CONEY ISLAND - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
Summer crowds are the essence of Coney Island. From early monrning, when the first throngs pour from the Stillwell Avenue subway terminal, humanity flows over Coney seeking relief from the heat of the city. Italians, Jews, Greeks, Poles, Germans, Negroes, Irish, people of every nationality; boys and girls, feeble ancients, mothers with squirming children, fathers with bundles, push and collide as they rush, laughing, scolding, sweating, for a spot on the sand. … From the boardwalk the whole beach may be viewed: bathers splash and shout in the turgid waters close to the shore; on the sand, children dig, young men engage in gymnastics and roughhouse each other, or toss balls over the backs of couples lying amorously intertwined. Luncheon combines the difficulties of a picnic with those of a subway rush hour; families sit in wriggling circles consuming food and drinking from thermos bottles brought in suitcases together with bathing suits, spare clothing, and water wings. …
After sunset the Island becomes the playground of a mixed crowd of sightseers and strollers. … [The] shouts of competing barkers become more strident, the crowds more compact. Enormous paintings in primitive colors advertise the freak shows, shooting galleries, and waxworks “Chamber of Horrors.” Riders are whirled, jolted, battered, tossed upside down by the Cyclone, the Thunderbolt, the Mile Sky Chaser, the Loop-o-Plane, the Whip, the Flying Turns, the Dodgem Speedway, the Chute-the-Chutes, and the Comet. Above the cacophony of spielers, cries, and the shrieks and laughter, carrousel organs pound out last year’s tunes, and roller coasters slam down their terrific inclines. …
About midnight, the weary crowds begin to depart, leaving a litter of cigarette butts, torn newspapers, orange and banana peel, old shoes and hats, pop bottles and soiled cardboard boxes, and an occasional corset. A few couples remain behind, with here and there a solitary drunk, or a sleepless old man pacing the boardwalk. The last concessionaire counts his receipts and puts up his shutters, and only the amiable roar of the forgotten sea is heard.
—New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)
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Martina Albertazzi is a Guide to New York and New Jersey. She’s a freelance photographer who was born in Rome, but has now settled in New York City. Other than photography, her biggest interests are: her dog Ugo, people, good food, good wine, and books. Follow her on Tumblr at martina-albertazzi.tumblr.com.