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Preview: Ken Bausert's Nostalgic Museum

Ken Bausert's Nostalgic Museum

A trip back to my "good ol' days" through stories and photos; please click on most photos to enlarge them. Be sure to check out my current activities at the Ken Bausert Chronicles:

Updated: 2018-03-14T07:29:00.376-04:00


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


Although one of Ken Szekretar's cars has been previouslyfeatured 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 withthree 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, andFuelie heads to the engine. Power went through a 4-speed trannyKen next worked on the body, shaving unnecessary chrome,removing the front bumpers, and reworking the grille openinginto a rolled pan effect. New paint was a dark metallic blue.Frosted white plexigrass lenses were used in the openingunder 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 metwas Doug Maloney, from Glendale, Queens.He had been building a '32 Ford coupe during the same timeI had been working on my '50 Merc (see the first post on this blog).Around the time we graduated, I stopped over to hishouse 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 onUnion Turnpike, in Fresh Meadows (that place no longer exists). After selling the '32, Doug bought a '41 Ford coupeand started working on that. He showed up atmy house one day and I got a few photos of it.  The body was basically stock but he installedhigh-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. [...]

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 someof Frank's friends when I hung out at his house andthat's where I met Jim Mongelli, from Glendale, Queens(correct spelling of names is not guaranteed).Jim owned and built this '55 Chevy Corvettefeaturing some novel bodywork over the headlights,a modified grille and housing, and '59 Caddytail-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-incherwith a fuelie cam, solid lifters, dual quad carbs, andit was mated to a beefed-up Powerglide.[...]

The Legend of Alley Oop


One of my friends from the 1960s was Frank Gesulado but,because he was a big burly-looking guy, everybody called him Alley Oop(after the comic strip character of the same name).He lived on 125th Street, near Idlewild Airport(today JFK International) and was totally into cars. AlthoughI've featured a couple of his friends' cars back in my June 23, 2011 post,I've never gotten around to showcasing Frankie's cars(all of which, by the way, are named "Alley Oop").The only photos I have of Alley Oop I ("the first")were given to me by Frankie around 1962 and show his'54 Olds with slight body modifications and a De Soto grille.Under the hood, the engine was bored out to 4-inches, withtwo quads feeding the fuel, mated to a Caddy La Salle gearbox. Alley Oop II was a 1951 Olds bubble coupewith trips and an automatic;unfortunately, I never got photos of that car.A 1958 'Vette became Alley Oop III;when Frankie bought it, it had only slight body modificationsbut was destined to become one of the meanest cars around.(Note my primed '50 Merc, the "Mint Julep II," in the background.)Extensive bodywork included dechroming,rolled front and rear pans, a big hood scoop anda bolt-on tow-bar (for trips to Westhampton Drag Strip). The engine was a 283 cubic-incher, bored out to 297;it used dual quads, a dual-point centrifugal advance distributor,and an Isky track grind cam, running through afour-speed trans and a 4.88 posi rear.This combination netted Frankie over twenty trophies at the strip,some of those runs captured on 8 mm movie filmcurrently in my archives.The 'Vette was eventually sold but that engine wasswapped into Alley Oop IV, a '55 Chevy 2-door hardtop.Next in this family tree was Alley Oop V,a '61 Chevy hardtop with a functional hood scoop,partial dechroming, and a rolled & pleated blue & white interior.The engine was a 348 cubic-incher with three carbs,an Isky cam and solid lifters, and a Mallory ignition.(If the engine photo looks a little strange, it's becauseit's a double exposure with a bulletin board in my old bedroom;don't ask me how that happened.) I eventually married and moved to Elmont, Long Island,and soon discovered that Frankie had married andmoved to the same neighborhood.At that time, he owned a black '65 Chevy Impala.It was pretty much stock-bodied, with a327 c.i., 300 h.p. engine and a 4-speed trans. Within ten years, I moved to East Meadow andsomehow lost touch with Alley Oop over that time. [...]

The Coffin Factory


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).

(As seen from the corner of 124th Street and 94th Avenue
through a Recent Google Earth photo.)

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.

