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In November 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson was elected president in one of the greatest election triumphs in recent memory. His margin of victory in Queens was 274,301 votes. The tidal wave of Democratic votes allowed Democrats to take control of both houses of the state Legislature for the first time in 29 years. Robert F. Kennedy was elected U.S. senator in his first bid for elective office. Many believed his long-range objective was the White House.
Nov. 22, 1964, was the first anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “We must keep burning in our minds and hearts as the eternal light burns at Arlington Cemetery, the flame of perpetual memory and rededication,” said then-Borough President Mario J. Cariello at a half-hour memorial service held at the plaza in front of Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
An organist played “America the Beautiful” as a lunchtime crowd of about 100 people, some with tears in their eyes, dispersed slowly along Queens Boulevard.
From Vietnam in 1964 came news of the death of Pfc. Thomas J. Hanley of Woodside. He, along with three other Americans, was killed in a communist bombardment of the Bien Hoa air base.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara ordered the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Army Terminal shut down as cost-cutting moves. The Pentagon cited cramped facilities and said Brooklyn compared unfavorably with Boston and Philadelphia when compared on three standards: industrial capability, fleet support capability and economic factors.
New York politicians were livid. U.S. Rep. James J. Delaney of Astoria said, “This is a shabby stunt …. I’ll probably comment further after I’ve read Secretary McNamara’s complete report.”
On Nov. 4, 1964, a mob of 4,000 to 5,000 people ran through the Jamaica business district smashing windows and looting stores because they could not get into a rock show, the Motown Revue, from Detroit.
It took 250 policemen — many wearing steel helmets — four hours to disperse the mob and halt small, scattered brawls that broke out over a distance of some 15 city blocks, including one large group that descended on the Jamaica bus terminal. Another mob was dispersed on Hillside Avenue and 168th Street, nearly a mile from the theater.
Stores, including jewelry, clothing, shoe and gift shops, were looted and the windows of 17 stores along Jamaica Avenue were smashed.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce in 1964 expressed concern about “outsiders and ivory-tower dreamers fooling around with or destroying” Queens’ residential character. In a letter to the City Planning Commission, the chamber asked its help “to protect” the borough while the Planning Commission works on formulating a master plan for the entire city.
The chamber said it feared “good-intentioned people who want to help, but think Manhattan is the City of New York” and “don’t know Queens exists.” The borough president concluded an unofficial agreement with the City Planning board to give Queens a privileged position in deciding zoning matters affecting its basically residential character. The board would give Queens two months to examine and make recommendations on any proposed zoning changes.
No other borough except Queens had requested such an “eyesore” safeguard arrangement.
On Nov. 29, 1964, America’s Catholics for the first time attended mass featuring the use of English instead of Latin and other revolutionary reforms. There was confusion over when to stand and when to kneel, and many used to saying the rosary or silent prayers found themselves lost in the new participation of the mass.
But parishioners acclaimed the feeling of “participation” they experienced. “I really felt as though I belonged,” said one Jackson Heights woman.
The entire faculty of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parochial School in Forest Hills traveled to Manhattan in 1964 to attend a preview of a new movie, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” with only one thought in mind: to see one of their prize pupils shine.
The pupil was Pia Zadora, a seventh-grader, who was a veteran of Broadway, TV and radio, who now added movies to her credits.
Gertz department store in Flushing in 1964 advertised a Flushing Toyland, open every night until Christmas to 9:30 p.m. Featured were tricycles, bicycles, doll strollers, a “general’s staff car,” fire engines and all-steel tractors all for less than $40.
For more information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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