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Talbot Street. 83rd Drive and the
Kew Hall Apartments are in the distance.
Click image to enlarge

"I just read Alan Linsky's great piece and was able to, again, walk his Kew Gardens walk. After 50-60 years all of those places are still in our heads. Alan refers to three Kew Gardens fires. There was a fourth fire that was even more significant for me. In 1947, also on a Sunday, part of the roof burned off 84-64 Talbot Street. I lived next door in the adjoining apartment house, 83-52, also known as Windsor Towers. Here is a picture of the Ahrens Fox Pumper that answered the alarm; presumably the same one referred to by Alan. Every detail of the pumper was polished and simonized. The siren, the bell, even the spare tire and, of course, the great classic chrome plated pressure sphere. It's difficult to make out because of the distortion, but the sphere is reflecting the entire length of Talbot St in both directions as well as the image of every apartment house. The pumper is parked on Talbot Street at the corner of 84th Avenue facing southeast. The apartment house on the corner was yet to be built and the houses are now gone."

[Photograph and comments courtesy of Jay Rogers.].
Random Recollections

by ALAN LINSKY - Page 2 of 3

[Continued from the previous page.]


Sometime in the late 40's, I do remember it being a Sunday morning, we came out for the papers and discovered that the entire Tudor side of the bridge was gutted. The main frame and roof elements survived but everything else was pretty well gone. It was thought that the fire started in the refrigeration system of Bauer's Meat Market located at just about the center of the structure. I know that it was boarded up for months before renovations began. Ironically, all seven businesses that were there before the fire returned as though they didn't miss a beat!

There were two other fires in K.G. circa 1950 that may be of interest.

The first was the supermarket located on the southeast corner of Metro and 83rd. That one went up like a Roman candle.

The second was a Dutch Colonial house at 81st. Avenue between Austin and Kew Gardens Road (more toward Kew Gardens Road on the hospital side of the street). It really went for a while but the Fire Department saved most of it. I'll tell you how long ago it was: Engine 305 (Forest Hills) was still using their 1935 Ahrens-Fox pumper with the big silver ball ahead of the engine (that ball, by the way, was not ornamental, rather it was needed to equalize the water pressure).

What's in a Name?

It has always been customary for the founders and developers of a community to name the streets after either prominent people or places. For instance; Atlantic Beach (just down the road) christened their thoroughfares alphabetically for the counties of New York state.


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At one time, 84th Avenue was called St. Anne's Avenue. Chances are, it was named after St Anne's Parish Church in Kew, Richmond on Thames. This photograph of the church was taken in 1963. Click on image to enlarge.


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The old name for 81st Avenue was Pembroke Place. It's easy to see where that name might have come from. Pembroke Castle in south Wales was birthplace to England's King Henry VII, founder of the Tudor Dynasty. Click on image to enlarge.

[1990 Photograph from Wikipedia.org by Adrian Pingstone and released to the public domain.]
The founding fathers of Kew Gardens, on the other hand, elected to use names of obviously important individuals of their era. History books tell us that the name "Lefferts" was derived from a family of local landholders.

But what of Grenfell Street, Talbot Street and Cuthbert Road for example?. We really don't know (or at least I don't know) who these people were (and they had to be people because you don't just pull a name like Grenfell out of a hat!).

The Man family, the driving force in the creation of Kew Gardens, seemed to have gravitated back to their British roots when it came to these matters and, in fact, named the town after the Botanical Gardens in London. We may very well be dealing with Lord Grenfell, Prince Talbot (not Albert) and Lady Cuthbert!

Anton Flettner - Scientist - Inventor 1885 - 1961

I cannot even begin to tell you of the accomplishments of this man and the niche that he created for himself in the field of aviation. For that, I would direct you to pick up any book on the history of the helicopter or key in 'ANTON FLETTNER' on your search engine (within seconds you'll get an idea of who he was).

The Kew Gardens Connection

The Kew Gardens connection began in 1939 when Flettner's wife, a jewess, fled Nazi Germany to avoid persecution and immigrated to the United States settling (as so many other German Jews did) in Kew Gardens, New York.

Dr. Flettner, on the other hand, was 'impolitely' asked to remain in the homeland for the duration of the war and to redirect his efforts toward the research and development of what we now call 'weapons of mass destruction'.

Flettner arrived in this country in 1947 accompanied by a number of his colleagues including Werner von Braun (the father of modern rocketry) as part of an agreement with the U.S. government to continue their projects (the cold war and arms race had already begun with the U.S.S.R. so the work became vital).

Sometime in the early fifties Flettner rented what was then the recently vacated 'Pit-A-Pat toy shop on 83rd. off Lefferts (next door to Art Leonards Rainbow Inn).


Anton Flettner
(Image does not enlarge.)

Click here to read more about him.
You sensed that whatever was going on in his offices was 'HUSH HUSH'. The windows were tightly covered, the front door heavily secured and only a tiny sign advertised 'Flettner Aviation'. I would often see him being whisked away in a government car to who knows where!

I met and became a fast friend of Dr. Flettner during his many strolls up and down 83rd. Avenue (he used to say that it helped him to think).

He would often tell me stories about the war years in Germany and how he and his fellow researchers were virtually captives of the Third Reich. SS men monitored his every move permitting him only to travel to and from work, listened in to all his communication and never allowed him even a phone call to his family.

The one thing, though, that he delighted in relating to me were the stories of his many visits after the war to Princeton, New Jersey to see his good friend and mentor Albert Einstein.

I lost track of Dr. Flettner after he closed his office and only recently learned that he had died in 1961.

The name Anton Flettner may not be a household word to most people but I would count him as having been one of the most prominent citizens of Kew Gardens. (I get goose bumps when I think that I had a casual friend who was more than a casual friend of Dr. Einstein!).

