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Under the Roller Coaster

MAE TIMPANO: It's hard to say how you get to know a person when you're waiting on him seven days a week. I knew Freddy -- I got to know Freddy, because he came in every morning and every afternoon, and then when we got friendly, he was in pretty near ever three or four hours.  He was big and heavy. I didn't care, he was . . . I liked him. I liked his personality. He was funny, he was good to me. Whenever he would put his arms around me I would feel the world -- nobody could hurt me.

I went out with him a few times. And then one night he came and he says, "When you finish, do you want to come up to my house?" I said, "Where do you live?" He says, "Under the roller coaster." And I said "You're kidding." He says, "No, no." He says, "I'll pick you up and we'll go over to my house." I says okay. So we went over to the house. I was hungry so he went over to Nathan's to get frankfurters and French fries. And he had a bottle of Rémy Martins brandy. And we were sipping that, listening to records. That's how it started. And then for forty years, we had a lot of fun together.

The Cyclone has a bigger dip, a bigger fall. The Thunderbolt was rougher in the turns. You know when you went down you bounced out of the car almost. The car would be practically sideways.

If you were a stranger and you came in the house, and you would hear it go over, you'd say "What's that? Thunder?" You know, it sounded like thunder. A few things, you know, broke. My perfume tray fell off one time. Pictures would be a little slanty, but not much. I had wall-to-wall mirrors, three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large living room, dining room, kitchen. But it was like living in the country. I was in the country in the middle of the city.

I got a call from California. A man out in California called me. And he says, "Mae do you know what they're doing today?" And I said, "No." He says go down to Coney Island they're tearing your house down. I says you're kidding. He says no. I didn't own it anymore. I got dressed, I went down, and sure enough they were tearing my house down.

(Sound of the demolition.)

It was sad standing there looking at it. Seemed like every -- all my memories just wiped out. But everything changes. I don't know if it was for the better. We'll see when they park the cars there. It looks like it's gonna be a parking lot.

Lots of times I think of this, and before you know it I'm in tears. And I figure, no, I want to get away from that, you know. But uh . . . it's very sad thinking back, you know, on it. I don't want to remember anymore.


Producer: David Miller / Executive Producer: David Isay. / Funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. "Living Under the Roller Coaster" is a co-production with City Lore. Special thanks to Mark Wolodarsky.

"Under the Roller Coaster" premiered September 4, 2001, on Morning Edition. Copyright © 2001 Sound Portraits Productions. All Rights Reserved.

 

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MORE

"Coney Island," a Sound Portraits short about the island's characters and amusements

History of the Thunderbolt, from the Amusement Park History Web site

Photos of Coney Island, past and present, from Forgotten NY



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