My stomach has been rumbling louder than the Cyclone as it goes down the second hill since I started reminiscing about eating delicious meatball sandwiches at Coney Island after I saw that fantastic picture of myself working at the Ravenhall Pool in Sunday’s most popular web feature.
Look, you’d have to be living under a rock to not know that Ravenhall was a summer Mecca for me when I was growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. But unless you were fortunate enough to have been there, you don’t know that the Ravenhall Baths had the largest pool in Coney Island, at 190-feet long and 90-feet wide. That pool was up to 10-feet deep and had four diving boards! And meatballs!
The baths also had a four-wall handball court, a bar and restaurant, a private beach, chin-up bars, solaria, two kiddie pools, and hundreds and hundreds of rooms and lockers for season and daily guests. And meatballs!
All of this fantasticness was right there on Surf Avenue between Steeplechase and the Washington Baths.
And you know the greatest thing about it? You didn’t even have to own a bathing suit to go! That’s because you could rent 19-ought-era wool swimsuits and towels there! And eat meatballs!
And $32 bought a season pass for two that got youse into the pool, park, steam room, showers, solaria, and locker room from Memorial Day to Labor Day! The meatballs were extra.
I guess by now you’ve noticed a pattern to how may bear-trap of a brain remembers things — through how much I enjoyed the food!
Look, as much as I loved all those things about Coney Island while I was growing up, the thing I remember most about heading to my job out there at the Ravenhall certainly wasn’t about how I placed in the chin-up contests I so frequently entered (before I ate the meatballs).
No, the thing I most fondly recall was a raised concrete danced area where Tony’s Meatballs Stand sold hero sandwiches to beach-goers on W.21st Street and Ravenhall bathers.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Carmine, when everyone else thinks of Coney, they think of hot dogs! Heck, in some places down south they don’t even call them hot dogs, they call them ‘Coneys!’ ”
Well, as far as I’m concerned, they should save that name for those meatball heros I adored so much. So if you don’t remember, let me refresh your brain.
Tony’s Meatballs was an innovative venture, because he made all his meatballs at home — and in those days, homemade sandwiches were the key to hunk’s heart.
Look, you all know that I’ve had short arms and deep pockets for years. Heck I’ve got one of those wireless car alarms set up on my wallet, and I have to hit the beeper before I can open it up. So I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that the best part about these sandwiches were — at least for a handsome devil like your’s truly — they were free!
That’s right! For me and guys like my buddy Cookie, they didn’t cost one plug nickel!
You want to know why? No? Then quit reading, because I’m going to tell you anyway.
When the girls on the beach saw us Adonises downing Tony’s meatball sandwiches like there was no tomorrow, they started bringing their own homemade sandwiches from their kitchens to use as bait!
Now, their mom’s would go crazy, screaming at the ladies “Whosa gonnna eata alla dose meataballs!” — but the girls always went back home with no leftovers!
That’s because when guys like me and Cookie got hungry after playing handball, swimming, or chinning, we’d go from blanket to blanket to forage for food. And when homemade meatball sandwiches were spotted, the word spread across the beach like a tsunami!
Believe me, many dates to the watch the submarine races were born from this gastronomical bait — and some guys were truly reeled in, in the matrimonial sense!
Tony had a booming business selling those meatball sandwiches even after the free competition from the girls arose. At least that’s the way I remember it. If any of you of fond remembrances of my beloved Ravenhall, please send me a note at [email protected] (that’s right! I got that email address before you!), and, if it’s the least bit interesting — or if it gets my stomach pangs banging — I’ll mention it an upcoming column. In the meantime, I’m gonna see if Sharon can scratch me up some meatballs. Wait a minute, of course she can — it’s Sunday!
Screech at you next week!