"Back when Walt Disney was
developing Disneyland in Anaheim California in 1955, he sent teams of people
to Cincinnati to interface with the Coney Island people to get their advice
on what was required to operate a first rate amusement park. Coney was
well regarded in the business far outside of Cincinnati.
Some of their attractions will never
be duplicated. Start with the Island Queen, the river steamboat which plied
between the public landing downtown and the landing at Coney Island. My
mother and father danced their way up and down the river on most Friday
nights on the Island Queen. Name me another amusement park anywhere in
the country where one of the main access methods was by river steamboat.
There were none. When the Island Queen burned one winter while docked in
Pittsburgh I knew an era had come to an end. There was no way the finances
would permit it to be replaced.
The second major attraction was Moonlight
Gardens, the semi-enclosed dance hall which hosted so many of the big band
era bands. My parents would talk about dancing their way up the river on
the Island Queen, going to Moonlight Gardens and dancing for several hours
more, then dancing their way back down the river on the Island Queen. It
was no wonder they were totally worn out by the time they caught the streetcar
downtown to their apartment in Norwood, sometimes only arriving home when
it was becoming dawn.
I was lucky enough to experience Moonlight
Gardens near the end of its glory days. This would in the late 1950s .
The big bands were dying off but there were still enough touring during
the summer to fill Moonlight Gardens. What a blast it was.
Go to Coney early on a weekend morning.
Go to Sunlight Pool and swim the morning and afternoon away. Later in the
afternoon change clothes and go to the dinner restaurant in a building
out in front of Moonlight Gardens. Then go to Moonlight Gardens when the
band started. During band breaks, go out and ride the Shooting Star in
your dancing clothes, or rent a boat on Lake Como. Keep dancing until the
last set of the band. Then go home, thoroughly exhausted. If there was
a better weekend date place other than Coney Island, I never saw it.
I had a 2nd cousin whose company dealt
worldwide in machinery. He of course traveled extensively. I remember him
saying people in Cincinnati do not realize how unique Coney Island is.
And they certainly do not realize Moonlight Gardens is absolutely the best
outdoor dancing, big band venue in the country.
When they finally closed the original
Gardens it saddened me deeply. When they closed Coney to replace it with
Kings Island I was doubly saddened. I at least saw the tale end of an era
today's youth will never experience. It was just a kindlier, gentler place
back then. OH YES, and a WHOLE LOT SEXIER!"