Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Demon Cursing The Heavens

Originally uploaded by Pablo57

Here's another picture from the Kinetic Carnival Flickr Group showing the demon from Dante's Inferno in Astroland.  The ride is down and he's cursing the heavens.
Seems appropriate, doesn't it?

Coney Island Beach NY - Dec. 29, 2008

Coney Island Beach NY - Dec. 29, 2008
Originally uploaded by Rubys Host

Nice winter view from the pier courtesy of the Kinetic Carnival Flickr Group.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Coney Island Beach, NYsunset with snow 2008

Things have slowed down a bit and I'll be teaching a full load next semester so here is a little diversion from KINETIC CARNIVAL - The Coney Island Blog. They post pictures and stories about Coney Island. Remember walking on the beach in the dead of winter?  When you click on the picture, it takes you to a whole slide show in this series.  Enjoy.
Joey DePinto

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


As I'm certain is true for many of us, for most of my adult life I've painted a picture of having grown up in a tough low/middle income city housing project, as if I was once a character out of "Good Times," as if Jimmy "JJ" Walker had been playing shortstop next to me in game of punch ball in the Big Park. (Change that...Jimmy didn't look very athletic. We'd have probably put him in the sprinkler just to catch any rare balls that came off the park house roof...)

I always presented myself as someone that had succeeded despite having grown up on the wrong side of the track. I thought it made me seem more remarkable, giving people the image of someone that had scratched and clawed their way to adulthood, and who came out whole despite meager circumstances. It was a lie, and each of us lucky enough to have come through the projects in our era know it. Instead of knife fights growing up, our idea of dangerous was sneaking through "security" at Sea Gate to hang out at the "Riv." Instead of worrying about whether we'd have enough money to eat, our fear was falling off the wooden maze while playing blind man's bluff in the "little" park. Instead of drive-by shootings, we were worried about how to get our Spalding back from the two or three ladies that would incessantly sit on the benches on the cobblestones in the middle of the big park and would refuse to give our ball back if it accidentally rolled towards them, or what we'd do if the Pensy Pinkie would split in half while playing stick ball off the park house wall. What a wonderful, magical place we lived in then, when losing a game of basketball in the Cheesebox meant you were going to go for a quick swim in your cut-off shorts to cool off before you could get back on the court, where a half drawn shade in your apartment window meant that it was time to come up for dinner, and where instead of dead-beat dads, we had men like Leo Rich organizing stick ball games for us.

When my kids were growing up, I took them back to the projects to show them just how tough an upbringing their dad had gone through, when the truth was that I was brought up in the closest to paradise that I've ever known. I wanted them to appreciate all that we now have, when the truth is that my fervent hope for them is that they someday experience the true unbridled joy we shared growing up there, surrounded by hundreds of good kids, knowing even the name of the park man (Gene) who's job was to loan out checker boards to kids, where there were ALWAYS enough sparklers to go around to the kids that didn't have them on Tuesday night fireworks nights. No, none of us grew up on the "wrong side of the tracks" as I've so colorfully painted to business and social acquaintances through the years. I wouldn't trade those summer mornings on the beach, those happy nights at the "Y" playing ping pong, those days sneaking peeks at the latest "Archie" comic (before Coopey kicked us out), those road trips against the other "Y's," those times of knowing every mother playing Mah Jong, of knowing not a handful, but hundreds of other beautiful boys and girls in my age bracket, for all the summers kids now spend in Europe, for all their organized soccer leagues, their magnet schools, their Wii's, their double mocha latte's, their designer threads. Personally, I'll take a cheeseburger deluxe, a chocolate egg cream (with a side of water poured in a cone-shaped cup) at the Hubba Hubba any day of the week.

There must be a reason that so many of us are drawn back home, now so separated by miles and experiences and the passing of years. Perhaps it's that we were raised in Nirvana, but that we didn't even know it at the time.

