Michael Liff

Memories of working at the Tornado roller coaster and other Coney Island rides and games in the 1970s

Michael Liff recalls growing up in Coney Island across the street from the New York Aquarium and working in the amusement area as a teen in the 1970's.  His first job was taking plush animals by handcart from the Surf Avenue warehouse of Harry Florsheim, a toy distributor, to game operators. His favorite job was working at the Tornado, where he got to know the coaster's every dip and turn, and did everything from greasing the tracks, loading riders and pulling the breaks to collecting money for re-rides by saying "Fifty cents to do it again!" Liff says "my love was for the Tornado" when asked to compare it to Coney Island's other legendary wooden coasters built in the 1920s, the Thunderbolt and the Cyclone. He also worked at Astroland's Diving Bell, kiddie rides, and haunted attractions, as well as the Bowery's water race games, where he learned to call people in. "I'm glad I have these memories," he says of Coney Island, which besides being a fun place to work is where he met his wife of nearly 40 years. "It gave me the opportunity to have a beautiful family. So it's something very close to my heart."