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QueensLine: Patriotism ran high as Queens entered the 1960s

It was 1960 — just after the Cuban revolution — and Cuban Premier Fidel Castro was continuing his program of systematically erasing all traces of the once-pervasive American presence on the island.

After ousting the last American executive in February, Cuban Telephone, worth $125 million, was facing takeover. Cuba Electric was rumored to be next on the list. A few months before, when they refused to process Russian oil bought with Cuban sugar, the Cuban government nationalized all Cuban assets of Texaco, Esso and Shell.

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President Dwight Eisenhower got a rousing reception in Alaska when a crowd of 30,000 — out of the state’s population of 223,000 — showed up. The territory became a state only 18 months before.

With the addition of Hawaii, Old Glory had 50 stars and a new look that year. Gertz of Flushing, “the biggest store in the North Shore,” suggested buying the new flag for Flag Day June 14. Advertising boasted: “She waves on high on her gallant field of blue — a proud display of 50 stars.”

Other items in the Gertz warehouse mentioned in the clearance included sofas ($88), 20- and 26-inch bikes ($25), “leather-like” hassocks ($2.99), gas ranges ($118), “HiFi” AM/FM radios ($233), 21-inch RCA color TVs ($333) and night tables ($16).

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The American Legion Parade in Flushing attracted 10,000 veteran and patriot participants. Veterans of the Spanish-American War, Belleau Wood, Tarawa, Normandy and Heartbreak Ridge formed ranks and stepped out to martial music played by more brass than 76 trombones. The parade started at Main Street and Sanford Avenue before marching on to the reviewing stand at Flushing Armory.

On other news of note in June, the city announced that subsidies would keep the transit fare at 15 cents until 1951 and that it passed a law requiring pasteurization dates on milk. During polio season in July and August, the public was reminded to get Salk polio shots even though there was a sharp decline in polio cases from the previous year.

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Joseph Horak, the Democratic district leader and deputy commissioner for the city Department of Water, Gas and Electricity, advised the City Planning Commission to keep Woodside-Astoria predominately residential.

“Instead of bringing in more manufacturing, the city should build more schools, churches, libraries and youth centers,” Horak urged.

He noted that Corpus Christi Parish in Woodside was building a $1.5 million school and that manufacturing, which, among other things, increases truck traffic, was dangerous for students.

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Queens’ population, up 244,000 for the 1950s, moved the borough to second place at 1.7 million, outstripping Manhattan. Only Brooklyn, at 2.5 million, was bigger. During that decade, the city’s population dropped 3 percent while Queens went up 15 percent.

Out on Long Island, Nassau County’s population doubled from 672,000 to 1.3 million, while Suffolk County leaped from 276,000 to 659,000.

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In time for summer vacation, the legendary Freedomland was set to open June 19. The place, which billed itself as “the world’s largest entertainment center” — “The thrill is as big as America itself only 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan by train and bus” — had more than 205 acres of family fun with 35 rides, 41 authentic historic recreations, six restaurants, 12 snack bars and parking for 10,000 cars.

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Surrounded by blue skies and sunshine, Dr. John Meng, president of Hunter College, addressed 667 graduates of Queens College.

He gave a talk on “Liberalism,” saying “the fine tradition of informed liberalism does not protect you from criticism, but brings personal satisfaction, intellectual integrity and the respect of your peers.”

For more information, call 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.

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