry
cleaners, and insurance business.  At one time, there was also a
thriving Chevrolet dealership next to the custard stand.  Over the
decades, the businesses have provided thousands of summer jobs for local
high school and college students.
    In 2005, it was named Business of the Year by the Lewiston Chamber
of Commerce.  The Chamber explained why people like their Hibbard’s
custard so much.  “What makes their product so unique is the way that
the custard is mixed, with only 15% air incorporated into the final
product.  (Most ice creams are more than 80% air).  The special machines
that they need to make their custards are no longer manufactured so
Hibbard’s use their old machines or adapt newer models to fit their
    Harold’s two sons, Jim (my grandfather) and Don, both made careers
out of operating the family businesses and in 1984, they were
incorporated as Harold F. Hibbard and Sons.  Both Jim and Don have
passed away, and the business is now owned by Don’s son, Harold and
Jim’s five children, Kris, Marshall (my dad), Jamie, Jimmy and Romey.
    It’s hard to believe but our family has Lewiston ties that go back
over 200 years.  In fact, our ancestor John Robinson was one of the
Lewiston people who ran for their lives when the British attacked in
1813.  He had a horse drawn cart that desperate parents placed their
babies and young children on in hopes of giving them a better chance of
escaping the bloody onslaught.  With the help of the Tuscaroras he and
all the children survived.  He was able to come back and helped rebuild
the town.  Today, the Tuscarora Heroes Monument aptly stands next to the
custard stand in tribute to our native friends who saved the day.
    I’ve just started my own small business across the street.  Gallo
Coal Fire Kitchen is located at 8th and Center Streets, the site of the
original Hustler’s Tavern.  The owner of the tavern, Catherine Hustler,
is credited for inventing the cocktail when she stirred a “gin mixture
with the tail feather of a stuffed cockerel (a young rooster.)”  Paying
homage to her, we named it Gallo which means “rooster” in Italian.
    Yes, the Hibbard name has become synonymous with Lewiston and is
steeped in our community’s unique history and culture.  On behalf of all
my Hibbard uncles and aunts and dozens of cousins, please accept my
deepest appreciation for your ongoing and loyal patronage of our family
businesses.  Our reputation is important and we’ve put our hearts and
souls into making sure you’re getting the highest quality products and
services.  You are our neighbors and friends and we hope to be around
for another 200 years.
    Maybe I’ll see you soon on a hot summer night when you’re standing
in line at the custard stand trying to decide what delicious flavor
you’re going to get.  Vanilla?  Chocolate?  Black raspberry?  Or maybe
the special flavor of the day?
    Whatever you choose, just don’t forget to take some extra napkins
because they sure come in handy!


You can see photos of Michael and his great-grandfather, Harold,
the founder of Hibbard’s Custard, here:

Can you identify any of these Hibbard’s employees from the
1940s or 50s?  Click here:


