Bomb scare at LaGuardia Airport in 1960 fizzles out

By The Greater Astoria Historical Society

In 1960, Queens boasted more than 35 movie theaters. In the Forest Hills Theatre, see “The Magnificent Seven,” in Jackson Heights is “The Apartment,” in Sunnyside view “Hell to Eternity” and at the Polk see the original “Ocean’s 11.”


Looking for a place to spend the holidays? Try Queens Terrace on 69th Street in Woodside and Bayside’s Imperial or Flushing’s Pilgrim Inn — both on Northern Boulevard. There is Kneer’s Hofbrau, on Broadway in Astoria, or nearby Steinway Brauhall, on Steinway Street.

Get ready for the season at Horn & Hardet Retail Shops in 52 convenient locations. Pumpkin pies at 69 cents, potato salad at 39 cents per pound, frankfurters at 69 cents per pound, a jar of sweet mixed pickles at 33 cents and coleslaw at only 31 cents.


The “topflight” structure that graced the Queens building scene in 1960 was the airy Pan-American Airways Passenger Terminal at Idlewild — now John F. Kennedy International — Airport. The Queens Chamber of Commerce selected the futuristic terminal, which gave the impression it may take off along with the planes that use it.

Built to “bring the plane to the passenger,” the “upside down umbrella building” covers more than 4 acres. The building “grounded” all other competitors for the title of Most Outstanding Structure in the Borough.


The mammoth new Throgs Neck Bridge, whose 12,300-foot span cost $90 million, should put an end to the bumper-to-bumper nightmare on the Whitestone Bridge and help ease congestion on the Triborough Bridge.

In an editorial, the Star-Journal pushes for a grander idea: “Now what is needed is a bridge across the Long Island Sound to Connecticut or Rhode Island. It has been pooh-poohed as far fetched, but it too will be built some day.”


A brutal winter storm buried Queens. A slashing blizzard measures more than 18 inches by noon. Sweeping through the metro area, it kills at least five people on Long Island as it paralyzes transportation, closes schools and keeps others from work.

Trains derail, autos crash, snow shovelers drop from heart attacks and fishermen stagger into port. National Guard trucks tow abandoned cars. Packing a howling 35 mph wind, the killer storm is called the worst of the year, stripping the title from the 14-inch blizzard of March 4.

Within 24 hours, the mercury dips to a frigid 7 degrees. The deep freeze slows the borough from digging out. Long Island tallies 26 dead, with 130 fatalities across the country. The Long Island Rail Road erases the day off its calendar.


An unclaimed airline suitcase at LaGuardia Airport was thought to contain explosives after a baggage inspector at Hanger 3 opens it and sees what he thinks are sticks of dynamite. The Bomb Squad, Fire Department and Port Authority police are summoned.

They find balloons, feathers, horns, a kettle and trick matches. The “dynamite” turns out to be an entertainer’s make-up powder.

The bag is a magic entertainer’s kit.


A few shots of whiskey and four or five cigars a day are Joseph Deitsch’s formula for longevity. Deitsch grew up the heir to a large retail clothing business in Philadelphia, but his most vivid memory of a young man was as a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard — the Homestead Strike of 1892 in Pittsburgh.

He witnessed the carnage that set the union movement back a generation.

“Those were grim days,” he recalled with a shudder.

Deitsch also remembered every election back to the 1880 James A. Garfield campaign.

The spry resident of 146-29 Laburnum Ave. in Flushing traces his ancestry back to Aaron Levy, the Revolutionary War banker and financial wizard who gave his entire personal fortune to the American fight for freedom. Deitsch was also related to the late Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo.

The nonagenarian claims that life begins at 80. He is the father of six “youngsters” aged 52 to 63, has 12 grandchildren and at least 10 great-grandchildren.

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