By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Friends, family and fans of Doug and Polly Smith said goodbye to the longtime Islanders Saturday at with an event dubbed the Cheap Farewell.
The GI residents, writers and Channel 4 personality the Cheap Gourmet are moving to Cortland to be closer to family. They held a get-together at Theodore's on Grand Island Boulevard with a frugal going away party.
The Smiths moved to the Island in 1966, when they bought a house from Floyd Doring on lower Alt Boulevard. Doug said they were living in Erie, Pennsylvania, but visited Buffalo and Niagara Falls a lot to see Melody Fair, and liked what they saw.
"It just looked like a very cool place to live," Doug said of GI. "We always liked islands. It just looked like a cool place to live and we shopped around and bought a house on Alt Boulevard."
Doring just sold their house on Hennepin Road.
"So we opened and closed with Floyd," Doug said.
Back in 1966, "Grand Island had just gotten its second stoplight," Doug said, at Love Road and Beaver Island Parkway. It had more grocery stores than stoplights: Polly said there were four grocery stores on the Island at the time.
"It seemed to me there was a lot more business on Grand Island then than there is now," Doug said.
"But there was a great sense of community," he added. "I'm not sure it has that anymore."
The couple met in a newspaper office in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, where he was a sportswriter and she was a teletypist. They moved to Alt Boulevard - "a marvelous rural place," Doug said - that was close enough to his workplace at the Buffalo Evening News, where he was a copy editor and later night city editor. As night city editor, he was ground control for the News' coverage of the Attica riots.
From there, Doug moved to Channel 4 where he was a restaurant reviewer. He lost his last full-time job when Channel 4 fired him in the early 1990s, ending his stint as The Cheap Gourmet. Packing for the move to Cortland, Doug found he has 35 pounds of fan mail from his Channel 4 days.
Doug has never really retired, having written for "probably every newspaper in the area," with Polly sharing his byline. He and Polly, his wife and co-author for 57 years, have spent 17 years at 240 Hennepin and 27 years at 111 Hennepin.
He has written a column for the North Buffalo Rocket, the Rocket Man, since 1984.
"Never missed a column," Doug said.
What will they miss after 50 years here? Theodore's, the ballgames, the deer at Beaver Island in winter, the swimming pool at their home on Hennepin Road, they said. Doug said he will miss the Grand Island Vikings athletic program that he was covering even before there was a high school. He was writing about the legendary Gene Masters in 1957 when the first GI coach was still coaching football at Brocton High School.
"It had the twin virtues of being low-key, but successful," Doug said of the GIHS program.
"I'm going to miss the rides at night," Doug said. "We'd be somewhere at 6 o'clock, and I'd say, 'You want to go straight home?' And she'd say, 'No,' and we would just ride around the Island."
"We never in a million years ever dreamed about moving anyplace else," Doug said, calling the Island "just what we needed."
But not having family locally makes a difference, they said. Polly said her five best friends have all passed away, and "Once I lost them, it wasn't the same." The couple will move 10 minutes from their daughter, Holly, in Cortland. Their son, Joe, lives in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
How will the Smith's adjust to Cortland? Cortland will have to adjust to them, their son said.