As a child I had the privilege of living a few blocks from Coney Island. Okay about twenty blocks. But when I stepped outside I could see the Wonder Wheel and the landmark Parachute Jump and I knew that some of the tastiest treats I could ever have ’til this day, were right down the street, somewhat.
Coney Island located in Brooklyn, New York is more than an amusement park. It is a tribute to the fun loving culture of an enduring nation. The Dutch settled a colony named “New Amsterdam” on the site of today’s Coney Island in the 17th century. It was initially used for live stock and was completely separate from the mainland. As the years passed, shifting sands and land development gradually closed the divide from the mainland.
Tobogganing and a rudimentary roller coaster resembling a mini subway car rolling back and forth were the first rides built for the amusement of guests. Then came restaurants and specialty shacks.
Nathan’s is a famous hot dog joint established in 1916 by a Polish immigrant named Nathan Handwerker. He borrowed three hundred dollars from friends and sold hot dogs using his wife’s recipe for a nickel. I recall their fried shrimp served with tartar sauce. It tasted as if it had lemon added to it which made it refreshing and not heavy. *Al Capone was a Nathan’s junkie and ate it whenever he was in town.
After eating my chocolate covered banana I would beg my parents for cotton candy and was in the pink anytime they were willing to oblige. I’ve met many people that have never tried it, or do not know it exists. It seems strange to me, because I’ve probably consumed pounds of it over my lifetime. It was invented by a Dentist and a Confectioner at the end of the 18th century. It was sold as Fairy Floss at the World’s Fair in 1904. It is simply one of the most charming sweets there is. To witness spools of sugar spun right before your eyes is like a trip to wonderland and the sugary scent tops the experience off perfectly.
The Wonder Wheel was built in 1920. I must admit that I love watching the Wonder Wheel but never have, and never will go on it. As amazing looking as it is, I just can’t be up that high for that long without wings and an engine.
The Cyclone, a historic wooden rollercoaster was constructed in 1927 as part of Astroland, the original Coney Island amusement park that shut down in 2008. But thanks to the Coney Island Revitalization Plan the Cyclone is now in Luna Park and is listed in the National Registry’s Historic Places. On a dare I rode the Cyclone. It is still a blur to me as it went so fast, I didn’t have time to react. And I will never ride that one again either, but the food is another thing entirely. Many businesses are trying to recapture the old world tastes and doing a good job too. Thanks to healthy food alternatives and new flavoring methods that give these fashionable treats an old fashioned taste.