Woodsider Dies In Vietnam In November ‘64
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 November 1964!
Lyndon B. Johnson was elected president. His margin of victory in Queens was 274,301 votes. The tidal wave of Democratic votes allowed Democrats to take control of both houses of the state legislature for the first time in 29 years. Robert F. Kennedy was elected Senator in his first bid for elective office. Many believed his long-range objective was the White House.
From Vietnam came news of the death of PFC Thomas J. Hanley of Woodside. He, along with three other Americans, was killed in a Communist bombardment of the Bien Hoa air base. On November 19, the Star-Journal reported that an additional 1,200 men would be sent to Vietnam, making the U.S. military strength in the troubled area about 21,000—up by 5,000 since midsummer. Meanwhile, American and Vietnamese troops pressed a massive offensive against Communist guerrillas northwest of Saigon.
November 22 was the first anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “We must keep burning in our minds and hearts as the eternal light burns at Arlington Cemetery, the flame of perpetual memory and rededication,” remarked Queens Borough President Mario J. Cariello at a half-hour memorial service held at the plaza in front of Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. An organist played “America the Beautiful” as a lunchtime crowd of about 100 persons, some with tears in their eyes, dispersed slowly along Queens Boulevard.
Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara ordered the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Army Terminal shut down as cost cutting moves. Even after the efforts of Senator-elect Robert F. Kennedy to prevent the closings, both were to shut down in 18 months. The Navy Yard employed 10,000 workers and the Army Terminal about 2,000, The Pentagon cited cramped facilities (e.g., bridge clearance was only 131 feet, difficult or even impossible for the newest aircraft carriers) and that Brooklyn compared unfavorably with Boston and Philadelphia on three standards: industrial capability, fleet support capability and economic factors. New York politicians were universally livid. Congressman James J. Delaney of Astoria said, “This is a shabby stunt. I’ll probably comment further after I’ve read Secretary McNamara’s complete report.”
On November 4, a chant-ing, hooting mob of 4,000 to 5,000 people ran through the Jamaica business district smashing windows and looting stores, all because they couldn’t get into a rock show, the Motown Revue from Detroit. It took 250 policemen—many wearing steel helmets—four hours to disperse the mob and halt small, scattered, brawls that broke out over a distance of some 15 city blocks. The riot began when jostling, pushing and shoving, and finally brawling and stomping broke out when management attempted to get non-ticket holders to form lines to purchase tickets for the second show of the night. Stores, including jewelry, clothing, shoe and gift shops were looted. The windows of 17 stores along Jamaica Avenue were smashed. Police had to break up a huge mob that descended on the Jamaica bus terminal and began brawling. Another mob was dispersed on Hillside Avenue and 168th street, nearly a mile from the theater.
The second show was held. It started a little late and ended at 2 a.m. Ironically, it was not sold out.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce expressed concern about “outsiders and ivory-tower dreamers fooling around with or destroying” Queens’ residential character. In a letter to the City Planning Commission, the chamber asked its help to ‘protect” the borough while the Planning Commission worked on formulating a master plan for the entire city. The chamber said it feared “good-intentioned people who want to help, but think Manhattan is the City of New York and don’t know Queens exists.” The chamber recommended that charts showing existing Queens streets and railroads and a proposed street system for vacant land be included intact in the proposed master plan.
The Borough President concluded an unofficial agreement with the City Planning Commission to give Queens a privileged position in deciding zoning matters affecting its basically residential character. The CPC would give Queens two months to examine and make recommendations on any proposed zoning change before the CPC. No other borough except Queens had requested such an “eyesore” safeguard arrangement.
The Star-Journal reported that real estate development in Queens had spurted ahead in almost all areas, notably in the construction of private home buildings, walk-up apartments, warehouses, hotels and stores. Private homes increased by 188 to 170,128, and two-family dwellings increased by 3,698 to 82,765 units.
On November 29 America’s Catholics for the first time attended Mass featuring the use of English instead of Latin, and other revolutionary reforms. There was confusion over when to stand and when to kneel, and many used to saying the rosary or silent prayers found themselves lost in the new participation of the Mass. But in the main, response seemed favorable. Parishioners acclaimed the feeling of “participation” they experienced. “I really felt as though I belonged,” said one Jackson Heights woman.
In sports news, in the American Football League draft the Jets, in a second round pick, selected Alabama quarterback Joe Namath. The Mets purchased left-handed pitcher Warren Spahn from the Milwaukee Braves. He was to pitch and serve as a pitching coach.
The entire faculty of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parochial School in Forest Hills traveled to Manhattan to attend a preview of a new movie, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” with only one thought in mind—to see one of their prize pupils shine. The pupil was Pia Zadora, a seventh grader who was a veteran of Broadway, TV and radio, and now added the movies to her credits.
Playing at the movies were “Kisses For My President,” starring Fred McMurray and Polly Bergen; “Fail Safe,” starring Henry Fonda; “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” with Debbie Reynolds and Harve Presnell, and “Kitten With a Whip,” starring Ann-Margaret and John Forsythe.
Gertz Department Store in Flushing advertised a Flushing Toyland, open to 9:30 p.m. every night until Christmas. Featured were tricycles, bicycles, doll strollers, a “general’s staff car,” fire engines, and all-steel tractors, all for less than $40. And Santa was there, ready to greet boys and girls and check their Christmas lists.
That’s the way it was in November 1964.
For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-728-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.