More Coney Island Memories

The Tornado roller coaster was built on Henderson Walk and the Bowery in the 1920s. It was 2970-feet of pure fun. The postcard on the left below was taken when it was initially called The Bobs Coaster, but we always called it The Tornado. It's fun looking for these old postcards at antique shops now. I'm amazed some are still in great shape, their 3-cent stamps reminding us of the days before a Forever stamp cost 49-cents for a one-ounce letter.

Mom loved Penny Arcades and so did I. You really could play a game or machine for a penny or two long ago in the 1940s. Now a lot of people won't bend over to pick up a penny on the sidewalk. I wish they would just stop making them now that they cost more a penny to make.  The U.S. Mint cut the cost of making the penny by almost a third in recent years, but the last time I checked it cost 1.7 cents to make those copper-coated coins that don't buy much anymore. Even the nickel costs 8 cents to produce, down from 11 cents. I can't fix that one today so I'm going back to the '40s now.

I remember the first time Mom gave me a whole roll of pennies to play whatever machines or games I wanted. I felt so rich that day. I immediately went to the fortune teller machine, put my penny in the slot and watched as the statue of a gypsy fortune teller named Esmeralda shown from the waist up started to move a little with either a crystal ball or playing cards before giving me my fortune.

                            Fortune Teller at Coney Island Penny Arcade

Meanwhile Mom was busy playing Skee-Ball. It was one of the first redemption games. She was extremely good at it and saved the coupons she got for getting high scores until she had enough to trade them in for a big prize. She taught me how to play, though I never did win anything that amounted to much, but it was the playing that was fun in the moment.

The Tornado Roller
                      Coaster in Coney Island                    Nathan's
                            Famous Hot Dogs in Coney Island

The picture on the right is the original Nathan's Famous Frankfurters restaurant we went to on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues. It's still at the original location and celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, 2016.  Their website, has Fun Facts I couldn't resist. I'll only mention a few.

To open his first hot dog stand, a Polish immigrant named Nathan Handwerker borrowed $300 from his friends, Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor, who were singing waiters at the time. The frankfurters were sold for 5 cents and made from using his wife Ida's grandmother's secret spice recipe.

In 1955, Nathan's started expanding in New York by opening their 2nd location in Oceanside, Long Island. The 3rd Nathan's arrived in 1965 in Yonkers, and the 4th in 1971 in
Times Square. In 1983, Nathan's franks were first sold in supermarkets. Now they are available in all 50 states.

In 1987 the Handwerker family sold the business to private investors who expanded franchises around New York and beyond.

And finally, once Barbra Streisand actually had Nathan's hot dogs delivered to London, England for a private party!

Although I don't like to eat meat anymore, every couple of years, a package of Nathan's Famous Beef Franks miraculously finds its way into my shopping cart at Publix. As soon as I get home, I put on some old 50s music, relish the delicious hot dog, and ride down memory lane for awhile. Then I save the rest of the package for my son Randall, who doesn't have any food preferences like I do. That's my confession of the day. We all have our guilty pleasures, don't we?

At one time, Coney Island had twenty-five hand-carved carousels, most long gone except for the B&B Carousell (yes, it was named with two "L's"). It was a little girl's dream with its 50 hand-carved horses and a couple of chariots. It wouldn't have been the same without the constant organ music playing. When I googled it just now, I was directed to and filled in some blanks about the B&B. The Bruder Gebruder "Elite Orchestra Apollo" was a German-made 66-key organ. Fortunately, Mom also wanted to ride it so it always remained on our list of rides not to be missed. Eventually the City of New York bought the B&B for $1.8 million as part of the Coney Island re-development project.

This is a video of the actual B&B Carousell of my childhood, but when I was young, it was a merry-go-round to me. I didn't like being belted in, but Mom said it was so I wouldn't fall off the horse when I reached for the brass ring. 
Does anyone remember when the carousels at Coney Island had brass rings?  There was a wooden post very close to the carousel that held a cross bar filled with brass rings that rolled out the end of the bar, one at a time. If you leaned way off your horse you could almost reach the bar and grab the brass ring with your index finger as you went by. If a big kid was in front of you, it was no use. He or she easily got the brass ring and the next ring didn't roll into place in time for you to try. I tried for months, actually years, and never could get one, but I never gave up.

Finally, one day I got the brass ring. I can't for the life of me remember what the big deal was. Did I win a prize? Oh yeah, you got a free ride if you got the brass ring. The important thing was that I finally got the brass ring! Maybe that's where I learned to never give up on anything I wanted to do. I still believe I create my own reality with my thoughts, beliefs, and expectations, with a little action thrown in the direction of my dream every day. If I'm working on a book, it translates to writing something every day, even if it's only one paragraph, or one sentence. If you take the first baby step in the direction of your dreams, and focus on doing something related to it every single day, and never give up, you can accomplish almost anything. (I feel like I should add, maybe not brain surgery.)