Remembering notables lives lost in 1936

New Yorkers lost several notable celebrities in 1936. Former Mayor John F. Hylan and Queens Borough President Maurice Connolly died within a few weeks of each other. They lived on the same block on Olive Place in Forest Hills. S. I. Rothafal, known to the millions as Roxy, is found dead in his suite at the Hotel Gotham. The noted producer, credited with raising motion pictures and stage shows to the level of lavish spectacles, dies in his sleep. He was only 52.

The double bill of Shirley Temple in ‘The Littlest Rebel’ and ‘Last of the Pagans’ is at the Astoria Theater. The Triboro has ‘Tale of Two Cities’ with Ronald Coleman. Errol Flynn and Olivia de Haviland star in ‘Captain Blood.’ The Broadway Grand and RKO Proctors showed Katherine Hepburn in “Sylvia Scarlet” and “Annie Oakley” starred Barbara Stanwick, Melvin Douglas and Preston Foster.

Social and service clubs were in their prime. The Chattahoochee Council sat officers before 200 at the Odd Fellows Hall in Whitestone. More than 300 attended an Order of the Eastern Star meeting. The Cygnus Chapter, Masonic Temple held Ladies Amateur Night at the Elks in Elmhurst. Over 450 attended. Jennie Bell Circle, of the Forest Companions, put on a minstrel show for 500 on Steinway Street. The Lady Ace Social Club had 200 at a card party.

Headlines told of a severe winter: Snow removal rushed in Queens as a new storm headed for city. It was called the ‘Million Dollar Storm’ as the Board of Estimate authorized over $1 million in special revenue bonds for snow removal. Hard packed snow hinders clean-up efforts. The mercury hit 3 below zero. Cold crippled transit in Queens. Ice accidents continued to mount. Shortage of milk was threatened. More snow was forecasted that month.

The newspaper Star-Journal set up a Coal Fund for those in need and invited the public to send in money. The paper published letters from families seeking help. One family of 11 with a father suffering from “lumbago” were supported by a boy of 18 on relief. Kids could not go to school as they had no shoes. Children were born into cold water flats with no coal for heat. “Keep fires burning for the needy” implored the Star-Journal.

A 1,000 foot tower dedicated to the presidents was forecast for the upcoming World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows. Boasting a glass-enclosed observation deck and a revolving beacon, it would be a permanent monument after the Fair. A web of highways throughout Queens were under construction and were needed to handle the traffic from the upcoming festival.

Queens had 1,208,150 residents, a five-fold increase from 1910. Ward 4, Jamaica, led the totals with 416,000. The Tenement House Commission toured Queens and found no real slums. They called our borough the ideal place for slum dwellers escaping from Brooklyn or New York.

Sunnyside Gardens was in the middle of a war. After a series of evictions for non-payment of rents, a mass meeting at the Long Island City Court House demanded a reduction of mortgage interest. A woman received a foreclosure writ while still in a hospital after giving birth to a baby. Six were arrested during another eviction. Residents met at the Sunnyside Gardens Park and demanded Albany declare a public emergency by reason of the depression. Public officials were heckled at a Town Meeting. Things reached a crisis with the eviction of Mrs. Corinne Thal, of 39-26 44 Street, whose belongings were tossed on to snowdrifts in the street.

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