The Show Must Go On…

By Prof. Laszlo,

Amusement Archeologist Extraordinaire

 

It was snowing in New York in the darkness of the chilly April morning as I arrived in Brooklyn. The drive North from Florida had me pretty much beat…

 

Coney Island looked a lot like it had years before when I last paid a visit. The Wonder Wheel, the Cyclone Coaster, and the old World’s Fair Parachute Tower from the thirties stood as eternal landmarks along Surf Avenue…

 

My lovely daughter Katerina was already heeled in with the light plant running and her house set up. She helped me spot the snake wagon and run juice to the heating system.

 

The Worms were coiled tight hugging the hot rocks and heat mats on the floor of the cage, the profane furnace was radiating heat but it was so cold that the air temp in the cage was only a chilly seventy degrees. I was a little concerned, but fairly confident that they hadn’t suffered due to the fact that I had geared up with a giant AC inverter to power the heat mats and hot rocks in the cage while we were rolling up I-95…

 

The forced air electric heat system quickly brought the cage temp up to ninety-eight degrees, but I could hear the Onan plant struggling under the load. With all the systems cranking in my daughters house, my motor home, and the reptile den, the plant was turning diesel into greenhouse gasses at its maximum capacity…

 

 

We were parked in a vacant lot behind the jagger[1] shack across the street from the Grafter[2] School at Surf and twelfth. It was not possible to get in the park because the wrecking ball was still swinging. A century of history was leaving Coney and heading for the landfill. Astroland was no more…

 

When I first saw the site, it reminded me of another New York landmark…

 

Ground Zero…

 

            

 

Total devastation with the wreckage of a once proud and prosperous amusement enterprise scattered about in piles of debris waiting for the final ride to the scrap yard…

 

We were opening for Easter weekend with our shows and attractions and staying for the season…

 

The rides were coming in May. All modern thrill rides, all new, with computerized technology and safety features…

 

This meant that the old permanent park model rides and buildings had to go…

 

Out with the old and in with the new…

 

An old friend and professional colleague was in charge of removing the outdated attractions on concrete foundations. The Old Mill was a gigantic water flume ride that had been a part of Astroland for decades. It was now being sectioned out by giant cranes. As the last of the container loads were rolling out the gate, we made a surprising discovery. Under the foundations of the rides being removed, were ancient relics and components of previous attractions…

 

Much as modern cities are frequently built on top of older civilizations ancient ruins, Astroland was constructed on top of an older and previous amusement enterprise…

 

I was an amusement industry historian lucky enough to be first on the site of an important archeological dig…

 

 

I had only a few days to exhume priceless treasures from the Luna Park period before the bulldozers buried and paved over the excavation site forever…

 

I spent endless hours picking through the rubble, identifying artifacts from antiquity…

 

With every rescued treasure, I suffered mixed emotions, as I well knew that many others were being loaded for the bone-pile as I identified, catalogued, and dated each artifact I was able to salvage…

 

Part of me was indignant and outraged at the insult to history with the loss of these treasures. Yet another part of me realized that we were making room for the creation of an updated version of the very same thing that I was mourning the loss of…

 

 

Soon the Park would be alive with fun seekers and the happy sounds of children’s laughter as still another generation of youngsters enjoys a day of future memories at Coney Island…

 

 

The more things change, the more they remain the same…


[1] Jagger…  Sideshow Lingo for a tattoo artist…

[2] Grafter… Sideshow Performer…

 


 

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