It was the autumn of 1927. Skirts were short, young people were dancing to that new jazz music, and the stock market was booming — the Great Depression was still two years away. Movies were still mostly silent, but the first “talkie,” Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer” was released that year. And in May, Charles Lindbergh thrilled the nation — he was the first to fly across the Atlantic in “The Spirit of Saint Louis.”
True, if you wanted to drink a toast to the gallant Colonel, you couldn’t do it legally — the United States had been “dry” since Prohibition began in 1920. The bootleggers and the makers of bathtub gin and moonshine were working hard to fill the gap, however. By 1927, there were so many speakeasies in New York that, according to the medical examiner, they outnumbered the old legal saloons.
But the glamour of the speakeasies had a dark side. By 1927, after seven years of the “Noble Experiment,” an estimated 50,000 deaths had been caused by adulterated liquor, with many more cases of paralysis and blindness — and sometimes just plain craziness.
On Nov. 28, the Star Journal reported on a “Rum-Crazed Man Shot As He Stabs Policeman.”
It took three police officers to persuade Astoria resident Anthony Tardich to end his bottle throwing and knife-wielding spree.
On Sunday, Nov. 7, the weather was so bitterly cold that there weren’t many takers for a season-ender by the Springfields, “undisputed borough champions for the year,” against a visiting all-star team at the Queensboro Oval in Long Island City.
Though few fans were on hand, manager Joe Press of the Springfields and Eddie Greene, boss of the other team, were willing to play the game “for the fun of it” and actually went hunting for baseballs and bats.
Failing to find any, they reluctantly agreed to call “quits” until the spring.
It was an “off year,” with elections for county clerk, alderman and the state assembly being about as exciting as it got.
That must have been the reason the Star-Journal’s editorial decided, for the “lamentable lack of interest on the part of many voters who registered.” We should add that according to the newspaper’s own figures, there was a turn out of about 89 percent of registered voters — extremely impressive by today’s standards.
The Star-Journal did, however, note that there was a good turn out by women (who had only been allowed to vote since 1920.) At PS 69 in Jackson Heights, several baby carriages were parked outside while the mothers were inside voting. One would hope that they were allowed to bring the babies inside.
One mother’s son, only slightly older, made a determined attempt to vote. Five-year-old John Corrigan, of 35-33 56th St., Woodside, paid a visit to the polling place of in the basement of the Queens County Court House and insisted he be allowed to cast a ballot.
“I want to vote just like my grandpa,” he lisped.
When the officials told him that he was to young to vote, he scratched his tousled, blond, curly hair and seemed to plunge into deep thought.
His eyes flashed as a bright idea came. He fished a treasured dime from his pocket and offered it.
“Now let me vote,” he shouted.
Only when he was told that would have a better time if he spent his dimes at the movies did John run back to his grandfather, James Mangin, custodian of the County Court House.
“But I’ll vote for Al Smith for president next year,” he consoled himself after telling his tale of woe.
For further information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at (718) 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.