Media Files
Annalou Christensen Oral History
Queens Memory Project
Queens Public Library
Interviewer Natalie Milbrodt
created 2010-06-22

Clip 1: Moving to Cherry Avenue in the 1920's

Annalou Christensen talks about moving from West 14th Street in Manhattan to the Waldheim neighborhood at age 3. She recalls not wanting to leave her old house and her father coming to get her. She describes how her mother found a horseshoe outside the house and hung it in the closet for good luck, which she later kept after her mother passed away. 01:03 minutes


Clip 2: Ice skating in the park

Annalou Christensen recalls going to the ice skating rink in Kissena Park in her youth. A red ball would be hanging in the front of the trolley so people knew it was safe to skate. She describes going to the boathouse to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate for a nickel, and sitting in front of the fire. Her future husband, who came from Kalamazoo Michigan, had racing skates and was a very fast skater. 01:27 minutes


Clip 3: How father bought the house

Annalou Christensen describes how their family house was bought from a neighbor who her father used to talk to over the hedge in the yard. The deal to buy the house for $7000 was settled with a handshake and no formal contract. 00:38 seconds


Clip 4: Development of Waldheim in the 1930's

Annalou Christensen describes how only one family houses were permitted to be built in the area. Once the restrictions were lifted in the 1930s, the area was developed and apartment buildings were built. The Waldheim neighborhood used to consist of mainly summer homes of the wealthy, and it was unusual that the Christensen family lived there year round. Well known residents included the illustrator of Buster Brown and A. Douglas Nash, the inventor of the Tiffany glass formula. 02:21 minutes


Clip 5: Becoming a teacher

Annalou Christensen attended City College, CUNY to get her Masters degree in special education after having seven children. She initially taught high school English, but decided to get a degree in special education since she wanted to help her daughter Martha who had special needs. Christensen became a pioneer in developing special education curriculum that is the basis for programs today. 02:26 minutes


Clip 6: Businesses in downtown Flushing

Annalou Christensen describes the businesses that used to exist in downtown Flushing. There was Abramson's Department Store, little specialty shops, shoe stores, book stores, and Miller and Mack which sold men's clothes - all the boys from Flushing High went there. There were no restaurants, but there were ice cream parlors- one called Jahn's was located next to the Prospect Theater. 01:00 minute


Clip 7: Demolition of mother's house

Annalou Christensen could see her mother's house all the way from Kissena Park. She could see the green door of the house all the way at the end of Smart Street. She was very upset, because she did not know it would be demolished. The house had been sold to a family, who moved to New Jersey, and they had sold it to developers. Susan Christensen describes that they had trouble selling the house. She says that there is a Chinese belief that if a door faces the open street all the money flows out, although notes that their family was always prosperous. 01:44 minutes


Clip 8: Life was simpler

Annalou Christensen recounts that life was simpler in her childhood. She describes how on hot days if you couldn't go to a beach, you'd ask your mother to go under the garden hose. She loved school and learning, even though her brothers thought this was strange. 00:41 seconds


Clip 9: Going to the same hairdresser for 45 years

Annalou Christensen went to the same hairdresser 45 years in Maspeth. She wound up going to him because she and her mother would go to him when he worked at Kitty's downtown on Main Street. He was a veteran and after the war he had opportunity to buy the beauty parlor in Maspeth, which Christensen's mother advised to do. 01:13 minutes


Clip 10: Relationships with business owners

Susan Christensen and Annalou Christensen desribe the small businesses in the area. The children were sent by their parents to the grocery store or druggist and the shop owners would put it on the family's tab. Everyone knew the shop owners by name, but they retained certain formalities. 01:51 minutes


Clip 11: Queens College was a reform school

Annalou Christensen describes how Queens College used to be a boy's reform school. At Christensen's grammar school boys would scare the girls by telling them that they were going to have a tough teacher from the reform school in the next grade. 01:22 minutes


Clip 12: Movie theaters in Flushing

Annalou Christensen recalls the Janus movie theater on Main Street and Northern Boulevard nicknamed the "Itch and Scratch". It was old broken and broken down, probably earned its nickname from the bug infestations. The boys used to go there because it showed cowboy movies. There was also the Prospect Theatre which showed MGM movies, and the Taft Theatre. Christensen went to the first screening at RKO Keith's Theatre of the movie, "In Old Arizona". The theater was designed with a Spanish style open courtyard. 02:18 minutes


Clip 13: Evolution of the School for Girls

Annalou Christensen describes how the School for Girls was turned into housing for the Veterans of the Civil War, and later became an orphanage. The orphanage became the favorite charity of Flushing and the businesses on Main Street would give donations especially around Christmas. The owner of Abramson's Department Store would donate communion dresses and suits for children who could not afford them. The orphanage later became a Catholic school, where her children attended kindergarten, It was also a home for older nuns, where one of Christensen's cousins lived. 02:17 minutes


Description of Full Interviews

Recorded June 22nd and 29th 2010

92-year-old Annalou Christensen (née McQuilling)’s parents purchased the lot for their home in the 1920’s from the original developers of the Waldheim Neighborhood in Flushing, Queens. Her father was from New Orleans and her mother was from New England.

Annalou’s family has a long history in America, including a McQuilling who fought in the Civil War. As a child, she remembers neighbors renting out rooms in their mansions for extra income during the Great Depression.

McQuilling married her neighbor, Wayne Christensen whose family settled into the neighborhood in 1936 when both he and Annalou were freshmen on different campuses of St. John’s College. Annalou and Wayne had two children before Wayne left to fight in WWII like many of their friends and neighbors. When Wayne returned home safely from the war, he and Annalou went on to have five more children. They lived in a house her father bought for her in a handshake deal over the backyard hedge shortly after her marriage. Annalou went back to school for her Masters degree in education after her last child was born and became one of the first Special Education teachers in the nation, pioneering teaching techniques for children with special needs.

Mrs. Christensen remembers many aspects of daily life in Flushing over nine decades from the ice delivery trucks she chased as a child in the summer to a dangerous time in the early 1980’s when she survived a robbery alone in her home. Mrs. Christensen’s daughter, Susan Christensen is with her during both interview sessions and helps her mother recall dates and events during the interview.


Primary English
temporal 1920 - 2010
spatial Locations discussed: Waldheim, Flushing, Queens, NY Flushing (New York, N.Y.) Queens (New York, N.Y.)
created 2010-06-22
Interviewer Natalie Milbrodt
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No transcript available for this file.