That Pond in Forest Park


How about a place that once existed, then it was no longer there, and now it’s back again? I’m talking about the large pond that used to be in a hollow across from the carousel in Forest Park, Queens.When I was a kid, we used to walk – or ride our bikes – to this 538-acre wilderness in the center of one of the largest boroughs of New York City. A couple of winding roads used to let you drive through the heart of this pastoral and picturesque green space but half of them are now closed to vehicular traffic so that walkers, joggers, and bikers can have more safe spaces. Back in the day, we used to ride our bikes all over this place and, especially, directly through the woods on hilly trails. One of our favorite destinations was this natural pond that I’ve lately discovered was actually a kettle pond left over from retreating glaciers during the last ice age. Over millennia, this depression filled with rain water and, during the 1950s, my friends and I used to sail boats there or try catching fish. It was about forty feet below the level of the nearby road. Looking back, it’s amazing that we didn’t kill ourselves riding our bikes down the steep dirt hills leading to the water’s edge.Around 1966, some genius in the NYC Department of Parks thought it would be a great idea to drain the pond and create a couple of ball fields in its place. They named the Twin Fields after PFC Laurence Strack, a boy who use to play hockey on the frozen pond – and the first local resident to be killed in Viet Nam. This was shortly after I moved out of the area but I used to return to see family and friends. So, when I saw the ball fields during one of my visits, I thought, “That’s never going to work; they’re constantly going to get flooded every time it rains.”Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happened.In 1994, Marc Matsil, chief of the parks department natural resources group, and Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, visited Forest Park to survey Twin Fields. “It had rained a couple inches literally two weeks before, and right field was about 5 feet underwater and left field was 4 feet underwater,” said Matsil. Stern, he said, turned to him and commented, “Those are black ducks in right field and those are mallards in left field, aren’t they?”It was then that they decided to restore the area to its former glory and remove the ball fields and the fill that had been laid down, and replant the entire area with native plants and trees. Today, the area is even more lush than I remember it from my childhood because all the original trees that were surrounding the pond (or ball fields) are now huge, and all the new growth has filled in beautifully. On a recent visit, I saw lots of turtles in the renewed pond but I don’t know if there are any fish; I guess they would have to be stocked, wouldn’t they? The path leading from the road to the pond.(Parks Department photo)  My photo from a recent autumn visit. My photo from summer, 2017. My photo from summer, 2017. Google Earth photo with Strack Pond visible within white oval.[...]

Sunken Gardens Tourist Court


I noticed a few other people online looking for signs of the old Sunken Gardens, on highway 30, about 4 1/2 miles east of Gettysburg, PA. Since I had some old photos (and a post card) from my visits there in the 1950s and 1960s with my parents, I thought I'd post a few on my blog.(As always, click on any photo to enlarge it.)This post card was from our first visit there July 9-13, 1956.Back in the 1950s, color film was pretty pricyto buy and developso most people shot black and white photos.Individual photo of a single, detached cabin.My mom and me (on right) with two kids whose parentsran the place; posed on a large rock in thegarden with a cabin in the background.I remember there was a railroad that ran behind Sunken Gardens;I used to go back there with some local kids and put pennieson the tracks before a train came through to flatten them out.If I can find them, I'll post a photo or two.The line of cabins (singles and doubles)with the great lawn in front.A double (attached cabins) during our 1960 visit;my father on left, uncle and aunt center and right.My parents and uncle on "the rock."My folks in the gardens (I believe the highway is on the left).Overview of the gardens with highway on left.I'm sure Sunken Gardens is no longer around(at least not in the form I knew it).If anyone knows what it looks like today(or what's been built in its place), please let me know;if anyone has current photos of the site, I'd be glad to post them here. [...]

Orphans Car Show, June 22, 2014 - Massapequa, NY


The "Orphans" car show, for makes and modelsnot being made any more.Some beautiful cars at the show this time around,and most in excellent condition.Above & below: 1941 Studebakerlooks to be in mint condition!Below: This very rare 1951 Nash Rambler Custom isthe first rail-top convertible I've ever seen;in amazing condition.Below: 1951 Studebaker;I've seen this quite often here on Long Island. Below: Extremely rare 1962 Ghia(built on a Chrysler/Dodge chassis and driveline in Italy by Giacinto Ghia).Below: Willys Jeepster.And, of course, an AMC Pacer (below).[...]

A Class Act (of crime)


A Class Act (of Crime)  For most of my life, I worked full-time as an automotive technician (aka: auto mechanic). I'd worked at gas stations, independent repair shops and various new car dealerships before landing a position at a Porsche-Audi dealer in the 1980s. When I first started working there, I didn't know much about German cars but they sent me to school and, eventually, I became a master Porsche-Audi technician... a pretty impressive addition to my resume, considering how complex those cars can be.Of course, the owners of those luxury cars are usually pretty well-off and, over the years, I'd seen and heard of some pretty crazy things. One day, for example, a limo pulled up to our building and a young woman - probably just out of high-school - jumped out, ran into the showroom, and ordered a brand new Porsche: a graduation gift from her parents. After all the papers were signed, she hopped back into the limo before riding off into the sunset. Another time, some guy walked into the showroom and bought a new Audi paying all cash, dumping wads of bills onto the salesman's desk. Then there was the Porsche we were working on that required special parts so the job was delayed for a couple of weeks; the owner stopped by one day to check on our progress."Man, I'm paying $400 a month and I can't even drive the damn car," he said. "$400," I replied, "is that your monthly payment on the car?""No, no... the car is paid off; that's my insurance premium."Throughout my career as a mechanic, I always took my lunch break. Sometimes I'd walk down the street to a local cafe, other times I'd get some Chinese food or pizza. Once in a while, I'd bring a sandwich from home or a deli; on those days, I'd usually sit in my van, eat my lunch while listening to the radio or reading something, and maybe take a nap afterward before returning to work.On one of those days that I had a sandwich and soda in my cooler, I was sitting in my van in the back parking lot by work. A stretch limo entered the parking lot, rolled slowly past me as I looked up from a magazine I'd been reading, and I watched as it stopped by the back door to our shop. A well-dressed young guy got out of the limo, walked into the building, and a few minutes later, re-emerged, waving to the limo driver. He then walked over to a silver Porsche 911 that had been brought in for service, opened the door, got in and drove away with the limo following him. I continued to enjoy my lunch and eventually returned to work, looking forward to 4:30 and a chance to go home.Later that same afternoon, I looked up from whatever car I was working on to see a couple of Nassau County cops walking through our shop. After continuing on to the area where the showroom and offices were located, they came back into the shop accompanied by our service manager; he called all of the service personnel to a meeting right in the middle of the shop and explained what was going on.It seemed someone had stolen one of our customer's cars; a silver Porsche 911. He wanted to know if anyone had seen any suspicious-looking characters in our building or lot. As soon as I heard which car had been taken, I knew I was an eye-witness to the crime without even knowing it. Of course, I explained exactly what I had seen and described - as best I could - the guy who had taken the car. But I really didn't look very closely at him... why would I? I figured it was just another customer picking up his car. And, no, I didn't get a license plate number from the limo; why should I do that? Nothing that happened looked out-of-the-ordinary to me.So, what made this crime so easy to commit? Well, whenever a car was brought in for service it was inspected for damage by a car-jockey, then a numbered tag was hung from the inside rear-view mirror and a same-numbered tag attached to the key[...]

