My romance with Coney Island, when I was about five years-old or so, began at grandma’s house when the iceman delivered ice on his cart, pulled by a horse. He drove down the street hollering, “Ice for sale, ice for sale.” Looked like to me, those huge tongs could almost pick up a dog. He used them to bring the block of ice into the house, and put it in grandma’s icebox. Some of us had refrigerators, but grandma only had an icebox. The iceman always showed up before the ice was all gone. That’s all I remember about that piece of history. Finally, we moved grandma to a place that had a refrigerator. No one had a TV, people played card games, and listened to the radio. Grandma’s radio was a floor model that would constantly lose reception. When I visited her, and it lost reception, she said, “Bang it hard here, on the side.” That always fixed it.
My romance grew. Ever have a Chow Mein sandwich? I thought it was a Nathan’s of Coney Island specialty, but I found this in Google: Originating in Fall River, Massachusetts, in the 1930s or 1940s, the chow mein sandwich is a hot sandwich, which typically consists of a brown gravy-based chow mein mixture placed between halves of a hamburger-style bun, popular on Chinese-American restaurant menus throughout southeastern Massachusetts and parts of neighboring Rhode Island. This sandwich is not well known outside of this relatively small area of New England. Really? What are they talking about? The chow mein sandwich was mega popular in Coney Island at Nathan’s, and a favorite of mine. So . . . did Nathan’s steal the idea, or were they the originator?
The teen years are fun to save for another blog, but a foodery I loved, was Childs Restaurant.
Coney Island institutions have a way of disappearing without leaving anything on the boardwalk to remember them by. That’s so with Childs Restaurant, the seaside outpost of a popular early 20th Century lunchroom chain, that was built in 1923 and whose frame still stands today. If you’ve ever taken a stroll on the boardwalk, west of the parachute jump and Keyspan Park, you’ve probably noticed its massive facade, leftovers once adorned with flamboyant nautical details.
The building is now vacant and boarded up. Story of this great restaurant is that it has stuck around for so long because it’s kept a steady number of tenants over the years, including a chocolate factory and then a glitzy roller rink.
On a visit to Coney in 2010 I found the building derelict. So sad. I took lots of photos and have been painting from my camera shots.
After the destruction from hurricane Sandy in 2012, Coney Island has been restructured, rebuilt and re-energized. It’s a wonderful place to play, have Nathan’s hot, buttered corn, people watch, and walk in the sand, fish from the pier and ride water scooters over the waves. Fireworks used to be every Tuesday night. Hmm, I wonder . . .
What do you think?