Share your memories of Coney Island and Southern Brooklyn!

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

Share and preserve your memories by recording an oral history with the Coney Island History Project. We are recording audio interviews in English, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and other languages with people who live or work - past or present - in Coney Island and adjacent Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods or have a special connection to the place. For inspiration, listen to some of the oral histories in our online archive. Interviews are recorded year-round in-person or via phone or Skype. You may schedule an appointment via our website.

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As a kid in the early’60s my grandma lived on Mermaid Ave. We’d take the D train to visit her down at Coney. I remember seeing steeplechase and the Cyclone, which I was deathly afraid of the latter. Nathan’s was always a big treat to get clams and hotdogs. I have very fond memories of those days.

Reading through the history and viewing the pictures was a blast. Many I have direct memories of and it reminds me how connected I still am 63 years later. Not only did my mother work at the Brooklyn Hebrew Home for the Aged as a nurse, my father was the switchboard operator there, that's how they met. I do remember being in the lobby and I could be wrong but if it was left over from the Hotel, that would explain my recollection of long red velvet curtains. I was 5, I think.

My first 9 months we lived on W. 27th street but in March of 1957 we moved to the Marlboro Projects. Only a mile and half from Coney Island, we watched the Tuesday 9pm fireworks from there. My father died when I was 9 but he took me to Steeplechase Park and we rode the Steeplechase, me hanging on behind him when I was 6 or so. I remember inside the pavilion and the big slides. My mother had a friend there and we visited her apartment. They chatted in the small kitchen while I was memorized by Diver Dan on the TV!

I also have a photograph of my mother, grandmother, grandfather, great uncle, great aunt and her 2 daughters at the beach. My mother was 4 and the 1st born. People look at that photo and point to her with her blond curly hair and say, "Is that you?" I tell them, "look again at the headband on my cousin's wearing". It was 1928!

When I lived in the Projects, I was very independent and at 10 or 11 years old, I took a cruiser bike and 2 friends and we walked (the bike had a slow leak that I filled at every gas station we passed) and it was likely either spring or fall, not crowed. So I put the bike on the boardwalk and we went to the water. I took off my socks but one was carried away with the tide. Upon us leaving, my bike was no longer on the boardwalk. I had to explain to my mother how I lost a sock and a bike. Coney Island was beginning to decay and needless to say, not safe. She wasn't a happy camper.

As a 15 year old, my girlfriend and I would peruse the rides in the late fall and few were open. If we had a buck or 3 we would go into the fun houses and laugh and scream. Really, the Cyclone, Thunderbolt and Roundup were mainstays. I was braver then! At 16, I had a friend whose parents owned a concession stand there. They had to lock their bedroom door because while they were at work, she could steal cash they had in there.

My father followed my aunt into the Parks Department as a civil servant. This helped me get my first summer job: a First Aid Attendant on Brighton and CI Beach. CI Beach was riddle with garbage and the sand glistened from broken glass. I got paid a LOT compared to my friends who worked 2 job each. I worked with the hunky lifeguards and it was one of the highlights of my youth. The Lifeguard stations were under the boardwalk and were scary but fun. I worked the beach for 4 summers. We sent a lot of injured people to CI hospital who either cut themselves or stupidly jumped off the peer.

One of my favorite films, however difficult to watch was Requiem for a Dream which depicted the drug addled CI and life as a tenant in those beach-side apartment buildings, off season. Bleak.

I don't "get home" too often, the last time I was at CI was 3 months before 9-11. My friend from here only wanted to "see the Lady" and go to Nathans. Poor thing did not know how to properly eat a "frank" and put both mustard and catsup on it! But of course I took her to L&B Spumoni Gardens. I now live near a restaurant called Spumoni and frankly, it's 2nd rate.

I've live in L.A. for nearly 40 years but you can take the girl outta B'klyn, you cannot take the B'klyn outta the girl!

This is my story of growing up on the NYC subway system and CI was a huge part of that experience. Thanks for listening!

http://www.cousinalicespress.com/readingroom.html

Grew up and lived on west 29th in the apartment house 2876 west 29th-- played many sport games on the b lock between mermaid and neptune and had many friends. We also had a mens club called the TYGONS and had a club house in a basement house on the same block. If any of my friends see this please e mail me would love to hear from you. I now live in BELLE HARBOR QUEENS... JOEL or Joey

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