2016-11-09 / Star Journal

The Guns Of WWI Fall Silent, Queens Rejoices In Peace

The Greater Astoria Historical Society presents pages from the Long Island Star Journal

Welcome to November 1918!

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the mighty guns fell silent across the battlefields of Europe. The Great War, the War to End all Wars, claimed the finest of a generation of young men and redrew maps across the globe. While the world welcomed a return to peace, the seeds were already sown for a century of conflict and tragedy on a grand scale.

As the war drew to a close, letters from local soldiers fighting overseas brought news back home to Queens. Corporal Patrick J. Gorham of Long Island City related to his sister how he indulged in wine and beer left behind by the retreating Huns, writing “… we boys had quite a party helping ourselves to the feast. You know how beer and wine tastes to us boys now. It is so long since we had any.”

Major General William Maglin. 
Photo Public Domain Major General William Maglin. Photo Public Domain Another local doughboy wrote how the Germans infiltrated American trenches wearing French uniforms and shouting, “Don’t shoot; we are French coming to help.”

Another young man fighting in France shared the story of seeing the grave of Quentin Roosevelt, the son of the former President killed in aerial combat on Bastille Day that year.

With Queens welcoming a return to peace with loud, joyous celebration, two of her sons returning home would go on to serve the nation with great distinction. That November, Hunter’s Point native William Maglin, an Army corporal, received the welcome news that he had passed the West Point admissions exam on his second attempt. Major General Maglin went on to serve another 39 years in the Army, counting among his achievements the founding of the Korean National Police following World War II. As hostilities drew to a close in far off Europe, the Long Island Weekly Star proudly reported that a local airman, Lieutenant Ted Haight of Astoria became an ace after downing his fifth German airplane. When he retired in 1954, Colonel Haight was the last World War I ace serving in the US Air Force.

With Queens parading in the streets and eagerly awaiting the return of her young men from overseas, the end of fighting meant the end of employment in many local businesses supporting the war effort. Rosenwasser Brothers, a Long Island City concern manufacturing shoes and aviator coats, announced the layoff of more than 1,000 employees with the cancellation of military contracts. While the company is no more, the “Office of Rosenwasser Bros.” still stands at 42-22 Orchard St.

November 1918 saw the end of an ancient world order and the dawn of a new modern era. For one German immigrant couple in Astoria celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, that month was a time to reflect on their five decades in the former rural village across the river from Manhattan.

Speaking to a Weekly Star reporter, Mr. and Mrs. Kaspar Beck recalled the good old days “when Astoria was only a cowpath,” and Steinway Avenue had yet to be broken through north of Broadway, with only a vast hilly, wooded expanse to mark the future location of the bustling thoroughfare.

The Becks fondly recalled a horse-drawn carriage transporting locals to the Harlem Ferry at the foot of Broadway. The driver knew everyone on his route and would stop and wait outside their homes if they were late. On the evening of their 50th anniversary, the couple gathered their family around them and stayed up late singing old German songs. One grandson was unable to attend, as he was away serving in the Army.

That’s the way it was November 1918!

Compiled by Dan McDonald, Greater Astoria Historical Society. For further information, contact the Society at 718- 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.

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