QueensLine: In 1924, boro residents owned more than 34,000 radio sets

By The Greater Astoria Historical Society

It was December 1924. Even though it was the Christmas season, prohibition was in full swing in Queens. On Dec. 6, four men who were caught dipping alcohol from the stills into 1- and 5-gallon cans, were arrested in Sunnyside. Six stills and 1,000 gallons of alcohol were seized. In Astoria, on Grand (30th) Avenue, one woman and two men were arrested for having a jug of whiskey, a jug of wine, a barrel of whiskey and six barrels of beer on the premises. Two men were arrested when two barrels of whiskey and 11 barrels of wine were found on the premises at 385 Flushing Ave. (Astoria Boulevard).

By mid-December, after nine deaths from poisonous liquor in only two days, the December death list from bad booze rose to 25. Twelve people poisoned by bad liquor were close to death in Bellevue Hospital. At the same facility, 20 others faced permanent blindness. New York medical authorities warned against “taking one’s life in one’s stomach” by drinking holiday rum concoctions. Dr. Frank Monaghan, commissioner of health, warned against home brewing, pointing out the dangers of faulty distillation.


In Flushing, the long-delayed plans for the Roosevelt Avenue bridge over Flushing Creek were finally to be submitted to the city Board of Estimate for approval. The upper level of the bridge was to be used to extend the Corona el — now the No. 7 train — to Flushing and the lower for the continuation of Roosevelt Avenue to Flushing.

Plans for what is now the IND subway system in Queens were in their final stages. The line was to run in the 53rd Street tunnels — to be completed in five years — under the East River to Long Island City and on to Jamaica. The cost of the line in Queens was projected to be $51 million with completion targeted for 1931.


In Elmhurst, Elks dedicated their new lodge on Queens Boulevard near Grand Street. Every seat in the hall was filled with many standing as John G. Price, the grand exalted ruler of the order, who came from Portland, Ore., conducted the ceremony.

Slowly, an altar was constructed as the grand exalted ruler called for the parts on which the Elk’s creed is built: charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity. Over the altar, the American flag was draped, the Bible was placed atop this and the whole was crowned with the protective antlers of the order.


Then-Borough President Connolly announced that the boroughwide canvas made at his direction by members of the Street Cleaning Bureau to determine the number of radio sets installed in homes in Queens had been completed.

The census showed that there were 34,994 sets in Queens. The survey was made in connection with broadcasting of the municipal broadcasting station. Its purpose was to learn how many people in Queens could be served and where they lived so they could be better served by the municipal station.


The entire William deMille company arrived at the Astoria studio of the Famous Players-Lasky Corp. The company was to produce “Men and Women,” adapted by Clara Beranger from the well-known stage play by David Belasco and Henry C. deMille, father of William and Cecil B. deMille. Once a year, the director brought his company to Astoria to produce one motion picture before returning to Hollywood to produce three more.


“I’m looking for Thanty Cloth,” lisped 2-year-old Mary Umlauf to a group of men and women who found her on a busy street corner at Broadway and 31st Street in Astoria. “My bruvver was wiv me but he went and got losted,” Mary added.

She was taken to the Astoria police station. Meanwhile, a similar scene involving Mary’s brother, Otto, 4, was being enacted near Astoria Square. Otto explained to another group of adults that he and his sister had started to look for Santa Claus and “my sister went and got lost.”

Otto, too, was taken to the station house where policemen told the children stories of Christmas Eve and Santa Claus. About an hour later, their excited father entered the station house and took his children home.

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

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