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Bayside life in ’39 on public display

Bayside residents interested in taking a glimpse into the past need look no further than the neighborhood’s historical society, which has kicked off an exhibit that gives an overview of the community in 1939 through the pages of a long−defunct local magazine.

The Bayside Historical Society’s latest exhibit, “Bayside Life: On the Edge of Modernity,” provides visitors with a sense of life in the community at the end of the Great Depression and in the months leading up to the United States’ involvement in World War II.

The exhibit examines the northeast Queens community through the lens of Bayside Life, a community magazine founded by longtime resident Nicholas DeVore Jr. that published from the fall of 1939 to October 1941.

“It ran for 2 12 years, but then the war broke out and the publisher enlisted, so the magazine ended,” said Alison McKay, the exhibition’s coordinator. “We were edging out of the Depression and LaGuardia Airport, the World’s Fair, the Whitestone Bridge and the Cross Island Parkway had just opened. Urbanism was encroaching on Bayside, so the magazine was published as a response to keep the small town feel of the community.”

In 1927, Bayside had an estimated 14,500 residents. But the community, which acted as home to actors Buster Keaton and W.C. Fields, was up to as many as 30,000 residents three years later.

Bayside Life, a subscription−only magazine, featured news of weddings, mothers’ clubs, newborns, who was moving into the community, garden clubs, local theater, community politics and high school sports.

The historical society, located in Fort Totten, will run the exhibit through next spring. On display will be every issue of the magazine from 1939 and 1940, as well as one issue from 1941. Visitors will also be able to view Bayside items from 1939, including a camera, an American flag, photographs, games and a telephone.

“We asked the public to loan us items, so we have autograph books from local elementary schools, plates from World War II and a View−Master,” McKay said.

This fall the society will host panel discussions and other events to compliment the exhibit.

The historical society’s museum, which suggests a $3 donation for entry, is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays as well as noon to 4 p.m. on weekends.

The museum is currently hosting several other exhibits, such as one on early 20th century hats, a display of the society’s photo archives and another on archeological discoveries by the indigenous people of Bayside.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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