In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, TimesLedger Newspapers presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history.
Its February 1950 and the No. 7 Train is adding new cars. The maroon cars with wide beige strips above and below windows will help glamorize the Flushing Line. Cooling fans and heat will be governed by thermostats sensitive to car temperature changes, including shifts brought about by an increase or decrease of passengers.
The Springfield Garden Citizens and Taxpayers Association sends a letter to the Public Service Commissioner protesting the closure of Higbie Ave. Station. Nearby Idlewild Airport is expected to be one of the first targets in a nuclear attack. The community, wanting a clear escape from an H-bomb, believes the railroad offers a quick out.
Mile-A-Minute Murphy, 79, dies in his home at 160-12 Union Tpke., Hillcrest. He was the first man to bicycle over 60 mph. The successful test, conducted in 1899 on a special railroad track near Hempstead, makes him a national figure.
Queens Chamber of Commerce President Frank O’Hara of Jackson Heights suggests a subway loop under the Sunnyside Yards that would link the LIRR and three subway lines.
New salaries for baseball players are announced. Jackie Robinson gets $35,000, Phil Rizzuto $40,000, Stan Musial $50,000, Ralph Kiner $65,000 and Joe DiMaggio $100,000. Topping the list is Ted Williams at $125,000. The paper is quick to add that after taxes, Ted took home about $70,000.
Congressman James Delaney of Astoria wants statehood of Long Island. A member of the House Rules Committee investigating admitting Hawaii and Alaska as states, he claims Long Island makes a much better case for statehood, and if you throw in New York City, “there is no comparison. Alaska, with 90,000 citizens, has one-fourth the members of my district.” The proposed state, with 26 members in Congress, would be about the size of California or Illinois. Jamaica is the proposed capital of the state of nine million.
Two decades before, Queens Democratic Leader James Roe also proposes statehood, but is not taken seriously by upstate legislators whose approval is needed.
“They may not like us, but they want our tax money,” he said.
Several upstate legislators disagreed, one going as far as proposing legislation making the city a special district, like Washington DC, thus cutting it off from voting in statewide elections and paying or receiving state tax.
“New York... foists upon us costly social experiments benefiting city dwellers and not us simple-minded country folks,” said upstate Assemblyman Wilson van Duser.
Responded Roe, “if it weren’t for New York and the rest of Long Island, they would not be building $200 million thruways, parks, schools and hospitals.”
In one year, caseloads in the court systems skyrocket: Special session court, up 10 percent; country court, up 17 percent; Ridgewood Felony Court, up 20 percent, and traffic court up 35 percent. Over 90 percent of car theft comes from juvenile delinquency. In Queens, more than three cars are stolen every day. Detectives visited Woodrow Wilson High School in Baisley Park on a stolen car tip. They recover four cars. A 15-year-old Maspeth youth, perp of a half-dozen vicious stick-ups, is apprehended with a stockpile of guns and pistols including a 12-gauge shotgun. “It’s hard to aim a pistol from a moving car,” he smirked.
Alice Benson, age two of Astoria, fights the crime trend and a Venezuelan woman, visiting in the city with her wealthy rancher husband has her $1,000 diamond and emerald clip back. The pin, handed to Alice to ‘play with’ by a stranger on a LIRR train, was later discovered to be no toy. Alice’s mother and father took it to the police.
When the story first hit the papers, Mrs. DeCadenas of Caracas rushed to the clerk’s property office in Jamaica and claimed it, producing it’s twin as evidence. The heiress lost the clip in a cab. Overjoyed, she sat down and wrote out a check for $150. The wide-eyed little girl asked “is it all my own?” When assured by her father it was, she said “I’m going to buy dollies and chewing gum!”
That’s the way it was in February 1950.
For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.