My hometown of Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York was wonderful.
We lived right on the ocean and enjoyed lovely beaches, a 5-mile boardwalk and two big amusement parks—Luna and Steeplechase—with rides, roller coasters and food stands.
In the 1920s, when I was young, my dad would take me to a Coney Island pony track on Sunday. I’d ride a pony around as Dad talked to the track owner. I loved that!
Other times, he’d take me to an old-time movie. There was no admission charge, but you had to buy food and drink, so Dad would get me a hot dog and sarsaparilla. Then we’d sit and watch silent movies while a piano near the screen matched the music to the action. Everyone had such a good time.
Loved Nathan’s Hot Dogs
Nathan’s was noted for its outstanding franks and French fries. In winter, after seeing a movie at Loews, we’d cross Surf Avenue and get a hot dog, fries and a root beer. What more could you want?
As teenagers, my cousin, Connie, and I used to go to Steeplechase Park. They had great rides and a beautiful pool. We’d spend entire days there, swimming to the sound of music broadcast from a tower above the pool.
We played handball or just sunned ourselves, while making friends with other young people from different parts of the city.
Toward evening, we’d change into dresses or shorts and go to the ballroom. It was beautifully lighted, and we’d dance for hours.
The Coney Island ocean and the beach were the best. We loved diving into the waves and coming out the other side. And lying on the sand was so soothing—it was warm and soft and felt so good.
On Tuesday nights, a big barge anchored off the beach of Coney Island, and when darkness fell, the fireworks began. The boardwalk and beaches became packed with people, and we’d all ooh and aah at the right times.
We usually watched from the beach, sitting on blankets. Some people started bonfires and stayed after the display ended. On hot nights, my folks would stroll along the boardwalk enjoying the ocean breezes.
Barkers Sang a Lullabye
My sister Louise’s bedroom and mine each had skylights that we’d open up on hot nights. When the breeze was right, we fell asleep listening to the music and the noise of the Coney Island rides and the chants of the barkers at sideshows on Surf Avenue.
The most exciting time of the summer came around Labor Day. The Coney Island Mardi Gras celebration, complete with floats and parades, was held for five weeknights and one Saturday afternoon.
Everybody went to Mardi Gras. Tuesday night was the Coney Island Firemen’s Night with fire trucks coming from all over Brooklyn and Long Island. Friday night was Policeman’s Night, and police from many precincts took part in the parade—an awesome sight to our young eyes.
Then on Saturday afternoons, they held a Baby Parade. In 1928, my mother entered me as an American Beauty Rose and I won!
Years later, in 1940, my friends and I rode on the “Sweethearts of Coney Island” float. All of our neighborhood pals were waving and calling out to us as the float passed by. It was a great way to end the summer.
What fond memories I have of my childhood! Good old Coney Island was truly a magical place to grow up. For me, those really were the “good ol’ days.”
By Veronica Young
Edinburg, New York