When Jimmy McCullough visited the History Project to sit for an interview a few years back, I felt that I was in the presence of Coney royalty. He was a man of few words, quiet and hardworking and, like most of the Coney old-timers, someone who rarely left his business during the season. Jimmy was related to three of Coney's pioneer families: the Tilyous, Stubbmanns, and McCulloughs. When the McCullough's Kiddie Park lease was not renewed by Thor Equities last year, the McCullough's little park on the Bowery was forced to close, becoming another one of Thor's vacant lots in the heart of Coney Island. 2013 is the first year since 1862 that there has not been a Tilyou descendant operating in Coney Island.
Jimmy and his family operated numerous small amusement parks and carousels in Coney Island, including the B&B Carousell, which was purchased by the City in 2006 and returned to Coney's Boardwalk earlier this year. Jimmy was a man of many talents who could build or fix anything mechanical and he knew the amusement business inside and out. He was a friend of the Coney Island History Project and will be sorely missed by all those who knew him and worked with him. His death brings a close to a golden age of Coney Island History --Charles Denson
Charles Denson's interview with Jimmy McCullough is part of the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive and may be listened to online here.
Services for Jimmy McCullough will be held this week. The family will receive friends at William E. Law Funeral Home, 1 Jerusalem Ave, Massapequa, NY on Thursday, August 22, 7-9PM and Friday, August 23, 2-4:30PM and 7-9PM. The funeral will be on Saturday, August 24, at 10AM at Maria Regina R.C. Church, 3945 Jerusalem Ave, Seaford, NY.
A bevy of organ grinders from the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA) and the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) will join the History Day celebration at the Coney Island History Project and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park on Saturday, August 10, from 1pm - 6pm. The rally was curated by Bob Yorburg, a band organ restorer, magician and carousel carver, who performed at the History Project last season and restored Grandma's Predictions for Deno's Wonder Wheel Park.
"Hand cranked organs have appeared throughout the streets of New York and in Coney Island for nearly 100 years," says Yorburg, who explains that cranking the organ moves a bellows that provides air to sound the pipes. A roll of paper with holes punched in it creates the music that you hear. "You would often hear people singing along to the music. This form of entertainment predates all other forms of musical reproduction including radio, television and electronic media. Now, for one day only, we are bringing back these free performances with strolling and stationary organs."
Organ Grinder Lola and Master Bob, originally from Baden-Baden, Germany and now based in the Washington, DC area, will appear on the Dreamland Plaza stage on West 12th Street at 3pm. "We'll perform German Moritaten, 19th century street ballads of broken hearts, murder and mayhem," says Lola. "And, of course, the most famous Moritat of them all, 'Mackie Messer,' gangster rap from 1920s Berlin. Plus other fun sing-along songs in English, like the Ballad of Anne Boleyn! Great fun."
Ian Fraser, age 12, of Staten Island, is one of the youngest members of COAA and will perform on Saturday in Deno's Wonder Wheel Kiddie Park. He is the proud owner of a Celestina Organette, a small hand-cranked organ built in 1881 by the Mechanical Orguinette Co of New York. Ian has performed at band organ rallies at Knoebels, Quassy, Wurlitzer, and Olcott Beach.
Members of the New York chapter of AMICA performing on History Day include Vincent and Maryam Morgan on their Castlewood organ in Deno's Wonder Wheel Kiddie Park; Buzz Rosa and Barbara on their Hofbauer organ and Jerry and Cheryl Maler, also on a German Hofbauer organ, in front of the Coney Island History Project; and Bill and Rita Sharkey with their Jager & Brommer Organ, alternating with Bob Stuhmer and Walter Kehoe on Accordeon, at Deno's Wonder Wheel Gazebo on the Boardwalk.
"You will hear an art form that all but died a half a century ago," says Yorburg. "It is now experiencing a renaissance that will be shared for free by enthusiasts. These people have restored, built and bought organs that will be shared with the public." Throughout the day, spectators will have the chance to crank some of the organs and experience a thrill from days gone by.
Live Music, Entertainment and History!
Celebrate Historic Coney Island Saturday August 10th from 1pm-6pm by attending the Third Annual HISTORY DAY presented by Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park & The Coney Island History Project, at the new W.12th Street Dreamland Pedestrian Plaza!
History Day festivities include live Ragtime and Dixieland music by the Banjo Rascals, old timey Organ Grinders playing hand cranked musical organs from around the world, Professor Phineas Feelgood's World of Magic, HumanToon/Street Sorcerer Kevin C Carr, and the always amazing Lady Circus! The performances are free to the public and will be held at the Coney Island History Project, the Pedestrian Plaza on 12th Street and in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Kiddie Park. This special event is free and open to the public
Dress in 1920’s garb and get one free ride on the Wonder Wheel!
Test your Coney Island IQ at the Coney Island Trivia Contest at 2:45PM with historian and author Charles Denson. Prizes include ride passes for Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and souvenir postcards.
If you have a Coney Island story to share, come and record your memories for the History Project's Oral History Archive.
A new exhibit on "The History of Deno's Wonder Wheel: Three Generations" will open on History Day at the Coney Island History Project and continue through September. This exhibit portrays the history of Deno's Wonder Wheel and the Vourderis family who have owned and operated it for three generations. Also on History Day, there will be a presentation about mechanical street organs and the history of organ grinders by band organ builder and restorer Bob Yorburg at the History Project. Admission to the exhibit center is free of charge.
Main Event Locations:
W. 12th Street Dreamland Pedestrian Plaza located between The History Project & The Boardwalk on 12th Street
Deno's Wonder Wheel Park 1025 Boardwalk at Denos D Vourderis Place (W. 12th St) Coney Island, Brooklyn 11224 www.WonderWheel.com
The Coney Island History Project 3059 West 12th Street off the Boardwalk Coney Island, Brooklyn 11224 www.coneyislandhistory.org