by Mary Hansen

   Over the years, many people have asked me about Hansen’s Fish
Market — the business my father, Vigo Hansen (pronounced Vee-go),
started in Lewiston in 1951.
   In the 50s and 60s, hundreds of people from all over would descend
upon the market on Friday afternoons and stand in line to get the famous
35¢ fish and chips dinner.  If you’re old enough, you’ll remember you
had to take a number and wait your turn.  The take-out dinners were put
in big boxes.  My older sister and I were paid 1¢ for each box we
   But let me tell you how we ended up in Lewiston and how the
business got started.
   My father’s parents, Andrew and Andrea Hansen, came to America from
Denmark.  They settled in Minominee, Michigan, working in the logging
business.  My dad was the youngest of 8 children — four boys and four
   His eldest brother, Hans, was the first to come to the Niagara area
where jobs were plentiful and industry was flourishing.  Eventually all
the brothers, Andrew, Everett and Vigo, my dad, and one sister, Phyllis,
migrated to this area finding jobs in the various factories.
   Dad was working at Hooker Chemical in the chlorine department.  He
met my mother, Marjorie Burns, at a local dance.  They married in 1936.
My older sister, Linda was born in 1943 and I arrived in 1945.
   Dad realized working in the chemical plant was not for him even
though my grandfather was in management at Hooker.  Not sure what he
wanted to do, he tackled various jobs.  I remember him filling up a
panel van with New York State apples and selling them down the East
coast all the way to Florida.
   Meanwhile, his oldest brother, Hans, had married and ended up in the
fish business with his father-in-law.  They sold fish out of their home
to various stores and restaurants in the Niagara Falls area under the
name “Haines Fish.”  My dad became interested in the business and worked
with his brother.  When Hans retired he handed the business over to my
   Dad then decided to move the business to Lewiston.  He bought the
property at the Portage Road location in the Village of Lewiston in 1951
for $5000 and started Hansen’s Fish Market, selling raw fish and seafood.
   He sold fish he caught himself or purchased from Kotok’s in
Buffalo, a seafood distributor.  The family moved to Lewiston a year
later in 1952 and we lived at 225 Tuscarora Street, just a short walk
from the market.  My sister and I attended the Red Brick School.
   Dad delivered fresh fish to various restaurants in Niagara Falls
and also private residences in DeVeaux and the Lewiston Heights area. My
sister and I went on deliveries occasionally with mom or dad.
   A black spaniel had adopted my dad and went along as well.  One day
while delivering to the Red Coach Inn, Blackie jumped out of the truck
and took off.  Days later my dad was called to the Stauffer Chemical Co
plant on Lewiston Road to pick up his dog.  They were worried that he
would burn his feet.  How he made it that far is a mystery. Blackie was
also a thief.  He once carried home a dozen eggs taken from someone’s
porch — not breaking a one.  He also brought home a bag of clothespins
from a neighbor’s backyard.
   I remember sitting in dad’s wooden swivel chair in the office
playing with the adding machine.  The office was in the market behind
the display case with raw fish laying on ice, along with jars of
oysters.  In the cellar was the freezer.  I remember watching dad put
his winter coat on and going into the freezer to saw off swordfish
steaks on a huge band saw.  The swordfish were hanging on big hooks in
the freezer.  My dad also ran the raw clam tent at the Lewiston
Firemen’s field days.
   The fish and chips part of the business started in 1955.  My mom
used to go to work there on Thursday and Friday mornings and would help
bread the fish, make the coleslaw, and fill the tartar cups.  There were
usually 2 or 3 other workers as well.
   Dad employed some well recognized names in the Lewiston area.
Grace Orsi and Eugenia Kneeple to name a couple.  I remember Dick
Quarantillo working in the cellar.  He would take bags of raw potatoes
and dump them into this machine that would peel them and spit them out
onto a long tray.  They were then put into a unit that cut them into
French fries and put in huge pails with water waiting to be cooked.
   My sister and I would help out occasionally.  My dad made sticks
with a nail at the bottom and we would go up and down Portage Road
picking up trash that people threw on the roadside from the market.
   In 1964, the market was leased to a long standing and trusted
employee, Genevieve Carver of Lewiston.  This enabled mom and dad to
travel throughout the country in their Fifth Wheel RV.  Gen continued to
run the business until her illness prevented it.
   In 1982, my sister, Linda, and her husband, Peter Schreiber, both
teachers at LewPort, purchased the business from my father.  They owned
the business for over 7 years and during that time there were several
operators.  In April of 1990 the business was sold to Steve Washuta.
He maintained it as a fish market for a while but eventually it closed.
   Yes, it was a very successful business in its heyday.  But several
factors led to its demise.
   For example, as the take-out fish fry side of the business grew we
were getting fresh fish from Finley Fish in Canada.  This fish was never
frozen and took only 3 days to come from the outerbanks to our fryers.
However, when the U.S. imposed a tariff on fish from Canada, making it
too costly, we were forced to get our fish from Boston.  This fish took over
7 days to get from the water to our fryers and often came in frozen.
During the winter months the price of fish could fluctuate weekly, as
much as a dollar a pound.
   Other contributing factors included the restructuring of Route 104.
Lewiston Road used to come down Lewiston hill directly into Portage
Road.  When they put the Parkway in, our fish market went from being on
the main road to out-of-sight overnight.  Fast food operations and
various service groups offering fish fries also put a strain on the
business.  And the wholesale side of the market started to decline when
large scale supermarkets started selling fresh fish.
   Dad passed away in 1985, and my mom in 2002.
   Surprisingly, while I enjoyed the fried shrimp, no one in the
family really ate fish from the market.  My dad ate fish he caught in
the Niagara River such as blue pike and smelt.  We also had a cottage on
Lake Simcoe in Canada where he caught and brought back white fish, lake
trout and perch which were in high demand by a number of locals.
   During my teen years, I worked at Stine’s Drug Store (where the
Village Bake Shoppe is now) and I eventually graduated from NCCC and
Niagara University, pursuing a career in accounting.
   I’ve lived in Lewiston ever since and have many cherished friends
and memories about an exciting time in our lives. My dad and mom worked
hard and are now part of Lewiston’s rich history.

