August 01, 2005

The First Time I Got Lucky

Once upon a time, a very young Hag frequented many amusement parks in the New York City/New Jersey area. Her father always worked long hours, seven days a week, but in his off-time ~ Saturday mornings ~ he would gather up his brood and tote them off for a day filled with rides, arcade games, candy apples, cotton candy, hot dogs and lemonade. And there would be much rejoicing.

On many occasions, Coney Island would be the park of choice. This had become one of the little Hag’s favorite outings. In retrospect, she got the biggest thrill out of strolling along the boardwalk and looking out over the ocean, enjoying the smell and taste of salt in the air while watching all the noisy rides twist, turn and spin around her.

Coney Island is a small peninsula off the southernmost tip of Brooklyn. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was barren and overrun with rabbits. It came to be called “Coney Island” when the Dutch came along bearing konyns (Dutch for house-rabbit), leaving them to run freely on the little peninsula.

The konyns apparently “loved each other” very, very much because eventually, they produced hundreds and hundreds of baby konyns, which produced hundreds and hundreds more. The place was dubbed Konyn Eilint, which later evolved to its current English title - but enough about history.

In the early 1960s, a family could pay one price and enjoy the amusement park all day long. A circular ticket was issued to each family member, and each time anyone went on a ride, a hole was punched along the outer rim of the ticket. In the center, there was a six-digit number. At some point during the day, if you happened to be in Steeplechase Park (an old section of Coney Island featuring indoor and outdoor rides), two numbers were called out over a loud speaker. The winners received a special prize for the day.

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And so on this special day, the little white haired Haglet rode the rides, ate the fun foods and roamed about with her sisters; not a care in the world. Big sister, Janet was asked to keep a watchful eye on her so that the others could enjoy the “big people” rides, and Janet decided to walk the little one indoors at Steeplechase to see what all the commotion was about. Up on a stage, standing at a podium, a man was talking loudly into a screechy microphone.

It was prize-time! “Yay” said the Hag as she jumped up and down, fairly clueless and unable to see a flipping thing for all the big people around her. Janet grabbed the little one’s ticket and carefully read the numbers as they were being called out. “Nope, we didn’t win,” she said.

But wait! There was yet another prize to be issued!

Suddenly, Janet jumped up quickly and grabbed the Haglet’s hand, “You won … you won!”

“Yayyyy” the Haglet cried out loudly. She was hauled through the crowd of hundreds of people and dragged up to the stage. She was a tad embarrassed by all the attention, still something inside told her this was a good thing indeed. She liked to win. (She still does)

After careful checking of the numbers, the man awarded the prize to the young Hag and again, there was great glee and much rejoicing!

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Alas, it was apparently meant to be that the little Hag was awarded a larger than life, boys bicycle. She couldn’t even hold the thing up let alone ride it! Still, she won, and all was good and right with her world.

Lugging the prize all the way home to Staten Island hadn’t been part of her father’s plan, still he did so, tying it up in the trunk of the old Chevy Belair. The trip home seemed endless, but when they finally arrived, the bike was placed carefully on the front porch for the Haglet to admire.

The nice men at Coney Island were kind enough to offer a trade-in for an identical, girl’s version of the bike… but there would be a weeklong wait for the trade to take place. It didn’t matter to the little winner because she wouldn’t be riding it for at least a year. It was enough to sit and stare at it, play with the headlight and bell, and plan her first neighborhood journey.

Certain sisters became outraged that they weren’t permitted to use the shiny new bicycle ~ but this felt fair to the Haglet because all of her life thus far, she’d been wearing hand-me-down clothes and playing with dolls whose hair had long-ago fallen out. Secretly, she thought to herself on several THOUSAND occasions in sing-song style, “Haha on you guys, it’s MINE, all MINE.”

It hadn’t always been easy being the youngest of four girls.

Eventually, the new bicycle arrived (handlebar streamers and all) and within a year or so, it could finally be ridden. “Yayyy” said the little winner.

Every now and again, someone will talk, write or reminisce about Coney Island. Some people recall the tasty Nathan’s hotdogs, some recall the incredible crowds at the beach, some ~ the crazy and exciting rides (parachute jump and boxcar Ferris wheel), but in the time-worn heart of a modern day Hag, Coney Island will always hold a particularly special place. It was the first time she really got lucky.

The End.

*first photo taken in '59 - a few years prior to the event
*second photo is not actual bicycle - Googled photo image of '61 Schwinn


Blogger Dave Morris said...

Today, not even a big casino win could equal that kind of excitement. I wish we were as easily thrilled today. Great story!

4:15 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

There's not much at all that could rival that as far as winning goes. A brand new shiney bike that you don't have to share? At age 12 or below I'd take that over a million bucks any day and be happy for my lot in life. A bicycle opens many doors of freedom to little ones.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

great story. well written. i just took the kids to Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, which has less of a history than Coney Island.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Ovedya said...

Awesome story. I very much enjoy reading about your younger years.


9:02 PM  
Blogger Floridacracker said...

I did not have a clue as to how Coney Island got it's name until now. Thanks Weary.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

What a touching story. It reminds me of when our Cub Scouts had a bicycle raffle, and I lost.

Ah, memories.

5:08 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I'd share your excitement too. Things were much simpler back then ehhh.
Thanks for the history lesson. I had always wondered how its name was derived!

5:39 AM  
Blogger Wicked H said...

What a great story. I don't remember winning anything nearly that cool as a kid.

Also, what an adorable little Haglet.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous SilverMoon said...

Such nice memories, penned so creatively, you adorable "haglet." (Love your term!) Amazing prize to win! :)

10:12 AM  
Blogger Sask 1 said...

Thats was so good.I love reading your srories and that info on coney island was excellent for someone whos never been there.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Rob Seifert said...

You remind me of my own childhood and those rare times that Dad took the time to be with me and my sister. It didn't really matter what we did, just that Dad took the time. Winning is almost the best thing on earth. Life really is about those moments and you have so many. You should really write a book lady - you have both the talent and the stories to make for a fine novel.


10:52 AM  
Blogger Rainypete said...

And an even better prize is the memory you get to carry to this day. It's kind of funny (and maybe a little sad) how we can get so excited about something so small when we are young, yet when we are older we get all wrapped up in the little thiungs and let them ruin our happiness.

With a simple bicycle you owned the world....

What would it take today?

3:21 PM  
Anonymous John said...

What an excellent story Carol! "Haglet"... You crack me up! Like another person said, I had no idea of how Coney Island got it's name. Heck... I thought it was all about the hot dogs! Our country has the influence of many nations.

4:17 PM  
Blogger lilly05 said...

That brings back some memories. Although I never won anything like that before, I will always remember the family outings. Great story! Thanks again for the entertaining post.

5:37 PM  
Blogger sidcruise said...

Such a cute post :) no pics of you on your prized possesion bicycle?

7:04 PM  
Blogger PBS said...

That's such a great story! You interweave history with personal history and a happy ending too!

10:08 PM  
Blogger Walker said...

Great story and your still a winner. The first thing I ever won at a fair was a huge stuffed toy which I had to carry around the whole time I was there

5:15 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

What a lovely story. I'm second in a family of four hand me downs weren't so bad in the pecking order but I can imagine the exciement and boasting I would've wanted to do if I'd won something, anything at that age. Very cool photo!

BTW, I did return your email the other night, but I'm not sure you got it. I hope you did anyway :)

5:18 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Once again, you have an amazing story.

Man, a 61 Scwhinn...

They're still going pretty strong, you know.

6:21 AM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Nice story, Carol. I enjoyed this.

I've always been curious about Coney Island and appreciate the history lesson.

Man, I miss riding a bike. But I always liked the boys bikes better. Not sure why.

11:17 AM  
Blogger annush said...

you are lucky Carol!
great story.

...and to think i've never won anything other than a CD...hmmmm

11:23 AM  
Blogger Hick said...

Ha! Haglet. I love that. Precious memories, too.

Good info on how Coney Island got it's name.

12:05 PM  
Blogger katie said...

Excellent story! What a thrill it must have been to win something like that! I can't believe that you were able to hold off on attempting to ride it for a year!

3:27 PM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

That was so sweet. Loved the way you wrote it! Haglet was the cutest! :)

4:33 PM  
Blogger happyandblue2 said...

Another incredible story.
What happened to all the bunnies..

6:43 PM  
Blogger Weary Hag said...

Aah, Happy&Blue ... fear not. No bunnies were harmed in the making of what later became a lovely amusement and public beach area. Due to the building and growing commerce on the peninsula, the bunnies retreated to a little-known region of Brooklyn called Plaibuoy. Okay, maybe not, but they did disperse due to changing times.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Unga~Chunga said...

What great memories! Hurray for those special days with your Dad! And winning the bike had to be the most solid memory of your younger days! Did it really sit an entire year without use by your siblings before you could ride it? I would be surprised and amazed knowing MY siblings growing up.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Leah Bennet said...

A terrific post.
I loved it.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous J said...

You bring all aspects of New York to life. Makes me think of the bikes I had as a kid, too!

4:17 PM  
Anonymous colleen said...

Coney Island....named for rabbits!? Who would have thought. I grew up in an amusement park town, which is all torn down now. I miss it still. But all anyone ever won there was stuffed animals.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Lyvvie said...

That was so awesome!!

I wish I'd been able to do that too. You're such a great storyteller, I almost felt like I was there!

I admit, I thought it was going to be a racy story...I read too many smutty blogs, sheesh.

4:27 AM  
Blogger carrotpenis said...

What a fun story. We used to go to Dorney Park in Allentown, PA almost every year as a child. I can still remember vividly the times we went.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Lizabeth said...

Great post, one of those that brightens your day, gotta love it! "Plaibuoy" thats great!

6:32 PM  
Blogger Luzbeíta said...

Qué linda historia! Te voy a seguir haciendo comentarios en español para que sigas practicando! Saludos

10:21 PM  
Blogger Weary Hag said...

BEA ...
Ha sido muchos anos desde que lo estudie ~ recuerdo solamente espanol un poco, pero me amo la practica.
Gracias mucho por este mensaje encantador y por leer mis palabras!
I appreciate your comment!

4:24 AM  
Blogger anumita said...

What a beautiful story! I could feel the excitement of the little haglet and the admiration the prize won her in the neighbourhood!

11:04 AM  
Blogger The Other Half said...

beautiful story...but sooooo wrong teasing me with the title...i guess i have a dirty mind ;-)

11:56 AM  
Blogger brooksba said...

What an adorable story! It's fantastic to have such a happy memory and I'm glad that the youngest of the four girls won the bike. You deserved it. Are there stories of riding your bike to come?

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, its Q, i absolutely LOVED that. i miss ya lots, and keep up the good stories! cause i DO visit here ya know lol.

7:00 PM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Beautiful post of about your family and your time in amusement parks.

I always wanted to go to Coney Island.

9:13 PM  

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