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Space Shuttle over Coney Island

Space Shuttle Enterprise Flies Over Coney Island's Parachute Jump. April 27, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Two icons of American air and space history meet in Eric Kowalsky’s awesome photo of the Space Shuttle Enterprise flying over the Parachute Jump. On Friday, the Coney Island photographer captured the moment when the Space Shuttle flew over Brooklyn’s landmark tower.

Originally designed by retired Naval commander James Hale Strong to train military paratroopers in the 1930s, parachute towers were modified into amusement attractions when civilians clamored to ride. Strong’s Parachute Jump became a popular attraction at Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park after moving here from the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. Though the ride hasn’t been in operation since the park closed in 1964, “Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower” is an official New York City landmark.

The Space Shuttle Enterprise was the first Space Shuttle Orbiter. Named after the fictional Enterprise in “Star Trek,” it was designed to take off like a rocket and land like a plane. The Space Shuttle flew on its own for the first time in 1977 and was retired to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in 1985. Ferried by a jet, the Space Shuttle made a final, 45-minute flight over the Hudson and several New York City landmarks before landing at JFK. Its new home will be the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on Manhattan’s West side.

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January 18, 2012: Video of the Day: Climbing Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

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Thunderbolt Roller Coaster from Photographs of New York by Reginald Marsh. ca. 1938-1945, printed 1976. Reginald Marsh. Courtesy AntiquePhotographics.com

Best known for his drawings and paintings of crowds at Coney Island’s beach, artist Reginald Marsh also took photos with a 35mm Leica beginning in 1938. These images from the 1930’s and ’40s by Marsh are from a portfolio of 50 photographs of New York City published in 1977, which is currently offered for sale. The limited edition of 25, plus four artist proof sets, were printed from the original negatives with the provision that the negatives could not be used for any further publication. “The sets are very rare,” photography dealer Jeffrey Kraus of Antique Photographics, told ATZ. “I sold one a number of years ago and this is the second set I am offering.” The portfolio is available for $6500.

Reginald Marsh

Beach Gymnasts from Photographs of New York by Reginald Marsh. ca. 1938-1945, printed 1976. Reginald Marsh. Courtesy AntiquePhotographics.com

Coney Island was one of Reginald Marsh’s favorite places to sketch and photograph. On a hot summer’s day he’d take the subway from his studio high above Manhattan’s Union Square. “I like to go to Coney Island,” said Marsh, “because of the sea, the open air, and the crowds—crowds of people in all directions, in all positions, without clothing, moving—like the great compositions of Michelangelo and Rubens.”

Beauty Contest from Photographs of New York by Reginald Marsh. ca. 1938-1945, printed 1976. Reginald Marsh. Courtesy AntiquePhotographics.com

Marsh was also drawn to the front of the shows, where people stood entranced by the talkers, and the whirl of rides like the carousel and the Virginia Reel, which also attracted onlookers. The Virginia Reel was invented by Henry Elmer Riehl, who named the ride after his daughter, Luna Virginia Riehl. Originally in Luna Park, it later operated at Bowery and West 12th Street as part of Kyrimes Park, where it shared a lot with such now vanished rides as the Gyro Globe, the Looper and the Whip.

Back in the day, there were more independently owned rides and attractions and all had their own distinctively-lettered, open-air ticket booths. The only ride in Coney Island that exists today with its original ticket booth is the Wonder Wheel. Like the Wheel, the ticket booth was built in 1920.

Virginia Reel from Photographs of New York by Reginald Marsh. ca. 1938-1945, printed 1976. Reginald Marsh. Courtesy AntiquePhotographics.com

In an essay published with the portfolio, Norman Sasowsky, who worked as a curator/cataloguer for the Marsh estate, notes that the artist had a pass to Steeplechase Park given to him by park founder and operator George C Tilyou. Steeplechase’s carousel was a favorite subject. “Even though Marsh did not think of himself as a photographer–trying to make a photograph as an end in itself–he produced an exceptional array of photographic images. He selected unerringly the frame for the bit of reality he was about to record,” writes Sasowsky. “Marsh used his camera to photograph other events, such as family gatherings or friends, but his photographs of the places and people he used as themes for his paintings and prints are of special interest because of their intrinsic value and their relationship to his work.”

Carousel

Carousel with Attendant from Photographs of New York by Reginald Marsh. ca. 1938-1945, printed 1976. Reginald Marsh. Courtesy AntiquePhotographics.com

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October 2, 2011: Lucille Fornasieri Gold’s Coney Island Photos from the 1970s

July 13, 2011: Circus Portraits: Photography by Kevin C Downs

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

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

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Coney Island Lifeguard

Coney Island Lifeguard. Photo © Joe Fishman. All Rights Reserved

Wanna spend your summer getting paid to get a great tan and sand between your toes on Coney Island’s Beach? If you’re a strong swimmer, the time to apply to be a New York City Parks lifeguard is now. The qualifying test for the 2012 summer season is being held through January 13 at Chelsea Recreation Center in Manhattan on weekdays at 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm. Additional sites and dates are listed on the “Become a Lifeguard” page of the New York City Parks Department’s website.

Swimmers who pass the test will be enrolled in the 40-hour Municipal Lifeguard Training Program and upon completion may be offered one of 1,200 jobs watching over New York City’s 20 million swimmers. First-year lifeguards earn a minimum of $13.57 per hour for a weekly salary of over $650.

Can you request Coney Island duty? A Parks spokesman tells ATZ that assignments are by seniority, but lifeguards may request a preferred or convenient location. Beach lifeguards must be able to swim 440 yards in 6 minutes and 40 seconds and must also complete a 300-yard ocean swim prior to receiving their assignment.

To qualify, you must:

— Be able to swim 50 yards in 35 seconds with proper form.
— Have a minimum of 20/30 vision in one eye and 20/40 in the other, without corrective lenses. Glasses and contact lenses
may not be worn during the eye exam.
— Be at least 16 years old when the position begins.

Oh, and it can’t hurt to memorize the lyrics to Blotto’s ’80s hit “I, I, I Wanna Be a Lifeguard…” According to the band’s official history, in 1980, “Blotto even had something most other bands didn’t at the time – a music video, thanks to the efforts of two SUNY students who filmed the band for a senior project. ‘I Wanna Be A Lifeguard’ was among the videos aired on MTV’s first broadcast day, and remained in heavy rotation for months.”

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