Monday, June 25, 2018

Remembering The Oberglock Farm

I grew up in a section of the borough of Queens, New York City, that was made up of mostly single-family homes built fairly close together. There would be a small front and back yard, usually a driveway between most homes, and very little additional space. Scattered about, mostly on corners, might be a candy store or deli, and several blocks away an avenue lined with bigger stores and shops. Even though there were occasional vacant lots (which were eventually built on), there weren’t any farms around... except for the Oberglock Farm.
Back in the 1854, Herman Oberglock came to America from Germany and in subsequent years bought several huge parcels of land on which his family farmed. By the time he died, on February 1st, 1908, most of his land had been sold to developers and, according to a 1909 map, there was only one sizeable Oberglock farm still remaining – on 127th Street, between Broadway (later renamed Jerome Avenue, then 101st Avenue) and Liberty Avenue – only two blocks from where I was born and raised more than thirty years later.
By the time I was a child, playing in the streets of the neighborhood, that large Oberglock farm was gone and rows of houses like my parents’ had been built in its place. But, right around the corner from where I lived was an old house with a sizable garden along side, and a large chicken coop in the yard. Growing up, I heard the roosters crowing in the morning and, occasionally, my mother would ask me to go around to the Oberglock Farm and get some eggs or fresh vegetables. It seems that this old house had a Mrs. Oberglock living there with her son, Michael, and was the last vestige of the great Oberglock Farms in my section of Queens.

 The original house, on left; and a new house, built where the garden once was.

 A few years before I got married and moved out of the neighborhood, Mrs. Oberglock died and Mike lived alone in the house with his dog after that. Sometime when I wasn’t paying attention, the chickens disappeared and there was no more garden. The farm was officially closed. My brother, Richie, had been good friends with Mike and often visited with him until Mike passed away sometime in the 1990s.

Remembering The Elmhurst Gas Tanks

When you think of NYC landmarks, the first things that pop into your head might be the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, or even the Brooklyn Bridge. But if you were commuting into the city from Long Island each day by car, during the 1970s, ‘80s or ‘90s, you would have been very much aware of another important landmark: the Elmhurst Gas Tanks.

Photo found online; photographer unknown.
 Built between 1910 and 1921, the 200-foot tall cylinders contained natural gas and occupied a six-acre tract of land just north of the Long Island Expressway at 80th Street in – you guessed it – Elmhurst, Queens. Officially, they were called the Newtown Holders, each with a capacity to hold 10 million cubic feet of natural gas – the vapor that wafts through underground pipes into feeder lines for thousands of homes. Because of their proximity to one of the most heavily-traveled roads in the country, traffic reports each morning during rush hour inevitably included warnings such as, “expect a fifteen-minute delay passing the Elmhurst Gas Tanks.” If you were lucky, you might have heard, “traffic is moving well past the gas tanks.”
Due to advancements in modern storage designs for natural gas, the Brooklyn Union Gas Company began dismantling the tanks in 1996. By 2001 the tanks were completely gone and in 2007, the city began construction of a $20 million park on the site. It opened to the public on May 24, 2011.

Remembering The Coffin Factory

Yes, you read that correctly! Only a few blocks from where I lived while growing up was a large, three-story building on Atlantic Avenue, at 124th Street, in which they made coffins. We actually had quite a lot of light manufacturing in our part of Queens, during the ‘50s and ‘60s, but the coffin factory was probably the most unusual. It’s main entrance was on 94th Avenue where a large side yard bordered the big brick building.
The things that I remember most about this place were the smells of various types of fresh wood that they would mill themselves to actually build the boxes; the aromas greeted you anytime you walked by and, in their yard, was a big dumpster where they threw their discards. My friends and I would always check the trash bin for scraps that we could use to make bird houses or feeders, or – if we were really ambitious – tables and chairs that we would use in our clubhouses (which sprang up in someone’s yard or a vacant lot, from time to time).

