My family never had the kind of money for splurges like annual summer vacations, weekly family staycations, or money fueled kid-friendly activities on the daily; so whenever my and my sister’s birthday came around, we knew it was our chance to go to Coney Island. I grew up with good ol’ fashioned Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Astroland that had awesome kiddie rides which look laughable now but held my interest in my younger years. We would spend the entire day there regardless of the weather. It was a real amusement park sandwich, rides in the morning, lunch break, more rides, sunset on the beach, and more rides before going home, well into dusk. Once it was later in the night and my sister and I began to get tired, my mother and grandmother would take the chance to have some quality time with my older sister, who had to be subjected to our child-friendly amusement for the whole day. I remember it so vividly, the way my older sister and whomever rode with her, would walk valiantly towards a monster of ride that I was way too small to handle. The bravery exuded from their demeanor and I always admired it. Me and my other sister would wait on the street adjacent to the buzzy lights that illuminated The Cyclone sign; we’d listen carefully, sifting through the screams of terror and pleasure, in the hopes of hearing those of our sister. To my young mind riding The Cyclone was a rite of passage; You knew how mature, courageous, and utterly awesome you were if you were able to be graced with a turn on this rickety wooden roller coaster.
The Cyclone opened to the public on a bright summer day of June 26, 1927. Its precedent, The Giant Racer, was torn down in 1926 in order to make way for the production of the new Cyclone designed by Vernon Keenan and constructed with the help of the Harry C. Baker Company which supplied all the iron, steel, and lumber needed to develop this beautiful creature. Production cost was around one hundred thousand dollars and only cost twenty-five cents to ride, once it was completed. It was unheard of for the time, a coaster that had fifty-eight point one degree drops, according to nyc.gov, and zipped through the air at sixty miles per hour speed from eighty-five foot elevations. It holds up to twenty-four passengers and the duration of the entire ride is about two minutes. For the time, it was the second-steepest roller coaster in the world.
As of 2005 four reproductions were made in the Cyclones’ honor around the world.
Something so technologically pure being made over ninety years ago seems as astounding and mind-boggling as the Egyptians stacking billions of mud bricks and heavy stones in order to make the Pyramids of Giza. I consciously make that magnified comparison since The Cyclone is one of Brooklyn’s most treasured gems.
Taking these photos made me reminiscent of my childhood and how much the island changed over the years. I remember Coney Island before all this “remastered Luna Park business” came onto the shore; although the new Luna Park is a very nice amusement park, I want to give a recognition to the kids who rode the Tilt-A-whirl before you had to walk through some man’s exaggerated maniacal open mouth in order to get there.
To all my Astroland veterans, y’all remember those days?