Steve Lattman
Lattman's sister's brother

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Song About The Coney Island Houses

Here's a wonderful surprise for everyone. We all remember that Andy was a terrific drummer and we enjoyed seeing his band at the Y. He sent me a song that he wrote about the projects. Here is Andy in his own words:

I wrote the song in the late 1980's. After a night of recording new songs at the studio, I was driving home and I just started thinking of Coney Island and growing up in a special place. You came and you went, but you always came back. Safe and secure. You know? But when you left, other elements of life affected you. It was like stepping outside of Paradise. I think I wrote the song in about 20 minutes. Andy Adams

Here's a link for the song: Paradise. Click Here
Joey DePinto

The Poor Man's Paradise

The Coney Island Houses, for me anyway, was a magical place. My father called it the "poor man's paradise" and a paradise it was. It was a place where everyone had someone, a place where there were no strangers and a place that seemed to afford us all everything we ever needed. We were basically a self-contained unit. We had our own supermarket, pharmacy and four luncheonettes (remember Willie's, Jimmy's, Hy and Artie's and the HUBBA HUBBA!). Two Kosher deli's, Two excellent bakeries, Gittler's, Larry & Vinnie's and John's Pizza, Sam's Kinishes, a doughnut shop, a Chinese restaurant, Mary's Heros, a bowling alley, a poolroom, the 'Y', banks, schools, Stella's Italian Restaurant just to name a few. Remember Coopey's Corner?

But the most important factor of all of this is that we had each other. Mulitple age groups of children and adults melding together at times, unified in the feeling that we were all one family. We may not have realized it at the time but we were all part of a very special world that to this day and for lifetimes to come, no one will ever be able to experience. We are all very lucky to have lived it and very lucky to have each other to run through the memories with. We need to keep the flame burning.
Andy "Bat" Adams

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Night The Park House Blew Up

It was a warm summer night not unlike all the others before it. We all gathered in the big park ready to spend our time together laughing and sharing stories about the day that had just passed. Something was different that night, the guys were in a funny mood. All the girls sat on the benches wondering what was up. When it became pretty dark, one by one the guys drifted over to the park house. What were they going to do now? We wouldn't dare go over there so we just hung out and talked. All of a sudden we heard the biggest boom and over by the park house it was lit up like the fourth of July. Fire crackers, cherry bombs and maybe an M80 or two brought half the people to the windows of the buildings facing the park.

All our wonderful guys took off running in every direction and left us there saying, "OMG, we're in trouble now." Off in the distance we could hear the distinct screaming of the police sirens and before any of us could react, the police officers from the 60th Precinct were upon us. I remember looking around the park and realizing the girls were the only ones there. Yup, it was the girls who took the brunt of their questions. We would never give you guys up and we never did. Cindy was so nervous she couldn't stop laughing. The officer turned to her and said, "How would you like for me to take you up to your parents and let them know what kind of guys you're all hanging out with?" She just kept laughing. I was quite sure we were all going to jail that night. It really just became another one of the thousands of memories born in that park. The memories I never want to forget. The guys and girls I never want to forget. Thanks to all of you.
Carrie Garguilo Oliva

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Old Memories From The Coney Island Houses

A big thanks to Omar Robau who posted our site on his blog.  If you haven't been to KINETIC CARNIVAL - The Coney Island Blog, please check it out.  Past, present and future Coney Island stuff.  Here's what he wrote:

Here's a rather new website that focuses on the memories of Coney Island from a group of friends who lived at the Coney Island Houses in the 1960's. The Coney Island Houses holds wonderful stories with more to come on an era of Coney Island long gone.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Coney Island Memories

I have so many memories... where do I begin. How about all of us riding the Surf Ave bus to Nostrand Ave, headed to Jahn's for the kitchen sink? Playing Johnny on the Pony against the red brick house in the Big Park, or the make-out sessions in Jodie's house, with her parents sound asleep in the next room LOL. Joey, you having a crush on my mom and I remember that you used to blush so bad every time you saw her! Hanging out sometimes at the "Spot" in Sea Gate, Tuesday night fireworks, pizza at Larry and Vinny's, or the knish place. The back room at Nathan's. Oh my gosh, I could go on and on. If only we could go back to those days...Garguilo's. Do you all remember when we were cheerleaders at the "Y" for the basketball games, the outfits, learning the cheers? Oh my gosh...come on guys, let's hear some more memories.
Audrey Blackburn

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Steeplechase Memories

My grandfather Matteo Barbaro (top)

