Dogs, Cars, Trolleys Make For Perilous Streets In June 1924
GGet into a conversation with a long-time Queens resident and you’re likely to discover a subscriber of the Long Island Star-Journal, a daily paper that informed the community about local and world news until it folded in 1968. A banner across the Star-Journal masthead reminded readers that the newspaper’s name came from the merger of the Long Island Daily Star (1876) and the North Shore Daily Journal--The Flushing Journal (1841).
Welcome to June 1924!
There was a report almost every day of at least one Queens resident being bitten by an unmuzzled dog. In a report issued by the Sanitary Commission, it was noted that arrests of dog owners stood at 590 for the year, a number significantly above the previous year. At the Long Island City courthouse, a "doggy day" was held where dog owners who did not muzzle their dogs were fined $2 each. In Forest Hills, a stray dog entered a classroom, leapt upon two boys, and bit them on the hands when they attempted to chase the animal from the room. A policeman caught the dog and destroyed it. On June 23, the Star-Journal reported that eight people had been bitten by dogs over the weekend. On June 25, a large brown collie, foaming at the mouth and baring its teeth, dashed down Vernon Boulevard in Hunters Point. Factory workers on their lunch breaks scattered, so no one was bitten. A policeman cornered the dog and was drawing his gun to shoot it, when the dog made a leap for his throat. The policeman dodged, caught the dog by the neck, and fired a shot into its head. The sound of the revolver shot was the signal for return to the sidewalks by those who had hidden. The crowd cheered the policeman.
The New York & Queens County Railroad Company, which operated trolleys in Queens, was in receivership and faced a shutdown of its operations. On June 4, a judge denied a motion by the receiver for the company to discontinue operations and rip up the tracks. On June 16, Justice Joseph Aspinwall ordered the receiver to appear before the Transit Commission and ask for relief in the form of a fare increase. The Transit Commission auditor recommended an increase from 5 cents to 9 cents, but the Commission approved only a 6 cent fare. By June 30, the N.Y. & Q was charging the 6-cent fare, which patrons did not seem to mind, and the line was saved.
Even though the N.Y. & Q. was saved, it was not a good month for trolleys in Queens. In Elmhurst, a trolley derailed and struck a tree. In Astoria, passengers on Second Avenue and Broadway trolleys were shaken when the two cars collided, knocking one from the tracks. In College Point, a trolley struck a car. The car owner, who was infuriated because his wife had been injured, attempted to assault the motorman with a knife, but was disarmed by passengers and arrested.
On June 25, Long Island City and Corona trolleys were struck by lightning at the height of one of the worst gales and rainstorms experienced in years. Thirteen, including the motorman, who was severely burned, were injured in the Long Island City incident. The vestibule of the car crumpled into a heap in the street, but everyone was rescued. The Corona car was carrying a number of girls employed in factories in College Point, when the pole was struck by lightning. The girls screamed and dashed this way and that in blind, purposeless, flight as the bolt shot down into the car. Several men began shattering windows in an effort to escape from the car. One man disconnected the trolley from the overhead power wire, which threw the interior of the car into darkness. Cries of alarm and calls for help were redoubled, but in the rush for the street, four were injured. The car itself was undamaged and was put into service again.
June 1924 was not a good month for safe driving in Queens, either. There were multiple auto accidents virtually every day. As a case in point, on June 23, the Star-Journal reported that 10 people had been injured in accidents over the weekend. In Auburndale, a car overturned, injuring three; four were hurt when two automobiles crashed in Forest Hills; a girl was struck while trying to cross the Bridge Plaza in Long Island City; a Flushing girl was struck by the sidecar of a motorcycle in Bayside; a Long Island City girl was struck by an auto in Flushing, and there were numerous collisions between automobiles.
The Star-Journal promoted a group called the Queens Borough Careful Drivers, an organization to bring public opinion to bear against reckless driving. There was ongoing discussion of what role the person who has just "learned" to drive plays in the accident situation. President Henry of the Automobile Association of America declared "that the experienced driver should set an example for the ‘greenhorn’ and aid him to the point where the latter is absolutely sure of himself or herself."
In economic news, a Ford touring car sold for $295. Bloomingdale’s bargain basement advertised men’s suits for $9.95, and Blumenfeld’s on Steinway Street advertised silk dresses for $6.75 to 16.75. A pair of US Keds sold for 98 cents, and eggs were 31 cents a dozen.
The first electric motion picture camera was to be used at the Astoria studio of the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. The camera was cranked by an electric motor which replaced the hand crank, and filmed Rudolph Valentino’s next movie, "A Sainted Devil."
On Broadway, Douglas Fairbanks was starring in "Thief of Baghdad," and Mary Pickford was starring in "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall." "Male Wanted" and "Pal O’ Mine" were playing at the Broadway Theater in Long Island City, and Loew’s Astoria was showing "Thy Name is Woman."
The Star-Journal described a typical boxing match at the Queensboro Arena, near Bridge Plaza. "There was little rest for residents who wanted to sleep before 10:30 PM because of the noise of cheering and the continual rattle of automobiles. Boys climbed the "L" structure, and shouted their annoyance if anyone within the arena stood up and obstructed their view. Others boarded trains at the Beebe Avenue station and rode back and forth between that station and the Bridge Plaza station, getting fleeting glimpses of the fight action as the train passed the arena. During the afternoon and early evening, street sandwich vendors reaped a harvest. Boys ran hither and thither, accosting every auto that drew up, to offer parking space at fifty cents and a dollar." No summonses were issued for illegal parking, but a number of cars remained unclaimed the next morning.
On June 13, a baseball game between the Yankees and Tigers in Detroit ended in a general riot, with Detroit forfeiting the game to the Yankees 9 to 0. In the ninth inning, Yankee Bob Muesel was hit by a pitch. Fights and near-fights started between members of the opposing teams and fans rushed onto the field. Police were unable to control the riot for a while. The next day Ty Cobb charged that "Babe" Ruth had rushed on the field and had challenged him and several of the other Detroit players to a fight. The same day the Star-Journal reported that, in order to ensure his good behavior, Ruth’s contract with the Yankees provided that half his salary would be withheld until the end of the season.
That’s the way it was in June 1924.
For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-728-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.