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QueensLine: Circus tiger that escaped prowled around Woodside

On May 6, 1846, the Astoria Presbyterian Church was organized. The original building on 27th Avenue in Old Astoria was dedicated June 11, 1847. In 1922, the church moved to its second location on the west side of 33rd Street between 31st Avenue and Broadway.

That building was torn down a few months ago.

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David Berkowitz, aka the “Son of Sam” killer, was convicted of six murders committed over a two-year span May 8, 1978. He claimed his neighbor’s dog, Sam, had told him to commit the murders. His prey was young couples in their cars or unsuspecting women walking late at night. While he found victims in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, he was quoted as saying that his “prettiest” victims were in Queens.

He further explained: “I didn’t want to hurt them. I only wanted to kill them.”

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On May 8, 1939, around 5:40 a.m., a 400-pound tiger escaped from the circus and “terrorized” the residents of Woodside. The “man-eating” animal, named “The Colonel,” gnawed its way out of a wooden crate in the main tent near 48th Street and Woodside Avenue.

Those few residents about at the early hour were stunned to see the tiger dart onto Woodside Avenue, hesitate briefly and then sprint off again toward Roosevelt Avenue. Patrolmen, all bearing rifles, arrived in droves and the Hunters Point emergency squad rushed to the scene. This commotion awakened many Woodside residents, who had the unique experience of having their day begin with the spectacle of a tiger dashing down the street.

The tiger was finally captured when it leapt into a tree in the backyard of 38-29 53rd St. It was returned to the circus, put safely back in its crate and shipped to Massapequa, L.I., by train.

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On May 12, 1928, Burt Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Mo. He became one of the most famous American composers of the 20th century. Among his well-known works, written during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, were “Walk on By,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “The Look of Love,” “What’s New Pussycat?” and many others.

He moved to Kew Gardens at the age of 4. In high school, he and classmates from Forest Hills High School, from which he graduated in 1946, played in a 10-piece band.

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On May 12, 1776, the Jamaica committee to execute the resolutions passed by the Continental and Provincial Congress passed a resolution stating that “no person be permitted to move into this township from the date hereof, unless he produces a certificate from the committee where he resided, that he has in all things behaved as a friend to the cause of American freedom. And whereas, sundry persons, in passing and repassing through this town have given just cause of suspicion that they are employed in aiding and assisting the unnatural enemies of America: Therefore, Resolved and Ordered, that all such persons passing through this township be taken up for examination.”

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In May 1886, the contract for construction of the pavilion and bathing houses for the North Beach amusement park was awarded to Henry Schaeffer of New York. It called for the completion of 104 bathhouses by June 19 at a cost of $6,000. The pavilion was to be 100 feet long by 75 feet wide. On the grounds was to be a magnificent fountain sending a stream 150 feet high.

Until the completion of the pavilion, the old Douglas mansion was to be fitted temporarily so liquid and solid refreshments could be sold there. It was the intention of Henry A. Cassebeer, president; William H. Williams, vice president; William Steinway, treasurer; and George Steinway, secretary, of the Bowery Bay Land and Improvement Co. that this park be “second to none, as a place of resort of respectable people seeking recreation.”

On a Sunday, over 500 people strolled on the magnificent beach.

For more information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.

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