This is the first official week of summer. Summertime … and the living is easy … or it’s mad and exciting. And if you grew up in Brooklyn during the Fifties, it was a great time to be a kid.
Those crazy days of summer …
Brooklyn in the 50’s, meant the beaches of Coney Island, long wide beaches stretching for miles. It meant one ice cream cone, and one ride, the Tuesday night firework show, and the best darn little wooden roller coaster in the country! It was the summer playground of thousands of adults and children.
The boardwalk rolled out from Bay One in Brighton Beach to Bay One in Coney Island and ending at Sea Gate, a private community nestled at the end of the beaches, curving towards the wide mouth of the Atlantic and into the Narrows, entering the New York Harbor.
A snippet from Sunset Park …
Along the boardwalk were food and candy concessions, clams on the half shell, cotton candy, soft ice-cream, cold beer and soda, and taverns with entertainers who stood on the bar and sang.
Joey often took Antoinette inside the bar to listen to the entertainers, and maybe steal a bottle of beer or two. Each time he took his sister to the boardwalk he introduced her to a new food or drink, being careful to only give her tiny sips of drinks with alcohol.
With her hand in his, he headed to the place he knew she was longing to go. “Let’s get the ground rules straight right now.”
She nodded her head excitedly. “Right.”
He laughed. “Wait for me to tell you.” He went up to the booth to pay for the ride.
“First, you never stand up once the ride is moving.”
“And no matter what you see other kids do, I don’t want you putting both arms up at the same time. With at least one hand you hold on to me or the safety bar. Got it?”
When the man collecting tickets did not ask Antoinette to stand and be measured, Joey was delighted for her. They found a seat three back from the front and he strapped her in and the man locked the safety bar.
The cars began the long climb up the first hill. Slowly it crawled, the steel wheels clicking against the wooden frame, sounding like the trolley. Antoinette watched with her mouth open as they climbed higher and higher. “Finally.” She squeezed Joey’s arm as the first car teetered at the top.
Without warning the first car dropped out of site down the hill. One moment she was pinned to the back of the seat and at the next moment she was propelled forward while the ground raced in front of her. She screamed. The car hit the first sharp curve, up another hill and around two more wide turns, and at the bottom of the last hill, the car slowed, then stopped. All too soon, it was over.
Joey motioned to the ticket man and gave him more money. “Let’s move up one.” And they went around again.
He bought tickets twice until they were able to move into the first car. Nothing to block her view, no head, no hands waving,the panorama spread out in front of her, blue skies, white sand, and the deep green of the ocean. For one split second the car teetered at the precipice of the hill, one split second while she held her breath and waited. Then it dropped … dropped straight down … the wooden rails racing past her in a blur … the first curve, the second hill and …
On the national register of famous wooden roller coasters, The Cyclone ranks among the top ten. If you ever get to Brooklyn … take her for a ride.
Do you ever look back to see who you are today?
What favorite summertime fun brings the fondest memories?