2014-04-04 / Columnists

I Remember Rockaway

Open Mic An Occasional Feature
By Sharon Gabriel

A few weeks ago there was an article in The Wave entitled “Down In Old Rockaway” (3/14/14) which brought back many memories for me. As they say, there’s six degrees of separation, and part of that article was very personal.

Many years ago, my grandparents, Max and Ray Gabriel lived at Beach 93 Street, where I spent many happy days as a very young child. I believe that the parents of William Louw, who sent in one of the Playland pictures, may possibly live in the house now, but that is not the only connection.

My grandmother, Ray Gabriel, was the cashier at The Whip ride in Playland during the World War II years when I was a little kid.

How many happy hours I spent in that park riding many of the rides for free because my grandmother worked there! The building in Louw’s picture with the name Playland on the façade was the penny arcade. You could spend hours in there for very little money, maybe a nickel at most. They had all kinds of machines including a fortune teller.

Once inside the park there was the roller coaster, which I was too afraid to ride on, then The Whip, where my grandmother was the cashier, which I rode many, many times. Across from The Whip was the Caterpillar ride which was on a bumpy track that was covered over in the middle of the ride to make it look like a caterpillar. Further along was the carousel, with the brass ring which gave you a free ride. Of course, as a little kid, I could never reach it, but then I rode for free because my grandma worked in the park.

Opposite the carousel was the Fun House. Now there was a real fun place.

As you came in there was a huge barrel shaped tube you had to walk through while it was going around. You could fall down just getting through and everyone was always screaming. From there you went through a scary part and then into a fun room with all kinds of mirrors that made you look skinny or fat or short or tall. All a lot of fun.

In order to get out of the Fun House you had to go through an open area that faced the park. As all the girls went through, their skirts were blown up, similar to the Marilyn Monroe scene in “The Seven Year Itch.” Of course, everyone on the freeway would get a good look and the girls would all scream.

The final part was a magic carpet. You sat down behind a closed door and when it opened, you were on a magic bumpy carpet that led you back to the midway.

Now further along the midway was the Scooter Cars, or bumper cars, as some called them. I do believe one of them was in the Rockaway Museum which was part of The Wave and it might have been lost during Hurricane Sandy.

There were many other rides throughout the midway, many for toddlers and of course, there were the games on Beach 98th Street.

Faber’s Skeeball, and all different games of chance where you could win a stuffed bunny or some other item were on the outside of the park.

Ice Cream cups, Mello Rolls and cones were there to keep you refreshed.

Here are two pictures from my family collection.One is my grandmother in front of The Whip cashier’s booth and the other is of my grandparents, Max and Ray Gabriel and yours truly in front of the house on Beach 93rd Street.

The adults in those years had many things to worry about with a World War in progress, but for a small child, it was a wonderful time!

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