QueensLine: Garbage men went on strike in 1960 over contract dispute

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In July 1960 in Flushing, a dozen members of the Religious Society of Friends held a six-hour demonstration in front of the Friends Meeting House at 137-16 Northern Blvd. to protest the manufacture of germ weapons. The demonstrat­ion’s purpose was to educate Flushingites about the weapons’ manufacture at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., where members of the Friends had been standing in line — the Quakers’ method of picketing — for more than a year.

On July 27, 1960, about 8,000 city Department of Sanitation workers failed to show up for work in protest over a breakdown in contract negotiations between their union and the city. More than 5,000 of them marched on City Hall and refused to return to work unless their demands were met.

The next day, only one garbage truck, operating in the Elmhurst area with a police escort, was operating in Queens. Six truck-drawn trash receptacles were picking up garbage from Queens hospitals. Only 23 other trucks, also guarded by police, were picking up garbage in other boroughs.

Fortunately, an agreement to end the action was reached July 29 and citywide sanitation men only had to remove 16,000 tons of accumulated garbage.

On July 30, 1960, Charles W. Wiley, a Kew Gardens newsman and Havana, Cuba, correspondent for WOR radio-television, was arrested by Havana police and held incommunicado. The radio station filed stiff protests to be delivered by the U.S. ambassador in Cuba and Henry Cabot Lodge, ambassador to the United Nations.

In 1960, Queens moviegoers saw “The Apartment,” which would go on to win the Best Picture Oscar that year, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine; “Hercules Unchained,” starring Steve Reeves; “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” starring Doris Day and David Nivens; and “Pillow Talk,” starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho” began its run. Jerry Lewis appeared at Loew’s Valencia theater in Jamaica to promote his latest film, “The Bellboy.”

Television viewers in 1960 enjoyed shows such as “Father Knows Best,” “Peter Gunn,” “Highway Patrol” and “The Millionaire” or watched evening network coverage of the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions.

According to a 1959 survey, Queens families earned more money than the average American family. Each Queens family earned an average of $8,132, compared to the national average of $6,385 and the New York state average of $7,371. The Queens County quality of market index — based on population, expenditures, incomes and economic growth prospects — was 112, or 12 percent higher than the national average.

For more information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit

Upcoming events at the Greater Astoria Historical Society

Where: 35-20 Broadway, 4th Floor, Astoria

Movie — The 1900 House: Vicariously experience a time-travel journey back to everyday, middle-class life in Victorian London as the adventurous Bowler family spends three months living in a townhouse carefully restored to reproduce the ambiance and amenities of the year 1900. This film explores the radical changes in family and domestic life that have occurred over the past 100 years through scientific and technological innovations.

When: July 31 and Aug. 7, 1 p.m.

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