By Greater Astoria Historical Society
In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, the TimesLedger Newspaper presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history
In August, 1955, New Yorkers bid a bittersweet farewell to a city icon — a screeching, wheezing, brash, grease-slicked embodiment of the city’s hustle and bustle, and industriousness.
The Third Avenue El fell to the blowtorch, thus marking the end of an era in Manhattan. Proclaiming Aug. 1 “Third Avenue Day,” The Long Island Star Journal paid the arching, rumbling monstrous structure a fitting tribute.
The day has been called not so much to honor the avenue, or the world famed saloons along it, as to bewail officially the passing of the Toonerville trolley that ran for 77 years, grunting and snorting high above the avenue, a rickety rickshaw in the sky. Just to climb the creaking steps and enter into the cupola station was to feel that you were stepping into history. Even the smell was musty. The windows were stained glass. The heat in winter was from potbellied stoves. Old-fashioned chandeliers shed a sort of faded, dreamy light.
It was a time for change on a historic scale in New York City, but August is also a month for one of America’s most time-honored pastimes. Two Queens boys, in fact, made news in Major League Baseball that summer. Long Island City star Billy Loes, who went on to win the World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers in October, took time out to share his hard-earned baseball wisdom with the news media in early August. Dubbed the “Greek Philosopher” by the sportswriter, Loes observed that “the way the game is today, the team that outscores the other wins.”
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, 18-year old Bryant High School product Fred Van Dusen signed a “bonus baby” contract with the Phillies, entitling him to a spot on the 40-man roster for 2 seasons.
The Jackson Heights native was hit by a pitch in his only at bat the following month and never took the field in a Major League game. To this day he is the only player in big league history to have been hit by a pitch and never play defensively.
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Summer is a time of good-natured fun and sports in the Big Apple. Unfortunately, it is also a time for mischief and mayhem.
In Corona, pet dogs were going into violent convulsions and dying after going for walks in the evening. Many claimed that the pets expired after eating poisoned food or gnawing on bones left out for them to find.
Among the victims were Chico and Duchess, beloved companions of jazz musician Louis Armstrong of 107th Street.
Reached by the press while traveling on the West Coast, he called for an autopsy on his canine friends. The New York ASPCA offered a reward of $100 for information on the crimes.
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In 1955, U.S. Air Force Capt. Fred J. Ryan, Jr. of Flushing was stationed in Japan, flying transport planes.
That May, Captain Ryan flew 25 scared Japanese women who survived the Hiroshima atomic bombing to New York City. Known as the Hiroshima Maidens, the women underwent reconstructive plastic surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital and received job training to help them re-enter society back home.
Compiled by Greater Astoria Historical Society. For further information, contact the Society at 718-278-0700 or visit our website at www.astor