Sunrise Drive-In Theater, Valley Stream


I thought I'd post some of my original "coming attractions" flyers from the Sunrise Drive-In Theater; it was located on Sunrise Highway, just across the Queens/Nassau County line, in Valley Stream, Long Island (New York). Judging by the films being shown, these appear to all be from 1963 and 1964. They were designed to be folded into "thirds" so that the side with their logo on it would serve as a "mailer."(Click on any image to enlarge it.)Note the following flyer printed in green, to commemorate Christmas time. The drive-in was open all year long and offered "Free In-Car Heaters," among other things. Note the film, "Mermaids of Tiburon." That's a town in California that Hyundai named one of its cars after.I had to include the following flyer since it includes the ad for "PT 109," a movie I sat through three times (on three different occasions) since I was dating three girls within the time period it was in theaters and took each one of them "to the movies.".I found the following photo of the Sunrise Drive-In on two other websites devoted to old drive-in movies; it was submitted there by Dominic Scalzo.For additional memorabilia on old drive-ins, check out:[...]

Hansen's Texaco Station - Richmond Hill - 1950s


I found this old newspaper clipping while cleaningout our family home after my brother died.The gas station was on 94th Avenue(where Atlantic Avenue curves south,just west of 130th Street).Although the photo shows an outdoor lift,by 1961 – when I was driving –there were two enclosed bays onthe left side of the main building.(Click on any item below to enlarge)[...]

Woody's Cars, Through The Years


I became really interested in custom cars and hot rods by1958, the year I bought my first Custom Cars magazine.Around that time, I started seeing a particular car thatcaught my attention as I walked down 129th Street,in my neighborhood of Richmond Hill (borough of Queens,New York). It was a '49 Mercury coupe, always parked infront of the same house. Every time I saw it, however, ithad new and different modifications done to it but I neversaw anyone working on it.One day, I finally lucked out and met the guy whowas customizing the car: Paul Wood.It seems he was in the Navy but married to a girl(Carol) who lived in the nearby house with her parents.He only worked on the car while he was home on leaveand, because I was still in high school,I kept missing him... until that day. We eventually became close friends and Woody(as he was called) helped me with some projectson my own car after he got out of the Navyand lived with Carol in the area.Back in the 1950s, I had created a photo albumfeaturing pictures of many of my friends cars so Woodygave me some of his old photos seen now on this blog.(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)Woody's first car was a '41 Chevy coupe which he mildlycustomized with a partial dechroming, adding fenderskirts and a two tone black and red paint job.The engine was a modified 6-cylinder.(Original photo from Woody's personal collection.)Next came a '50 Chevy convertiblewhich was basically stock.(Original photo from Woody's personal collection;photo restored by Ken.)The '49 Merc Woody owned when I met him is seenhere outside a motel in New Jersey, whileWoody and Carol were on their honeymoon.Although no other photos of the car exist – andsome modifications can't be seen here – thecar had extensive work done to it.The headlights were tunneled, hood and deckwere shaved, the outside door handles wereremoved and replaced by electric solenoids,cruiser skirts were installed, and the car lowered.The most impressive thing was that the coupewas made into a hardtop by removing thevertical posts on the doors and in front of therear side windows, and new glass cut to fit. A '51 Cadillac engine and 4-speed automatic transmissionwere installed in place of the old flathead Merc.The Caddy mill ran with trips or dual-quads at various times.(Original photo from Woody's personal collection.)Woody's next project involved this '53 Ford convertible.(Original photo from Woody's personal collection.)The headlights were tunneled, scoops were mouldedinto the rear quarter panels, skirts were added,and the usual dechroming performed and doors shaved.The rear fenders were extended and flanked theContinental kit in the rear. A Carson top wasinstalled and the hood had louvers punched into it.(Original photo from Woody's personal collection.)Back in the day, Woody had no garage and oftenworked on the car in the street; this was shot on116th Street, just north of Liberty Avenue,in Richmond Hill, around 1961.Mutual friend Sal Consiglio (standing) and Woody.(Photo © Ken Bausert.)A 1955 Buick engine was installed (sorry, but no photo).The hood was pancaked and Woody revamped thefront end by added canted quad headlights flowinginto a new grille cavity over a rolled front splash pan.(Photo © Ken Bausert.)After I got married, Woody and I lost contact with eachother for about 10 or 15 years before getting back intouch again. By that time, he and Carol were livingin Farmingville, (Suffolk County, Long Island) andWoody was still building cars in his shop at their home.The '33 Ford Pick-up (above) was his"every day run-around" vehicle.(Photo © Ken Bausert.)The channeled body featured full-fenders.(Photo © Ken Bau[...]

