Archive for September, 2011

Coney Island

Coney Island 1980. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Coney Island

Created by Betty from the JASA poets in Coney Island, on June 15th, 2011 with Amanda Deutch and Gary Glazner of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project.

So much happened in Coney Island.
My mother never had to look for me.
Some people didn’t think much of Coney Island.
My mother said, “If you meet a good boy, don’t tell him you are from Coney Island.”
One time I had a date, I was very nervous,
I got off at Avenue U so he wouldn’t know where I was from.

I was happy to be from Coney Island.
The people are friendly and nice.
It’s a beautiful place to live.
The story of how Nathan’s began is interesting.
She made some Knishes.

I was always an outside girl.
I lived close to Neptune and Surf.
I walked on the sand.
I walked by the ocean in my boots.
On the coldest days we sat on the rocks.
On the coldest days that’s what we did.
You can even have a story about the pier.
I used to watch them fish.

When I was married on Mermaid there was a rainbow in the window.
I used to see a rainbow from my window.
Mother would say, “See that sky.”
You have to find beauty.

You can go down one of those hills.
You’ll have a long life.
When you hit the top all of sudden you couldn’t catch your heart.
It’s wow!

When Luna Park was burning I never saw such a sky in my life, a red sky.
I heard the fire trucks; I looked out the window.
The next morning, I learned Luna Park had burned.

I could see the moon from my window.
The moon was better than being on earth.
I wanted to stay up there.

*     *     *     *     *     *

The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project was founded in 2004 by Gary Glazner and has served over 9,500 people living with Alzheimer’s disease. They have also developed poetry workshop models for early stage dementia groups. For more information on this award-winning project, visit their website http://www.alzpoetry.com. Glazner is a poet and author whose books include Sparking Memories: The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project Anthology and Ears on Fire: Snapshot Essays in a World of Poets.

Amanda Deutch is a teaching artist and poet whose mother and grandparents lived in Coney Island. Her poetry is published in dozens of literary journals and her poem “30,000 City Windows” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the founder of Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival and recently launched a Poets Walking Tour of Coney Island.


Related posts on ATZ…

February 23, 2011: Double Exposure: Photographer Barry Yanowitz & Coney Island on BCAT TV

January 8, 2011: Boardwalk: Photos by Meredith Caliento, Spoken Word by Michael Schwartz

December 8, 2010: Children’s Book Tells Coney Island Carousel Carver’s Story

September 27, 2009: Coney Island 1969 by Edwin Torres: Fave Poem from Parachute Festival

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ring toss figures

Ring toss figures, circa 1935. Cornette de Saint-Cyr Auction of Fabienne & François Marchal Collection of European Carousel and Fairground Art

I used to work a Pitch Till U Win, but it didn’t have the character of the hand-carved and painted ring toss pictured above. Featuring caricatures of a gendarme, sailor, artistocrat and grouchy old lady, the game is equipped with a mechanical device that makes the legs of the figures come to life in an eccentric dance. With a pre-sale estimate of 12000-15000 euros ($16,257-$20,321), this antique game is beyond my budget, but it’s fun to window shop. The ring toss is part of a magnificent collection of fairground art, including rare carousel figures, decorative items and games on the block at the Paris auction house Cornette de Saint-Cyr. Collected, researched and restored over a 40-year period, the Fabienne and François Marchal Collection of European Carousel and Fairground Art will be sold in three sessions on September 28 and 29.

Prussian ball toss game

Ball toss game with Prussian soldier, circa 1910. Cornette de Saint-Cyr Auction of Fabienne & François Marchal Collection of European Carousel and Fairground Art

As a carny kid who grew up working the Pitch Till U Win, Slot Roll Down and Bumper Joint, which have since disappeared from the American midway, I have an abiding interest in vintage carnival games. In the early 1980s, an elite group of dealers began exhibiting primitive carnival wheels, ball-toss figures and shooting gallery targets at the fall antiques show in New York. Viewing these exhibits, I felt pleased and proud that these midway games created by unknown artisans had been transformed into much-admired folk objects. The high prices shocked my frugal mother, who first went on the road during the Great Depression of the 1930s. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, successful concessionaires were adept at building their own games, freely borrowing ideas from the fellow down the midway and the catalogs of supply houses catering to the carnival trade. My mother, who grew up speaking French, would have appreciated these hand-crafted French fairground games.

