2006-03-08 / Star Journal

Snow And Rain Batter Queens In February 1926

wikipedia.org Public domain photo of Helen Keller. wikipedia.org Public domain photo of Helen Keller. Get into a conversation with a long-time Queens resident and you're likely to discover a subscriber of the Long Island StarJournal, 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 February 1926!

Borough Presidents Maurice Connolly of Queens and Julius Miller of Manhattan sent a letter to the Board of Estimate proposing a tunnel under the East River to relieve congestion on the Queensboro Bridge. The tunnel was to start at 38th street in Manhattan and would connect to Borden Avenue in Queens and beyond to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The cost of the project was projected to be $40,000,000 and the tunnel could be extended to Tenth Avenue on the West Side of Manhattan for an additional $16,000,000. (As with many New York transportation projects, this idea, in a different form, was not implemented until years later, when the Queens-Midtown Tunnel opened in 1940.)

GAHS Battle Axe Gleason on far left in horse drawn buggy. GAHS Battle Axe Gleason on far left in horse drawn buggy. The federal Department of Commerce announced that Americans were using three times as many automobiles as the rest of the world combined. On January 1, there were 19,999,436 autos registered throughout the United States-approximately one motor vehicle for every five men, women and children in the country.

The Commerce Department also announced that automobile accidents in the U.S. had cost more lives, 123,500 since 1917 than World War I. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover had under consideration a number of plans to bring to public attention the appalling losses suffered by the country as a result of what were considered to be preventable accidents.

On February 12, it was announced that a 165-day-old anthracite coal strike had been settled. Homes and industries in the city had been burning soft coal to a larger extent than usual, which caused a significantly larger amount of smoke. City fathers had contemplated fines for businesses that continued to use soft coal. It was estimated that the first shipments of hard coal would not arrive in Queens for three weeks.

members.aol.com Lon Chaney in The "Phantom Of The Opera." members.aol.com Lon Chaney in The "Phantom Of The Opera." On February 4 and 5, Queens endured the worst snowstorm of the year. The storm dumped eight inches of snow, killed two people and crippled Queens transit lines. Motorists abandoned their cars in deep snowdrifts, some of which were eight feet high and 500 feet long. On the 6th, the Queens Street Cleaning Department still had five steam shovels removing snow.

At around 3 p.m. on the 9th, a second blizzard struck Queens. The storm was still going at noon on the 10th. Traffic policemen reported that traffic on the Queensboro Bridge was only 235 cars in one hour, as opposed to normal days when it was thousands an hour. ALong Island Rail Road train stalled near the Woodside station and passengers walked from the train to the station. The snow accumulation was one foot on top of the earlier storm.

On the 25th, Queens streets were turned into waterways after a torrential thunderstorm and ensuing steady downpour which lasted most of the night and melted any remaining snow from earlier storms. The gutters of many streets were torrents and other streets were completely impassable. The sewers, taxed to the limit, turned much of the water into the cellars of homes.

home.comcast.net Ronald Coleman and Vilma Banky in "Dark Angel" home.comcast.net Ronald Coleman and Vilma Banky in "Dark Angel" Helen Keller, famous blind and deaf woman and Forest Hills resident, was scheduled to speak in Forest Hills on March 1 at the invitation of the citizens of Forest Hills. Keller had been on a tour of the country as a spokesperson for the American Foundation for the Blind, of which President Calvin Coolidge was honorary president. For many years, she had wanted to do something for the blind, as she felt that being blind was her greatest handicap. During the month of February, the Star featured a series of articles entitled "Into the Light" by Keller about her life.

A movement began among some who knew or remembered Long Island City's onetime mayor, Patrick "Battle-Ax" Gleason, to raise a fund for the benefit of his niece, Mrs. Bridget Kruse, 80, who was then in the Home for the Aged on Welfare Island. Kruse's home for some 15 years had been on Old Bowery Bay Road, near North Beach, but she had moved away some years ago. On February 3, she appeared in Harlem Court and stated that she was destitute. She was then sent to the island temporarily.

Although there was growing sentiment in Congress to end Prohibition, the laws were still being enforced until some definitive action was taken. Two Astoria patrolmen, who were known by the name "Detectives Snip and Snoop of the Astoria Precinct," smelled beer near the Astoria Ferry. They followed their noses until they reached 75 Munson St. (now 2nd Street), the home of Otto Kramer. Kramer admitted them, since the patrolmen were not in uniform. The "Hooch Hounds" repeated, "We smell beer!" Kramer became indignant, although it did him no good: 1,345 bottles of beer and beer-making paraphernalia and Kramer were removed to the Grand Avenue police station, where Kramer was charged with manufacturing and possessing beer.

"Queens is a county for the living and not the dead," Sheriff Mason O. Smedley declared in expressing his opposition to a bill offered by state Senator Philip M. Kleinfeld of Brooklyn which would permit owners of cemeteries in Queens to increase their holdings. Smedley went on to say, "There are enough cemeteries here to take care of Queens' dead for the next 50 years. Persons living outside the county should get cemetery space further out on Long Island or Westchester."

"Boys, Queens is a bum place for a stiff in the winter time. Stick to the Bowery," said the "Whistlin' Kid." Captain John J. Gallagher, chief of the Queens detective bureau, agreed that hoboes got short shrift in Queens. "There isn't a 'flop' house in the borough that I know of," said the captain. "We keep the stiffs moving, summer and winter in Queens. It's 'go to work, get out or the Island for yours' for the stiff when he comes to Queens."

Playing at the movies were "Stage Struck," starring Gloria Swanson; "The New Commandment," starring Ben Lyon; "The Dark Angel," starring Ronald Coleman and Vilma Banky; and "The Phantom of the Opera," starring Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin and Norman Kerry.

That's the way it was in February 1926!

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

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