You can see photos of Vigo, his wife Marjorie, and Mary here:



   In a one pint measuring cup, add one cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup
white sugar, and a heaping 1/4 tsp of celery seed.  Fill to one pint
with hot water, stir and cool.  Will keep in fridge longer than a
   For the slaw, chop one small head of cabbage and two medium carrots


by William Hicks

   My name is Bill Hicks and I’m a 1963 Lew-Port graduate.
   My family moved to the Lewiston area after World War II.  My dad,
Paul, ended up working for my Uncle Carl Hicks at his Esso gas station
on Center Street.
   The gas station was located at 424 Center Street, next to today’s
Brickyard Restaurant, and later became the Philbrick station.
   In late 1949, my Uncle Carl decided to get out of the gas station
business and took a job at the Ford car dealership in Ransomville.  So
my dad and some friends decided to open up another Esso station on
Portage Road.  It was located where today’s Warren’s Hardware Store is
operating.  It had been an abandoned gas station and my dad decided to
renovate it.  Business was good and our family lived in an apartment
attached to the station.
   My dad was also a volunteer fireman.  Back then, the only way the
firemen knew that there was a fire call was when the siren went off.
Quite a few volunteers lived several miles from the fire station which
was located next to Schneider’s Restaurant, today’s Brickyard.  Today,
it is a book depository building just west of the Frontier House.
   When someone called to report an emergency they dialed the fire
department number (there was no 911) and the telephone would ring in
several locations.  The phones would ring at the Fire Hall, the Chief’s
home and our Hicks gas station.  Whomever answered the phone could
remotely activate the fire siren.  The volunteer who answered the phone
would wait until someone picked up the phone at the fire hall to give
him the address and information about the fire or emergency.
   Since we lived at the gas station and someone was always available
to answer the phone, dad suggested the fire company install a siren
there.  The fire siren always rang one long ring at 12:05pm every day.
This was so everyone knew that it was five minutes after 12 because if
it started ringing at noon, that meant there was a fire call.  Dad would
lift up my sister Kathy and me and let us activate the fire siren and
ring it one time.  We felt really important.
   Dad would perform general maintenance on the fire trucks.  This
consisted of checking the oil, water in the batteries and radiator, and
filling it up with gasoline.  He would wash the windshield and check the
tire air pressure.
   At the time, the department had a Ward LaFrance pumper (open
cab)(being restored today by volunteers), a new International brand
Pumper, a Ford Tanker, and an old truck from the 1920s.  I think there
was a old hose cart that men used to pull to the fire too.  Dad said
that on the very modern International fire truck the siren went faster
than the truck until the truck motor warmed up.  Fire departments didn’t
use engine heaters until later.
   Every once in awhile he would take me with him to pick up a truck
and I was envied by the neighborhood kids.  The Ward LaFrance was way
ahead of its time as it could run on magnetos or batteries, had a large
spot light and the capability to carry quite a bit of 2” hose.  It also
could carry quite a bit of water.  My dad told me one time he was
driving it to a fire and he was going into a curve, hit the brakes and
nothing happened.  He said the brakes were mechanical, not hydraulic.
He never figured out why the truck didn’t flip over.  After that, he
said he would put the brakes on well before curves.
   Several years later, in the late 50s, dad decided to build a new
station at the corner of 4th and Center Street to take advantage of all
