Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More Finds at the Local Antique Shop - Olde Time Vacation Photos

A fun subject for taking a breather from my business planning today...

I always wanted to go to one of those shops, often found on the boardwalk, where one can dress in old clothes and have one's sepia-toned photo taken.  Maybe that's something to strive for in 2011? That should be an easily attained New Year's resolution...not an appropriate goal for my business plan, but you can see that my head is still swimming in the planning clouds...

Stamped "H. Rothman, Surf Ave & Balmers Walk, Coney Island" this image caught my eye in a lovely little online Etsy shop. Here is the kind of picture perfect memory I want to obtain in a cliche setup  - a corny, touristy image of Americana.

A quick Internet search shows that prop car images on the boardwalk were plentiful. I found images of Coney Island prop cars as far back as 1912 and as late as the 1950s. (Again, if you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I always dip my toe into research and know that I can and perhaps one day will take my inquisitiveness a bit farther. Perhaps these cars are still around today or have been brought back as Coney Island is trying to rejuvenate its boardwalk? Does anyone know anything moreabout these props?) Imagine how many thousands of people posed this way in this one car and perhaps posed in multiple Coney Island studios with similar cars. One picture I discovered of note included a group of boys from the 50s, trying to look "cool," pretending to drink alcohol (or maybe they were really drinking) in the car.

There is something about taking part in an activity that so many other people do. When you go on vacation, you want to get your picture taken in front of Niagara Falls, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Eiffel Tower. You want to prove that you were there, but you also want to share the experience. Posing in a prop car links you to a fellowship of humans looking for relaxation and fun. You are part of a community when you take in the touristy attractions as millions have done before you. Perhaps, like the teenagers from Coney Island in the 50s, you want to put your own stamp on the scene. Through staged photos you can express who you are and define your niche in the world, while still telling the viewer that you too experienced this unique sense of place.

And perhaps my desire to dress myself up in old-fashioned garb is my own wish to tie myself to the memories of time and to connect my present to an idealized view of the past... or maybe I just want to be a little corny.

In my research, I came across this web site that makes use of modern technology to collaboratively preserve a community's memories in a fabulous way. I hope that you enjoy "My Coney Island Memories" as much as I did. Be sure to check out the visitor's comments page link at the bottom to get the full sense of the success of this project.


  1. At the Coney Island History Project, which has a free seasonal exhibition center in Coney, we have a wall of these vintage souvenir photos, which were taken at Coney's many sidewalk photo studios. We take visitors photos in front of the display. Here's one example from our flickr set:

    We also take photos in front of antiques props such as Steeplechase horse and a Whip car as you can see in the other pix.

    The History Project is a not-for-profit that aims to increase awareness of Coney Island's legendary and colorful past and to encourage appreciation of the Coney Island neighborhood of today. We record oral histories of people who lives, worked and played (or still do) in Coney Island. You may listen to selected interviews in our online arhive:

  2. Thank you for the information.

    I'll have to make a special stop to Coney Island next time I'm in my native state of New York. (It's been a longtime since I visited.) Your web site is wonderful and your documentation project sounds great!