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Coney Island was home to 1920s boardwalk beauty

During the 1920s, Veronica Young lived on Coney Island. From the beach and boardwalk to the annual Mardi Gras parade, there was always much to do.

1920s Coney Island

Veronica Young was a star of Coney Island's Labor Day Mardi Gras in 1928 as an American Beauty Rose.

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

1920s Coney Island

Author Veronica Young rode on the Sweethearts of Coney Island float in the 1940 Labor Day Mardi Gras parade.

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

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl Lake April 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I envy you. Such marvelous memories. But so sad things have to change.


Eleanore Nash Plissner May 5, 2012 at 7:55 am

I was born in 1931, so a few years past your Coney Island. But, I remember it as being a wonderful place to visit. We rode the rides and walked through the Barrel that had air blowing up the girls skirts as they exited. My uncle was a Police officer, with Coney Island as his beat, and he and my Aunt had a small cottage for the summer. I went up in the Parachute Jump when I was 10, and that was exciting. Now I am living in Staten Island near the ocean, a far cry from Coney Island. But, I can look across the ocean and see the remains of the Parachute Jump. Wonderful memories from another Brooklyn girl.


Jeannine Napuunoa August 18, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I enjoyed reading about Coney Island. I was born in 1936. I moved to Hawaii in 1957 to join my Husband. We can see the Pacific Ocean from our Lanai. Sometimes we take visitors around the Island on Oahu.


Pat E. August 5, 2013 at 3:25 pm

My darling grandmother came from Germany to New York in 1909. She lived there until the 60’s. Her very favorite conversations were about Coney Island, and well, just anything and everything about NYC! She loved it, and after she moved away to be near her only child (my mom), she never stopped missing it. I see why!


Richard Totoian January 11, 2014 at 11:44 am

What a wonderful story. Very well written. I felt the excitement of being young and having fun at Coney Island. I grew up in Fresno CA. and we drove each summer to our resort spot,Santa Cruz. We also had a boardwalk that was full of people day & night,with the Pacific ocean, just beyond the board walk,and the hot sand beach,from the summer sun. I went there from 18 months with my parents,through high school & college. Thanks for the memories.


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