• March 30, 2015
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Queens Chronicle

I Have Often Walked

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Book bus ‘Pioneer’ ran all over the borough

Bookmobiles are nothing new, and neither is the demand for material from the Queens Library.The library’s first book bus, dubbed The Pioneer, hit the streets in 1930. Painted burgundy and gold, it was christened by then-Mayor Jimmy Walker. Glass doors on the sides opened to reveal shelves of books for people to browse through.

Midair crash kills 12 in Queens
Posted: March 19, 2015

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the terrible midair crash over Bellerose Manor that rained destruction down on the homeowners of 239th Street off Hillside Avenue.

On June 17, 1940 two twin-engine Douglas B-18 bombers were sent out from Nassau County’s Mitchel Field for a training exercise at 2,500 feet, in which one plane would pass under the other one. The maneuver did not go off as planned and the two collided, raining down metal, glass, other debris and fuel onto the newly built homes. All 11 men on board — including two who tried to parachute to safety — died.

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A.S. Beck was a real ‘shoe-in’
Posted: March 12, 2015

Alexander S. Beck (1863-1955), the founder of the A.S. Beck shoe company, emigrated to America in 1888 from Eger, Hungary. Originally he worked as a butcher in a general store in Duquesne, Pa.

In 1909 Beck made a career change and came to Brooklyn to open up a shoe store with his brother on Fulton Street. Their partnership was short-lived, being dissolved in 1914. Alexander struck out on his own with a store at 845 Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint and prospered. By 1920 he had 13 stores and decided to sell his company to The Diamond Shoe Corp. for $1 million. In the agreement it was stipulated that the company would always retain his name.

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Bayside’s ‘Gentleman Jim’ Corbett
Posted: March 05, 2015

On Sept. 7, 1892 in New Orleans in front of a crowd of 10,000, James J. Corbett (1866-1933) defeated John L. Sullivan for the title of boxing’s Heavy Weight Champion of the World. It is said “Gentleman Jim” Corbett changed boxing that day from brawling to an accepted sport of scientific art and class. His boxing career spanned from 1886 to 1903, with 11 wins, five by knockouts, and he held his title until 1897. His younger brother Joe became a major league pitcher for the Senators and Cardinals.

Corbett’s first wife divorced him on adultery charges, but he found love again and married actress Jessie Taylor, aka Vera Stanwood. In 1902 they bought a new three-story Queen Anne home on Bayside Boulevard (later 221st Street). Perhaps for legal purposes, the deed was only in his wife’s name. They had no children but gave time and attention to the kids in the neighborhood.

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Times Square Stores come and go
Posted: February 26, 2015

Jamaica is one of the oldest developed areas in Queens. It was known as a hub of commerce and business at a time while most other areas were still sleepy farmland.

Hillside Avenue had a string of battery and tire shops accented with gas stations and auto dealerships early on in the 20th century. In 1929 George J. Seedman opened his auto supply shop, Times Square Stores, at 148-02 Hillside Ave. in Jamaica. The catchphrase on his sign was “Where Buying Is A Pleasure.”

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Thursday 02/19/2015
Griff’s Hardware was a Maspeth icon
Posted: February 19, 2015

In 1902 Samuel and Bertha Griff, ages 23 and 22, respectively, arrived at Ellis Island from Russia. They settled in at 354 East 81 St. in Manhattan and he found work in the carpentry trade that he loved. They had three children — Sadie, Abraham and Yette.

After the completion of the Queensboro Bridge in 1909, Queens underwent a great building boom, and in 1921 Samuel moved the family to Maspeth and opened up Griff’s Hardware at 65-63 Grand Ave.

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Thursday 02/12/2015
MidVille’s floral royalty
Updated: February 12, 2015 - 11:43 am

Florist Row was a section of Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village opposite the cemeteries that boomed for more than 60 years starting in the late 19th century, as flowers were the proper way of honoring and respecting the families of the deceased.

The Siedentopf, Gamper and Haufe families all had a piece of this lucrative business, but one of the biggest players was the Wackenhut family, who emigrated to Middle Village in the 1800s. They were devout Lutherans who were active in Trinity Lutheran Church — note the cross next to their name on the storefront in the photo.

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Thursday 02/05/2015
Women remembered, during Black History Month
Posted: February 05, 2015

On July 10, 1957, just a year and a half after the civil rights movement gained steam thanks to Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of a bus, Trans World Airlines announced it would process applications to hire black air hostesses for the first time.

One applicant was Dorothy Franklin of 2-10 Astoria Blvd. in Astoria, who was employed at the New York Public Library. Franklin had applied to TWA before and been rejected. She was rejected again on the grounds of “poor skin complexion, unattractive teeth and unshapely legs.” But she believed the real reason was that she was black, and she went to the New York State Commission Against Discrimination and filed a lawsuit.

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