Live (Almost) from Coney Island—PART TWO: A NEW MOON RISES FROM THE ASHES

I did this before I ever started the Coney Island series. I think it was 1994 and is called Summer Palace.

I did this before I ever started the Coney Island series. I think it was 1994 and I think it’s called Summer Palace.

 

The following is an excerpt from my novel, which takes place in 1957.

Once upon a time Coney Island was home to three huge amusement parks—Dreamland, Luna Park, and Steeplechase—but now only Steeplechase, at the other end of the neighborhood, was still open.

 

We three adventurers exited the aquarium onto the boardwalk—hot dog stands, souvenir shops, penny arcades—the same as the old days. Okay, maybe a tad cleaner and less weird.

 

The mango/flowers were delicious.

The mango/flowers were delicious. Photo: Jim Blythe

The boardwalk that day. Photo: Jim Blythe

The boardwalk that day. Photo: Jim Blythe

Boardwalk, 1940s

Boardwalk, 1940s

Coney Island had a multi-decades slide down hill from it's glory days before this recent revival so I was especially happy to see all those kids having all that fun. Here's the boardwalk in 1998. Photo: Jim Blythe

This is NOT the boardwalk of today. Coney Island had a multi-decades slide down hill from it’s glory days before this recent revival so I was especially happy to see all those kids having all that fun. Here’s the boardwalk in 1998. Photo: Jim Blythe

The new Luna Park as seen from the boardwalk. Photo: Jim Blythe

The new Luna Park as seen from the boardwalk. Photo: Jim Blythe

The new Luna Park. Photo: Jim Blythe

The new Luna Park. Photo: Jim Blythe

 

Soon we were looking down at the new Luna Park which opened in 2010. I knew it would look like this—thank you Google—but not this energetic and crowded with a lot of kids having a lot of fun on this perfect October Saturday afternoon long after Labor Day. Don’t you love it when things get better instead of worse?

 

I never saw the old Luna Park because it burned down in 1944, before I was born, but it’s presence still haunts Surf Avenue. It was built in 1903 and amazed the millions with its 250,000 light bulbs. Nobody had seen anything like it. They called it the electronic eden. The new Luna Park is not its first reincarnation. In the 1950s they built high rise apartment buildings on the spot where it burned to the ground and named them Luna Park too. A few of my high school friends lived there.

 

Post card of the original Luna Park circa 1903

Post card of the original Luna Park circa 1903

Iconic photograph of Luna at night, circa 1903

Iconic photograph of Luna at night, circa 1903

A postcard of the orginal Luna Park, circa 1903

A postcard of the orginal Luna Park, circa 1903

 

We plunged in. There are lots of new rides and amusements as well as some old ones. Most importantly the Wonder Wheel continues to turn. What did surprise me was that Spook-A-Rama remains, albeit with a well done facelift and no longer the world’s longest spook ride. (See my post of August 8, 2014: Seduced onto Spook-a-Rama. You’ll have to click “blog“ at the top, then “older posts” at the bottom.)

 

Marilyn and Jim gaze at the Wonder Wheel. Photo: Sheila Martin

Marilyn and Jim gaze at the Wonder Wheel. Photo: Sheila Martin

I wanted to go on the Wonder Wheel straight away but my companions were both scaredy cats. Marilyn absolutely refused, but Jim was softening.

 

 

Spook-A-Rama. Photo: Jim Blythe

Spook-A-Rama. Photo: Jim Blythe

Top of Spook-A-Rama. Photo Jim Blythe

Top of Spook-A-Rama. Photo Jim Blythe

More Spook-A-Rama. Photo: Jim Blythe

Spook-A-Rama. Photo: Jim Blythe

More Spook-A-Rama. Photo: Jim Blythe

More Spook-A-Rama. Photo: Jim Blythe

 

This is NOT a picture of Spook-A-Rama, but was taken on the midway in 1994 during Coney’s long decline. It has a certain beauty, don’t you think?—the remnants of decayed glory. It’s probably why Romantic painters put ruins in their landscapes. Photo: Jim Blythe

This is NOT a picture of Spook-A-Rama, but was taken on the midway in 1998 during Coney’s long decline. It has a certain beauty, don’t you think?—the remnants of decayed glory. It’s probably why Romantic painters put ruins in their landscapes. Photo: Jim Blythe

 

Meanwhile, he and I went on Spook-A-Rama. BANG! through the doors of terrified eyes—and into total darkness until AAAH! a ghost jumped out of a coffin. This startled us and made us laugh at ourselves.

 

Jim and Sheila. Photo: Marilyn Schorr

Jim and Sheila. Photo: Marilyn Schorr

 

These door are the only thing I think that's identical to the original Spook-A-Rama.

These doors are the only thing I think that’s identical to the original Spook-A-Rama.

 

A few more frights, then we were back on Jones Walk. We headed towards Surf Avenue and the best hot dog stand in the world.

 

Coming up next: Nathan’s Famous

 

 

Film clips of the original Luna Park, 1903. It’s so charming.

 

This is a strangely mesmerizing slow motion, point of view video from the sling shot ride over the new Luna Park.

 

People dancing around in the new Luna.

 

In case any of you are jealous of Jim and me for our fright filled ride on Spook-A-Rama, here it is in Robb Alvey’s home movie in real time.

 

 

Posted in: Blog & Stories

6 comments

  1. Karen says:

    That was awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Marilyn S. says:

    Wow…well done. Excellent recap of our adventure.

  3. John Sosh says:

    Great recap- Cool photos. Thanks for sharing your adventure with everyone.

  4. Marilyn Jones says:

    This is the best blog ever! I was mesmerized through the whole thing. Thank you so much.

  5. Sue Miller says:

    really enjoyed seeing all these old and new photos of a place I’ve only
    heard of.

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