Korean War Grabs Headlines in Late Summer 1953
Korean War Grabs
Headlines in Late Summer 1953
Get into a conversation with a longtime 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 late summer 1953!|
The Korean War was very much on the minds of Astorians. A local lad, Airman First Class Raymond W. King, received the Distinguished Flying Cross for meritorious service over North Korea. As a flight engineer on a B-26 attack bomber, King had taken part in a reconnaissance mission in November of the previous year. He and the rest of his crew spotted a convoy making its way between Sariwon and Kaesong. Thanks in large part to King's deftness at the controls, he and his lead pilot helped destroy 22 enemy vehicles.
A few days later, the Long Island Star Journal reported on the awaited release of the first sick and wounded American POWs in "Operation Big Switch". Among the 17 soldiers who flew home on the transport "Freedom Airlift" was Private First Class Richard Montanaro of Astoria. The thrill of Montanaro felt at his homecoming was diminished upon hearing the news that both his parents had died while he was held prisoner. The Red Cross didn't actually know how Montanaro, who was unaware of their passing when it occurred, was informed of the bad news, but believed he read it in the papers. The Star Journal went on to say that his brother and five sisters had withheld the news from him. Montanaro's sister, Mrs. Vivian Connor, simply stated, "We didn't want to add to his troubles."
Queens Boulevard (recently labeled the "Boulevard of Death" for good reason) has always been a nightmare for commuters. When a truck drivers' strike held up some much needed repaving work, the empty construction site tied up vehicular traffic at Forest Hills and Rego Park, prompting comments from irate citizens. The paper also recalled a recent bottleneck on the boulevard when the city tried to demolish the Long Island Rail Road trestles at Winfield. Work stopped until engineers could take another look at it.
"Given that the boulevard serves as one of three of main access roads to Manhattan and the only one linked with a free bridge," the Star Journal observed, "traffic tie ups were all but inevitable." The paper concluded that it was unacceptable for Queens Boulevard to remain in its present state. The paper underscored the need to finish half-completed projects, such as removing the trestles, which should go ahead as originally planned.
The Star Journal reported that residents in another part of Queens could expect no relief from the odors continually emanating from Newtown Creek. Though the smells were more offensive than toxic in nature (or so the city claimed), officials were nevertheless reluctant to remedy the problem. The reason? Any action against the industries in question would compel them to relocate, cut their payrolls and further erode the city's tax base
According to the Star Journal, the city need only have taken its cue from the Smoke Control Bureau, whose aggressive tactics, according to the paper, successfully yielded positive results. Assuming an air of folksy rectitude, the Star Journal concluded: "The city's health authorities cannot continue to tell people there is no stench, for noses far less experienced than those of the health inspectors have been able to detect it, without half trying."
In late summer, a new state minimum wage was proposed. The Long Island Star Journal reported that Industrial Commissioner Edward Corsi received recommendations from a special board for a new statewide hourly minimum wage, ranging from 65 to 75 cents, for the 600,000 employees in the state's retail industry. Corsi had 30 days to decide on the proposal. Full time retail workers earned 52 cents an hour and part time workers 57 cents an hour. Under the new plan, part-time workers would be paid on an equal basis with full timers.
Queens has always had its share of determined, civic-minded citizens. On Aug. 13, 1953, the Star Journal reported that police broke up the city's first baby carriage blockade, a two-and-a-halfhour demonstration staged by mothers upset over speeding motorists on 160th Street and 17th Avenue in Clearview Gardens. Sparking the protest was the increased level of traffic on 160th Street after it was widened and, more to the point, a speeding car striking a child near the Clearview Community Council Day Camp.
Before dispelling the protest, the police had to promise first, to urge the Traffic Department to make good on its promise to erect a stop sign at a school bus and day camp crossing; second, to assign a motorcycle patrol in the area to deter potential speeders, and three, to increase overall patrols in the neighborhood. Though this was enough to pacify the protestors for the time being, protest organizer Florence Roth promised a full resumption of the blockade if the department didn't follow through on its word.
And finally, during the summer of 1953 the Kinsey Report on Human Sexuality was published. The Long Island Star-Journal reported the event with a headline that ran: "The Kinsey Report: Bunk Plus Arrogance".
In a separate article, the Star Journal also reported that men and women throughout Queens showed "more skepticism than interest" in the report. According to the majority of those the Star Journal interviewed, the reason was that women were unable to provide honest answers. A Douglaston woman noted, "The average woman wouldn't answer, and those that would probably wouldn't tell the truth. I wouldn't trust any girl to give accurate information about her sex life."
Similarly, a doctor from Astoria, whose patients included many women, asserted that only a fraction of Kinsey's female interviewees- in his estimation two or three percent- would actually be truthful. A druggist from Jackson Heights waxed poetic: "A woman is a mysterious thing...most women would say one thing and mean something else." And a proprietor of a billiard hall in Flushing put it bluntly when he told the Star Journal that women weren't capable of giving an accurate account of anything.
On the other hand, a Maspeth woman approved of the study, stating that she would be happy to cooperate with it. Another woman from Astoria shared this view, asserting, "Sex research is a much needed thing."
The Greater Astoria Historical Society is open to the public on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. at Quinn's Gallery, 35-20 Broadway, 4th Floor, Long Island City. New exhibit this fall: "Hunters Point Through The Eyes Of A Native Son: The Photographs Of Frank Carrado". Details to be announced. For more information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278- 0700 or visit www.astorialic.org .