Jim Lucarelli

Memories of operating Steeplechase Park's Sports Car ride in 1963-1964 and fighting the Ravenhall fire

Jim Lucarelli
Interview Date:
April 9, 2020


Born in 1946, Jim Lucarelli grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He describes "the opportunity and the privilege" of working at Coney Island's Steeplechase Park in 1963 and 1964, the last two summers before the park closed.  As a 16-year-old ride operator at the Sports Car ride on the Boardwalk, his job included starting up the cars in the morning and jumping on to pull a lever to make the cars stop at the end of a ride. He also recalls flirting with girls who saw the ride operators as celebrities and relieving game operators in Steeplechase Pavilion.  

He vividly remembers the night of April 28, 1963, when Ravenhall Baths went up in flames.  Steeplechase had not yet opened for the season and only the crew working the Sports Car ride, which was open with access from the boardwalk, and maintenance staff were at the park. Everyone was afraid Steeplechase would go up in flames too since embers the size of basketballs from the Ravenhall fire were drifting over the park.  Lucarelli was part of the crew that helped save Steeplechase that night. His job was going to the top of the wooden roller coaster and wetting it down with a fire hose. "I was 15 years old at the time and had no idea how dangerous it was," he says. "All I knew is that I was trying to save Steeplechase from burning down."