Tokyo Quake, Prohibition Are News In Sept. ‘23
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).
On September 1, just before noon, Tokyo time, an earthquake magnitude 8.3 struck the Tokyo-Yokohama area. Queens residents didn’t learn of this through the pages of the Star until September 4, when it was reported that 500,000 had perished. (Actual numbers put the dead at around 100,000 with about 40,000 missing and hundreds of thousands left homeless because of fires.) On the 6th, Mr. and Mrs. A. Ingoglia of Middle Village received word that their 22 –year-old son, Anton, was listed unofficially as one of the earthquake victims. He was a skillful tennis player, who recently won a cup in the Yokohama games.
On September 7, the Queens County Red Cross began a drive for funds for devastated Japan. By September 15, the Queens Plaza Branch of the Red Cross had collected $781. In Jackson Heights, a performance of three one-act plays by the Jitney Players, whose performances at Newport and other resorts had won high praise, raised $725 for the relief effort.
The Star observed that a severe crime wave had been sweeping Long Island City for the last 18 months. In the course of it, two men were murdered, three wounded and $122,000 stolen in robberies there.
The month began with another. On September 1, it was reported that George Miller, a paymaster in Astoria, was shot and killed instantly at 4 o’clock in the afternoon of the previous day in one of the most cold-blooded murders ever in the district. Although Miller had close to $1,000 in pay envelopes on his person at the time he was shot, the holdup men did not get a cent. Police believed that the bandits did not intend to shoot Miller, but became excited. Following the shooting, the men fled in a stolen automobile.
Authorities in Queens were busy enforcing the Volstead Act (Prohibition). Motorcycle Policeman Henry Roelich of the Flushing precinct arrested Sandy Notaro of Brooklyn, who was in possession of 17 pint bottles of a liquid bearing the label “Golden Wedding Whiskey” and three quart bottles labeled “Dawson’s Scotch Whiskey.” Notaro had evidently been doing a thriving booze business at a Sunday afternoon picnic at Whitestone Landing. He was released on $500 bond and was to be arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn.
The Queens County Court prepared for the final step in the seizure of $100,000 worth of liquor at the Blackwell Mansion in Astoria. The booze had been seized on Armistice Day 1922. The question before the court was whether it should be returned to its original owner, A. Aloise. The decision would be an important one, in that it would bear on other cases where liquor was seized prior to the rescinding of the Mullan-Gage Law, the New York state prohibition law.
On Thursday evening, September 27, Izzy Einstein, “demon” United States Federal Agent, in ferreting out dispensers of alcohol and bringing violators of the Volstead Act to justice, descended upon Corona with a crew of assistants and took possession of a dwelling at 27 Southern Ave., south of the Corona railroad depot. At the same time, one of his assistants visited the station house in Elmhurst with two prisoners who were detained for interfering with federal officers.
On September 11, Queens residents were treated to the appearance of the giant Navy Zeppelin ZR-1 (Zeppelin Rigid), as it floated over Northern Queens, down the East River and across the harbor, where ships extended a noisy greeting of whistle blasts. The sight was a first for most Queens residents, who had never seen a dirigible before. The airship was built by the Navy at Lakehurst, New Jersey and was the world’s largest rigid dirigible.
On the 27th, it was reported that within the next few weeks, Lieutenant John A. McCready of the U. S. Army air service would attempt to break the world altitude record. The record of 35,178 feet was held by a Frenchman, Sadi LePointe. The ceiling for an ordinary airplane was about 21,000 feet, because at higher altitudes the air was too rare to support combustion in the engine. McCready was to use a supercharger, which would inject air into the combustion chamber at sea level pressure.
Workers excavating for new conduits for the phone company uncovered several relics in Dutch Kills. The specific report referred to uncovering 50 horseshoes, a hammer and a bellows, which must have been used by the “village blacksmith” in his shop, which had been torn down years ago. None of the old-time residents of the area claimed the items, and it was thought they probably would be reburied. In the same area, the stock of an old rifle, bearing the date March 18, 1856, had been found, and also an old trolley track. The Star commented that these items would look well in a Long Island City museum, if there were such a thing.
The Star also carried the bizarre story of Mrs. William Taylor of Lynxville, Massachusetts. Upon the death of her husband, it was revealed that “he” was, in fact, a woman. Mrs. Taylor told officials that during the entire 60 years of her married life, she was never aware of her “husband’s” deception.
That’s the way it was in September 1923!
For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-728-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.