Queens Civil Rights Workers Disappear In June 1964
Get into a conversation with a long-time Queens resident and you're likely to discover
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 June 1964!
The June 24 edition reported on the disappearance of Queens College junior Andrew Goodman. Groups of young people gathered in solemn groups on the Queens College campus. "Any news of Andy?" was the question they kept asking. "No word from Mississippi" was the answer. There was no word on Andrew Goodman, a 20- year-old junior, who was missing since Sunday. He had gone south the day before to help in a voter registration drive.
The other missing worker, Michael Schwerner, also had ties to the college. He was the husband of Rita Schwerner, a Queens College graduate from the previous February and the brother of Stephan, a Queens College employee.
The parents of the two missing civil rights workers took hope from a meeting with President Lyndon Johnson who gave his personal assurance of the government's concern. They later met with Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
Said Goodman's father, Robert Goodman, "When he first suggested he wanted to go down there, we spoke of the dangers, the realities, and also the values we have held in our home. This was a 20-yearold boy who was deeply conscious of moral right. In the end he had our permission. After we talked at great length, we couldn't turn our back on the values we had instilled in him."
A forlorn gateway to America, Ellis Island, awaited new ideas. For 51 years, the island was the processing point for 20 million people who came to this country penniless but rich in dreams. The glittering towers of Manhattan beckon within sight of the facility that was slowly falling into decay. The National Parks Service proposed developing the island as part of a two-state national historic site centered around a museum
Each day, 3,000 to 5,000 bedraggled immigrants would troop past medical examiners. Women waiting to buy railroad tickets gave birth on slow-moving lines. People died in waiting rooms. An old time employee recalled the daily feeding of the immigrants. "They only had prunes and prune sandwiches, day after day. This resulted from profiteering. Contractors gave them the cheapest food available." He recalled some amusing stories. "Fifteen Italians trying to reach Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan wound up in the village of Amsterdam, in upper New York state."
During the last half of its career, the island was the country's principal deportation center, and witnessed more traumatic departures than happy arrivals. After Pearl Harbor the place was jammed, as thousands of German and Japanese aliens were held to the end of the war.
Deeply felt support for conversion of the island into a federal shrine comes from Edward Corsi, former immigration commissioner who passed through the island as a 10-year-old boy from Italy. "Ellis Island is not just a piece of real estate to be sold the highest bidder. It is a national shrine, like Plymouth Rock."
An American Airlines Boeing 727 became La Guardia Airport's first regularly scheduled commercial jet. The three-engine 727 zoomed out at 8:13 a.m., bound nonstop for Detroit. Aboard were 72 passengers and a crew of six. American and United had scheduled 22 daily jet flights from La Guardia. More 727 flights were to be handled at the field next month when TWA and Eastern Airlines were scheduled to begin jet service.
Many passengers on the American jet were unaware they were on an historic flight. "Nobody told me anything about it," said Bernard Bogdian of 86-38 Grand Ave., Elmhurst. Herbert Cane of 209-79 18th Dr., Bayside, said he had "no sense of doing anything historic," as he stepped on the red carpet leading to the sleek jet. "As long as it gets me to Detroit faster than usual, I'm satisfied," he declared.
Voters got their second look at the new Shoup vertical voting machines in the June primary. Bars and liquor stores were closed during polling hours, but grocery stores would continue to sell beer. More than 30 years later, those machines were still in use.
A record 57,037 Met fans watched a double header between the Giants and Mets. Although the visiting team swept the series, local fans went home satisfied after watching the longest doubleheader in history at that time. The nine hour and five minute marathon went 32 innings, and a number of records fell before the SRO crowd, including most official at bats and most strike outs. The fans were even treated to a triple play that afternoon by the Mets' Roy McMillan. Casey Stengel and Alvin Dark battled all day until the latter got ejected in the 15th inning of the second game. Both lineups were sprinkled with a number of memorable players, including Jesus Alou, Willie Mays, Ed Kranepool, Jim Davenport, Orlando Cepeda and Jim Hickman.
Concerned with daily reports of rampaging gangs on the subway system, Mayor Robert Wagner announced a series of steps so that, as the Star-Journal editorialized, "New York City will not capitulate to crime and violence in the subways and the streets. [It was hoped] that punks and hoodlums hell-bent on trouble making get the message." Five hundred policemen were to go on overtime duty from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and an additional 200 Transit police were put on overtime duty in high hazard areas. In a change of policy, the 20,000 city patrolmen were instructed to wear their uniforms to and from work. A speed-up was also ordered on equipping all motormen with two-way radios.
The entertainment page noted that Harry Belafonte was to pocket $60,000 for a weekend's work. The folksinger was getting $20,000 nightly for three appearances at the Forest Hills Music Festival that ran from July 21 to August 2 that year.
Lisa Ulanoff, 11, of West Islip lost her best gold bracelet during a Fair visit with her fifth grade class. Naturally, she instructed her sister, Dory, 8, to look for it when she sent to the Fair the next day with her third grade class. "I think I lost it somewhere near General Electric," she explained
So Dory hunted around Progressland's 85,000 square feet of floor space and naturally, found Lisa's bracelet. After all, what are the odds of about a million to one, when one has faith?
That's the way it was in June 1964!
On Saturday, June 30, celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Hell Gate Bridge as the New York Connecting Railroad Society in association with the Greater Astoria Historical Society plans a daylong celebration. Meet under the bridge at Astoria Park at 1 p.m. or at the Society lecture hall (at Quinn's Gallery, 35-20 Broadway (4th Floor) in Long Island City, at 5 p.m. for a series of talks and lectures with guest speakers. Contact event organizer Bernie Ente at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. For more information about the Society, call (718) 278-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org. Open to the public, Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. at Quinn's Gallery, 4th Floor, 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City.