2006-04-05 / Star Journal

H-Bomb Test Film Airs, Salk Vaccine Tryouts In April 1954

Public domain photo from wikipedia.org Castle Bravo mushroom cloud. Public domain photo from wikipedia.org Castle Bravo mushroom cloud. 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 April 1954!

The Civil Defense Administration released film of the first U. S. hydrogen bomb test, held in November 1952. The island of Elugelab in the Eniwetok atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific was obliterated; a 175-foot-deep, 3-milewide crater on the floor of the ocean remained. This test had actually been dwarfed by more recent tests.

In New York City, Herbert R. O'Brian, director of New York Civil Defense, had to figure out how to move 12,000,000 people from the New York metropolitan area in the event the city was threatened by an H-bomb. "We hardly know where to start," he said. "If this new bomb is what they say it is, our system of going to shelters is ancient history."

ocw.jhsph.edu/courses/HistoryPublicHealth Jonas Salk administering vaccine to youth. ocw.jhsph.edu/courses/HistoryPublicHealth Jonas Salk administering vaccine to youth. On April 5, the U. S. Public Health Service assured the nation that the new Salk polio vaccine, which was to be tested on 1,000,000 school children nationwide, was "safer than safe." School children in first through third grades in Corona and Flushing were scheduled to participate in the test. These sections of Queens were selected because they had had a high polio incidence in the last five years.

At a hearing in Manhattan, a policewoman identified Dr. Irving Peress and his wife Elaine, of Elmhurst, as active participants in Communist affairs. The testimony was delivered before United States Senator Joseph McCarthy. Peress had been a major in the Army and had received a promotion and honorable discharge, but invoked the protection of the Fifth Amendment when questioned by McCarthy about his Communist affiliation.

During the month, vandals struck the Long Island Rail Road. Sixteen-year-old Nicholas Alexander of Maspeth was arrested on the night of April 9 after attempting to derail an LIRR train carrying 1,000 passengers by placing a 300pound tie across the track at the Grand Avenue crossing in Maspeth. A Rockaway-bound express plowed into the tie. No one was injured but 100 feet of third rail were ripped out, and it took 90 minutes to restore service. Alexander also had a switchblade in his pocket when he was arrested. Arecent change in New York law made possession of a switchblade a felony. This was only one of several incidents where either stones or debris were placed on LIRR tracks.

On April 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings in Manhattan to scrutinize sadistic comic books. Millions of these were sold in Queens and elsewhere annually. The Senate, after receiving thousands of letters from constituents, was concerned about the impact that these horror comics were having on adolescents. One major comic book publisher, William Gaines, had been quoted as saying: "Our magazines are written for adults. It isn't our fault if kids read them too."

The Jefts family of Bayside, mom, pop and four boys, had its beef shipped from 1,000 miles away. They had moved to Queens from Chicago, where they frequently visited relatives who bought beef by the quarter and side and kept it in a storage locker until needed. Mr. Jefts arranged to have his meat shipped by air from Wisconsin to Queens (same day delivery) and constructed his own storage locker. He said: "Beef doesn't last very long in this family. I wouldn't advise anyone wanting just a pound of hamburger to try my system."

The Star-Journal also reported that the 10-cent cup of coffee was rapidly disappearing at Queens lunch counters.

Seventeen-year-old Fred Vahldieck presented his mother with a fur coat estimated to be worth $600 at retail, His gift cost only $90 and 70 muskrat skins. Vahldieck was one of the few trappers left in New York City. He had trapped the muskrats used in the coat in the swamps near Idlewild airport. Vahldieck's trap line, which was only a way of making pocket money, netted only about $1.25 to $3 per skin. Fred commented on muskrats: "They're real easy [to] trap. They aren't afraid of metal."

On April 2, Dorothy Barker, 22, of Brooklyn, charged with conducting an indecent show, "stepped out of her clothes and into her routine before a goggle eyed audience of reporters, policemen and court attendants." The performance occurred in the Long Island City courtroom of Magistrate J. Irwin Shapiro. Barker was a blonde stripper, who performed under the name "Cupid Valentine" at the "43 Club" in Sunnyside. "Cupid" slipped out of a "white lace gown, elbow-length gloves and a black, rhinestone studded bra, while gyrating gracefully around a nonmusical judge's bench, counsel table and jury box."

After the performance, Judge Shapiro commented that she still had on "more than the girls wearing bikinis in Rockaway." The arresting officers claimed that Barker had not given out "bumps and grinds," as she had in the dance leading to her arrest. Judge Shapiro noted that the dance was not particularly artistic but that "despite its crude and disgusting nature, the show is neither indecent nor immoral...in the legal sense." The charges against "Cupid" were dismissed.

On April 23, Joseph Badykrovich, 61, and his wife, Dorothy, of Sunnyside, left a Long Island City courtroom with the charge from a judge to "sit on the couch together and watch TV." Mr. Bradykrovich had charged his wife with neglecting her housework and child raising to watch TV 11 hours a day. The judge dismissed a request from Badykrovich for a summons to allow him to remove his clothing from the house. At the same time, Mrs. Bradykrovich agreed to turn off the television at 11:30 each evening, thus eliminating her enjoyment of the late movie.

On April 27, Mr. Badykrovich was arrested for giving Mrs. Bradykrovich a "shiner." Joe complained that Dorothy wouldn't let him sleep on the living room couch. The judge in Long Island City Magistrates' court threatened Joe with a "cooling off" period in Kings County Hospital unless such fisticuffs were to stop. Finally, the couple agreed to a week's vacation from each other, so Dorothy could watch the late-late show and Joe could find home cooking elsewhere. The proceedings were adjourned until May 6, when a hearing was scheduled.

Playing at the movies were "From Here to Eternity," starring Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift and Donna Reed; "Shane," starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur and Van Heflin; "Roman Holiday," starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, and "The Long, Long Trailer," starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

That's the way it was in April 1954!

Open to the public, Saturdays, noon till four at the Quinn Gallery, 4th Floor, 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City. For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-7280700 or visit www.astorialic.org.

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