A family who has operated amusements in Coney Island for four generations and is related to the Tilyous of Steeplechase Park is closing their last remaining business here. We’re sad to report the news that McCullough’s Kiddie Park, which has been on 12th Street at the Bowery in Coney Island since the 1960s is closing this month. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to come to an agreement on extending the lease. Technically today is the last day,” Carol McCullough told ATZ on Labor Day, “but we might stay open another weekend or two or three, depending on the weather.” The lease with property owner Thor Equities leaves them until the end of the year to move the rides off the property.
“Jimmy McCullough and the McCullough family would like to thank our customers for generations and decades, and all of our business associates in Coney Island,” said Carol McCullough, whose father Jimmy is the oldest ride owner in Coney Island. The closing of McCullough’s marks yet another critical point in the exit of independent amusement operators in Coney Island. It started in 2007, with Thor’s eviction of Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City and the Zipper and Spider rides documented in Amy Nicholson’s upcoming film “Zipper.”
Although McCullough’s Kiddie Park has operated on 12th Street for fifty years, the family’s history in Coney Island goes back much further. Four generations of McCulloughs have owned and operated amusement rides here. They are related to the Tilyou family of Steeplechase Park as well as to the Stubbman family, whose Coney Island carousel became part of the one in Flushing Meadows.
“My grandfather’s parents were James McCullough and Katherine Tilyou, who had eight children,” said Carol, who along with her sister has worked in the family business for the past twenty-six years. The McCulloughs were also traveling showmen. They owned and operated such rides as one of the first Zippers ever manufactured, the Round-Up and the Skywheel, which they brought to Toronto’s CNE and booked into fairs as independent ride operators.
The park currently has ten kiddie rides: Bumblebees, Ferris Wheel, Carousel, Swings, Motorcycles, Yellow Submarine, Dizzy Dragons, Himalaya, Ladybug and Frog Hopper. Last year, McCullough’s had to be reconfigured and lost two rides after a sublease expired on an adjacent property also owned by Thor Equities.
In the 1950s, the McCullough family had Kiddielands at Surf Avenue and 15th Street and Surf Avenue and 8th Street next to the Cyclone. They also operated four historic carousels which remain in New York City’s parks. One of them was the 1912 carousel carved by Charles Carmel which was at 8th Street and is now the Prospect Park Carousel. The Stubbman Carousel, known as the Steeplechase Carousel when the McCulloughs operated it at 16th Street and the Boardwalk, was sent to the New York World’s Fair in 1964 along with some horses from Feltman’s and still operates in Flushing Meadows Park. The third was the B&B Carousell, the last wooden carousel in Coney Island, which Jimmy McCullough sold to the City in 2005 after the death of his business partner Mike Salzstein. The restored carousel will reopen in Coney Island’s new Steeplechase Plaza next year.
You can listen to Jimmy McCullough’s interview about learning the carousel business from his father, James McCullough, who began his career working on the Steeplechase and Stubbmann carousels, in the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive.
“Many thanks to all! It’s been quite a ride, pun intended,” said Carol McCullough. “We wish everyone well who operates there and hope that Coney Island goes on for a great many years to come for people to enjoy.”
Related posts on ATZ…
August 22, 2013: In Memoriam: Carousel & Amusement Park Operator Jimmy McCullough
November 23, 2012: Black Friday Shopping: Coney Island Kiddie Rides for Sale
June 14, 2011: Coney Island Kiddie Park Getting Squeezed by Thor Equities