The typical story that is told is how the firm was founded by two natives of Germany, president Henry L. Schloh and secretary and treasurer Charles I. Hausmann, but now a piece of the puzzle long forgotten has been rediscovered.
Rego Park native Marion Thone Legler, who now resides in New Hyde Park, visited the neighborhood after three decades and explained the accomplishments of her grandfather Joseph Thone, another founding party and developer of the Rego Construction Company who lived at 63-35 Bourton Street.
Legler, who was raised at 61-30 Booth Street, recently shared a detailed account of her childhood in the lobby of Marion Court at 62-98 Saunders Street, which her grandfather built in 1929 three years before her birth. Legler believes she was named after the building.
The firm developed 525 eight-room, single-family railroad-style Colonial frame houses between 63rd Drive and Elliot Avenue along Saunders, Booth, Wetherole, and Austin streets. They sold for approximately $7,500.
Three apartment houses followed, which 70 families each called home. They were the Tudor-style Remo Hall at 61-40 Saunders Street, the Spanish Mission-style Jupiter Court at 62-64 Saunders Street and Marion Court.
Architecturally, Marion Court boasts terra-cotta reliefs of animals, leaded glass depictions of castles, and a roof garden where residents gather and keep cool in the summer.
“Rego Park was a playground for children,” said Legler. “We used to sleigh ride down 63rd Avenue. We never had to worry about cars because there were very few.”
On Queens Boulevard, her father William Thone owned a hardware store, which was one of a few shops concentrated on the south side west of 63rd Drive. Small shops stood along 63rd Drive, as well as PS 139, where Legler attended school.
“On the other side, there were lots and swamps over where the big apartments are now,” she said.
Victory gardening was prevalent during World War II, and her school participated.
“We grew carrots, lettuce, cucumbers and celery,” Legler recalled. “We would bring money and buy stamps, which was like a savings account. You learned how to cook, how to grow food outside, and how to save your money at the same time.”
She graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1950 and remained in Rego Park until her marriage in 1956 at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, which was followed by a reception at the popular Rego Park Community Club at 62nd Road and Wetherole Street.
Legler remembered Rego Park as a neighborly small town.
“If you had a party, everybody was there,” she said. “We would get home from school and drop our books, go outside and play. The parents all sat on the stoop at night while we played Ringolevio and Running Bases until the street lights went on.”
Legler also recalled the local social scene.
“On Queens Boulevard there were several outdoor barbecue places that would play music, and we would be entertained for free,” she said. “For five cents you could go to the movies. You had to sit in the children’s section and a matron would walk back and forth with her flashlight to make sure you behaved.”
Home deliveries were the norm, and a necessity was a coal chute in the basement since there was no gas heat.
“Dugan’s and Krug’s were the bread people,” she said. “The ice man would also come and chop the ice, since you had an ice box.”
Legler’s mother was born in Norway, her father in America, and her grandfather in Germany. To this day, she reflects on her strong family values.
“Everybody had to be at the table,” she said. “If you were late for dinner, you were in big trouble. Before we would leave the table, we would say, ‘takk for maten’ (thank you for the food).”
Employment was sometimes a challenge, such as when her father gave up his hardware store during the Great Depression. Legler worked a key punch machine for General Motors.
“In 1950, my salary was $33 a week, and that was before they took everything out,” she said. “We had food stamps, but they were good years. The families worked together.”
Legler inherited her grandfather’s collection of over 100 photos of “construction from day one,” including Queens Boulevard as a dirt road to its paving, early shops, homes, apartment houses, PS 139, and the ribbon cutting for the LIRR station on 63rd Drive.
As she toured Saunders and Booth street, Legler said preservation was essential.
“Every effort should be made to maintain it,” she said. “I come back here and it’s my childhood. We played in these buildings, especially Marion Court since it has an elevator, which was a big thing.”