2005-04-06 / Star Journal

Cold Easter And Hot Auto Sales Highlight April 1923

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www.rumbledrome.com 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 April 1923!

April 1, April Fools Day, was also Easter Sunday, and Mother Nature played a cruel joke, with what was the most miserably cold Easter that Queens had experienced for many years. At 6 o’clock Easter morning, the temperature stood at 12 degrees above zero—on the first day of April.

Photo GAHS
Famed violin maker George Gemunder.Photo GAHS Famed violin maker George Gemunder. Long Island City’s first auto show opened at the Astoria Casino on the evening of April 2. It was to run for four days. The keynote speaker for the first evening was District Attorney Dana Wallace, whose topic was the bill then before the legislature to curb automobile thefts. Sixty-five models and many accessories were on exhibit. Many sales were made on the floor.

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The famed ‘Sultan of Swat’ Babe Ruth.www.baberuth.com The famed ‘Sultan of Swat’ Babe Ruth. On April 4, the show was declared a resounding success. Many more sales were expected within the next few weeks. Bringing a message from auto speed king Dario Resta, Robert Dahnke, Resta’s mechanic, said that he had visited many auto shows through the country and had never seen a community show to compare with the first offering of the local dealers. Another scheduled guest, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the famous flying “ace” of the Great War (1914-1918), was detained in New Jersey and could not arrive in time for the event.

On the final day, nearly 1,000 people attended between 7 and 11 o’clock. Dealers met at an informal luncheon after the show closed to discuss an organization which would bring together all auto dealers on the North Shore for an annual affair.

The pay of all snow-shovelers in Queens for the week of March 6 to 10 was held up by the Comptroller’s Office pending a fraud investigation. For that week, the payroll in Long Island City alone was $10,558. It was alleged that some payees and addresses were wrong, and letters were mailed out to the workers to ascertain who had really worked. Deputy Comptroller Frank Prial said one-third of the names on the rolls had fictitious addresses. Some of these, traced by his investigators, led to a synagogue, a church, a police station, a motion picture studio, a Long Island Rail Road yard, several saloons and vacant lots. Comptroller Craig then ordered an investigation of all the snow removal payrolls in Queens for the entire winter. Prial was further waiting for the Queens payrolls for the weeks of March 17 and March 24. The Comptroller’s office said that the fact that these payrolls had not been certified was clear proof that they were being manipulated, or shorn of “ringers.”

The rectory of the Church of the Most Precious Blood was under construction, and would be the most modern rectory in Long Island City when completed. Every room in the rectory was to be connected by an inter-telephone system, which would also connect every room with the proposed new church building. The church held more than 700 persons, and five masses were celebrated each Sunday. These were being conducted in one of the frame buildings known as Hettinger’s Broadway Hall.

The United Societies of Blissville for Civic Improvement met and appointed a committee to draft letters to Senators and Congressmen to protest the employment of Chinese labor in local factories. John Sheridan told of his experience during his connection with the Fire Department, when he inspected the homes of thousands of Chinese and told of finding a low standard of living, but the Chinese were taking the place of dishwashers, Irish servant girls and gardeners. The Hunter’s Point Community Council discussed the same issue in the factories of Laurel Hill and went on record as opposed to it and in support of State Senator Peter McGarry in his fight against such labor. Blissville did receive a reply from the Secretary of Labor about the issue: “You can rest assured that everything possible is being done by this department to enforce the exclusion laws …There is only one way I know of by which we could deal with this situation, and that is to have compulsory registration of every alien in the country.”

On the 24th, a flaming cross excited those in Elmhurst, including the Knights of Columbus, who claimed the cross-burning was the work of the Ku Klux Klan. The wooden cross was about 10 feet tall. A crowd watching the blaze expected a hooded mob on horseback to arrive, but none came. Police believed that some boys had set up the cross, but the Knights of Columbus were adamant that this was a demonstration for their benefit. A similar incident had occurred recently in Richmond Hill during a meeting of the Knights.

On Saturday night, April 14, 10 couples began an endurance dancing contest in the Audubon Ball Room in Manhattan. Police disrupted the contest on Sunday by serving a summons on the proprietors of the ballroom for violating a law, which prohibited endurance contests lasting more than 12 hours. The couples then danced down the stairs to a waiting automobile and, while the auto proceeded to a dance hall in Fort Lee, New Jersey, danced in the auto (which must have been a pickup or flatbed truck) to whistled jazz.

By Monday, one man, hooting like an owl, had gone insane, another had gone lame and yet others had collapsed. Meanwhile, the women danced merrily on, wearing out shoes, partners and orchestras. When one woman fainted on the dance floor, the Jersey police ordered the marathon stopped, whence the remaining dancers danced onto an auto truck and were carried to a secret place “beyond Port Chester.” Finally, on Tuesday, Miss Vera Sheppard of Astoria was declared the female winner after 69 hours, and Ted Gill of Elmhurst Manor claimed the male championship.

During Music Week, musicians of Queens honored famed violinmaker George Gemunder, of Astoria. Gemunder had died in 1901 at the age of 85. He was known by violinists as the only maker of violins who approached the perfection of the Italian instruments made by Stradivarius, Guarnerius and Amati. A concert featuring Gemunder’s daughter, Tilla, and Robert Koecher, one of the rising young violinists of Astoria, was to be held May 1. Tilla Gemunder was famed as a soprano, was fluent in six languages and a proficient artist both on violin and piano.

On April 18, thousands of Queens baseball fans attended the first game played in the new Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. On the way home, for some time Corona and Astoria bound trains were crowded with fans, all talking about Babe Ruth’s wonderful line drive into the bleachers and about the gigantic new stadium.

That’s the way it was in April 1924.

For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-728-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.

On May 2, at 7 p.m., join a “A Salute to the Greatest Generation” with an exhibit and lecture entitled “V-E Day + 60 Years.” Take part in the community’s tribute to the generation that went to war or served in the defense industry on the home front. Hear veterans tell of their experiences. See Long Island City’s contributions to the war effort. The event will be held at the Quinn Gallery, 35-20 Broadway, Fourth Floor, Long Island City.

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