We were young when Steeplechase closed in 1964. Imagine the fun and memories if it had closed in 1969? My grandfather Matteo Barbaro worked on the Caterpillar ride. Remember when the cover closed and at the end of the ride it opened and people were making out? When my cousins would come and visit, they would want to go to Steeplechase. We would go by the old post office on Surf Ave and 17th St, which was the entrance to Steeplechase and we would try to get our grandfather's attention. He always ended up looking over and he would motion for us to wait until the ride stopped. He would come over and say something to the guy at the gate and they would let us in when no one was looking. He would then give us a handful of tickets with a few punches left on them. All the rides had a number of punches to get on and when he took tickets that had the correct number left, he would pocket them to give to us. Like this one:
In addition, he would tell us which rides were operated by his friends and we were instructed to say that we were Matty Barbaro's grandchildren. These were all elderly Italian men so they would make a fuss over us and let us on without a ticket. My grandfather told us to ask every ride operator if they knew him. If they didn't, we used a ticket. We usually had tickets left over but I never paid to get into Steeplechase or go on any rides. A while back, I got a tattoo as an homage to my grandfather and to Steeplechase. I used the ticket above as the stencil and I changed the ticket number to his birthday, March 29, 1894. Here it is:
I loved Steeplechase. I still remember the smell. Last thing....when you exited the Caterpillar, there was a sign asking if you dared see the rare red bat! You climbed the ladder to look in the cage and there it was....a painted red baseball bat!
Joey DePinto

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Music Of Our Memories

How much of what we remember about our neighborhood is influenced by the music we listened to everyday? There are so many songs but I thought it fitting that this be the first one. The opening words say it all. When you initially open the page it will play. Hit Reload or Refresh to start it again. Enjoy.
Joey DePinto

I've added more songs. Let me know what you would like in the playlist and if it's available, I'll add it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Coney Island And Those Endless Summer Nights

My memories of growing up in the Coney Island Projects sit so clearly in my mind. Warm Summer days at the beach with a bunch of great friends, horsing around, getting thrown in the ocean, sitting and sunning with those visors of course and the baby oil with iodine....watching 'the guys' playing slapball, or basketball in the cheese box...handball courts...hanging on the swings...the sprinklers .....then at night we would all come down to the "big" park all showered nice and fresh ready for the night of hanging out sitting on our benches...or by the flagpole, everyone was there and everyone talked to everybody...among other things that I won't mention....Tuesday nights up on the boardwalk, go to Larry and Vinny's for a slice and a Mountain Dew...put a quarter (?) in the jukebox and sing along with the music....go out watch the best fireworks, more horsing around...hanging out...some serious talks too between friends...Lets not forget the 'Y'...Friday Night "lounge" listening to music, playing bumper pool, dancing, talking, live bands (if you want to call them that). The basketball games we went to, the bus rides to those basketball games.....great memories....Surprise Lake, Brickman Hotel....just to name a few. I have such great memories, didn't need to go far, we just had to walk down stairs, be a few feet away from the beach and the park where we all just hung out and needed nothing but our friends to have a good time. As the song goes...those were the best days of my life...back in the summer of "69....but before that as well...great, great unforgettable memories. You had to be there!!!!
Jodie Degen Capezza

Saturday, August 16, 2008

You Had To Be There

I had a discussion today with Eddie about growing up in the Coney Island Houses. We were talking about the pictures that Merrill sent me (they're posted to the right) and how young we looked. Eddie's daughters were amazed at his lack of chest hair! We spoke of how lucky we felt to grow up there and how wonderful it was to live in Coney Island during that time. We had so many friends and never a lack of things to do or places to explore. The funny thing is that no matter who I've talked to from the old neighborhood, we all have the same feelings and recollections of our childhood. I've been a social worker for over 30 years and I know that no childhood is without pain and frustration. My conclusion is that we aren't all suffering from group amnesia. It was a wonderful place to grow up and I hope that all who did will contribute to this blog. You know those days are long gone if you've been there recently and see what things are like now. However, in my mind's eye nothing has changed and I still feel the breeze and hear all the sounds coming from the Big Park. Oh, and most of us didn't have any chest hair either.

Here’s a video I shot of the old neighborhood in June 2000…. before everything changed forever.
Joey DePinto

Coney Island 2000 from Joseph A DePinto on Vimeo.