2018-02-07 / Star Journal

From The Pages Of The Long Island Star Journal

COMPILED BY DAN MCDONALD, GREATER ASTORIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Welcome to February 1912!

The Great South Bay of Long Island was frozen solid under 15 inches of ice. So solid, in fact, that a group of intrepid New Yorkers crossed the five-mile stretch for the first time in automobiles. Accompanied by two sleighs, two parties set out in cars from Bellport and crossed the perilous ice to Fire Island before returning safely. The adventurers reported to the Daily Star that “it was the most thrilling ride they ever had.”

Out in New York Harbor, daredevil Frederick R. Law perched precariously on the balcony surrounding the Statue of Liberty’s torch. To the amazement and horror of onlookers, he calmly puffed a cigar then jumped, plummeting like a rock briefly before opening a parachute and landing safely below.

February 1912 was certainly an eventful month and in Queens it was no exception. In recognition of the borough’s rich history, that month the Sons of the Revolution proposed placing a memorial plaque on a public school in Hollis in honor of General Nathaniel Woodhull, who was captured by the British during the US War of Independence on the spot occupied by the school.

The plaque would have replaced a memorial cannon, which still stands at the school, now known as the PS 35 Nathaniel Woodhull School.

In 1912, the nation that once fought for its independence saw trouble brewing on its southern border as Mexico fought its own revolution. The seven coastal artillery companies stationed at Fort Totten were called upon to deploy to Texas for the second time should trouble spill across the Rio Grande. Known as the Border War, US forces fought Mexican rebels and federal forces in a series of engagements from 1910 – 1919, most notably in 1916, when revolutionary Pancho Villa crossed the border to raid an American town.

That month, although safe within American borders, Queens had more than its fair share of unruliness. In an early celebration of the ethnic diversity that makes our borough great, three revelers found themselves locked up in the Fourth Street Police Station in Long Island City: a bagpipe toting Italian musician, a Yankee and an Irishman.

With nothing to do but pass the time until they appeared in court, the Yankee and the Irishman asked their Italian cellmate to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “The Wearing of the Green” on his pipes. The Daily Star picks up the story from here. “The poor Italian did not understand them, but he knew something was wanted in which his windy instrument was to play an important part, and he played so hard that the bag burst.”

The three merrymakers were each fined $5 for their carousing, surely a small price to pay for a chance to leave their mark on local history.

History left its mark on two Queens natives who had a chance reunion in Bayside’s Broadway Hotel that February, 106 years ago. Both nearing 80 years of age, George Hutton and Jack Pearsall had parted ways in 1860, after they both fell for the same woman.

After Hutton called out to his old pal Pearsall, who didn’t recognize him right away, he exclaimed “We’ve stolen apples and gone swimmin’ and sparkin’ and dancin’ together lots and lots of times. Although … it’s been more than 50 years since I saw you last.”

After enjoying a long trip down memory lane, Jack drove his old friend home in his buggy and the two promised to meet again.

That's the way it was February 1912!

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

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