2008-01-30 / Star Journal

Two Teen Girls Vanish From Corona In January 1955

Two Teen Girls Vanish From Corona In January 1955 

Photo: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Throgs Neck Bridge
Get into a conversation with a long-time Queens resident and you're likely to discover a subscriber of theLong 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 1955!

In early January, the Long Island Star Journal noted the disappearances of Josephine Pergola and Mary Rinaldi, two Corona teenagers who aspired to become movie stars. One of the two, Josephine, was on her way to realize her dreams and was even offered a bit part on TV. When both failed to come home for dinner, their parents notified the Elmhurst police precinct at once and a 13-state alarm went out.

A six-month FBI probe into the illicit activity in an office of a Sunnyside shipping company ended with four men under arrest, a Queens bartender among them, all for allegedly participating in the theft of $150,000 worth of merchandise that included $2,000 in clothing and cameras. Investigators posing as workmen moved in after they observed three employees take a car with the ill-gotten goods to a Long Island City bar and grill. Among those busted was 41-year-old Flushing resident William J. Saltenberger. U.S. Attorney Paul Windels Jr. was confident the men in custody were, in fact, responsible.

Turning to more local police heroics, the Star Journal commented on the fine work of rookie Police Officer Thomas Manion of Astoria. Manion had apprehended Frederick Bailey, a Florida native who allegedly pistol-whipped six persons during a holdup in a Harlem hotel. After Manion chased one of Bailey's associates out of the hotel, and returned empty- handed, "three thugs burst out", one of whom was Bailey. The four got into a tussle. Somehow Officer Manion managed to apprehend them. When Bailey was searched later, a loaded .22-caliber pistol with the safety off was found in his pocket.

The Star Journal displayed a photograph of Mrs. Alexander Del Giorno of Astoria, beaming as she received the "key to the heart of Queens" for her work as head of the women's division for the 1955 Heart Fund appeal. Borough President James Lundy presented her with a large key, a heart dangling from its loop.

On January 13 at about 10:30 p.m., a three-alarm fire started in the storage yard of the Winfield Door Corporation on Broadway in Astoria that caused approximately $175,000 in damage. Just as night watchman Archie Corcoran smelled smoke, two teenage boys rushed over to his post and confirmed his fears. He sent them to call in the first alarm, and soon fire companies from Jackson Heights, Woodside (which dispatched rescue and searchlight units as well), Sunnyside, Elmhurst, Corona and even Manhattan responded.

Flames visible from as far away as Flushing eventually rose to 60 feet. "Sixty firemen on the roofs of adjoining buildings and on the street, their footing made precarious as water from hoses turned to ice, fought the blaze for more than an hour," the Star Journal reported. The conflagration was brought under control before midnight.

Turning to sports, the Star Journal dwelt on the professional fate of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. Though the Dodger organization had clearly indicated it was retaining him for the upcoming season, albeit with a slight pay cut, the Star Journal still wondered: "Is Jackie being counted on as a regular or as the No. 1 reserve and jack of all trades?" The question then turned to what position Robinson would play. "Third base perhaps? First base? Left field?" The Journal continued, "And there is the question only time can answer: is he still capable of playing every day?" These issues would weigh heavily on the minds of everyone concerned. The Journal even went as far as ranking this point in his career with Robinson's first year in the majors, where he had to earn his place on the roster. In 1955 it appeared that Robinson, a bit advanced in years, would have to prove himself all over again.

On Jan. 17, 1955, an ambitious new plan was proposed by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Chairman Robert Moses. The overall program, the scope of which was billed as unprecedented, revealed that for the next five years the city would both improve existing transportation routes and erect new bridges and arterial highways. The cost, from public funds, would be an impressive $379,000,000, or well over $1 billion in today's money. More than $93,000,000 of that figure was slated for a six-lane suspension bridge over the East River (the Throgs Neck Bridge), $204,000,000 for a 12-lane double deck suspension bridge over New York Harbor (the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge), and finally, $82,000,000 for a six-lane lower deck for the George Washington Bridge. Initial plans were also drawn up for a proposed six-lane elevated expressway that would cross over Manhattan, connecting the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the West Side Highway.

In Queens, the to-be-built Clearview Expressway and Throgs Neck Bridge would connect with the existing Cross Island Parkway. At 35th Avenue in Eastern Queens, the Clearview would meet Francis Lewis Boulevard and continue onto the Horace Harding Expressway (today the Long Island Expressway), then under construction. Including anchorages, the Throgs Neck Bridge would extend nearly a mile in length and would be completed in three and a half years.

That's the way it was in January 1955!

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. A special feature we'll be showing:

• 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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