An Alternate World
out to Coney Island on the weekend was like traveling to a different world.
Even though Coney was not a great distance from New York, the accepted
moral codes, behavior, and values of the visitors underwent a striking
change upon arrival at the pier. Notions of public conduct and social
order were quite different at the beach. Unlike in the City where crowds
moved along on the jammed sidewalks without eye contact or conversation,
the casual atmosphere of Coney threw people together and facilitated interaction.
It was acceptable behavior to strike up conversations with strangers,
or even to begin dancing in the street. Young working-class girls would
head to Coney on Sunday armed with only a nickel for the train fare, confident
that they would find young men who would pick them up as paying dates
for the days festivities. Even if one was not lucky enough to find
a generous dandy, anyone who could collect train fare out to Coney could
spend a day mixing with humanity in a more festive and carefree environment
than the city.