Oh joy! Oh bliss, wait till you see this! We just happened to come across raw footage shot in 1960s
and perhaps 1950s Coney Island from the collection of Anthology Film Archives. The first clip titled “Coney Island – Night – Silent work-print” has atmospheric scenes of a grand carousel, amusement games and Nathan’s packed with people. Based on the signage and prizes–games where you can win teddy bears and table lamps for a quarter–the era is the late 1950s or early ’60s. Frankfurters cost 20 cents and knishes and chow mein are 15 cents.
Do you remember the carousel in the clip? It’s not the B&B Carousell, which is returning to Coney Island next year. Historian Charles Denson tells ATZ it looks like a carousel on the Boardwalk at 16th Street that was operated by the McCullough family. It was called the Steeplechase Carousel. In the film, you can actually see “Steeplechase Carousel” lettered on the back of the ride attendant’s shirt. He’s one of the guys with a cigarette dangling from his lips as he straps kids on the horses. Before you say eeewww, remember this was back in the “good old days,” when it was normal for people, especially James Dean-esque ride boys, to chain-smoke. Other clues to the carousel’s identity are the mesmerizing animated figures on the band organ and a bell inscribed 1943.
In the Nathan’s scene, men in white paper hats flip a dozen hot dogs at once and neatly place each order on a silver pedestal cake stand. Condiments are served in a communal bowl! Besides hot dogs, Nathan’s had roast beef, barbecue, chow mein and “crispy pizza.” Are you ready for lunch yet?
The second Coney Island clip is described as unsplit 8mm, color, silent, Summer 1969, from the Bob Parent Collection. We were excited to find rare footage of what appears to be the Flying Saucer in action at Astroland’s Kiddie Park. It was among the first rides in the park, which was “Born at the Dawn of the Space Age.”
The AFA has a large uncatalogued collection of unedited amateur films from Parent, a famed photographer of jazz musicians who also made 8MM films and wrote a column for the movie magazine Take One. What other gems will be discovered in the collection?
Related posts on ATZ…
July 26, 2012: Film Trailer: Zipper, Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride
May 12, 2011: “Last Summer at Coney Island” Airs on PBS, DVD Offers Epilogue
March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson
September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam
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