Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Picking Up a Couple of Sailors

The Parachute Jump still stands as a recognizable icon of Coney Island.  It was moved to its current location in 1941 from its original spot at the 1939 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadow Park.  The ride became part of Steeplechase Park, which closed in 1964, the year my family moved to Brooklyn from Long Island.  I don't remember the ride running after Steeplechase Park closed and for that reason alone (or simple cowardice), I myself never rode the Parachute Jump.  My mother, however, did.

THE PARACHUTE JUMP THIS BEAUTIFUL, SUNNY MORNING.

The story I remember from my childhood — this is what I remember my mother telling me when I was 10 — was that she rode the Parachute Jump with my father when they were first dating.  She would have been 16 and he 17.  More of the story that I remember my mother telling me was that she went on it to impress my father.  Now, the Parachute Jump was not something I could imagine my mother riding.  In fact, I had never seen my mother go on any ride at an amusement park.  They all made her "too dizzy," she insisted.  So, when she told me the story and I asked her why she didn't go on rides any more.  Her response was, "Well, your father married me."

YESTERDAY FROM MY BEDROOM WINDOW, SHOWING THE WONDER WHEEL AND CYCLONE.
THE PARACHUTE JUMP IS BEHIND THE BUILDING ON THE RIGHT.

A few years ago, while my mother was visiting us in Las Vegas, one of my cousins was also visiting and we were talking about Coney Island.  My cousin was from LA and she had only seen Coney Island once when she flew in for my mother's 80th birthday.  In jest, I began to tell my cousin how my mother had tricked my father into marrying her by going on the Parachute Jump and making him think she was fun.  But, my mother immediately corrected me (she does that quite a bit).

THE CONEY ISLAND BOARDWALK THIS QUIET MORNING AFTER THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND.

"No. No," she said.  "I didn't go on with your father.  He was in the Army.  Harriet and I picked up a couple of sailors."

What?!?

We all burst out laughing.  "YOU picked up a couple of sailors?" I roared.  (If you met my very proper mother, you would know how absurd the idea would be — even the fact that she could say something like that aloud.)

THE PICK-UP "ARTIST" MORE THAN 60 YEARS LATER.

And then the back-pedaling began.  "Well, Harriet did the picking up.  She was much more forward than I.  I would never do anything like that."

I had tears in my eyes. "But you and Harriet picked up a couple of sailors?"

"It wasn't like that.  It wasn't nice for two girls to go on a ride like that by themselves."

"But it was nice to pick up a couple of sailors?"  I was having such a good time.  "What about your husbands?"

MY PARENTS.  YEARS AFTER THE SAILORS.
(MY FATHER WAS NEVER TOLD.)

"Well, of course, we weren't even engaged at the time.  Murray was in the Navy and your father was in the Army."  My mother was actually blushing now and Jerry and my cousin Joan were wiping tears from their eyes.

"So, what did you do AFTER the ride?" I asked.

"They walked us to the subway station and we took the train home.  It was completely innocent."

We recently took my mother to a local diner for lunch.  The diner is called "The Parkview" because it's not far from the Coney Island amusements and you can see some of the rides from its south-facing windows.  I was gleeful when I saw the photos on the cover of the large (diner-sized) menu.  There were old shots of the rides and amusements at Coney Island, including the Parachute Jump.  And at the very bottom of the cover... my mother and Harriet's sailors!

11 comments:

  1. Hello Mitch:
    Well, well, such a dark horse your mother. But, as in all things, truth will out! As for the Parachute Jump, just the thought of it makes us feel ill.

    This is definitely a story for the family record book.

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  2. I wonder if your mother kept a diary of her "adventures"? I would love to find it!
    Good for her!
    m.

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  3. Was one of them Donald O'Connor?

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  4. What a glorious story! You had me at the title of the post (but lets not get into that)!
    Your mother looks fab for her age.

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  5. I love the hairstyles back then, your parents looked happy. great post

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  6. What a great post!

    I love the way your Mum twisted and turned the truth and blaming it all on [poor] Harriet.

    BTW, did your Mum see the menu?

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  7. J&L: I wonder what other little secrets my mother has been keeping. But I have a feeling the parachute jump would be tame now. .. except that they did have major safety issues.

    Mark: we just asked her. There is no written record!

    Walt the Fourth: If one had been, we would have heard the story years earlier.

    Craig: I actually thought of you with that title. I knew it would catch your eye.

    Todd: My parents were really in love. My father died in '87. As for the hairdos, I just love that unlike my father in later years, he still had hair to "do"!

    Peter: fascinating how my mother does that isn't it? Poor Harriet indeed. And yes she saw the menu and laughed despite herself.

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  8. Mitch,
    I loved this one. Of course the Title got my attention. I love the whole reminiscing (sp?) with your Mother. Some day our parents will be gone, and we will have missed out on so much if we are asking about things. This was good one. I am sure it is equally as sad for her that you are leaving as it is for you.

    Happy Travels
    Scott

    www.travelwithscott.com

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  9. Scott: Congratulations! You got the spelling of reminiscing right! Just when I think my mother has no stories left to tell, out comes something like this. It's nice when the truth slips out ... sometimes.

    We've lived on the West Coast for so long that, living in Spain, we really won't be much further away from my mother than we've always been.

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  10. now that title got me reading!
    love the vintage photo of your parents. wonderful

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  11. John: Thanks so much for reading. The title apparently got a lot of people reading (and I'm sure the content that followed disappointed some). I have so many great pictures of my parents from the 1940s. I'll look for excuses to use them in future posts. (Any opportunity to tell more embarrassing stories about my mother; she provides great material).

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