Thursday, September 06, 2007
Coney Island of the mind
Parachute JumpWhen we heard about possible redevelopment at New York's Coney Island, we wanted to hear what our I-Reporters had to say about the development plans and about their experiences over the years at the world-famous amusement area.

I was struck by how vivid some of the memories still are -- after nearly 50 years! (See I-Reporters' photos and memories of Coney Island)

Space limits wouldn't allow the use of all the wonderfully poignant stories in the gallery, but I wanted to share one of these great tales.

Joseph Cassar, 55, of New York City wrote this about his visits to Coney Island as a boy:

"On Wednesdays, in the summer, the women of 66 Orchard Street took their kids to Coney Island to escape the heat and humidity of the Lower East Side. They packed lunches, which for some reason included a large number of hard-boiled eggs.Wonder Wheel

The women carried the food bags, and we kids grappled with the aluminum beach chairs, which always dragged on the ground because our arms were too short. We walked to Delancy Street to catch the D train to Coney Island. It was a long train ride, and we made a lot of noise. (Watch an I-Reporter's video of a ride on the Cyclone roller coaster)

The women said things we kids didn't understand, but they laughed loudly and their faces turned red. At the last stop, we gathered our belongings and headed for the exit. My mother pointed me in the right direction with a stiff finger jabbed in my back. My sister would give me that sister look of "hmmm, you deserve that!"

BoardwalkThe wooden boardwalk was a block from the station. We made our way to the beach and scoped out our spot near the boardwalk so we could change underneath. None of us knew how to swim, and anyway, the water was dirty and cold. So we ate. We ate all day.

In the evening, we changed out of our dry bathing suits back into our clothes. As a treat, Mom let me ride the carousel. I had a hard time getting up on the wooden brown horse, and some carny would come over and toss me on top of the horse.

My goal was to snatch the brass ring, and I would lean over as far as I could and stretch out my arm and try to hook the brass ring. One time, I got the brass ring, and I was so excited. The operator came over, patting me a bit too hard on my head, and said, "Good job, kid," and yanked the ring out of my hand.

Flooding in downtown Findlay, OhioAt dusk, we went to Nathan's (in those days there was only one Nathan's) and we ate some more. We had hot dogs, fries, pizza and sodas. The ride back home was quiet. We were stuffed and sore from our sunburns. The kids fell asleep against the broad arms of their mothers. We all dozed off, but we never missed the Delancy Street stop.

That was a long time ago. My Coney Island is in the past, in the mist. My photos are memories trapped in the fog."

Posted by Rich Cook
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