1920s patriotism, Forest Hills style
by Michael Perlman
Jul 01, 2020 | 3613 views | 0 0 comments | 376 376 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In 1914, the annual Independence Day festival was launched in the Forest Hills Gardens. This set off a tradition where residents participated in a day-long program in the exquisitely decorated Station Square, Forest Hills Inn and Tea Garden, Olivia Park, and along Greenway Terrace.

In 1917, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt delivered his “One Hundred Percent American” unification speech at the LIRR Station. Today, tradition continues in modified form with Children’s Day at Flagpole Green in June.

The 1919 celebration cost $3,057 and Dr. Thompson Tyler Sweeny, who served as the chair of the 1920 celebration, requested that every Forest Hills Gardens family contribute an average of $10. It was anticipated to be greatest Independence Day celebrations yet.

The ceremony featured members of American Legion Post 630 and Boy Scouts Troop 2 under the direction of Harvey Warren, who served as Post president and scoutmaster. After Warren played the part of town crier, he changed into military garb and uniformed servicemen and Boy Scouts marched to Village Green.

As the flag was raised, a chorus sang patriotic tunes under the guidance of the famed Glee Club leader Bruno Huhn with piano accompaniment by Mrs. Charles H. Scammell, who was considered “the foster mother of all good singing of Forest Hills Gardens.”

Children were ready to play games in Station Square at 10 a.m., thanks to the direction of Dr. W. F. Seybolt. “With kiddie car races, pillow fights, sack and relay races, a whole program of fun, speed, and skill was carried out,” read the Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin.

At 2 p.m., Hawthorn Park became a baseball field where the Inn Warriors (the Inns) clashed with the Station Square Cohorts (the Outs). An umpire appeared in armor, while batters wore petticoats. The Inns captain was Ray Bell, whereas Edmund O’Shea led the Outs.

“The Outs came nobly from the rear and put the winning run over the plate to the accompaniment of the deafening plaudits of the assembled throng,” read the Bulletin. “It was a dashing game, and the narrow margin of one run by which the Outs won their victory shows how closely it was played.”

At 4 p.m., Milton Aborn directed a company that performed the operas “Pagliacci” and “Cavalleria Rusticana” in Olivia Park, a natural amphitheater. The chorus featured 24 vocalists and the orchestra featured 17 members. Scenery was minimal to maximize the park’s natural ambiance.

Between 5 and 7 p.m., a home-cooked supper was served by the Women’s Guild of the Church-in-the-Gardens for $1,. Proceeds benefitted the Community House fund.

Meanwhile, proceeds from the refreshment booth benefited the Big Sisters of Queens Borough. Based on the prior year’s partnership, the Big Sisters received over $200 and assisted seven children who would have traditionally ended up in institutions, helping them find suitable homes.

At 7:30 p.m., the 75 vocalists of the Choral Club performed patriotic songs. comprised of nearly 75 vocalists. The Regiment Band of the 22nd Corps of Engineers, a 40-piece band under Master George Briegel, also performed. The evening continued with dancing in Station Square until midnight with over 3,000 in attendance. The Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin read,

“The dance on Station Square, lighted by myriads of red, white, and blue incandescents, will fittingly close a happy family and community patriotic day,” read the Bulletin. “The Independence Day of 1920, long to be remembered.”
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