Billy Squires (2/27/41 - 3/27/97) Memorial


I have been trying to reconnect with some old friends over the past 10 to 20 years and, with the internet making the job so much easier, I've succeeded in many cases. However, one of the people I had been looking for, for a long time, was William H. Squires–known to everyone as Billy Squires–from Glendale, Queens. I always remember him as being a really great guy, very personable, always fun to be around, and always willing to help you when you needed it, especially when it came to cars–our common passion.After all the years of searching for Billy, hoping to reconnect and relive some of the good times we had, I finally learned he had died. I usually don't make a habit of creating memorials to people on my blog, but I'm making an exception this time around. Maybe this tribute will serve as some kind of closure and keep Billy's memory alive a little longer.I don't know how I acquired this photo(from about 1961) but it was probably givento me by one of the guys in the photo.Left to right: Billy and his '34 Ford coupe;Eugene "Gene" Ormandy; and Mike Conlon,with his '53 Ford.The '34 coupe was powered by a '53 Oldsengine with four carbs;the '53 Ford had a '59 Buick engine.(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)The first time I remember seeing Billy, I was getting out of Richmond Hill High School one afternoon around 1960 and he was driving his '34 Ford coupe down 114th Street, stopping to pick up a girl who was also attending my school. Billy was a couple years older than us and already had his senior driver's license by that time. Of course, I admired his car and eventually found out from some other friends who he was. Some time later– probably through Phil and Andy Turano–I met Billy and we all became close friends.Billy stopped by my house in Richmond Hill one day,in late 1963, driving this '55 Chevy two-door sedan.(My red '54 Ford with a white racing stripeis parked in front of it.)In the 1960s, Billy had quite a few cars;this early '60s photo of his '54 Merc was frommy friend Ken Szekretar. The car waspurchased as a wreck from a junk yardand in the process of being rebuilt by Billy.This color photo from my personal collectionshows the in-process paint job;the car was lowered all around,had traction bars, and 14-inch wheelswith '57 Plymouth wheel covers.The 312 cubic inch engine had a Ford Interceptorcam, three carbs, and dual exhausts.Billy's dark green '55 Chevy, from May, 1964;it is described in detail in my June 23, 2011blog entry regarding '55-'57 Chevy's.(This may have been the same '55 Chevy as inthe 1963 photo, shown in a finished state.)These June, 1965, photos show Billy's '34 FordRoadster during its construction. The body waschanneled 11 inches and the frame "Z'd".The engine was a '53 Olds, bored out to 324 cubes,had a roller tappet cam, and six carbs.The transmission was a '37 Caddy andthe rear end was from a '64 Ford.When Ro and I got married in 1965,Billy was in our wedding party.(Guys: me, with Ro; next to me, Tony Nocerino;Billy Squires; Andy Turano; Ken Szekretar.)Billy is at far right in the above photo.After getting married in '65, I moved to Elmont but still worked a regular job in Forest Hills, Queens, and a part time job in Richmond Hill. This had me back in the old neighborhood quite a bit so I kept in touch with many old friends. By 1973, we had two children and moved further east; I got a job closer to home and gave up the part-time job in Queens. As a result, I didn't have the time to get back to the old neighborhood much and slowly drifted apart from many friends–including Billy.After posting the photos of '55-'57 Chevy's (including Billy's) in an earlier blog entry, I got a message from Carol Froreno, the[...]

Jake's Fabulous Fords


Back in the 1990s, I worked as a shop foremanfor a Jaguar dealer in Hempstead, NY.At the time, the owner (Jake)had a couple of old Fords that he storedin one of the buildings on premises.Although they were in pretty good runningcondition, he decided one day to restore themin preparation of driving them on special occasionsor possibly selling them.I was the lucky guy who got to oversee the workand drive them from time to time.Naturally, I found a nearby park one day andtook some photos for posterity.Very little for me to comment on here; just lookand enjoy some classic Americana from Detroit.(Click on images to enlarge a bit.)This was a 1941 Ford convertible painted a dark blue,probably an original Ford color.The car was factory stock with the exception of thewhite Carson Top (covering the rear/side quarter windowsand having a small glass to see behind while driving).The '41 engine was a 221 cubic-inch flathead V8rated at 90 horsepower.The three-speed manual transmission gear shiftwas on the column.Jake's other fabulous Ford was this '49 convertible,also painted a dark blue close to the original color.Sorry I didn't get a photo of the engine but it wassimilar to the 1941 engine,a flathead V8, but increased to 239 cubic-inches,and rated at 100 horsepower.[...]

