The social scene of yesteryear
by Michael Perlman
Mar 12, 2014 | 3227 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Boulevard Tavern, 94-05 Queens Boulevard, Courtesy of Michael Perlman Postcard Collection
Boulevard Tavern, 94-05 Queens Boulevard, Courtesy of Michael Perlman Postcard Collection
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Stratton Restaurant in 1949, Courtesy of the Queens Chamber of Commerce
Stratton Restaurant in 1949, Courtesy of the Queens Chamber of Commerce
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The Carlton Terrace matchcover, Courtesy of Michael Perlman Collection
The Carlton Terrace matchcover, Courtesy of Michael Perlman Collection
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Forest Hills and Rego Park were once home to a number of dining and entertainment hot spots, and among the most memorable venues that lined Queens Boulevard were the Stratton Restaurant & Bar, The Carlton Terrace and Boulevard Tavern, which later evolved into The Boulevard.

Enjoying a filling dinner and dancing to the music of a big band was a staple for many who were raised in mid-20th century Queens. On opposite corners of 71st Road in Forest Hills, people took their pick of either the Stratton (1949-1986) or The Carlton Terrace (1940-early 1970s).

Entering The Carlton Terrace, patrons were greeted by a streamlined Art Deco front with a stainless steel marquee, and met by the Aquarium Bar’s waterfall and tropical fish. In 1940, it cost $2.50 to attend a New Year’s Eve party followed by a New Year’s Day dinner for $1. With no cover, patrons enjoyed dancing nightly to acts such as Gaspare Barbie’s Orchestra, Johnny Black and Bob Ryan and The Twins.

The Stratton was advertised as “Joe Vogel’s popular Boulevard spot” and “Queens’ most distinguished restaurant.” Early on, the Stratton Retail Shop offered hors d’oeuvres, table delicacies, and baked goods. In its later years, diners could sit under a sidewalk café.

“My family and I would eat there quite often, and it was where my wedding reception was held in 1974,” said current Florida resident Susan Wrench.

In 1949, the Stratton, designed by Theobald Henry Engelhardt and built by Cord Meyer Development Company, received a bronze plaque by the Queens Chamber of Commerce in honor of its architectural and civic value.

Longtime residents recall the sounds of Tito Puente and The Drifters, and reflect upon their dates during Latin and disco nights.

“My husband and I dated here in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and it offered an elegant Manhattan style,” said Kew Gardens resident Leslie Alter. “We saw The Drifters, and my boss's nephew, Jeremy Driesen was a drummer who played backup.”

Traveling westward, a large billboard read “Dine, Dance, And Be Merry.” At 94-05 Queens Boulevard, The Boulevard was Rego Park’s “it place” from the 1930s through the 1960s.

“I met Robert F. Kennedy when he ran for senator against Kenneth Keating in 1964,” said Arthur Cohen, a former Rego Park resident who calls Florida home. “He delivered a speech in front of 100 people in The Boulevard’s parking lot."

There were three shows nightly with no cover charge, and seating for up to 800 people surrounded an elevated dance floor, bandstand, and electric organ. Singer Patti Page would pose for photos with fans. Other performers included the first Jewish mambo bandleader in New York City, Al "Alfredito" Levy, as well as comedian Don Rickles, Jan Fredric’s Orchestra, and singer Connie Haines.

“My girlfriends and I dressed up to look older so we could see an American rock band, The Beau Brummels, but everyone got in except me,” reminisced Evon Cassidy, a Pennsylvania resident who grew up in Forest Hills. “I had to stay in the lobby. Then their manager came out, and I told him how much I liked The Beau Brummels. He took my name and address, and a few weeks later I received postcards from all members.”

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