83rd Avenue West of Lefferts Boulevard

The picture postcard you have of 83rd Avenue was heavily airbrushed. There was no beautifully landscaped lawn on the right or left side of the street in the foreground.


Click on image to enlarge.
The "right" side of 83rd Avenue as seen from Lefferts Boulevard in the vintage picture postcard.


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The "left" side of 83rd Avenue as seen from Lefferts Boulevard as seen from Lefferts Boulevard in the vintage picture postcard.
The Right Side of the Street: The postcard virtually cuts off the first house except for a tiny edge of the roof. The first house belonged to the Bouruman Family. The next house (with the attic dormer visible almost at the front of the house) belonged to the Sherbourne Family, and the last house (the one with the heavier looking full triangle gable side) belonged to Hoffer (Woolworth). Interestingly, the next house that you see and which seems to be immediately next to Hoffer is actually the Polay house across Beverly Road. You can't miss it in the picture because the south section of the roof comes nearly to the ground outlining white stucco. The house beyond Polay (not visible in the picture) belonged to a lady, whose name I never knew, and used to come out to her chauffeur driven Fleetwood Cadillac (circa 1954) dressed in evening clothes witha white ermine jacket.

The Left Side of the Street: The first prominent house belonged to Mrs. Van Dam, and the second to the Ehler Family (of coffee fame). The third house, which has to be "turn of the century" because of its trademark chimney (all four sides at the top fall in toward the center), is another mystery to me. The fourth house (which is extremely difficult to discern, must be the original mystery house on the Ein property. To see this fourth house, you need an eagle eye. The roof appears to melt into the huge roof of the Bohack house (on the other side of Beverly Road) and its front second floor appears to be part of the third house. The next house which is the Bohack house across Beverly Road is set way in from the street and can hardly be seen. I remember its beautiful golf course type lawn on the 83rd Avenue side. The more prominent house after that, I believe, belonged at one time to two famous pianists.

The Blizzard of '47 (as I Remember It)

They say that the blizzards of 1888 and 1996 were lollapaloozas. Unfortunately I was present for neither (I say unfortunately because I happen to love a good old fashioned snow storm). I was, however, very much in the picture for the event of 1947 with a still vivid recollection of my experiences. We were no strangers to snow in those days and, in fact, rarely did the remnants of one storm completely disappear before the next fell. But not in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine or suspect what was about to descend upon Kew Gardens the night of December 26th. 1947.


Click on image to enlarge.
The aftermath of the Blizzard of 1947. The car is parked on Austin Street. In the background is the rear of the Beverly House Apartments on Cuthbert Road.

[Photograph courtesy of Jay Rogers.]

The web site of the New York Daily News newspaper has three 1947 photographs of Kew Gardens for sale. They were taken during the blizzard and they show traffic stalled at the intersection of Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike. The old Kew Gardens General Hospital can be seen in the background in one of them. The licensing fees charged by the Daily News are prohibitive, so they cannot be published here. However, you can view low resolution images of these photographs on the Daily News web site by clicking the links below. What appears to be a bit of a distortion in the center of each photograph is the Daily News digital watermark.

Photo No. 1
Photo No. 2
Photo No. 3
No reflection upon the efforts of the National Weather Service but forecasting in the 40's was very much akin to crystal ball gazing as compared to the accurate radar, satellite and computer generated reports that we see today. The radio and newspapers had predicted "flurries" and that's just how the storm began. But as the evening wore on and the northeast winds began to increase you became cognizant of the fact that someone had made a disastrous mistake, and by dawn of the following morning we were feeling the full wrath of a blinding snowstorm.

The whiteout conditions continued throughout the day and finally abated in the early evening hours accumulating to what the record books claim was about 26 inches of fresh snow.

Kew Gardens was hit with an extremely powerful punch (possibly because of its higher elevation or the ferocity of the winds whipping through the hills and gullies which are unique to the area). Whatever the reason, we were literally and virtually paralyzed from the waist down.

At our house we finally pushed open the front storm door and looked out onto a winter wonderland. The view was incredible (a picture postcard from the Swiss Alps couldn't hold a candle to what we were seeing). The village was covered in a thick white blanket of snow with not a thing stirring and accompanied by the eerie silence that usually follows a massive storm.

The snow on 83rd. Avenue was nearly three feet deep with drifts at three times that depth. We managed to shovel a path to our curb and, in a cooperative effort, all of our neighbors helped to hand cut a trail down the center of the street to Lefferts Blvd. so we could at least reach the shops for provisions. Surprisingly, the first plow to wend its way up Lefferts into Kew Gardens was not owned by the city but by the local transit company clearing bus stops and forging a swath all the way to Austin Street where, because they felt that they could not make the steep grade ahead of them, they turned up to Onslow and then down to Kew Gardens Road. The buses used this alternate route to carry passengers to the subway station (the only form of transportation running to Manhattan.

The Long Island Railroad was stopped dead in its tracks for a brief period until their heavy steam locomotives pushing what could only be described as huge snow blowers managed to open the right of way between Sunnyside and Jamaica.

The city was ill prepared for a storm of this magnitude and concentrated most of what equipment they had to plowing main arteries. It was fully one week before any side streets were manicured.

As youngsters, we had a great time rolling in the snow, fielding snow balls, making snow men,climbing drifts and sledding down Beverly Road with enough momentum to start around Audley and wind up at the foot of the Homestead Hotel at Grenfell. We must have made the round trip four hundred times before the cinder trucks put us out of business! [Continued on the next page.]

  • Al Linsky lived in Kew Gardens from 1938 to 1963 and attended P.S. 99 from 1944 to 1953. He is now retired, splitting his time between Brentwood, CA and Woodmere, NY. His avocation is as a broker of antique vehicles to the motion picture and television industry.

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