Ancestral Home in Hoechstadt an der Aisch


In doing my genealogy research I had found my maternal grandmother came to America from Germany and was originally from somewhere in Bavaria. But, without knowing exactly which town in Bavaria, I could not begin to search further since records were traditionally kept in the Churches of the individual towns.Last year, I located Peter, a distant cousin in Germany whose grandmother was a sister to mine. Not only did he tell me that the women were originally from Hoechstadt an der Aisch (on the Aisch River, in Bavaria) but he also traveled to the town to take some photographs to send me.St. Georg Church, in Hoechstadt, where our grandmothers were baptized.(Photo downloaded from an online site)Peter took the above photo of the site where our grandmothers' childhood home stood.While there, he met a woman who lived above the first floor store and told her why he was photographing the building. She told him she had an old photo of the previous building that occupied that location and gave him a copy (reproduced below).(Click on photos to enlarge.)Although the photo appears to be from the 1960's (judging by car in the driveway, and the miniskirt on the woman) the house was basically the same as it was in the 1800s.[...]

On The Streets of Queens, NY, 1963-1964


Sorry it's been so long between posts. Here's a sampling of some of the '55 & '56 Chevys running around on the streets of Queens during 1963 & 1964- all belonging to friends of mine (or friends of friends).Accuracy in the spelling of names is not guaranteed but if someone knows the current whereabouts of anyone mentioned in my posts, please let me know... thanks!(Click on any image to enlarge)This beautiful, nearly stock-bodied '55 belonged to Billy Squires of Glendale. The hood & deck were partially shaved and it was painted emerald green. The suspension was beefed up with heavy duty springs and shocks.From the side, you can see the "plumbers' pipes" behind the front wheels (removing the caps allowed the exhaust to exit before the mufflers, when you went to the drag strip). Also quite obvious are the traction bars before the rear wheels, designed to keep the rear end from twisting during hard acceleration.The engine in Billy's car was a 348 cu. in. Chevy, with three carbs, running through a 4-speed transmission. (Note the two electric fuel pumps that supplied the engine's needs on the far-side fender well in photo.)Al Banome, of Richmond Hill, owned many hot cars during the late '50s and '60s. This teal blue '55 was parked in front of my parents' house when I shot the only photo I have of it in August, 1964. The body was extensively modified but still being worked on at this time. Note the dechroming, extended rear fenders with new tail lights, split rear bumper, and radiused rear wheel openings. Under the hood was a late model Buick engine. A lot of guys hung out at the home of Frank Gesualdo, of Ozone Park, (otherwise known as "Alley Oop" to his friends). This '55, shot in Sept., 1963, was owned by one of his buddies (name unknown) and was called, "All Business." The body was partially dechromed and the rear wheel openings enlarged with a cutting torch (!) to make changing the rear slicks easier at the track.The engine in "All Business" was a late model Chevy 409, featuring a Racer Brown flat tappet cam and a big four-barrel carb.Another of Alley Oop's friends, Joey Cosanza, owned this '55 which was, again, partially dechromed and a "work-in-progress."The engine in Joey's car was a late model Olds, featuring a Giovani high-lift cam (note the bulges on the valve covers to allow the rocker arms more room to travel) and a Bendix electric fuel pump supplying three carbs. Transmission was an Olds "hydro-stick"; car reportedly turned 105 mph in the quarter-mile.Norm Schlosser, of Richmond Hill, owned this really clean, stock-bodied '55 painted red and white. Wheel covers were from a late-model Plymouth, a popular choice for many cars in the '60s, due to their simple and elegant style.Under the hood was a '59 Chevy 283 engine and an Olds Hydro-stick transmission.I met Chuck (from Flushing) at the White Castle on Atlantic Avenue, in Highland Park, Brooklyn, when I had my Mint Julep I. He liked the black scallops I had painted on my mint green Merc and discovered I also did pin-striping. As a result, he asked me to pin-stripe his fire-engine red '56 convertible in white. His car was nosed & decked, and featured a louvered hood, straight-bar grille, and spun aluminum wheel covers.From the rear, custom tail lights and long chrome Lakes Pipes can be seen.[...]

Rosenberg bei Danzig


During my genealogy research, I found that my mother's father's family originally came from Rosenberg bei Danzig, and Langenau bei Danzig. Danzig (or Gdansk) was a German Free State on the coast of what is now Poland. "bei" means "near" (Rosenberg and Langenau were smaller towns to the south of Danzig).For many years, I would look at several old photo albums my mother kept and wonder about all the people and places depicted in the photos; many had no names or descriptions and some had German writing I couldn't read. I recently located Peter, a German relative, who has helped me translate some of the writing on many old items, including the post card (from about 1915) shown here. (Click on any photo to enlarge)Some introductions: my grandfather had 11 brothers & sisters; two of the women married brothers with the surname Gehrt and moved to America around the turn of the 20th century. One of his other sisters, Anna, stayed in Rosenberg and had a daughter, Alma (my grandfather's niece); Alma had three children including a girl, Kate. My grandmother's name was Franze and my mother's was Lena (diminutive name is Linchen).The translation:“Dear Uncle Otto. Herewith I’m sending to you your native city. This picture was taken from the church tower by Kate’s teacher. In front there is the school. The street goes to Langenau. Can you see anything on the street? That is mother, I, and the kids. We are going to the station. Where I made a cross there is Gehrt’s tavern. It’s newly built. The old one you will remember. Otherwise we feel tolerably. We are all healthy. Last week (unclear name) Gehrt visited us. She tells almost nothing, you have to ask for everything. Mother will write on Sunday. Best wishes to aunt Franze and Linchen and warm regards to you from your niece. Alma and family.”So, I had an actual photo of the town my grandfather came from, and one in which my relatives are visible on the road (granted, they're just tiny black dots) and, all along, I had no idea what it was.[...]

The Last of Ken's Cool Cars - '47 Ford Coupe


The last "cool" car I owned was this '47 Ford coupe, purchased around 1967 from a guy in Smithtown, Long Island. I had always liked this model and, when I saw it advertised in the Selling Post for $200, I had to buy it. (Click on any image to enlarge.)It had been sitting for a long time but the body was in really nice shape. There was a gallon of water in the crankcase when I initially looked at it but I didn't care; that old flathead wasn't going to stay in there for very long.I rented a tow hitch and towed it some 4o miles back to Elmont. I drained the water from the crankcase, put in a new battery, and the damn thing ran great for many months–until I decided what I was going to put under the hood.My goal was to keep the car looking relatively stock but improve the driveline, suspension, and appointments so it would be a dependable, everyday driver, capable of going anywhere.I left the body nearly stock, removing only the top hood ornament and filling the holes. I replaced several pieces of chrome and the gravel guards on the rear fenders with new old stock or replacement parts from Joblet Automotive (the Ford specialists), in Queens Village.I had it painted a blueish-green; I think it was a GM color but can't remember the name. After these photos were taken, I had the hood louvered by Henny's Welding, in Jamaica, New York. When I drove over there and told them what I wanted, they had to move a ton of crap to get at their louver punching press; it had been a long time since anyone had asked for a louvered hood and it was buried!I worked at a Chevy dealer at the time and acquired a 327 cubic inch block from a '67 Corvette; I then located heads, manifolds, and everything else I needed over a few months time, and assembled everything. I put a Turbo Hydromatic transmission behind it, and installed a '56 Chevy rear end assembly, including brakes, with matching leaf springs. When I initially built the engine, I installed a racing cam but found it was too hairy for street use with an automatic, so I swapped it out for a tamer cam with hydraulic lifters after a few months.I installed a Ford Econoline front axle assembly, including brakes, with leaf springs and a steering damper like they have on Jeep Wranglers; 15 inch wheels were used all around. I rewired the car and converted it to 12 volts. The engine ran really well with just a four-barrel carb and a Stewart-Warner electric fuel pump mounted by the tank.I used black leather bucket seats in front but can't remember what they came out of. The back seat and door panels were reupholstered with black vinyl, and a new black carpet installed with soundproofing under it. A nice stereo unit was added, and I fabricated an air-conditioning system using parts from a '65 Chevy and an aftermarket kit; the evaporator was mounted right behind the glove box door. I hand-made the ductwork that fit under the dash from sheet aluminum. That sucker got so cold, it spit ice-cubes out at times!This was probably the car I owned the longest: about 5 or 6 years. After putting it up for sale, I sold it to the first guy who came to look at it, around 1973.[...]

Ken's Green '55 Chevy 2-Door Sedan


Sometime after I sold the white '58 Impala (see earlier post) around late 1964, early 1965, I got this green '55 2-door sedan. (I think I might have sold the Impala to the guy who owned this green 2-door and this car was part payment.) It was a six-cylinder, stick... a really basic car. (Click on any image to enlarge.)It had been repainted mint-green by a previous owner, and the body was fairly straight, but suffered from some rust on the fenders over the headlights. I meant to do some body repairs and customizing on it so I took off the chrome from the hood and deck but never filled the holes. I removed all vertical bars from the grille except the center one (cheap & easy modification) and installed an extra set of headlights (wide-angle high beams, for night driving on rural country roads) behind the grille.I installed '56 Buick tail light lenses in place of the originals and "baby moon" wheel covers.One day, a friend of mine stopped by my house; Billy Squires worked for a wrecking yard part time. He had his tow truck outside with a '58 Olds engine hanging from the back of the truck. He said, "I brought you a present." He also brought along a set of heavy-duty front coil springs for my Chevy; I think they were from a station wagon.I put the Olds engine and transmission (and the new coil springs) in place of the originals. Shortly after, I took this car on our honeymoon when I got married. We did "the clock" with it on a new highway that was just built up in the Poconos; it handled very well at that speed.Interior was stock except for added gauges on either side of the radio (oil pressure, engine temperature, etc.) and a fire extinguisher mounted under the dash. Note the cheap upholstery and overspray by the door jamb. I sold the car before I even fixed the rust.[...]