the auto traffic.  Some of you may remember how busy Center Street was
in those days.  Before the construction of the Lewiston-Queenston
Bridge, all of the traffic going to and from Canada came through
Lewiston.  The old Suspension Bridge was located where Artpark is today.
Because my dad’s station was the first and last station travelers came
to, the station sold more gas than any other Esso service station in
Niagara County.
   It’s interesting… Before my dad could build his new Esso station on
the corner, he had to move an existing brick house which occupied the
property.  He called some professional movers who told him they couldn’t
guarantee the house would still be standing after the job.  They had
never moved a brick house before and things could easily fall apart.  As
you can see the house survived — it stands today as Hardison’s Funeral
   Our new gas station was just a few steps from the fire hall.  I can
still picture dad answer the fire phone.  He would tell one of the guys
to blow the siren and then take off running.  By the time other
volunteers arrived, he’d already have one of the trucks out of the
“Barn” ready to go.  They would take off with the siren blowing and the
big, silver bell ringing like crazy.
   One incident that comes to mind was when two big barns caught fire
down over the bank on Ridge Road about a mile out of town.  Some kids
had been playing with matches in the stored hay.  I was about 11 or 12,
and of course, had to follow the trucks the scene of the fire.
   One truck went down a dirt path to the barns and the other stayed
up top next to a hydrant.  The driver of the truck up top didn’t know
how to engage the pump on the truck.  Some of the volunteers had not
been trained on it.
   With both barns fully engulfed in flames and sparks flying
everywhere, my dad was worried about where I might be.  When he went
looking for me he noticed smoke coming from a roof of a house close to
the road — burning embers had ignited a roof fire.  My dad ran over to
the house, asked the owner for a ladder and garden hose, and climbed
onto the roof.  I was standing on the road all this time watching him
pry the shingles up and douse the fire with the garden hose.
   At the end of the day, the barns were lost, the house was saved,
and the local bars were filled with firemen who tried to cool off after
working on a hot summer afternoon.
   My mother, Marian, joined the women’s fire department auxiliary
which put on events and fundraisers.  The big annual event was the
Firemen’s Field Day.  Besides the famous beer tent, there was a food
tent which had homemade foods and homemade vegetable chowder made
by the auxiliary.  The women would get together at the fire hall and cut up
vegetables the day before and the men would man the chowder cookers all
night.  Just to be close to the firemen and equipment, I would help cut
up vegetables.  It was my first experience in helping the fire
   In 1962, when the Lewiston Queenston Bridge opened up and old
Suspension Bridge was torn down, the automobile traffic on Center Street
dried up.  What was a very prosperous business in the late 50s, suddenly
became a losing proposition.  My family moved to the Rochester area
where my dad took another job.
   Growing up in Lewiston in the 40s, 50s and early 60s was a great
time.  Being part of a growing community was a great feeling, especially
being part of fire hall adventures.  I couldn’t have asked for a better

Bill is retired now and spent most of his career in the Rochester
area in the food service management industry.  He and his
wife raised two sons, Adam and Ben.

You can see a photo of Bill’s uncle’s station on Center Street here.
Later, it became the Philbrick gas station.  It was originally owned in
the 1920s by Harold Hibbard, the founder of Hibbard’s Custard Stand
which started in 1939 on Portage Road.

You can see Bill’s dad’s first Esso station on Portage Road and Cayuga
Street here: