Madison Square Garden rocked as both the Knicks and Rangers were fighting for world championships. The Yankees were in first place but a baseball strike loomed on the horizon. Queens soccer fans were getting ready for the first World Cup held in the United States.
The date is May 26, 1994, and as Walter Cronkite once famously said, “You are there.” Well, not really.
The Old Timer’s DeLorean, purchased from a California inventor, is still in the shop due to a broken flux capacitor. However, through the magic of the Ridgewood Times archives, we can give you a glimpse through the headlines of that week’s issue — the 43rd in the paper’s 86th year.
Come with us now as we thumb through the pages of local history:
- Our lead story featured the blaring, bold headline “TEEN RESCUES WOMAN FROM BUILDING BLAZE,” and provided a dramatic account of a Bushwick teen who disregarded his own safety to save the life of a 38-year-old woman trapped in a burning building. Eric Garcia, 18, heard the woman screaming from a second-floor window of a Troutman Street building at 9:16 a.m. on May 17. He ran up the staircase and found the woman, but couldn’t bring her down the same stairs due to the fire. So he went to a rear window and, using a ladder left nearby, lowered the woman onto the roof of an adjoining building before escaping. The woman suffered burns to over 40 percent of her body but survived.
- As in previous and later years in the issue immediately prior to Memorial Day, the Ridgewood Times featured a rundown of local parades and ceremonies scheduled for the holiday weekend. The front page of this particular issue shows an image from the United Veterans and Fraternal Organization of Maspeth vigil held on May 23 at the corner of Grand Avenue and the Queens Midtown Expressway. The vigil honored the sacrifices of veterans, prisoners of war and soldiers still missing in action.
- Page 2 featured a story about a bomb scare at Queens Borough Hall. As former managing editor Bill Mitchell wrote, “Hundreds of persons were turned onto Queens Boulevard” on the morning of May 18 “after police were notified that an unknown male had dropped a canvas duffel bag on the front steps and fled the scene.” The NYPD Bomb Squad investigated and didn’t find an explosive device, but they did find an umbrella and a water pistol. Borough President Claire Shulman “was not on the premises at the time.” Business at Borough Hall returned to normal at about 12:20 p.m.
- Page 5 featured a photo of the repainting of the Forest Park (George Seuffert) Bandshell. Councilman Al Stabile brought workers from The Home Depot store in Ozone Park to the bandshell to repaint the bandshell just in time for the “You Gotta Have Park” festival for the weekend of May 20-21.
- Turning to Page 6, Congressman (and future Senate Minority Leader) Charles Schumer announced that he had contacted the city Parks Department and Community Board 5 regarding renaming Evergreen Park, adjacent to P.S. 68 in Glendale, as Phil Rizzuto Park. “Many people are not aware that Phil Rizzuto was a member of our community and attended local Public School 68,” Schumer said. “When it was announced that he would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I thought it would be a great idea to rename the park next to his elementary school after him.” While the Evergreen Park name stuck, Smokey Oval Park in Richmond Hill was eventually renamed for Rizzuto, the beloved Yankees shortstop and broadcaster.
- Hungry? Chicken Galore, located at 71-02 Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, advertised on Page 7 two very affordable dinner specials with coupons. The #1 family dinner, for $10.99, featured 8 pieces of chicken, 2 orders of French fries, 1/2 pound of cole slaw, rolls and cranberries. The #2 family dinner included 12 pieces of chicken, 3 orders of French Fries, 1 pound of cole slaw and rolls and cranberries.
- Long before the smartphone debuted and made all of our lives easier, if you wanted to contact someone right away, you had to have a good pager. In a Page 15 advertisement, P&A Paging and Auto Sport Corp., located at 60-09 Eliot Ave. in Maspeth, advertised Bravo beepers on sale for $29.99. Of course, you had to connect that beeper to a paging service, and you could sign up for Tri-State Beeper Service for $9.99. Each pager had its own phone number; a caller would dial it and, after hearing several beeps, enter their own phone number, which would come up on a person’s pager so they can call them back later. (Some friends and family members worked out their own codes with each other which they added to their phone numbers so someone could know who was calling just in case they didn’t immediately recognize the number.) Cellphones were just becoming popular then, too, and you could purchase a brand-new Motorola flip phone for $49.99. The business also offered “free CellularOne activation.”
- “Could you go places with an extra $37,958?” That question was asked in Home Federal’s full-page ad on Page 17. The bank noted that just a 1 percent interest rate drop on a 30-year mortgage would result in $37,958 savings for a borrower — “Enough, let’s say, for a trip to the Caribbean every year for 20 years.” That difference, the fine print noted, was based on a 30 year, $150,000 mortgage over the full term of the loan.
- Of course, the back page of the Ridgewood Times featured Queens Wines and Liquors, located at 59-03 Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood. You could pick up a liter bottle of Jim Beam Kentucky bourbon for $9.99; a 1.75 milliliter bottle of Finlandia 80 proof vodka for $19.99; and a 4 liter jug of Paul Masson (rose, burgundy, Rhine or chablis) for just $7.99.
- You hear a lot these days about the blistering real estate market in Queens, but turn the dial back 24 years and you’ll see home prices that, in retrospect, truly boggle the mind. In the Ridgewood Times classified section on Page 47, a property owner advertised two buildings on Onderdonk Avenue near Harman Street “for textile finishing or light manufacturing” for sale. The buildings were each 4,600 square feet and had four apartments above with three large garages. Asking price? $550,000. (Those buildings are worth millions now.)
- Crifasi Real Estate, with locations at 79-45 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village and 56-19 Metropolitan Ave. in Ridgewood, had plenty of offerings at astounding rates compared to today’s market. For instance, you could get in Glendale a “semi-detached, 6 room ranch style home” with a private yard and driveway and a five-car garage for $184,000; or a semi-detached, one-family “handyman’s special” home — also with a private driveway and yard — for $139,000.
- There were plenty of bargains to be found for renters as well in the May 26, 1994, Ridgewood Times. Phillips Realtors in Middle Village offered a 2-bedroom apartment in Maspeth for $700 a month; a 3-room apartment in Forest Hills for $800; and a 6-room home in Rego Park — featuring three bedrooms, two bathrooms and “plenty of closets and fresh paint” for $1,100.
- The sports section was lined with stories of school championships as the school year was winding down. On Page 69, the top story was about Benjamin Cardozo High School’s recent victory in the PSAL boys’ tennis tournament — their seventh-consecutive championship. Meanwhile, Grover Cleveland High School’s baseball team stayed alive in the PSAL playoffs, with a 5-4 victory over James Madison High School.
- Meanwhile, the St. Aloysius Warriors reported some blowout wins against competitors in the Queens Junior Baseball Association. They defeated the Electric Lakers in one game, 17-1, and then routed the M.L. Rockets by a 16-6 score.
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Share your history with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (subject: Our Neighborhood: The Way it Was) or write to The Old Timer, ℅ Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361. Any mailed pictures will be carefully returned to you upon request.