Wednesday, December 6, 2023

At Harry and Mabel's Place


It was Harry and Mabel's place which was the only eatery in the neighborhood, ever since the new development, called Rego Park, went in back in 1925. Rego Park—a mashup of the name of the builders, the Real Good Construction Company—had plenty of new homes alright, but not many other conveniences at first.

Harry and Mabel called their new place Le Vay's Restaurant—not very inventive, considering that was their last name. Right across the street on Queens Boulevard, the boundary of the new development, the restaurant was technically situated in neighboring Elmhurst. It took them four years after ground was first broken for the development for Harry and Mabel to realize their opportunity, but by 1929, they were in business.

It was only a few years later when everything changed. December 5, 1933—yesterday marked the ninetieth anniversary of that date—was the effective date reversing national prohibition laws. Not long afterwards, Harry and Mabel applied for a liquor license for their restaurant, and made some major changes to their business plan. They expanded their facilities—big enough, eventually, to host wedding parties and even conferences—and scheduled nightly floor shows along with their dinner fare.

To note their new image, Harry and Mabel also changed the restaurant's name. Now they called it, simply, The Boulevard.

Over the years, the place's popularity grew. It became the spot for those in the know to gather. The wedding reception for actor Martin Landau, for instance, was held at The Boulevard. During his campaign for the presidency, John F. Kennedy met with party leaders at The Boulevard. But long before that, when only the residents of the local area knew about it, The Boulevard was a place to have a great evening out, taking in a show with dinner and dancing to some great music supplied live—at least for a time—by Val McCann and his orchestra.

"More good news from the same spot," the "Night Spot Notes" from the Long Island Star-Journal would continue to report: "Val McCann and his band have had their contract renewed." It was almost as if the reviewers were keeping track of how long the band would continue their stay at The Boulevard.

Toward the end of 1942—months after the news broke of the contract renewal—another headline announced the band would be the "first to play song hit," a piece called "Three Terrific Guys." Written by then well known twins Kay and Sue Werner, who years before were the creatives behind the hit "Rock it For Me" featuring Ella Fitzgerald, the buzz on their latest piece was that it was headed for the best musical number of the week status.

Granted, the song was designed to resonate with the times. The "Three Terrific Guys" referred to the soldier, the sailor, and the marine, three details on the minds of many Americans during those war years. Apparently, Kay and Sue Werner had been to The Boulevard to take in the "Varieties on Ice" revue. Impressed with my dad's band—a "smooth organization"—when the sisters sold the rights to their song, they stipulated that "Val's outfit...get first crack at it."

As the reviewer concluded, "So that's what Val's got that Kay [Kyser], Benny Goodman and Sammy Kaye haven't got—as yet."

Above: Ad placed in the November 7, 1942, issue of The Billboard on page 25, featuring two war-time songs from the National Music Corporation of New York City. 


  1. That must have been an exciting moment for your father!

    1. I'm sure it was, Miss Merry--but I wouldn't have known about it. What I'm curious about is whatever became of that tune with so much promise. It's hard to find any mention now, concerning how it fared on the charts.


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