Join 3,382 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Empire of the Nickel
May 30, 2011 8:13 AM   Subscribe

"For five cents Coney Island will feed you, frighten you, cool you, toast you, flatter you, or destroy your inhibitions. And in this nickel empire boy meets girl."

Every Sunday, Fortune re-publishes one of their favorite stories online from the "Fortune Classic" archive
posted by zarq (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome! I just visited Coney Island for the first time last night, and was totally fascinated by it. Thanks for the great read!
posted by nosila at 8:52 AM on May 30, 2011


When I was young, they called Coney Island the "Playground of the World"
posted by namewithoutwords at 9:02 AM on May 30, 2011


I never really "got" the appeal of Coney Island's fair until I saw Harold Lloyd's Speedy from 1928, which is a truly fantastic time travelling jaunt into the streets of NYC of the 20s. The section where he takes his girl to Coney Island is mostly here, though I'm not sure I can recommend that soundtrack. Until I saw that, I assumed it was a big draw because there was a ferris wheel and some hot dogs and a freak show maybe, and no one had TV. But that film shows what a completely amazing experience it must have been, and made me dearly wish I could have seen it in its glory.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:05 AM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


If anyone is passing by there, could you grab by prescription sunglasses? They're at the base of the big dip of the Cyclone roller coaster.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:41 AM on May 30, 2011


If anyone is passing by there, could you grab by prescription sunglasses? They're at the base of the big dip of the Cyclone roller coaster.

Bummer! Did you tell them? They are usually cool about that sort of thing. My friend lost his wallet and they grabbed it for him. Oh and make sure you ride the Cyclone multiple times in a row; it's cheaper for subsequent rides ;)
posted by ReeMonster at 9:54 AM on May 30, 2011


They don't sleep anymore on the...

Really. Only five comments and I'm already beaten to it?
posted by atrazine at 11:50 AM on May 30, 2011


My Coney Island roller coaster story:
1952 or so, Brooklyn--My best friend's parents take me & best friend to Coney Island.

The 'ride' is entered on the street. All you can see in a short rail track, with a little train of coaster cars on it. The back of this area is a dark red wooden wall, with arched doorways for the little train to enter and to leave. Swinging doors prevent one from seeing through the arches.

Friend's mom hates roller coasters, but dad convinces her it is like a train ride (which is certainly what the street view looks like). We all go.

The little train goes through the arch, and is immediately dragged uphill. Nothing is really visible yet.

We reach the top. We see extent of this monster. It is laid out in a straight line, with four hills-and-drops, ending in a turnaround, and then four more hills-and-drops straight back.
It runs alongside the (elevated) Brighton Beach subway line.

Big curses from mom. For the whole trip.

Then it's back through the arch to the street entrance. But we are now on a parallel set of tracks through the entrance, and we don't stop. We go out through the exit arch to a parallel drag-up-the-hill, and then do the eight hills again.

The coaster, probably over 1000 feet long, had four parallel tracks (2 outbound, 2 inbound).

I was told the coaster was originally part of Luna Park, spared from the fire that consumed the park in 1942.
posted by hexatron at 2:14 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Identifying hexatron's coaster. I found this one in a long list of coasters. It's the right size and shape, and in the right place:

http://www.westland.net/coneyisland/articles/coasterlist.htm
8.) Mile Sky Chaser (1923 - 1944)
* Type - Wooden - Out & Back
* Location - Luna Park
* Builder & Designer - Jarvis
* Height - 80 ft??
* Length - 3850 (estimate from map)

