Roy Omori

Growing up Japanese American in Coney Island in the 1950s and '60s

Roy Omori grew up in the 1950s and '60s in Coney Island where he could see the Parachute Jump from his window and Steeplechase Park was his playground. Omori's Japanese-American parents moved to Coney from California in the 1940s, during World War II, to join his uncles. The extended family lived in the front and rear houses at 2850 Stillwell Avenue, which are still standing today though the neighboring houses are gone. Omori vividly recalls Steeplechase's Blowhole Theater and rotating barrel and spinning disc rides, as well as the Magic Carpet Funhouse and Spook-A-Rama. As a boy he saw the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops being built in the yard by his neighbor, artist Dan Casola. In the late '60s, Omori operated the fortune-telling bird concession on the Bowery after purchasing it from Mr. Yoshida, its longtime owner. He describes working with the birds and the popularity of this long vanished attraction, which earned his college tuition. After he left Coney Island in 1968, his parents operated the concession for a few more seasons and continued to live in Coney Island through the early 1980s.