Cuban Crisis Heats Up, 2 Men Murdered In July 1960
Get 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 July 1960!
Relations between the United States and Cuba were very strained. On July 1, Cuba seized American and Anglo-Dutch oil refineries because they refused to refine Russian crude. This made Cuba almost completely dependent on Russian crude sources. On July 6, President Dwight D. Eisenhower slashed the Cuban sugar quota by 700,000 tons, virtually eliminating it, and sending Cuban leader Fidel Castro into a rage. On July 9,Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, virtually declared Cuba a Russian satellite, and threatened to use rockets in support of Cuba if the U.S. "dares" any aggression.
On July 30, Charles W. Wiley, a Kew Gardens newsman and Havana correspondent for WOR radio-television, was arrested by Havana police and was being held incommunicado. The radio station filed stiff protests to be delivered by the U.S. ambassador in Havana, the Cuban capital, and by Henry Cabot Lodge, ambassador to the United Nations.
As the Independence Day holiday came to an end, two elderly Astoria men, Frederick Sess and John Rescigno were found dead—one with his throat cut, the other with his head bashed in—in the beer bottle-littered basement apartment they shared on Hoyt Avenue. Two macabre notes were found there. One said, "How do you like these two murders? O-O-O. I’m sorry." The other said "The people in the parole board are intel eat"(intelligent?). The case was listed as a possible homicide or murder-suicide.
On July 6, the Star-Journal reported that Frederick Wood, a convicted murderer who had been paroled only a month earlier and then arrested in Manhattan for parole violation, had confessed to the Astoria murders. Wood was paroled in June after serving 17 years of a 20-years-to-life sentence for the murder of John E. Lowman in Elmira in 1942. Wood bashed in Lowman’s head with a broken bottle, mutilated the body with a knife and then tried to hide the remains under a divan in the home of his girlfriend, where the attack occurred. Similarities between Wood’s crime and the Astoria murders led the authorities to Wood as a suspect. Wood was arraigned on first-degree murder charges on July 26.
Why was Frederick Wood paroled? Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered the state Parole Board Chairman Russell G. Oswald to submit a complete report on the handling of Wood’s case. Oswald admitted that "I guess you’d just have to say we made a mistake on this one. I say that with a lot of heartbreak." The state Parole Board put a temporary ban on parole for prisoners convicted of homicide or serious sex crimes until parole procedures could be revised.
In Flushing, a dozen members of the Religious Society of Friends held a six-hour demonstration in opposition to the manufacture of germ weapons at the Friends Meeting House at 137-16 Northern Blvd. The demonstration’s purpose was to educate Flushingites about the weapons manufactured at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, where members of the Friends had been standing in line (the Quaker method of picketing) for more than a year.
On July 27, about 8,000 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 was operating in Queens, in the Elmhurst area—with a police escort. 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 on July 29, and, citywide, sanitation men only had to remove 16,000 tons of accumulated garbage.
Queens movie-goers saw "The Apartment" starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, "Hercules Unchained" starring Steve Reeves, "Please Don’t Eat the Daisies" starring Doris Day and David Niven and "Pillow Talk" starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, "Psycho," began its run. Jerry Lewis appeared at Loew’s Valencia theatre in Jamaica to promote his latest film, "The Bellboy".
Television viewers 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.
That’s the way it was in July 1960.
For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-728-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.