Tony Williams

Growing up in Coney Island as a teenager in the 1960s and '70s

Tony Williams
Interview Date:
December 4, 2021


Tony Williams and his family moved from Harlem to Coney Island when he was 13. He lived on West 33rd Street between Mermaid and Neptune Avenues from 1966 until the late 1970s. Tall for his age (he was 6'2"), Tony was hired to operate rides in the amusement area. "I worked at practically everything down at the rides," he recalls. "You did what you had to do in those days to survive. I grew up poor so anything I could do to make a living was good for me." He describes working at the antique car ride under the closed-down Parachute Jump, a kiddie park on West 12th Street, and the Bobsled ride. He also remembers playing the harmonica on the Boardwalk for tips and with the Bread and Puppet Theater. Tony reflects on the white flight that began in the late 1960's and the new Coney Island of today.

After serving in the Navy, Tony Williams moved to Baltimore in the late 1970s to be close to his extended family and works there as a photographer and videographer.