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The east side of Lefferts Boulevard
looking south from Austin Street c. 1941

Click image to enlarge
[From the Queens Borough Public Library, Long island Division, Kew Gardens Collection.]
Random Recollections

by ALAN LINSKY

In part I of my 'stroll' series (Random Recollections) my time machine hurls us back to the 1940's 50's where we tour the establishments along the westerly side of Lefferts Boulevard between 83rd. and Beverly.

I will once again turn the clock back to that same era as we continue our walk on the more easterly side of the 'ponte vecchio' (bridge) between Austin Street and Cuthbert Road.

The first shop that catches our eye is Sol Kreitman's brightly illuminated "Austin Chemists' with ever changing window displays, an impressive array of sundries and Dr. Kreitman's expert hand at pharmacology.

Next, we visit 'Manny's Shoe Repair' where rejuvenating heels and soles is an art, and where Mr. Williams, a fine elderly gentlemen, plies his trade with pride at a shoeshine stand in the front window.

If it's Saturday at about noon time, we'll have to make our way through the crowd of kids (including myself) waiting for the 'Austin Theater' to open for a great afternoon of double features, cartoons and serials (ah for the days that Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein!). If it's the forties, the next stop is Shaw's Furniture and Decorating if it's the fifties it has become M & F Cleaners with their large black lettered orange sign over the entry noting their expertise.

Moving along, we visit 'Andre's Beauty Salon' an ultra modern (for the day) facility run by Harry (Andre) Rothman and his wife Ruth. The Rothman's moved to the bridge from a much smaller store near Beverly and Lefferts about 1950.

Our next stop will seem as though we have stepped from the past further into the past as we come upon Major's Book Store. Miss Major, a well reserved and preserved librarian holds court in her 1920's style establishment. Actually, it's not 1920's style it's 1920's unchanged! Despite the apparent freezing of time, she does carry the latest in reading material including every book on the New York Times best seller list.

Because I was too young to drink yet, my memories of the next stop, the Kew Gardens Hof-brau, are vague at best (as kids, we used to call it the "eye brow" and knew very little of what went on inside).

If you're into the most wonderful fruits and vegetables and everything Italian that goes with them then 'Panettiere's is your place to shop. Their van arrives at Manhattan wholesalers by 4:00AM each day to bring us the freshest produce imaginable. The KGO (Kew Gardens Outlet) follows on our tour. Run by Esther Levitow and her daughter Mimi, they feature everything from buttons to bows and a lot more. Mr. Levitow, who comes in to help out on occasion, is a professional musician and a featured violinist with the Bell Telephone Hour orchestra.

CLICK TO ENLARGE.

The east side of Lefferts Boulevard
as seen from 83rd Avenue c. 1941.

Click on image to enlarge
[From the Queens Borough Public Library, Long island Division, Kew Gardens Collection.]
Mimi's Candy Shop (no relation to Mimi of KGO) beckons you with the aromas of roasting cacao seeds as chocolatiers Mr. and Mrs. Fleishmann hand make their confections from 'old country' recipes. My favorites though are the imported tins of Mocha filled pastry tubes which always had a conspicuous place in our refrigerator.

Next, we find Murray Sims, our very capable town optometrist, usually standing out in front of his store watching the world go by, but always ready to grind out the best in prescription lens wear. Bahr's (pronounced bear) Lingerie shop comes up next with windows filled with all things feminine (a kind of early and more sedate version of Victoria's Secret).

If it were a shopping mall you would need an 'anchor' store and I would have to say that Bohack's Super Market would fit that bill. Always a beehive of activity, this particular branch carried very special items to suit the needs of the Bohack family who lived right up the street. Our one and only bank at the time was located prominently at the center of the five corners and had it's name, 'The Bank of Manhattan Company', engraved in granite over the front entry. A bronze replacement sign proclaiming the merger with Chase National eventually covered the original chiseling.

CLICK TO ENLARGE.

The east side of Lefferts Boulevard
looking south toward Cuthbert Road c. 1941

Click on image to enlarge
[From the Queens Borough Public Library, Long island Division, Kew Gardens Collection.]
A white stucco building follows with a beauty parlor (the name of which escapes me) at street level and the famous 'Dr. Jay' practicing his mastery at dental technique upstairs. Next, you come to the immaculately sterile yellow ceramic tile walls of Blendermann's Meats that convey the quality of the best prime beef available anywhere.

Last but certainly not least is the Homestead Delicatessen (which, along with the Austin Theater, may be the only two businesses to have survived into the twenty-first century). Originally known as 'Koster's', this emporium (the Dean and Deluca of Queens) has served its delicacies since the early 20's. My all time favorite is their rare roast beef on thin sliced double baked rye with real 'homemade' mayonnaise.

I hope I have brought back a few memories for you oldtimers, and a little of Old Kew Gardens history for you new comers. Watch for part III of my 'Stroll' series coming soon.

Source:
  • 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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