Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rest in peace old friend... Randy Sobelman 1952-2014

In case anyone has not heard the news on Facebook, Randy passed away in Florida. A personal friend, he is the first from our group to leave us. Always a smile and a laugh, he will be missed. So long old friend. This picture is how I want to remember him. The first picture posted to this blog. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stunning black and white photos show the changing landscape of Coney Island's many theme parks

Cheryl Nessel passed along this article. Check it out. Thanks Cheryl.

From bathing beauties to pig-riding grandmothers: Stunning black and white photos show the changing landscape of Coney Island's many theme parks (but at least the food still tastes the same)

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Things I Have Learned

Years ago, fresh out of college, I scoured through the Sunday New York Times seeking my first full-time job. Unlike others who had trust funds or parents that had connections to get a high paying first job, the great majority of we Coney Island Houses kids had to find our own way in the world.

I circled a posting for a Brooklyn-based job, called, and scheduled an appointment. I honestly cannot remember what the job was, and in truth it doesn't matter.

I arrived at some dingy storefront. The windows were filthy, and I remember struggling to see through the grime to see what kind of business this was. I opened the glass door and entered, only to find a small, dark, depressing vestibule inside.

There was an old metal desk facing the door, and behind it sat what appeared to me to be an "old", angry woman (in hindsight, I now imagine that she was likely in her late forties, but at that point in my life, she was OLD). I identified myself, and she handed me a clipboard. The board contained a form for personal information, and a one hundred fifty question test. Fifty questions were math, fifty were reading comprehension, and fifty questions were for a personality profile.

I had been a good student, so the prospect of such a test didn't frighten me in the least. I completed the task, and returned the form and test to the woman. She nodded, and she carried the clipboard into an inner office.

Sometime later she returned, and summoned me through the door for my interview.

The inner office was another darkened space, and once again there was a worn metal desk inside. Behind this sat a middle aged man, who motioned me to sit at one of two metal office chairs (the old style, with green vinyl seat and back).

"Steve", he said, "you scored extremely well on the math and english parts".
"Thank you", I replied.
"However, you scored in the middle of the pack on the personality profile."
"May I ask, what does that mean?"
"Well, Steve, that means that the people that design this test don't feel you're particularly suited for this career."

This puzzled me, so I asked to see how the test had been graded. He slid the completed test across the desk to me. My eyes scanned down, until I found a question and answer with a large red "X" on it.

Question: Do you like to work around your house?
My answer: Yes

"Sir, does this mean that I don't like to work about my house?"
"No, but what it means is that the people who created this test feel that people that like to work around their houses don't do particularly well in this particular career."
"Sir, perhaps there is another explanation that they might not have considered when they made this test. In my case, I live with my mother and father in a city housing apartment. If you ask me if I like to work around my house, I'd answer yes, because this would mean that I actually LIVE in a house, which, compared to where I live, sounds pretty good."

Clearly, this confused the s**t out of him.

"Steve, let's move on. What are your goals?"

I was twenty years old, a pimple faced punk, and at that point in my life you could fit the sum of my knowledge in a thimble. I thought for a moment, and then replied:

"I would like three hundred people to come to my retirement party!"
"WHAT? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! What does that mean?"
"Well, if three hundred people come to my retirement party, it will mean that I was somewhat successful, had a large number of friends, and that I had affected a great number of people who wanted to help me celebrate an important moment in my life."
"That is RIDICULOUS", he said.

I stood, smiled, and shook the man's hand. "Thank you for your time. It's clear that this isn't the right place for me. Good luck finding an appopriate candidate." I left, walked through the vestibule, and out into the Brooklyn summer sun.

It is now many years later, and I honestly have the same exact goal. I am extremely proud of this, and proud that at twenty years of age I was astute enough to realize what is important in life. You know what? SCREW that guy.

As with many of us, I seem to spend more time and energy reminiscing about the past, and carefully itemizing all I've done, and listing all the things I still want to accomplish. Lately, I started compiling mental lists of things I know to be true, and please allow me to share these with you:

1) Embrace the handful of people that are close to you, appreciate them for the gifts they give, and let them know on a regular basis that you love them. Let your partner and children and special people know you love them, even if you don't particularly like them all the time. It's important to let them know.

2) LOVE what you do, whether this is about a hobby or your chosen career. If you don't love what you do, you'll never be happy, no matter what anyone tries to make you believe.

3) Be the best you can be at all you care about. Awaken every morning and strive to be better.

4) Life is but a series of moments. Remember the special ones, whether they be positive or negative moments. Each one is part of the journey, and each moment teaches us much about the world and our place in it. Dwell on the positive ones, but don't forget the negative ones, or you will be destined to make the same mistakes again.

5) Remember who you are, and be comfortable in your own skin. Don't waste time and energy trying to be someone and something you aren't.

6) Let go of anger. It will ruin you.

7) Be grateful of all the people that helped mould you. In your case, my dear friends from Coney Island Houses, I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for each and every one of you. For this, please accept my heart-felt thanks, because I love each and every one of you for this. The truth is that we didn't always love one another, but now, through my middle aged eyes, I know that you are part of the fabric of who I am, and my life woulnd't have been nearly as full if not for you. THANK YOU ALL!

