I remember John Ryan quite well... He was capable, reliable and the essence of courtesy. In fact, I organized the Key of Courtesy Club and made him the president.
(Peter Troyano (football coach, John Adams High School, Queens, New York) in Holton, Brett. "You Never Read a Story About Jack Lord That Told You This" in TV Radio Mirror. December 1970. Vol. 71, No. 1, 85-86.)
Home for the Ryans while Jack was growing up
was 95-28 125th Street in Richmond Hill, Queens, New York. The semi-detached
house was built in 1920. According to census records, the Ryans still lived
there in 1940. In those days, the neighborhood was a quiet, middle-class one
populated by Irish, Polish, Italian, and Jewish families.
As the years passed, the neighborhood declined. Today, evidence shows that efforts are being made to restore the neighborhood to its earlier appeal. The house still stands, although its front facade has changed radically so that it hardly is recognizable. Until 1898, Richmond Hill was called Morris Park, and it was a part of Long Island, rather than being a part of the borough of New York City known as Queens.
The Ryan home was located a few blocks from the Morris Park train station, where the family caught the train to New York City to see Broadway plays and tour museums and art galleries. In the first two pictures, below, we see the station as it appeared in 1925. The tracks paralleled Atlantic Avenue, which was the main thoroughfare in Richmond Hill.
Just behind the train station is the World War I Memorial Park (see picture, below). The memorial honors the soldiers lost in that war. Can't you just imagine Jack and his siblings and friends climbing on the memorial and peering over the wall to watch the trains arrive?
St. Benedict Joseph Labre Catholic Church
The Ryans lived about six blocks from St. Benedict Joseph Labre Catholic Church, where Jack worshipped. The family were very devout. They attended regularly, and Jack and his siblings all attended the adjoining church school during their early years. The church still exists and is very active.
Richmond Hill Historical Society historian Carl Ballenas wrote, Now that I know the dates of [Jack's] birth and attendance at SBJL parish and school, I want to show you the church rail where he first received his first communion and where he was confirmed by the bishop. If he attended SBJL school he was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph and prepared for both First Communion and Confirmation. I wonder if he was an altar boy. In the photo [on the right] you are viewing the interior of SBL Church completed in 1919, one year before his birth. This is the church interior he grew up to. It was remodeled in 1939 so this is what he would remember. This is the altar he and his family prayed at.
The 1892 wooden church is seen standing behind the 1919 church (see steeple in background). After the new church was completed, the old church was used as the church hall.
St. Benedict Joseph Labre Catholic School
Jack attended elementary school (Grades 1-8) at St. Benedict Joseph Labre Catholic School, located behind the church. The picture below left shows the school, while the picture below center shows some of the nuns,
the Sisters of Saint Joseph who taught at SBJL School. The nun at the right was
the first principal, Sr. M. Alipius Monroe. This picture is from 1916, nine
years before Jack started his first class but a number of the nuns remained at
the school for many, many years and one of them might have taught him. The
sister at the very far left is Sister Mary Agatha Hurley who wrote some letters
about her time there and she was very young entering the convent. This
pic also affords you another great view of the school Jack attended as a boy.
The wooden church from 1892 has been moved to the left and now they are breaking soil for the building of that brick church. But the war delayed the completion of the church until 1919. All of the church furnishing, including altars, railings, stations, statues etc. all came from the old 1892 church until all remodeled in 1939. (Ballenas)
\John Adams High School
Jack attended high school at John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Queens. He was very active in school activities. He was an athlete: a senior life saver, played on the varsity football team, and participated in intramural sports. He won a number of awards, including the bronze and silver A's and the honor, meritorious, and distinguished service certificates. He was also secretary of the Newman Club, which was a group for Catholic youth. Jack studied art, and his paintings often hung in the main hallway of the school. He wrote an art column for the school newspaper, worked on the school yearbook, and spent much of his time in the art room. Most notably, he won the St. Gauden's Medal for Fine Art. He dated, but not regularly and not seriously. He was not one who stood out from the crowd, yet those who knew him admired him. Jack graduated from high school in June 1938.
Located just up the street from SBJL School was this candy shop (left). I bet you that little Jack sat at one of the stools drinking a tall ice cream sundae many times. (Ballenas)
The Morris Park Hotel (right), a grand structure of Tudor / Gothic / Victorian design, was on the north east corner of Lefferts and Atlantic. It is a shame that it was torn down for a gas station. (Ballenas)
I am also attaching a greeting card from Morris Park. It shows 118th Street and that steeple you see in the distance is SBJL church. (Ballenas) Notice that it says, "Morris-Park, L.-I." (Morris Park, Long Island) and not "Richmond Hill, Queens." That and the unpaved streets tell us this card dates to the 19th century.
Learn More About Richmond Hill
Ballenas, Carl and Cataldi, Nancy. Images of America: Richmond Hill. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.
Richmond Hill Historical Society. http://www.richmondhillhistory.org/index.html
Forgotten New York / Richmond Hill, Queens. http://forgotten-ny.com/2007/02/richmond-hill-queens/
Except as indicated, all photographs on this page were donated by the Richmond Hill Historical Society. Many thanks go to their historian, Carl Ballenas, for his wonderful generosity in contributing to our knowledge of Richmond Hill as it existed in the 1920s and 1930s.