Recent photo found online from Google Maps.
 I think it was sometime in the 1970s, after I had moved away, that the coffin factory closed its doors and the entire block (gas station/auto repair shop on one half and the old factory on the other) was bought by the South Shore Tire & Rubber Company, a Goodyear tire distributor. They bricked up all the windows in the old factory and – to this day –  continue to use the building as a warehouse to store tires which they can then deliver to numerous repair shops in the surrounding areas.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Rest Of Ken Szekretar's Cars (from the '60s)

Although one of Ken Szekretar's cars has been previously
featured on this blog (his '51 Ford, on the Dec. 5, 2010 post),
he had several other notable drives back in the day.
Of particular interest was this 1958 Chevy Impala 2-door hardtop.
The car was nosed and decked, painted a metallic silver-blue,
wore '57 Plymouth wheel covers, and sat on a "rake."

The engine was production 348 cuber with
three carbs, a mild cam and solid lifters.

A year or so later, Ken bought a 1960 Corvette;
it was basically pretty stock when he got it.

 Ken added a Fuelie cam and solid lifters, four-barrel carb, and
Fuelie heads to the engine. Power went through a 4-speed tranny

Ken next worked on the body, shaving unnecessary chrome,
removing the front bumpers, and reworking the grille opening
into a rolled pan effect. New paint was a dark metallic blue.

Frosted white plexigrass lenses were used in the opening
under the headlights for the parking lights and turn signals.

Doug's Wheels in the 1960s

While in high school, one of the other gear heads I met
was Doug Maloney, from Glendale, Queens.
He had been building a '32 Ford coupe during the same time
I had been working on my '50 Merc (see the first post on this blog).
Around the time we graduated, I stopped over to his
house to see his car and grabbed some photos.

Still a work-in-progress when I visited,
the five-window coupe had been channeled 11-inches;
juice brakes and a '56 Ford steering box were installed,
along with a dago-ed front axle.

The engine was a completely rebuilt '56 Olds,
running nearly stock, with lots of chrome;
transmission was from a '39 Ford and the rear from a '40.

I was with Doug the first night he took the car out on the road;
among the first destinations was the White Castle on
Union Turnpike, in Fresh Meadows (that place no longer exists).

 After selling the '32, Doug bought a '41 Ford coupe
and started working on that. He showed up at
my house one day and I got a few photos of it.

 The body was basically stock but he installed
high-compression heads and a Mallory ignition on the engine.

Before he could complete any other modifications to the '41,
he blew the clutch,  sold the car, and bought a '57 Chevy convertible.
(All photos were shot in front of my old Richmond Hill home.)

The Chevy ran a stock six (in spite of a "V"
on the continental kit spare cover).

Doug's next car was another '57 Chevy;
this one was equipped with the 283 V8 "Power Pack"
(four-barrel carb and dual exhausts)
and a Turbo-Hydromatic transmission.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

More of Alley Oop's Friend's Cars (Bob Minutello)

Another of Frankie's friends whom I met at his house
was Bob Minutello of Richmond Hill
(correct spelling of names not guaranteed)
who owned this stock-looking '59 Chevy convertible.

It sported Plymouth wheel covers, plumber's pipes
behind the front wheel openings, and a 4.88 rear end.
Inside can be seen a Sun tach and Hurst shifter for the three-speed trans,

Under the Hood was a 348 cubic-inch mill with three carbs.

More of Alley Oop's Friends Cars (Jim Mongelli)

My previous blog post remembers cars owned by Frank Gesuldo,
otherwise know as Alley Oop. I'd often meet some
of Frank's friends when I hung out at his house and
that's where I met Jim Mongelli, from Glendale, Queens
(correct spelling of names is not guaranteed).

Jim owned and built this '55 Chevy Corvette
featuring some novel bodywork over the headlights,
a modified grille and housing, and '59 Caddy
tail-light lenses in the rear, among other things.
It was painted candy-apple red;
I'm sorry I couldn't afford color film at the time.


The engine in Jim's 'Vette was a 327 Cubic-incher
with a fuelie cam, solid lifters, dual quad carbs, and
it was mated to a beefed-up Powerglide.