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.
The 1940s started out with the Parachute Jump moving to Steeplechase Park from the New York World’s Fair. Aerial photos of packed beaches became emblematic of the era. When the U.S. entered World War 2, dim-out regulations darkened Coney’s skyline to prevent its lights from silhouetting ships offshore and making them a target for German U-boats. In the 1942 and ’43 Mardi Gras parades, servicemen were showered with confetti and lions from Luna Park riding by in their cage were advertised as ready to meet Hitler.
In Episode 2, Coney Islanders who grew up during the war years recall seeing gun emplacements on the boardwalk and soldiers camped in Kaiser Park. Their households had blackout curtains, ration coupons and victory gardens. Some had summer jobs in the amusement area despite being underage. After the war, their families took in relatives and boarders who were refugees and survivors of the concentration camps.
Season 2 of the podcast series is sponsored in part by Humanities New York with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This episode was produced by Charles Denson, Ali Lemer and Tricia Vita. Music by Blue Dot Sessions. The oral histories were conducted by Charles Denson, Amanda Deutch and Samira Tazari between 2009 and 2018. You can search and listen online to over 400 oral history interviews, including the ones featured in this podcast, at https://www.coneyislandhistory.org/oral-history-archive.