Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Life Lessons From Coney Island

My name is Mike Bruckner. Perhaps some of you reading this remember me or my brother Dave. Maybe you were one of the "kids" who beat me up. I was a skinny kid with glasses. Easy target. I lived in Coney Island from the year of my birth (1951) until 1964, when we moved to Bensonhurst. At the time that was the saddest day of my life. I went to PS 188, then in 5th grade they moved us to the brand new PS288. That seemed like we were in the lap of luxury compared to the old school. From there I went to Mark Twain for 7th grade and part of 8th. Then in November of 64, we moved. Although I never lived in the projects (as my dad referred to them), I (along with my brother) played in the Big Park from 1959 'til 1964. We got to know lots of kids there. Our best friend was Joey DePinto. Of course we have the same memories as the rest of you: punch ball, stick ball, Al the ice cream man, going under the boardwalk, etc. When I moved to Bensonhurst and enrolled in Bensonhurst JHS, the first thing I learned was everyone wanted a chance to beat up the new kid. Bensonhurst at the time seemed almost genteel compared to rough and tumble Coney. They looked down their noses at me like I was white trash from the wrong side of the tracks. Well if there was one thing I learned in the Big Park it was you gotta be tough. You've got to stand up like man and take your lumps and give some back. I was determined not to let these snobby kids get the better of me. Like life in general, I won some and I lost some. In the end though, after fighting my way through most of the class, I gained a certain amount of respect from them. Thanks Coney Island.

By the way, little did I know on that dismal day in November '64, I hadn't seen the last of the island. In the summers of '66 and '67, I worked at the "Corner Cigar Store". You may remember it. It was diagonally across from Nathan's on the corner of Surf and Stillwell. In '68 I worked briefly at Steve's clam bar which was on the boardwalk, then Eddie's Fascination.

My last visit to Coney was in March 2005, just before I moved to Texas. One last stop at Nathan's and the Aquarium. Ironically, here in Houston they refer to hot dogs as coneys.

Michael Bruckner

1 comment:

Steve Lattman said...

Mike, thanks for the terrific photographs of our youth. I was amazed to see again just how completely engrossed we were with our simple toys like the the tops, and seeing you and your brother trying to blow the top towards/away from the other one brought back memories.

Even seeing the cobblestones under the monkey bars brought a smile to my face, knowing how obsessed we are today with child safety laws.

It's a miracle any of us even survived.

Thanks for sharing your memories and photographs!