Lost Children, Poisonous Liquor Mark December ‘24
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).
“I’m looking for Thanty Cloth,” lisped two-year-old Mary Umlauf to a group of men and women who found her on a busy street corner at Broadway and Second Avenue in Astoria. “My bruvver was wiv me but he went and got losted,” Mary added. She was taken to the Astoria police station. Meanwhile, a similar scene involving Mary’s brother, Otto, four years old, was being enacted near Astoria Square. Otto explained to another group of adults that he and his sister had started to look for Santa Claus and “my sister went and got lost.” Otto too was taken to the stationhouse where policemen told the children stories of Christmas Eve and Santa Claus. About an hour later, their excited father entered the stationhouse and took his children home.
In Astoria, the children of St. Joseph’s Parochial School presented a colorful and amusing Christmas show. Three playlets, songs and recitations were on the program. The featured number was “Santa Claus and the Magic Carpet.” A brief miracle play of the Nativity was presented by boys, and girls presented a playlet, “Rosary Time in Ireland.” Action songs, “The Firemen” and “The Land of the Cross and Shamrocks” were popular with the audience.
Blumenfeld’s, “the home of no regrets,” in Astoria advertised that Santa would be there every day until Christmas. Some advertised gifts were: doll carriages for $9.85, pool tables for $6.85 to $16.85, 100-piece dinner set for $8.95 to $65, silk jersey skirts for $1.95 to $5.95, and men’s silk shirts for $7.50 to $8.50.
The Star hosted a Christmas essay contest, and the winners were announced on December 10. Third prize, of $10, was won by George Wood of College Point. Mr. Wood was hospitalized at the time and received a check from a Star reporter at his hospital cot on Thursday, the 11th. Sadly, Mr. Woods died of heart disease on the 13th.
His essay urged good will throughout the year as a Christmas memorial.
Even though it was the Christmas season, Prohibition was in full swing in Queens. On December 6, four men were arrested in Sunnyside and six stills and 1,000 gallons of alcohol were seized. The men were found dipping the alcohol from the stills into one-gallon and five-gallon cans. In Astoria, on Grand Avenue, one woman and two men were arrested for having a jug of whiskey, a jug of wine, a barrel of whiskey and six barrels of beer on the premises.Two men were arrested when two barrels of whiskey and 11 barrels of wine were found on the premises at 385 Flushing Ave.
On December 16, the Star reported that nine deaths from poisonous liquor in only two days brought the December death list from bad booze to 25. Twelve liquor poison victims were close to death in Bellevue Hospital, while 20 others faced permanent blindness. New York medical authorities warned against “taking one’s life in one’s stomach” by drinking holiday rum concoctions. Dr. Frank Monaghan, commissioner of health, warned against home brewing, pointing out the dangers of faulty distillation.
Long delayed plans for the Roosevelt Avenue bridge over Flushing Creek were finally to be submitted to the Board of Estimate for approval. The upper level of the bridge was to be used to extend the Corona “El” (now the 7 train) to Flushing and the lower for the continuation of Roosevelt Avenue to Flushing.
Plans for what is now the IND subway system in Queens were in their final stages. The line was to run in the 53rd street tunnels (to be completed in five years) under the East River to Long Island City and on to Jamaica. The cost of the line in Queens was projected to be $51,000,000, with a completion date of 1931.
The entire William De Mille company arrived at the Astoria studio of the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. The company was to produce “Men and Women,” adapted by Clara Beranger from the well-known stage play by David Belasco and Henry C. De Mille, father of William and Cecil B. De Mille. Once a year the director brought his company to Astoria to produce one motion picture before returning to Hollywood to produce three more.
Borough President Connolly announced that the borough-wide canvas made at his direction by members of the Street Cleaning Bureau to determine the number of radio sets installed in homes in Queens had been completed. The census showed that there were 34,994 sets in Queens. The survey was made in connection with broadcasting of the municipal broadcasting station. Its purpose was to learn how many people in Queens could be served and where they lived, so they could be better served by the municipal station.
The Astoria Grand Theater, Second Avenue, near Ditmars Avenue, Astoria opened on Saturday night, December 27, to a packed house of 2,500 persons. The feature was “Christine of the Hungry Heart”. In addition to this and the comedy and newsreels, several entertaining vaudeville numbers were performed. After the performances, a reception and dance were held in the hall above the theater.
In one of its historical articles, the Star reminisced that the first free kindergarten in America was established at the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point as early as 1870. Attendance was as high as 120. The credit for founding this forward step in education is due to Conrad Poppenhusen, an earnest student of the educational systems of his adopted land as well as his native Germany. He became interested in the work of the great German educator Friedrich Froebel, who developed a system of teaching younger children, which has since become famous under the name of kindergarten.
In Elmhurst, Elks dedicated their new lodge on Queens Boulevard near Grand Street. Every seat in the hall was filled, with many standing as John G. Price, the Grand Exalted Ruler of the Order, who came from Portland, Oregon, conducted the ceremony. Slowly, an altar was constructed as the Grand Exalted Ruler called for the parts of which the Elk’s creed is built—charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity. Over the altar, the American flag was draped; the Bible was placed atop this and the whole was crowned with the protective antlers of the order.
That’s the way it was in December 1924.
For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-728-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org. The society’s latest exhibit “Look Up, Look Down, Look Around” is open to the public Saturdays from Noon to 4 p.m. in the Quinn Building, 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City.