St. John's History - 4. Beginning of the 20th Century
In 1911 the parish was thriving. According to “The Parish Press” of September 1911, A Parish House was being built, there was a Women's Auxiliary, a Junior Auxiliary, a Men's Club, a Military Band, an Employment Society, the Girls Friendly Society, a Circulating Library and Ministering Children’s League. There had been 18 baptisms from June to September, two marriages, and 5 funerals. It was a time of pew rentals, but “all seats are free at all-night services.” The choir had a Choirmaster, Organist and Librarian, 14 sopranos, eight altos, four tenors, and six basses. The Sunday School had a Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and a Treasurer, with 25 teachers.
There was a Children's Fair held in July that held booths for the sale of “fancy and useful articles” that netted $53.63, and others in August and September. Funds of more than $126 were designated for the new Parish House.
The Parish Fair that same year was a “Muski” which would be held in the new Parish House in December. A Muski was an oriental bazaar which would reproduce the bazaar street of Cairo constructed in the new Parish House and would open into an oriental market place with a large dining hall called after the Cairo hotel “Shepheards.” The newsletter politely notes that “Those who are not yet active in the preparation for the Muski will confer a favor on the committee and the rector by sending in their names at once.”
Called “The Welcoming Spire of New York Harbor” in a September 1919 article in the “New York World” the spire of St. John's has welcomed mariners, tourists, overseas troops and immigrants as they sailed in through the Narrows. In 1919, as ships brought returning soldiers from World War I, the sexton of St. John's rang a welcome on the chimes and waved a flag from the base of the steeple, which was received with cheers from the men on the ships. The Herald reporter, John Farrar, relates the experience of the tour of the church provided by the sexton, Frank Phleging, who was proud to show the room where the War Camp Community Service had a club, the dance hall, library, and canteen under the stars. After climbing to the belfry, and returning back to the parish house, Mr. Phleging spoke of the room that once had pool tables, basketball and games. And then, he showed the service flag, with 138 stars on it, pointing out that five of them were gold. “The first man on Staten Island to go was a member of this parish. I remember him when he was just a kid, and he wasn't much more when he was killed.” He reported that the Rectory had been turned into a workshop, making bandages or planning some way to raise money. And on Sundays, they were there helping in the Fox Hills Hospital.