Shooting gallery target

Shooting gallery target, car travels along roller coaster track, early 20th century. Cornette de Saint-Cyr Auction of Fabienne & François Marchal Collection of European Carousel and Fairground Art

In regard to the history of his fairground art collection, François Marchal writes at length in an essay in the auction catalog. I dusted off my high school French and attempted a translation with the help of Google: “Apart from some oral testimony, the sources of information were very rare. If the history of the carnival was known, the objects, rides, games and decorations seemed to have escaped any investigation. In a way this was our good fortune. A promising field of exploration was thus offered to us. In the years after World War II, bulky outdated equipment was no longer of interest to anyone. This accelerated the dismantling of lavish rides inherited from the Belle Epoque.”

“The most amazing games invented for taking a break and enjoying oneself were abandoned and left to rot in squalid sheds,” Marchal recalls. “We were able to collect numerous pieces for next to nothing. It is true that these pieces were often faded and decrepit, sometimes ruined. So we gradually learned to restore them, Fabienne working more on the structure and me on the polychromy.”

Porte de tir à surprise

Porte de tir à surprise, Au Beau Tambour des Zouaves. Cornette de Saint-Cyr Auction of Fabienne & François Marchal Collection of European Carousel and Fairground Art


Related posts on ATZ…

March 22, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Souvenir of Frank Bostock’s Coney Island

March 9, 2011: Inexhaustible Cows & Bottomless Cups of Chocolate Milk

December 19, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike

November 16, 2009: Rare & Vintage: Coney Island Sideshow Banner by Dan Casola

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Sammy Rodriguez at Ruby's Bar, Coney Island. June 20, 2007. Photo © Kevin C Downs Photography

Last week a friend sent us this invite to Sammy Rodriguez’s 85th birthday party to be held on October 1st at Ruby’s Bar and Grill. Coney Island’s beloved dive bar, which will close forever at the end of October, is throwing a birthday bash for its beloved longtime bartender.

With all the changes the past few years it has been a while since we have all been out on a weekend and hung out for a few together. So let’s have a last gathering party with everyone ON SAM”S BIRTHDAY! This is our final year so — ONE LAST BIG HURRAH IS IN ORDER!!!!!!

Sat. Oct 1st 2pm til ???

This is a celebration for Sam and Ruby’s and the years they have had together in Coney. This is not a Save Coney Party or a Media party, this is a party of friends/summer family to celebrate our memories with Sam and Ruby’s.

Sam came from Puerto Rico and worked as a porter, fry cook and bartender in Coney Island for six decades. The story goes that he had a job at the spot “under the boardwalk” before Ruby Jacobs bought the place and kept him on. As one of my friends says, “He helped create Ruby’s as we know it.” Sam’s birthday is October 1st, which this year of all years luckily happens to fall on a weekend. Since he retired five years ago, it’s become a tradition for Sam to come up from Puerto Rico to celebrate his birthday at Ruby’s. We’ll be there to wish him a happy 85th birthday and many more to come, but the sad fact is it may be the last time for this get-together. Will Sam and friends make the trip to Coney Island once Ruby’s is gone? More than 450 attended the big bash when Sam turned 80.

Last call at Ruby’s Bar will be on Saturday, October 29 Sunday, October 30, 2011. Along with seven other Mom-and-Pop businesses, including Paul’s Daughter and the Suh family’s souvenir shop next door, Ruby’s was kicked to the curb by New York City’s Economic Development Corporation and Zamperla’s Central Amusement International to make way for a corporatized, gentrified Boardwalk. This is of course last year’s news (“Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back,” ATZ, November 1, 2010). As Valerio Ferrari, CEO of Zamperla USA/CAI told us that day: “They didn’t have the vision that we have for the Boardwalk. It’s a business decision.”

What else is there to say? Come out on October 1st and October 29th, and anytime in between to raise a glass to Sammy and Ruby’s and yes, sentimentality –a word that is not in the playbook of the powers that be. On New Year’s Day and Opening Day, we’ll especially miss our old friends. Ironically, these small, family-owned businesses on the Boardwalk managed to keep Coney Island alive and thriving through tough times, even when real estate speculator Joe Sitt was their landlord. It was only after the Bloomberg administration “saved” the People’s Playground by buying the property from Sitt for an astounding $95.7 million dollars of taxpayer money that the Mom-and-Pops got evicted en masse. This is just wrong.


Ruby's, Coney Island. May 28, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i


Related posts on ATZ…

March 9, 2011: Paul’s Daughter: “We love Coney Island and we love what we do”

January 13, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Dishes on the Boardwalk Brawl

January 6 2011: Exclusive: NYCEDC Kiss-Off Letter to Coney Island Boardwalk 8

April 23, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk Businesses Open for 2010

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