2007-12-05 / Star Journal

Gemini 6 and 7 Splash Down In December 1965

Gemini 6 and 7 Splash Down In December 1965

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).

          Photos NASA 
            Gemini 7 as seen by Gemini 6. 
  Photos NASA Gemini 7 as seen by Gemini 6. Welcome to December 1965!

In mid-December 1965, the Long Island Star Journal excitedly reported on the flawless splashdown of Gemini 7, in what was a milestone for manned spaceflight. After a near two-week sojourn to the heavens, which set an endurance record and included a first ever space rendezvous (with Gemini 6's Walter Schirra and Thomas Stafford) astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell arrived home in "very good shape- better than expected". The Star Journal observed that despite appearing bearded and "sort of cruddy", the two proved that humans can live in space for extended periods of time and eventually "fly on to the moon"- prophetic words. As for Gemini 6's splashdown a day earlier, the people of Queens could feel especially proud. The Star Journal noted that one of the three frogmen lowered by a helicopter at the splashdown site to help retrieve its occupants was none other than 19-year-old Seaman Roger H. Bates of Douglaston.

Gemini 6A and Gemini 7 in orbit. Gemini 6A and Gemini 7 in orbit. The Star Journal reported that the St. John University's chapter of the United Federation of College Teachers planned a demonstration on the university's Hillcrest campus as university officials were to bestow an honorary degree on UN General Assembly President Amintore Fanfani. At issue was St. John's decision to fire those teachers who previously sought to organize, the lack of due process rights for those under academic review, and making academic freedom complete. The last was at the heart of the protest, as the dissident faculty members demanded a greater say in university policy. In all, students, professors, and 26 previously dismissed college teachers planned to appear and make their voices heard. This action served to foreshadow things to come: the UFCT also revealed its intention to picket St. John's when classes were set to resume at the start of the new year.

Robert Kennedy speaking before a gathering. Robert Kennedy speaking before a gathering. Governor Nelson Rockefeller ended a monthlong "people to people" state tour with his arrival to Queens, where he engaged in "a flawless political performance". In a whirlwind four-hour visit, Rockefeller toured the children's unit at Creedmoor State Hospital and participated in a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. While there, he countered U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy's claim that the state under his leadership hadn't stepped up to receive important federal funds there "for the asking". The governor charged that Kennedy was "playing politics with the mentally retarded, particularly children". Rockefeller also announced that he would move to fill an impending vacancy in the district attorney's post (civil rights advocate and philanthropist Nat Hentel of Hollis Hills was subsequently named) and capped the day by attending a function to discuss borough-wide issues and in so doing "charmed more than 400 legislative, civic, business and labor leaders at a public forum before hopping on his private plane back to Albany". The Star Journal noted that it was clear that Rocky was laying the groundwork to run for a third term.

Nelson Rockefeller Nelson Rockefeller The Star Journal noted in the latter part of December that the Site Selection Board chose the site for the proposed $467,500 East River branch library in Long Island City. Located on the west side of 21st street, 123 feet north of 40th Avenue, the site would cover 7,125 feet and was assessed at $21,000.

For shoppers hoping to make their holiday repast truly exquisite, Finast Supermarkets offered these delectable foodstuffs at prices that could only make mouths water with approval: Grade A turkeys 35 to 39 cents a pound, beef rib roast, 59 cents a pound; ground chuck meat at 69 cents a pound, while ground round was 99 cents; three 12-ounce cans of Finast Green Giant Niblets went for sale at 57 cents; four one-pound, one-ounce cans of Finast sweet peas sold at 69 cents; four one-pound, two-ounce cans of Finast sweet potatoes were $1 and four one-pound cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce sold at 85 cents. Sorry, no figgy pudding.

"A little wiggle, a little backwards jerk and the copter was aloft...turning west towards Broadway and Times Square, then spinning... east over Central Park to the Queensboro Bridge, rotors slapping, engines thudding" was the Star Journal's depiction of the maiden voyage of the first passenger helicopter to lift off of the roof of the Pan Am Building (now Metlife) on Park Avenue and head out to Queens.. After the spectacle of these aircraft coming into the heart of the city, the Star Journal wistfully noted that they came in to land "almost anti-climactically." Regularly scheduled flights between Midtown and Kennedy Airport were to take place for a fare of $7! A round trip set you back $10. In a trip that lasted only seven minutes, passengers experienced vistas that took their breaths away, including a close-up view of the Chrysler building, looking down into Con Edison's riverside smokestacks, and sitting motionless above the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel "watching cars like an all-seeing traffic cop". With the regularity of the subway (the Star Journal reported a quip that it all was like the IRT with flight insurance), passengers were treated to the glimmering sun over New York Harbor and ocean mists in the distance. All this was a novel attempt to solve a persistent problem in commercial aviation: getting people from the city to the airport "in a time reasonably proportionate to the length of [the] total trip". (Their novelty notwithstanding, these flights proved to be unprofitable and were cancelled about three years later in 1968. In 1977, the experiment was revived briefly, only to fail with tragic consequences when a landing gear collapsed and an idling helicopter crashed onto the roof, killing four people at the pad, and a fifth died after being struck by debris hurled onto a busy Park Avenue.)

That's the way it was in December 1965!

The Greater Astoria Historical Society is open to the public on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. at Quinn's Gallery, 4th Floor, 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City. A new exhibit, "Hunters Point through the eyes of a native son: The photographs of Frank Carrado", opened on Saturday, September 29 at 1 p.m.

The Society's next meeting, December 10 at Quinn's Gallery, will include a book signing of the latest publication from the Greater Astoria Historical Society library of local histories, the first edition of Postcard History Series: Long Island City, featuring hundreds of postcards depicting the communities of old Long Island City, Astoria, Ravenswood, Dutch Kills, Hunters Point, Blissville and Sunnyside. Meet the authors and buy the book. It's the perfect holiday gift!

This program is supported in part by funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

For more information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.

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