8) Be cognizant of the fact that we are well down the path of our lives. Do whatever is possible to do everything you want to do. Don't be that person that departs this place regretting things you didn't get to do. No one can do everything, but do as much as you can.

9) Always evaluate that list of things you want to do and alter it, as this list will always change as we grow and evolve.

10) Never lose the youthful enthusiasm we had a teenagers. Always be that sixteen year old kid in the big park.

I don't know about you, but I intend to live forever, and I will always strive to collect more special moments, hopefully overwhelmingly positive ones.

Thanks to Joey, who created this blog and who lead many of us to Facebook (where many of us rekindled additional cherished memories), I have come to see you all as part of my extended family. I love you all, though not nearly as much as I love my wife and kids. :)

Steve Lattman
Coney Island Houses Alumni

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

For Our Friends

I took the liberty of giving this post a title since Steve didn't give me one. This post couldn't have come at a better time in my life and I hope that you feel the same. Thanks Steve. You're a real mensch... Joey DePinto

My father will turn ninety-three this coming December, and he remains the greatest person I’ve ever known. He is patient, sage, caring, intuitive, and he has the unique ability to say “you are wrong” gently, in a way that is soft and not penetrating. He remains the one person in my life that can make me examine decisions and allow me to correct wrongs.

I consider myself a very lucky man to have had this father. I have spent most of my life striving to become half the man he is, and I awaken every single day trying to make him proud of me, as the only true mirror I own is when I see myself through his eyes.

I have noticed sadly that his world has gotten so much smaller through the past decades, as his health has declined, and his fear of the unknown has accelerated. It’s almost like the line in “The World According to Garp”, where Garp is advised to “beware the undertow”, as if something unseen is about to sweep him out to sea and into impending danger.

These days, his world consists of four walls, a TV, and the knock on the door when the gentleman arrives delivering his “meals on wheels” lunch, the only sustenance he requires lately. As many of us, he fills his lonely hours reminiscing about his past, his years in the service, my deceased mother, those funny, charmingly memorable moments that we all remember, and perhaps those people that were important in his life that have now departed.

As his world shrank, the only things he has left are those memories.

Earlier today I was stumbling through Facebook, and happened to return to a page devoted to Phillips Candy, that store that once occupied the Surf Avenue entrance to the Stillwell train station. I don’t even recall why I am a “friend” of that particular page, as it’s been many months since I happened to go there to read the postings.

I was smiling at the memory of their dark chocolate marshmallow clusters, and the chocolate covered raspberry bars that I would occasionally purchase either on my way into the station or departing at the end of my day. There were postings about their chocolate chip cookies and the egg creams that they once served, though I have no personal memory of either.

Evidently, Phillips Candy is an ongoing concern, now conducting business in Staten Island.

We are an unusual group, I suppose, as so many of us have shared memories of those childhood days in Coney Island. Today, as we straddle sixty years of age, I guess it’s comforting to note that somewhere they are still selling those cookies and marshmallow clusters, people are sipping those familiar egg creams, and all is pretty close to the way it was when we were youngsters. Somewhere, there are people walking our beloved boardwalk on a hot summer day, occasionally coughing out that heavy afternoon salt air that filled our lungs when we were kids.

Some kids are sitting in the first or last car on the Cyclone, still ignoring the warning signs and raising their hands during the sharp descent, just as we did those many years ago. Some tiny tot is holding her mother’s hand and is walking into the swirling surf on the our still beautiful beach, still screaming at the shock of the first cold water against her tiny feet.

Someday, for many of us, all we will have are those four walls, that TV, and those distant memories. We’ll sit alone and feel the foam of that egg cream against our cheeks, remember those green benches in the “Big Park”, recall the debate over whether Leslie or Junior was the best athlete in the projects, wonder why on earth the city felt the need to assign “Nat the housing cop” to our tiny three-block property, recall the giant snow mounds that the plows would leave at the intersection of 29th and Surf Avenue, and we’ll pass our remaining time, likely in solitude.

We’re not there yet, my friends.

Until then, let’s know that those warm memories we have, some rekindled by this blog and Facebook and other social media, are real, and rich.

Until then, let’s live large. Let’s laugh until our sides ache, love until it hurts, and cry deeply. Let’s eat and drink merry. Awaken in places you only dreamed of as that kid in the projects decades ago. Hug your loved ones and remind them how important they are to you. Be that person that fills a room when you enter.

Some of us are fortunate enough to still have our parents, and we know through them that as the years pass, our world will shrink in size.

Unless we are stricken with dementia or Alzheimer’s, we’ll have more than enough time to remember that sick feeling we had when we were polishing off the last of that “Kitchen Sink” at Jahns, or when we’re picturing the painted cinder block walls of the “Y”, or when we were enjoying the double feature at the Mermaid Theater.

Live grand. Be great. Look forward, with occasional peeks at what you left behind.

And, more than anything, don’t fear the undertow!

For my old, dear friends,
Steve Lattman

Friday, February 24, 2012

Coney Island 2000 The Director's Cut (Coming Soon)

The director's cut of the original film with added footage and the original narration.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Our very own Andy "Bat" Adams belting out the tunes. Love it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Charlie Denson Climbs The Parachute Jump

Charlie posted a video of his climb to the top. Check it out: