Coney Island Stories

The Coney Island History Project Oral History Podcast

Season 2, Episode 3: Growing Up in the 1950s

Season Two’s theme is “Growing Up in Coney Island” through the decades, from the 1930s to the 21st century. In Episode Three, Coney Islanders who grew up in the ‘50s share their stories of living in apartments and over stores on Mermaid Avenue and its side streets. More than a thousand families were able to move into the two brand-new city-owned projects, Gravesend Houses and Coney Island Houses. Others made do with seasonal bungalows and rooming houses as year-round homes. World-famous Steeplechase Park was their neighborhood playground and television was a popular new indoor pastime.

Season 2 Episode 2: Growing Up in the 1940s

Season Two’s theme is “Growing Up in Coney Island” through the decades, from the 1930s to the 21st century. Episode Two, “Growing Up in the 1940s,” features the oral histories of Steve Burke, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Phil Einhorn, Deena Metzger, and Gloria Nicholson.

Season 2 Episode 1: Growing Up in the 1930s

Season Two’s theme is “Growing Up in Coney Island” through the decades, from the 1930s to the 21st century. In Episode One, Coney Islanders who grew up in the ‘30s recall hardships as well as simple pleasures. During the Depression, families from other New York City neighborhoods flocked to Coney Island. The rent was cheaper and the beach was down the block.

Season 2 Trailer: Growing Up in Coney Island

The Coney Island History Project launches Season Two of our oral history podcast Coney Island Stories on Tuesday, March 8th. This season’s theme is “Growing Up in Coney Island” through the decades, from the 1930s to the 21st century. The oral history narrators in Season Two describe growing up during the Depression and World War II, urban renewal (a narrator whose family was evicted calls it “urban removal”), the residential development of middle-income co-ops and public housing, and the decline of the amusement area and its eventual revival. Across the generations, their commonalities include the beach, the boardwalk, and jobs in the neighborhood, including the amusement area. 

Season 1 Episode 11: Schools of Their Own

Episode 11 shares the stories of four dedicated and innovative teachers who founded schools of their own in Coney Island and adjacent neighborhoods in Southern Brooklyn. April Leong in the award-winning founder and principal of Liberation Diploma Plus High School, a small alternative high school in Coney Island. Dr. Tim Law established a program of free Chinese language classes for children at I.S. 96 Seth Low School in Bensonhurst. Irina Roizin realized her childhood dream of founding a ballet school, Brighton Ballet Theater School of Russian Ballet, on the campus of Kingsborough Community College in Manhattan Beach.  Misha Mokretsov is head coach and owner of Coney Island's New York Fencing Academy, located just down the block from the History Project.

Season 1 Episode 10: Sign Painters and Artists

Episode 10 shares the stories of Coney Island sign painters as well as artists and designers who’ve been inspired by Coney’s celebrated signage, all taken from the History Project’s Oral History Archive. The Coney Island style of hand-painted signs was perfected more than a century ago by Wildman and Sons, a shop in the heart of the amusement manufacturing district just off Surf Avenue. Amusement signs were meant to stand out and be instantly readable from a distance on the chaotic streets of Coney Island.

Season 1 Episode 9: Love and Marriage

Episode 9 features the stories of couples who met, got engaged or married in Coney Island, all taken from the History Project’s oral history archive. Visitors to our exhibition center often tell us that they or their parents or grandparents met or had their first date in Coney Island. Over the years, we’ve witnessed marriage proposals on the Wonder Wheel and weddings and wedding party rides on the Cyclone roller coaster.  

Season 1 Episode 8: Beach Days

On Memorial Day Weekend, lifeguards will once again be perched in their towers and New York City will celebrate the reopening of Coney Island's beach for swimming. Episode 8 shares the stories of days at the beach from the 1920s through the 1990s taken from the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive.

Season 1 Episode 7: Staying in the Game

Episode 7 features the stories of independent game operators, past and present, from the Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive. Among the games that Peter Agrapides, Monica Ghee, Candi Rafael, and Eliot Wofse have operated over the years are Fascination, Balloon Dart, Glass and Dime Pitches, Milk Toss, Basketball, Fish Bowl, High Striker and Water Races. The last of the independents who have stayed in the game are now concentrated on a small strip of Coney Island’s eclectic Bowery, once the boisterous home of hundreds of unusual games and attractions.

Season 1 Episode 6: A Century of Bathhouses

Episode 6 features the stories of bathhouse owners, workers and patrons from the Coney Island History Project’s oral history archive. Bathhouses were the first businesses in Coney Island. Even before Coney’s first hotel was built in 1829, crude bathhouse shacks were set among the dunes. Before the city built the boardwalk in the 1920s, most of the Coney Island beach was private and bathhouses provided the only access to the beach and were a summer home away from home for patrons.