Weegee (1899-1968), [Afternoon crowd at Coney Island, Brooklyn], July 21, 1940, (Weegee Portfolio 4)
PM, July 22, 1940, pp 16-17
Yesterday at Coney Island… Temperature 89… They Came Early, Stayed Late
Cameraman Reports On Lost Kids, Parking Troubles
Weegee, whose real name is Arthur Fellig, took this picture at four in the afternoon. The temperature was 89 degrees. The Coney Island Chamber of Commerce guessed there were 1,000,000 people. Nobody really knows.
Herewith is Weegee’s own story of his visit to Coney Island.
Saturday was very hot. So I figured Sunday ought to be a good day to make crowd shots at Coney Island. I arrived at the beach at Coney at 4 a.m., Sunday. The beach was crowded mostly with young couples lying on the beach covered with blankets. I took pictures of them. When I asked them their names they all said, “It’s just me and the wife,” as they pointed to the girl on the sand. I went back to the City.
I came back Sunday afternoon. I knew the rush was on when I looked for a parking lot to leave my car. All of them were full and were charging $1 to park the car. That was too much, considering that the usual price for parking on Sunday is 15 to 25 cents.
All the blocks with the “No parking in this block” signs were filled up. I then started to look for a fire hydrant to park. They were filled up, too. After riding round for a half hour I finally parked in a fire zone just off the Boardwalk. I guess no one else thought of that spot.
“This Is Too Much!”
After making the crowd shot I went into the “Cage,” a little shack underneath the Boardwalk with the door and windows covered with chicken wire cooping. That’s where all the lost kids are brought in after they’re found on the beach. The place is run like a cafeteria. Parents come in and look around to see their lost kids and then take them home. Sunday the place was in an uproar.
The policewoman was excited and said to me: “I may be a policewoman, and I have a heart. But this is too much. One hundred and fifty lost kids is too much. I haven’t eaten yet. I’m going to close up this place.”
No Play Wanted
On the way back to the city I was hailed by a female hitch hiker. “I’ve been waiting 15 minutes for a Surf Ave. street car,” she told me as she stepped into my car. I left her off at her destination. She wanted to go home and change into a play suit and ride with me. But I told her I had too much work to do and not enough time to play.
When I got back to the city I took a shower and finished my pictures. While I was at Coney I had two kosher frankfurters and two beers at a Jewish delicatessen on the Boardwalk. Later on for a chaser I had five more beers, a malted milk, two root beers, three Coca Colas and two glasses of buttermilk. And five cigars, costing 19 cents.
PM, July 22, 1940, p. 16.
Weegee (1899-1968), Naked City, (1945)
A subtle variant of the photo, made seconds before or after, the one in PM, is in the recently republished (by Damiani and ICP) Naked City…. and is the well-known version above.
Weegee (1899-1968), Weegee’s New York, Screenshot, 1948 (A million peeps on the beach [on] of a summer afternoon, is normal…)
Weegee's New York, (The Travelogue with a Heart), photographed by Weegee, 1948.
On this Sunday afternoon in 2020, please enjoy Weegee’s photo of the one million people, on a Sunday afternoon on the beach at Coney Island and his colorful, high-caloric (quick nutritional calculation: 3680 calories consumed) story. The photo (suddenly seems like a relic of the not-too-distant past before self-isolation, self-quarantine, and social distancing became the new normal; makes me slightly anxious) was first published exactly seventy nine years and eight months ago… Please enjoy his innovative and humorous film Weegee’s New York (1948)… and stay at home.
More videos can be seen on ICP’s Vimeo channel… and stay at home.