Live (Almost) from Coney Island—PART FIVE: CLANK-CLANK-CLANK-EEEEEEEEEEEK!

The Roller Coaster by me.

The Cyclone painted by me.

 

Marilyn, Jim, and I departed Luna Park for the boardwalk.

 

Photo: Sheila Martin

Photo: Sheila Martin

 

And headed toward the carousel, but just before we got there, on West 15th Street we saw an alarming structure. It looked like a spiky orange snake made out of giant Legos. It featured backward loops, corkscrew turns, and 150 foot right angle drops. To make the picture complete there was a load of screamers zipping along the track.

 

The new Thunderbolt. Photo: Jim Blyhe

The new Thunderbolt. Photo: Jim Blyhe

 

The Thunderbolt in its heyday. Photo: Reginald March, the painter. He probably took this for reference for one of his Coney Island paintings.

The original Thunderbolt in its heyday. Photo: Reginald March, the painter. He probably took this for reference for one of his Coney Island paintings.

 

The Cyclone remains basically the same as it always was. It didn't seem to be operating when we were passing it. Photo: Jim Blythe

The Cyclone remains basically the same as when it was built in 1927 and is still in use. It didn’t seem to be operating when we were passing. Photo: Jim Blythe

 

I had been on the Cyclone many times when I was a kid—back then I was fearless—but the last time I rode it I was about fifteen. I went with my high school boyfriend, Lenny. (My parents hated him and his widowed mother hated me. There was a lot of sturm und drang. The funny thing is I don’t even remember why we broke up but I don’t think it was because of them.)

 

So Lenny and I got on the Cyclone and up it clanked, so far so good, hovered, still okay, then to my surprise, EEEEEEEEEEEK! I ducked and covered. When it was finally over I ended up with something I had never had before and that was a splitting headache.

 

Ever wonder about the house under the original Thunderbolt?

 

The Kensington Hotel before the Thunderbolt.

The Kensington Hotel before the Thunderbolt.

Fred Moran with his mother, Molly

Fred Moran with his mother, Molly.

May Timpano in the house. They even had a piano!

Mae Timpano in the house. They even had a piano!

 

It was built in 1895 as the Kensington Hotel. Later, when George Moran bought the property in 1925 to build a roller coaster he saw no point in tearing down a perfectly good building.

I can almost hear the family discussion:

George: “Let’s build the roller coaster on top of the house and move in!”

Molly: “Why not!”

So they did. When they died their son Fred and his girlfriend Mae Timpano moved in, and when Fred died in 1982 Mae sold the ride, and the new owner closed it, but let her remain in her home. Mae moved out in 1988 for safety reasons.

 

The Thunderbolt in 1998, the year after Mae Timpano moved out. Photo: Jim Blythe

The Thunderbolt in 1998. Photo: Jim Blythe

 

1998. Photo: Jim Blythe

1998. Photo: Jim Blythe

 

1998. Photo: Jim Blythe

1998. Photo: Jim Blythe

 

In 2000 Mayor Giuliani had the ride bulldozed (some say illegally) while Mae cried in her car.

 

The house under the roller coaster scene from Annie Hall:

 

A mercifully short clip of the new Thunderbolt in action:

 

If you’re dying for more, here’s a 15 minute documentary featuring Mae Timpano. It’s very charming.

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One comment

  1. Jack says:

    I hope CHNM can step back someday and tell us how opieatrng in crisis mode to capture a digital record of events like 9/11 and Katrina is different from taking the time to produce simple-yet-complicated products like Omeka and Zotero. How much correlation was there between the level of contributions to the Katrina web site and declines in participation at Wikipedia?Do you think digital history will ultimately favor the measurement of change over time within texts instead of across texts? Wikipedia allows the former with its history tab. The digital archives at CHNM treat texts that are fixed at a specific moment in time. Is there room for reimagining born-digital texts that have versions that can be searched?Were the debates at CHNM over tagging unique to web sites that dealt with contemporary history? Would tagging be so controversial with the records of people who lived in the 1800s?I love your points about the problem of scale. It would be great to hear more about how often your experiences outstripped your expectations and more about the reasons why automated solutions didn’t work for you. I can’t help but wonder if you had allowed more tagging whether you would have developed a much more complete vocabulary for finding Katrina web sites through web crawl methods and sifting through the results.I wonder if some practitioners of digital history have inherited an outdated philosophy from physical archives. The physical repositories imagined themselves existing in isolation. Their collections stood on their own merits and any possible connections with collections at other archives, not to mention published work that cited the archive’s collections, could be ignored. I don’t think digital archives can afford to maintain this attitude of indifference to context. In an era of aggregation and social networking, it is hard to imagine digital archives succeeding without linking their content to other digital archives and to digital copies of publications based on the contents of those archival collections.As you continue using the Dublin Core with your forthcoming digital archives, do you anticipate any debates at CHNM on whether to abandon the participatory chaos of Web 2.0 for the automated standardization of the semantic web? As you negotiate these politics of digital history, will the compromise solution be something like Web 2.5?

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