Some Local Boys' "Shoeboxes" ('49 - '51 Fords) from the 1960's


Up until now I've posted lots of photos of my own cars on this blog (and there are more to come) but very few of those belonging to friends and acquaintances back in the day. So, let's look at some '49 - '51 Fords (commonly known as "shoeboxes) that tooled around the streets of Queens back in the 1960s. These cars were plentiful and cheap so a very popular vehicle for guys with low budgets to customize and soup up. (As usual, click on any photo to enlarge it.)My memory is getting worse as I get older but, for some reason, I remember this guy's name was Paul. I met him at the White Castle on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn where we used to hang out .Paul's '51 2-door hardtop (how rare is that?) was mildly customized and had the usual dechroming on the hood and deck. The center grille "peak" was removed and '50 Ford grille shell chrome surrounded what I think was an early 'Vette grille; '55 pontiac side trim was added to separate the black and mint green paint job.In the rear, a continental kit, '59 Caddy tail light lenses, and fender skirts were added. After seeing my Mint Julep (see first post on this blog) Paul asked me to add some scalloping for him so we did mint green on the black and black on the mint green, naturally!This '49 or '50 belonged to Billy Squire's brother, Sy, from Glendale. It featured a complete dechroming, tunneled headlights, and a DeSoto grille (a popular choice for these cars back then). I don't remember what was under the hood and I think this is the only photo I have of this car.My friend Ken Szekretar, from Glendale, had quite a few nice cars during the '60s and this '51 was his second. Above is a scene from a typical Saturday when we would work on our cars in the front of my house in Richmond Hill.Ken eventually dechromed the whole car, removed the outside door handles, and had louvers punched into the hood before rounding the corners over the grille opening. The grille was fabricated from '53 Chevy parts and the rear wheel openings radiused. Altering the front springs set the car on a rake. (Note my Mint Julep II parked behind Ken's Ford, down the block from the place where we worked in Glendale.)While most of the photos on this blog are added from scanning original negatives, I couldn't find the one for the engine in Ken's '51; the scratches on the well-worn photo are evident. A near stock '56 Olds engine was shoehorned under the hood and mated to the ford three-speed trans. Note the external oil filter mounted on the firewall (to the left in photo) due to a lack of room under the car near the steering linkage. The electrical system was converted to 12 volts.Ed Talerine of Richmond Hill owned this '51 2-door sedan. Featuring the usual dechroming and shaved doors, and a louvered hood with peak removed, Ed added '50 Ford grille mouldings surrounding another DeSoto Grille. Wheel covers were spun aluminum, another popular choice in the '60s.In the rear, Ed took the chrome trim off the sides by the tail lights and placed it on top of the quarter panels, frenching in a set of '55 Ford tail lights.This '49 convertible belonged to our paperboy, Bill Baggellar (?); while he was still in high school he worked on this car (just like I did, but I didn't have a paper route) a couple of blocks from my house . Once again, the usual dechroming and tunneled headlights are seen.Obviously, a work in progress. (At the upper left,in front of his car, my '55 Chevy convert can be seen.)Bill replaced the 239 cubic-inch Ford engine with a Merc 255 c.i. flathead for a little more pow[...]

The Rest Of Ken's Cool Cars ('58 Impala)


One of the guys in a local gas station loved my red '55 Chevy convertible and offered to trade me his '58 Impala so I took him up on his offer. I started by dechroming the hood and deck and repainting the car (white again) with the center of the side moulding deep red. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)I made up red plexiglas tail light lenses in the rear and added shims under the rear coil springs to put the car on a slight rake. It had a 348 cubic-inch engine with a four-barrel carb and dual exhausts when I got it, and automatic transmission.I removed the lower center section of the front bumper and replaced the grille with a single chrome bar to continue that "slim" look in front. The parking/directional lenses were replaced with frosted white plexiglas.I believe I only had this car from mid 1964 to early 1965 but I can't remember who I sold it to. It was replaced with a green '55 Chevy two-door sedan (see future blog entry). Hey! Check out the 1964 NY "World's Fair" license plate in the photo below.I don't exactly remember all that I did to the engine; I do remember driving into Brooklyn to pick up an engine block from someone, that I installed in this car, and I believe that was a 409 block. I remember the heads had been reworked; I think it had oversized valves and larger ports. [...]

The Rest Of Ken's Cool Cars ('55 Chevy Convert)


After the Mint Julep (my first car/see the first post on this blog) I had traded or bought several cars to simply drive or fix up to sell, including a '54 Ford and a '56 Olds. The first one I came across that I really wanted to keep for a while was this '55 Chevy BelAir convertible, previously owned by the minister of a local church. It was red and white with a 265 cubic-inch engine and powerglide transmission; a really sweet car. I owned this from about the spring of 1963 until mid 1964 when I traded it for a '58 Chevy Impala (see future blog entry).(Click on any photo to enlarge.)I nosed and decked it, removed the short vertical pieces of chrome on the rear quarter panels, the small "V8" emblems under the tail lights, and all of the vertical chrome bars in the grille except the center one. (The dark vertical lines on the door in the photo below are the shadows of utility wires above the driveway.)I heated and molded new tail-light lenses from red plexiglas to replace the original tail & back-up lenses, and had it painted Garnet Mist, a red GM color. I moved the rear license plate from the trunk lid to the bumper and occasionally drove with some fancy Oldsmobile wheel covers.I added dual exhausts with scavenger pipes out the rear, a Duntov 3/4 race cam with solid lifters to the engine, and an SW tach on the dash, leaving everything else stock.Although it was no speed demon, it did manage to take a first place trophy at Islip's 1/8 mile drag strip in A K/S (Automatic "K" Stock class).[...]

