2018-03-21 / Star Journal

GAHS Presents Pages From The Long Island Star Journal

Welcome to March 1965!

Somewhere orbiting above the earth, Russian cosmonaut Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov performed the first-ever spacewalk, floating weightlessly for 12 minutes tethered safely to his spacecraft. Back on earth, American men were fighting and dying in a far-off land called Vietnam. That month, the US began Operation Rolling Thunder, a campaign to bomb North Vietnam that went on over three years, until late 1968. Down in Alabama, Americans were fighting and dying for their civil rights. In March, white segregationists murdered a white minister named James Reeb, a freedom marcher who was on the road from Selma to Montgomery with some 600 others.

In March 1965, one young man from Bayside stood ready to proudly serve his country. Midshipman Donald R. Pilling from 211th Street was selected as deputy commander of the Brigade of Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy. The Queens native graduated later that year and retired from Navy service in 2000 as a four-star admiral. During his 35-year career, he earned a PhD in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, and served as the vice chief of naval operations during the Clinton administration. He passed away in 2008.

Bayside native Admiral Donald R. Pilling. Bayside native Admiral Donald R. Pilling. Another distinguished son of Queens was in the news that month 53 years ago. Actor and comedian Don Rickles of Jackson Heights returned home to New York to get married. Rabbi Samuel Berliant, who first noticed Rickles’ acting talent at age 5 and cast him in a Purim festival show, celebrated an aufruf pre-wedding ceremony at the same Tifereth Israel synagogue in Corona where the star’s career began. He remained wedded to wife Barbara Sklar until his passing in 2017.

Back home in his old stomping grounds, the famed comedian may have wanted to take time out from his whirlwind wedding schedule to check out his Hollywood pals in a Queens movie theater. The Skouras Theater on Steinway Street was showing the World War II film, “None But the Brave,” a Japanese and American co-production starring Frank Sinatra. “Mary Poppins” with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke was playing at the Midway on Queens Boulevard. The psychological thriller “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte” kept moviegoers riveted to their seats at the Loew’s Triboro in Astoria, while Sean Connery drew crowds to the Little Neck Theater as James Bond in the spy thriller, “Goldfinger.”

That month, famed trumpeter Louis Armstrong of Corona was in no mood for humor or entertainment. In a news interview in Copenhagen en route to a concert tour in Communist eastern Europe, the 64-year-old Satchmo offered scathing commentary on the racial violence back home in Selma, Alabama. He said that watching news coverage of the attacks on the freedom marchers made him “sick” and that the white segregationists “would even beat Jesus if he was black and marching along…something must be done about the intolerable circumstances in Alabama. How is it possible that human beings can still treat each other that way?”

That’s the way it was March 1965!

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

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