This enormous coaster ran along Luna Park's perimeter, mainly on the west and back sides. The loading station was near Surf Avenue at its entrance. It was originally built by Jarvis at Brighton Beach in 1910 and known as the Chase Thru the Clouds. When the park burned in 1919, the coaster was abandoned until Jarvis, as Luna's new manager, needed a more thrilling coaster and decided to move it. Newspapers reported that it cost $140,000 to build, but that might have been the original cost added to the rebuilding cost; but it does seem excessive. They also claimed that it had drops pf 95 feet, 75 feet and 65 feet; somewhat of an exaggeration. It burned in the final Luna Park fire.
However, it seems that it may have returned (or I am severely deluded):

http://www.bklyn-genealogy-info.com/Newspaper/Disasters/1944.LunaPk.html
The Mile Sky Chaser (coaster) and Shoot the
Chutes rides were damaged but repairable. Unfortunately it was during World War II when building material was strickly rationed. However, the park did reopen and charged ten cents to see the ruins.
And googly no pictures! Not one!
posted by hexatron at 3:08 PM on May 30, 2011


Great article. [Last time I was on the Cyclone I lost my voice and, I think, my wallet (didn't notice for quite a long time).]

Coney Island, sigh, another of America's great assets being rapidly being destroyed by the vultures ripping at the country's body.

I was there a couple of years ago on Astroland's last day (it's becoming condominiums). My assumption is that in twenty years from now there will be a plaque where the Cyclone was and not much else.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:30 PM on May 30, 2011


My assumption is that in twenty years from now there will be a plaque where the Cyclone was and not much else.

Long Beach has a plaque where the Cyclone Racer used to be.

Thought the "new" Luna Park opened on the site of the old Astroland, though?

I mean, the new Luna Park appears to just be an ugly, unthemed asphalt field with a bunch of off-the-shelf carnival rides but it's a step, at least.
posted by anazgnos at 5:22 PM on May 30, 2011


Thanks so much, zarq, I really look forward to reading this, as I have long been a MASSIVE Coney Island fan. used to love to go down there every now and then during the years I lived in Brooklyn, (84 to 95), especially at off-season, when an aura of bleak poetry pervaded the area.

I'm reminded of a song wrote quite some time ago. I've yet to record it, but I think I'll post the lyrics here...

CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND

every other car of the F train is engulfed in flame
but it's pulling on outta west 4th street station, honey, just the same
step on in, step lively, and watch the closing doors
we're gonna ride this burner all the way down
to coney island's golden shores
we'll ride on the roller coaster
it's made outta bones and mud
we'll play the little game where you shoot the ducks
tonight we're out for blood
we'll go down under the boardwalk, no telling what we'll find
down in coney island babe, a coney island of the mind

we'll head on over to the side show
and see the woman with a hundred toes
the two headed fish and the elastic man
who hamers nails into his nose
exotic dancers from cleveland
and curiosities of every kind
down in coney island babe, a coney island of the mind

with ferris wheels spinning in all their eyes
a million souls with a nickel to spend
wander through this half-dreamt place
from the past to the present and back again
we're just two more fools who never wanna go back home
and have to face what we left behind
down in coney island babe, a coney island of the mind

then in the midst of the sickening swirl
at the height of the cheapest thrill
there's a blink, just a second of silence
when everything goes dark and still
then a million colored flashing lights
bright enough to strike you blind
illuminates the desperation at the heart
of this coney island of the mind

and now the dead cold winter surrounds this place
the roller coaster's covered with snow
the midgets and dancers have all gone home
we're the only ones left at the freak show
the ferris wheel, it's rolled away
it's pitch black where the lights once shined
all we got is each other babe
and a coney island of the mind
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:17 PM on May 30, 2011


I grew up under the roller coaster on Coney Island, which accounts for my temperament, which is a little nervous I think.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:13 PM on May 30, 2011


I grew up under the roller coaster on Coney Island, which accounts for my temperament, which is a little nervous I think.

Well, hello there, Mr. Allen! Hey, can i ask you something? How come your movies aren't funny anymore?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:26 PM on May 30, 2011


Let me commend to you Kevin Baker's book, Dreamland.

That is all.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:16 AM on May 31, 2011


Oh my goodness. Look at this, and this and this, which I just happened upon randomly looking for something unrelated.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:00 PM on June 2, 2011


« Older "If a hen that appreciates Wagner and Rachmaninov ...  |   A boy playing with an otter. ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments