2017-12-06 / Star Journal

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


Welcome To December 1884!

Out in the town of Reserve, New Mexico, the air was pierced with the sound of gunshots as an Old West gunfight erupted when a group of unruly cowboys opened fire on a local lawman who had arrested one of their drunken friends. After a 36-hour siege that became known as the Frisco Shootout, the lawless cowboys left after running out of ammunition. Four of their own lay dead and Sheriff Elfego Baca was unscathed.

Back east in Washington, DC, workers topped out the 555-foot Washington Monument with a nine-inch aluminum pyramid atop the white marble tower on December 6. Construction on the world’s tallest stone structure began in 1848, but was halted for 23 years due to lack of funds and other reasons. The soaring obelisk was dedicated the following year by President Chester A. Arthur.

Back home in Long Island, “fowl play” was suspected as a total of 33 turkeys were reported missing from farms in Mineola that December. History is silent as to whether the culprit was ever brought to justice, but he certainly did get a great head start on Christmas dinner. Mineola and the rest of Nassau County were part of Queens until 1898, when the western part of the borough was incorporated into New York City.

For others wishing to abide by the law in celebrating the coming holiday, Schwalenberg’s Hunters Point Hotel, on the corner of Borden and Vernon Avenues, opened its doors to merrymakers. With an advertisement in the Long Island Weekly Star trumpeting a bar stocked with choice brands of imported and domestic “Wines, Liquors and Segars,” “Commodious Billiard Parlors” and a “Large Hall suitable for Balls,” many locals surely enjoyed the festive season in grand style.

With anxious moms and dads searching for just the right Christmas presents for excited young tots, the dry goods establishment Dillon’s ran an advertisement in the Weekly Star Holiday Supplement for toys sure to delight every girl and boy in Queens. Aside from dolls of every description, the Hunter’s Point store also stocked its shelves with boys’ sleighs, wagons, velocipedes and rocking horses. While the most common type of velocipede nowadays is a bicycle, earlier versions of these human-powered vehicles had anywhere from one to five wheels.

For many, the end of the year is a time for reflection. We look back on the year’s events with a bittersweet mixture of fondness, regret and longing. For Mary Totten Dulcken, wife of renowned Astoria musician Ferdinand Quentin Dulcken that chilly December, her thoughts drifted back to the school days of her youth. [Note: Mrs. Dulcken, who was the principal of Long Island City High School, wrote and published a number of librettos to her husband’s musical compositions].

She penned this poem for the Long Island Weekly Star.

The Old School House
You’d know it well, ‘mid old gnarled trees
The roof with moss o’ergrown,
The swallow flitting round the eaves
Green-fringed the old door stone.

A beaten path, with many curve,
Inviting asks you climb;
And rest beneath the willow’s shade,
As oft in the dear old time.

A drowsiness will o’er you steal;
You’ll dream of childhood’s days,
And hear the teacher reading low,
The matin hymn of praise.

The tiny feet upon the floor
You’ll almost think you hear;
The ticking clock, the master’s voice,
Will seem so near, so near.

The roving bee may waken you
While whispering to the flowers;
You’ll never forget the old school house,
Nor childhood’s happy hours.

Well! That’s the way it was in December 1884!

For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit their website at www.astorialic.org.

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