Trip Back To Richmond Hill, Aug. 25, 2010


I was in the old neighborhood and had my camera with me so I took a few shots of some things you might remember if you grew up there. Sorry this may not be of much interest to you if you weren't from the area.(Click on any photo to enlarge.)The corner of 127th Street & 95th Avenue, with the Youngs' house on the corner.A full view of Youngs' house with Mc Cauley's house to the right of it.Youngs' house from the front.My old house at 127-04 95th Avenue.Hattie & Nettie's old "general store" has been renovated again;looking really nice!Hattie & Nettie's place with Walsh's old house on the left.Jones' Candy Store is now a deli/bodega.Smokey Oval Park is now officially"Phil 'Scooter' Rizzuto Park" becausehe played a few high school baseball games here (!?)Looking along the walkway at the park,looking west toward Jones' candy store corner at 125th Street & 95th Ave.The basketball & handball courts.We used to play stickball on this large flat areain front of the park house; it's been planted over for many years.The north side of the handball courts, looking toward the park house.Looking at the ball field from the handball courts.Chuck Johnson's old house stood on the corner of127th Street & 94th Ave.His address was 127-04 94th Ave.even though it took up two lots and faced 127th Street. (Above photo copied from Google Maps online,which still has the view from about the late 1990s or early 2000s.)These new homes have just recently been built on the site of theJohnson property and are still unoccupied(at the time of this post)but the addresses are 94-01 through 94-11, 127th Street.These two houses were built on the vacant lotwe use to play in next to Chuck's house, on 127th Street,but they've been there for many years now.There is another new house a little further up the streeton the right in this photo.I don't know if it's on the site oif the old Dowd's placeof if the old Dowd's place is the house next to it, on the left.Below is a video of the park, taken from the corner of 95th Ave. & 126th Street. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />[...]

From The Vaults of the Museum


I love old stuff, especially things I remember from my childhood or earlier. First of all, they're historic in their own way and, most often, much better made than things are today. Many items in my Nostalgic Museum are from the house I grew up in; other things I found at garage sales, flea markets or eBay. Sometimes, I receive gifts from people who know how much I enjoy these old objects. Let's take a look at some of the stuff in the Museum's Vaults (click on any photo to enlarge it): An old friend and neighbor of mine had been a postal carrier (mail man) and came home one day, telling me about this great old stand-up radio that someone on his route was throwing away and had put it by the curb for trash pick-up. I asked him where it was, because I really wanted it, but he had anticipated that. "I asked the homeowner to move it to the side of his house, in the driveway, because I knew you'd want to go and get it." I was at a flea market in Pennsylvania many years ago when I spotted this item on somebody's table. "It's a tail light lens from an Oldsmobile," the guy said. I replied, "No, it's from a '55 Buick... how much do you want for it?" Later, when I met up with my wife, she looked at the lens and asked, "What did you buy THAT for?" I replied, "For twenty-five cents!" This Boraxo can was a recent gift from a friend who knows how much I appreciate this kind of stuff. He found it at an antique shop where he was doing some work and bought it for me. It brought back real memories; it's just like the can we used to keep on a shelf in our kitchen when I was growing up in the '50s & '60s. Back in the days when you'd bring your shoes to the shoe-repair man in your neighborhood, he would use Cat's Paw heels to make them like new again. I found this not TOO old stamp machine at a flea market in Cape Cod. The guy selling it wanted sixty bucks for it; there was no way I would have paid that much for it. Besides, all I had in my pocket was a twenty. Just before leaving the market, I went back and offered him the twenty for it. "Make it forty and it's yours," he said. "Nope," I replied, "twenty bucks is all I've got and all I'd pay for it even if I had more." I guess he was tired of carting it back and forth to the flea market 'cause he finally said, "Take it away." My older brother bought this TeleTone Model TV220 portable television sometime in the early 1950s; it was manufactured in 1949. It still worked into the 1960s and I managed to salvage it from my brother's house after he died. It makes a great conversation piece! The top machine is an original Sony Betamax that my brother owned; it worked into the 1990s but, for some reason, won't play any more. The machine beneath it is the first VHS machine I ever bought, probably in the 1970s; made by GE, it sold for $639 when new. At the time, blank VHS tapes cost $14 a piece! This old piano stool was in my brother's house when he died. During the clean-up before selling the house, I had to throw out a lot of stuff; we utilized four thirty-cubic-yard dumpsters! One of the items I wanted to keep was this piano stool, which I remembered from my childhood, but I tossed it anyway. About seven years later, I was at a flea market in Wallingford, Connecticut, and spotted a piano stool just like the one I threw in the dumpster. Upon closer inspection, I found the diagonal saw cut I had made in the seat while cutting a piece of wood, as a[...]