A new decade: the Roaring 20s vs. the Modern 20s
by Ed Wendell
Jan 08, 2020 | 967 views | 0 0 comments | 78 78 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The first home of the Queens Public Library Woodhaven Branch at Jamaica Avenue and 88th Street. It was common for the QPL to set up libraries in storefronts until a permanent home could be established.
The first home of the Queens Public Library Woodhaven Branch at Jamaica Avenue and 88th Street. It was common for the QPL to set up libraries in storefronts until a permanent home could be established.
Welcome to the New Twenties! It’s nice living in a decade that has a name again. We never really named the last one, did we? You could call them the Tens, I suppose.

And I have no idea what we call the first decade of this century. Some people call them the Aughts, a horrible name. All the brainpower in this world and we can’t come up with anything better than Aughts and Tens?

But now we’re in the first week of the Twenties, or the New Twenties if you want to avoid confusion with the last Twenties 100 years ago.

The first year of the last Twenties in Woodhaven found the community still suffering in the wake of the Great War. Woodhaven was hit hard, losing 70 young men, many of them well known in the neighborhood.

Though a living memorial to the fallen had been planted the year before in the form of the Memorial Trees of Forest Park, a large granite monument would be erected in the park later that year.

Something else that was born in the aftermath of World War 1 was the American Legion. Woodhaven Post 118 was formed in 1920, meaning that they’ll be celebrating their centennial later this year.

The large granite monument was later moved from Forest Park to the Legion’s headquarters, where it sits today.

For the next few decades, the American Legion was very visible in Woodhaven, leading a large annual march through the community on Memorial Day.

Locally, the first week of the 1920s saw the beginning of an effort to expand Woodhaven Boulevard, a project that would be quite controversial for the next 20 years.

It wasn’t that residents were completely opposed to transforming our sleepy little one-lane dirt road into a one-lane concrete highway.

The major complaint was that the city was sticking residents of Woodhaven with most of the bill instead of spreading it around to other taxpayers.

Early in 1920, the Parks Department agreed to give back a large portion of Forest Park to the community. All the land along Park Lane South, including the playground, tennis courts, Strack Pond, bandshell and carousel sat on land that used to be the golf course.

Also in early 1920, an effort was launched to bring an official library to Woodhaven. In fact, the very first Queens Public Library in Woodhaven was opened at the corner of 88th Street and Jamaica Avenue, at the current location of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

But before the decade was over, a permanent branch would be opened on Forest Parkway, where it still stands today.

But a resident from 1920 might be scratching their heads if they visited Woodhaven today, wondering why some places disappeared.

Dexter Park was a popular destination during the 1920s, and residents were treated to seeing many future Hall of Famers play right here in Woodhaven. That's been gone for decades, replaced by houses.

Going to the movies was a popular activity, and in 1920 the most popular theater in town was The Manor at 96th Street and Jamaica Avenue, where the Rent-A-Center recently sat. Boasting 750 seats, The Manor quickly found itself out of date.

It was replaced by the modern Willard Theater on the next block, which sat over 2,000 people and boasted air conditioning.

And St. Anthony’s Hospital was a controversial addition to Woodhaven. It was an imposing structure on the boulevard near 89th Avenue for decades before being demolished and replaced by housing.

The 1920s were a very interesting time for Woodhaven, a very transformative decade. Despite starting under the cloud of war, it was an exciting time for people with more and more modern conveniences making life a little bit more pleasurable.

AM radio began broadcasting at the start of the 1920s, and it soon became a valued source of entertainment in the household. And more and more people began purchasing automobiles, which allowed people to visit places they never would have before.

The 1920s began as a decade of optimism and hope for the future, but ended badly in the last few months of 1929 with a stock market crash that threw the country into a long-lasting depression.

Only time will tell if our Twenties will turn out any better. Hopefully, we’ll all be around to find out the answer.
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