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Jimmy McCullough

Jimmy McCullough. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project flickr

Jimmy McCullough, whose family has operated amusements in Coney Island for four generations, passed away at his home on August 19.

Born in 1929, Jimmy McCullough grew up in Long Island and began working in Coney during World War II in one of the 22 shooting galleries then owned by his grandfather, he told historian Charles Denson in an interview for the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive. He recalled working long hours–until 3, 4, or 5 o’clock in the morning at the family’s amusement attractions.

“Coney Island was the center of our world,” said McCullough, whose great-grandfather was George C Tilyou of Steeplechase Park and whose mother was a Stubbman, a family who operated a beer garden, hotel and carousel where the Aquarium is now.

Jimmy McCullough was also a traveling showman. Along with his daughters Carol and Nancy, he 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.

Last September, ATZ wrote about the McCullough family’s history in Coney Island when their 50-year-old kiddie park at the Bowery and 12th Street closed after a lease renewal with Thor Equities fell through. The lot has stood vacant ever since Coney Island’s oldest ride operator tore down his Herschell carousel and kiddie rides and left.

Carousel

1912 Charles Carmel Carousel operated by the McCullough family in Coney Island until 1952, when it was moved to Prospect Park. Photo via Coney Island History Project flickr

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 owned and operated three historic carousels in Coney Island which are now in City parks and are their lasting legacy to the people of New York.

The 1912 carousel carved by Charles Carmel, which was at 8th Street, became the Prospect Park Carousel in 1952. 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 is the B&B, the last hand-carved 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 B&B Carousell opened with much fanfare in Coney Island’s new Steeplechase Plaza this year.

Services for Jimmy McCullough will be held at William E. Law Funeral Home, 1 Jerusalem Ave, Massapequa, NY on Thursday, August 22, 7-9PM and Friday, August 23, 2-4:30PM and 7-9PM. The funeral will be on Saturday, August 24, at 10AM at Maria Regina R.C. Church, 3945 Jerusalem Ave, Seaford, NY. Those wishing to make an expression of sympathy in his memory are asked to consider a donation to St. Jude’s Hospital or The Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Bumble Bee Ride

Bumble Bees and Herschell Carousel at McCullough’s Kiddie Park, Coney Island, September 3, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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January 7, 2013: Photo Album: Pieces of Coney Island Skyline in December

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

June 14, 2011: Coney Island Kiddie Park Getting Squeezed by Thor Equities

June 3, 2009: Coney Island Rides: Tug Boat and Carousel in McCullough’s Kiddie Park

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Bumble Bee Ride

Bumble Bees and Herschell Carousel at McCullough’s Kiddie Park, Coney Island, September 3, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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.

McCullough's

More Rides at McCullough's Kiddie Park, Coney Island. May 15, 2009. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

“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.”

B & B Carousell

B&B Carousell, Coney Island. August 2005. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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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

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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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?

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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

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Denos Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Deno's Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

photo via Barry Yanowitz, flickr

This post was written in 2009. Please see most recent ride census from April 2011: “Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!”

“Coney Island Rides” and “What rides are in Coney Island?” continue to be the #1 search term used to arrive at Amusing the Zillion. Two months ago, ATZ did “Coney Island Ride Count: Veteran Ride Ops 40, Joe Sitt 10!” We broke the news about California’s Butler Amusements sending rides to Coney, including one from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Jacko’s Dragon Wagon is still in Coney Island, but a few other rides have come or gone. It’s time for an update.

On August 5, 2009, with 33 days left in the season, Coney Island has a grand total of 56 rides, plus a variety of sideshows, games and food stands. If you thought all of Coney Island closed when Astroland closed last year, you’ve been misinformed and missing out. Hope to see you on the Cyclone line before the end of the summer!


“What rides are open at Coney Island?”

The iconic Cyclone Roller Coaster is a New York City landmark operated by the Albert family, the former owners of Astroland Park (Surf Avenue at 10th St). Opened in 1927, the Cyclone remains a favorite of roller coaster fans as well as photographers from all over the world. On flickr, ATZ found more than 3,000 photos of the Cyclone!

photo via Coney Island Cyclone, flickr

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park has 22 rides and is owned and operated by the Vourderis family. In addition to the Wonder Wheel, which is an official New York City landmark, and the legendary Spook-A-Rama dark ride, adult rides include the Thunderbolt, Bumper Cars and Tilt-A-Whirl. The Kiddie rides are the Carousel, Herschell Boats, Dizzy Dragons, Pony Carts, Jumping Motorcycles, Sea Serpent Roller Coaster, Mini Enterprise, Free Fall, Red Baron Airplanes, Willie the Whale, Fire Engines, Jets, Flying Elephants, Pirate’s Pond, Big Foot Trucks and Rio Grande Train.

Thunderbolt at Denos Wonder Wheel Park. Photo © Pablo57 via flickr

Thunderbolt at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Photo © Pablo57 via flickr

photo via pablo57, flickr

McCullough’s is a family owned park with 12 kiddie rides on the Bowery at 12th Street. The rides are the Bumblebeez, Ferris Wheel, Carousel, Swings, Motorcycles, Yellow Submarine, Dizzy Dragons, Himalaya, Ladybug, Frog Hopper, Circus Train and Tug Boat.

McCulloughs Kiddie Park in Coney Island has a dozen rides. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

McCulloughs Kiddie Park in Coney Island has a dozen rides. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island’s disco palace of bumper cars, the Eldorado Skooters, is a family owned business at Surf Ave between Stillwell and 12th St.

Coney Islands Eldorado Bumper Cars. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Coney Island's Eldorado Bumper Cars. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

photo via Barry Yanowitz, flickr

The Guerrero family’s 12th Street Amusements has 5 adult rides including the Polar Express, Bumper Cars, Saturn 6, Ghost Hole and Virtual Reality. There’s a second Virtual Reality simulator on Jones Walk.

Ghost Hole Dark Ride on 12th St in Coney Island. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Ghost Hole Dark Ride on 12th St in Coney Island. Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

photo via Barry Yanowitz, flickr

Thor Equities “Dreamland Park” (a temporary amusement area on the former Astroland property) currently has 13 rides brought in by Geren Rides and Butler Amusements. Adult rides are the Ring of Fire, Scrambler, Trabant and Star Dancer. Eight kiddie rides include a Carousel, Dragon Wagon from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, Kid Zone, Drive In, Kiddie Ferris Wheel and Banana Boats. There’s also a pony ride. Geren Rides’ Wisdom Himalaya and Spin Out recently left Coney Island for fairs in Tennessee and Georgia. Ride owner Glen Geren told ATZ he expects to have a Tilt-A-Whirl, Bumper Cars and a Reverchon Himalaya up and running within a couple of weeks. Ride #56 on our list is the Himalaya, which is on site in Dreamland, where it’s being sanded and painted in preparation for set up.

UPDATE 8/29 CONEY ISLAND IS OPEN, ONLY DREAMLAND HAS CLOSED Although Thor Equities closed “Dreamland Park,” Coney Island still has 43 rides including the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel open for business. There’s also the Ringling Bros. Boom A Ring Circus, Coney Island USA’s Circus Sideshow and Burlesque, Dreamland Roller Rink, the Coney Island History Project, games, arcades, and much more to enjoy.

Rabbit figure on Butler Amusements Carousel currently at Dreamland, Coney Island.  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Rabbit figure on Butler Amusements Carousel currently at Dreamland, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

April 14, 2010: Photo Album: Heroic 24/7 Race to Build Coney Island’s New Luna Park

April 6, 2010: Photo Album: Yes, We’re Open! Easter Sunday in Coney Island

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