Having been a fan of the author Joseph Heller since I read CATCH 22, I knew he grew up in Coney Island. However, I wasn’t aware until I began reading his autobiography, NOW & THEN – FROM CONEY ISLAND TO HERE, that he lived on W.31st St. between Surf & Mermaid. Just down the block from the Coney Island Projects.
Joseph Heller grew up there in the 30’s. I lived at 3030 Surf Ave., Bldg 2, during the 50’s & 60’s. But in spite of the time difference, I remember very clearly so much of what he writes about in the first 3 chapters of his book. He writes a lot about the amusement area and the beach of course but he also writes in detail about Seagate and PS 188 and about little known Railroad Ave. Railroad Ave. was a “non-street” by the time I moved to Coney Island in 1957. The railroad/trolley tracks were barely visible beneath the high weeds. I got a chill down my spine when on Page 40 he describes in detail, Mr. Moses Candy Store on the West Side of 31st St. Moses’ Candy Store was still there when I lived there. I remember it well, as I’m sure many of you from the Projects and the side streets do. I remember grumpy old Mr. Moses with his trousers hitched way up high, coming out to serve us from between the curtains that separated his home from the candy store. I also remember that as I got older, grumpy old Mr. Moses was really wasn’t so bad if he was shown a little kindness.
I highly recommend at least the first 3 chapters to anyone out there from “the old neighborhood.” Especially if you lived between Seagate and W. 29th Street when “The brass ring on the carousel seemed as good as gold.”