Queensline: World War II makes its presence felt in Queens


In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, TimesLedger Newspapers presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history.

World War II was about to enter its second year. 

Kids get money from well-paying jobs vacated by older brothers in the service. With mom and dad working more hours, the war disrupts parental supervision. Juvenile delinquency shoots up.

Advice columns sympathize with women workers. Facing a bad situation, women are torn between families and the war effort.  No such conflicts for Mrs. Marie McMillen, trainer of parachuting nurses.

“There’s no thrill like jumping out of the sky. I prefer it to the far more dangerous subway travel. Imagine tied up in a cage below the ground and speeding along like a bat out of Hell,” she said.

The trees surrounding Bryant High School were planted after World War I as a memorial to the school’s alumni. Principal James Warren places a wreath on one for Pearl Harbor victim Alexander Badle. The Astorian’s death on the USS Arizona was among first casualties in Queens.

Heroic war effort stories are endless.

Five give blood for the fourth time. More than 1,000 employees cheer Edo Plant ‘E’ Award. A 43-year-old Astoria father, veteran of World War I with five kids volunteers and joins his two sons in the service. Newsboys sell 6 million 10-cent war stamps. Brooklyn Union employees collect 15,000 keys. The five-foot nickel and brass mound is quickly melted down. Four cousins from Flushing, all named John Laura, hit the enlistment line for Uncle Sam.

Writing to that loved one in the service? Families are urged to use V-Mail, special forms microfilmed then printed overseas.  Letters weighing 1,500 pounds and fitting into 22 mail sacks are reduced to one 45-pound sack. The paper carries forms for rationing fuel and tires. Annual travel is restricted to 3,000 miles at 35 mph. Tires are registered.

The Star-Journal Bowling League is in full swing. The Terminal Noisemakers, Astoria Aces, Plaza Pirates, and Jackson Heights Knights battle at the Astoria Bowling Academy, Broadway and Steinway with 11 alleys and Pabst Beer from kegs. The Court Square Bowling Academy on Jackson Ave. has Rheingold Beer and 14 alleys. The Strand Bowling Center offers a delicious meal at its luxurious restaurant and cocktail lounge.

Phil Rizzuto of Glendale, the peppery shortstop of the Yankees, enlists in the Navy shortly after the World Series ended. The “Scooter,” at basic training, is pictured in the Norfolk Training Station.

Thomas Dewey, the former racket-busting DA was selected governor of New York by 650,000 votes. The election of Lieutenant Governor Charles Poletti is too close to call. (Poletti, later namesake of the New York State Power Authority facility in Astoria, lives today in Florida. He is in his 90s.) 

Sandy and her master are both in the army now. George Cast, who enlisted last month had to leave his dog Sandy in the care of his mother. Mrs. Elizabeth Cast of 12-24 30th Drive, Astoria reported that the good-natured collie didn’t understand. After waiting several days for Pvt. Cast to return, the dog refused to come out of his master’s room. After a week of refusing to eat, Mrs. Cast came to the conclusion that only a change of scene would cure him.

Sandy enlists into the Dog Defense Division. He passes his physical with flying colors. He is not in the least gun shy. Today he is going through basic training in an undisclosed location on Long Island. “I’m glad to know Sandy is in the Army too,” Pvt. Cast writes to his mother. “I’m sure he will make out OK.” Someday perhaps, dog and master will meet again in the line of duty.

That’s the way it was in November 1942.

For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700.