2008-01-09 / Star Journal

Queens Family Finds Iowa Branches In January 1925

Queens Family Finds Iowa Branches In January 1925

            www.msu.edu Gertrude Ederle 
  Photo www.msu.edu Gertrude Ederle 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).

Welcome to January 1925!

In mid January 1925 the Star Journal happily reported on the discovery, or, better yet, the rediscovery, of a prominent Queens family name- in Iowa! It began during Christmas when Flushing Postmaster John Rapalye (himself with a venerable name) turned over a letter from Mrs. Edward Hallaron of Rack Rapids in Iowa to wellknown Flushing realtor Laurence Halleran. Mrs. Hallaron wrote the blind inquiry after learning from her husband that his father, one Patrick Hallaron, originally came from Flushing.

Photo public domain Parade down Fifth Avenue to honor Ederle's English Channel crossing. Photo public domain Parade down Fifth Avenue to honor Ederle's English Channel crossing. After the letter made extensive rounds within the local Halleran family, it was determined that both families were indeed related. After almost half a century, the Halleran clan in the Hawkeye State of Iowa had 500 members, nearly equaling their cousins in New York!

Also in mid January came exciting sports news that Flushing's own Helen Wainwright, a Newtown H.S. graduate and national all-around swimming champion of 1924, was taking preliminary steps to swim the English Channel.

This being a longstanding dream of hers, Wainwright planned to leave in June to train in the channel's waters for a month before making the actual attempt on the first day in August that weather permitted.

Wainwright's aspirations were all the more exciting because, if successful, she would be the first woman to cross the Channel. The Journal noted that Wainwright had a good chance, that she was "possessed of every asset that a channel swimmer requires, including grit, speed, stamina and impervious to cold water". What's even more, she stood a good chance to beat the current men's record held by Argentina's Enrico Tiraboschi.

Photo public domain New York State Governor Al Smith during his run for President. Photo public domain New York State Governor Al Smith during his run for President. Alas, Wainwright did not accomplish her goal. In August 1926, a year later, another swimmer from Queens, Flushing's Gertrude Ederle, finally swam the Channel.

In the latter part of the month the Star Journal reported an automobile accident on the Queensboro Bridge involving Governor Al Smith and his motorcade. This occurred after the governor was en route to the Biltmore Hotel after attending the burial of local leader Thomas Foley at Calvary Cemetery.

One car rear-ended Smith's car. Although shaken as a result of being thrown out of his seat, the governor escaped physical injury. But shards of glass did cut his military aide, David Lawyer, and secretary, Robert Fitzmorris. Also hurt were several police officers assigned to escort the governor's motorcade. The chauffeur driving the first car was later arrested for causing the accident by careless driving.

Thanks to the courageous action of a Hunter's Point police officer, Long Island City's Hannah Mosby lived to see another day. Little Hannah was sent by her mother to buy milk. As she started to cross Queensboro Plaza, she suddenly stepped from behind one of the elevated train pillars and onto the line of an oncoming trolley. In an instant the motorman tried his best to avoid her (the Journal noted he "applied his brakes so swiftly several persons jolted from their seats"), but Hannah was struck and rolled beneath the car. Her screams led Patrolman Edward Powers to rush to the scene, where he ordered the motorman to pull the pole from the trolley wire so he could wriggle underneath to reach the little girl. Though in the dark, Powers reassured the little girl, and she in turn helped guide the officer along.

After several tense minutes Powers extricated Hannah, comforting her as she pleaded that her mother not be told of what happened. Hannah was then rushed to a nearby hospital where she was diagnosed with a fractured skull along with lacerations on her scalp and face. Hannah was later reported in fair condition with her mother by her side. The valiant officer, who lived on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, was a four-year veteran of the Hunter's Point precinct and was himself married and the father of a daughter.

Prohibition put its imprint on Astoria. A monument was erected to the memory of "the late John Barleycorn" at Broadway and Steinway Streets. Drivers at the taxi stand on that corner, with both time on their hands and a great sense of humor, created Barleycorn's "grave", actually a mound of snow. Its headstone was a large floral horseshoe (recently discarded by a nearby woman's shop), a makeshift cross of two sticks and drapes made with some women's stockings.

As a finishing touch, on two pieces of cardboard someone had scrawled the words "Prohibition" and "Gone But Not Forgotten". Completing the tableau, three empty green quart bottles were strategically placed on the mound. Policemen on their way to an alarm box nearby to signal in their calls would pass by the mock grave laughing.

In entertainment news, the Star Journal reported on a new dog star on the movie horizon, a German shepherd with the unlikely name of Peter the Great. MGM Associate Executive Harry Rapf discovered the astute German shepherd and acquired him for the upcoming movie "The Silent Accuser", soon to play at the Astoria Grand Theater.

The canine apparently had an impressive pedigree. He was the son of Dora von Oertztal, a prominent German police dog who became a mascot of German soldiers manning the front line during the First World War, and was the grandson of Alex von Westfalenheim, cited by the Journal as "the most famous dog in Germany" and ancestor of many police dogs in this country.

That's the way it was in January 1925!

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. Join us for Saturday Afternoon at the Movies at the Greater Astoria Historical Society as we celebrate January in song. Special features we'll be showing:

  • Saturday, January 19 at 1 p.m. "The Great American Songbook"
  • The people and events that put the music in our lives are celebrated in this anthology that traces popular music from its roots in minstrel shows through the Jazz Age and Gershwin to more recent tunesmiths.

  • Saturday January 26 at 1 p.m. "The Biography of Ethel Merman"
  • Follow the life of Astoria's own Ethel Zimmerman as she becomes worldrenowned Ethel Merman. Learn why "There's No Business Like Show Business".

    The perfect gift for the Astoria history buff in your family, Postcard History Series: Long Island City, the latest publication from the Greater Astoria Historical Society library of local histories, featuring hundreds of postcards depicting the communities of old Long Island City, Astoria, Ravenswood, Dutch Kills, Hunters Point, Blissville and Sunnyside, is on sale at the Society and in local stores.

    For more information, or to order Postcard History Series: Long Island City, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.

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