Last go-round — famed Coney ride-maker passes on

Last go-round — famed Coney ride-maker passes on
Lisa Mangels-Schaefer

It is the end of an era — and a long, great ride.

Albert G. Mangels — who helped create some of Coney’s most beloved attractions — passed away earlier this month at the age of 84.

Born in 1929, Mangels grew up next door to his grandfather, the legendary amusement-maker William F. Mangels, near the corner of Neptune Avenue and Ocean Parkway.

The family patriarch, who designed many of the People’s Playground’s most iconic attractions — including the recently restored B&B Carousell and the Tickler — was a large figure in his grandson’s life. The younger Mangels would recall years later doing odd jobs as a child at the W.F. Mangels ride-making plant on W. Eighth Street between Surf and Neptune avenues, now home to the Department of Motor Vehicles office.

“He would always call Dad, ‘the boy,’ ” said Lisa Schaefer-Mangels, Albert Mangels’s daughter. “He’d say ‘have the boy do this, have the boy do that.’ ”

Like his grandfather, father, and uncle, Albert Mangels knew both the labor and administrative side of the business, working with his hands alongside the factory’s two dozen workers, as well as learning how to run the office. He studied engineering at City College and the Pratt Institute, and after a stint in the Air Force, he took over the family business, eventually renaming it the A.G. Mangels Company.

He married his wife Eleanor in 1951, and had four children — Schaefer-Mangels, her brothers Albert, Jr. and Christopher, and her sister Doreen Mangels-Pinzer. Mangels raised his family in East Islip, Long Island, but the children got the full People’s Playground experience whenever they stayed with their grandmother, and they remember the family factory as a warehouse of wonders.

“There were always rides there, waiting to be shipped, waiting to be shown, and we would ride them before they went out,” Schaefer-Mangels recalled. “It was a good time to be a kid in Coney Island.”

When the city decided to renovate Flushing Meadows Park in Queens after the World’s Fair, it commissioned Mangels with rebuilding the park’s carousel — which was made from the parts of two famous Mangels-made Coney Island horse rides, the Stubbman and Feltman carousels.

When Sodom by the Sea’s fortunes took a turn for the worse in the early 1970s, Mangels moved his factory out to Long Island, and continued to design and build his popular shooting galleries and children’s rides.

But the 85-year-old business only survived another decade after leaving its native Coney turf, and closed in 1983, amid an economic downturn and increasing competition from Japanese manufacturers.

“I think it was just too much for him at that time. The business had changed,” Schaefer-Mangels said.

But the fun did not end there. Coney Island USA honored the Mangels and other Coney Island dynasties — like the Nathan’s-founding Handwerkers and kiddie park-owners the McCulloughs — several years in a row at its annual First Families gala. Albert Mangels remained immensely proud of his family’s work, and turned his home into a museum of amusement history.

“He was very much into the old times,” said Schaefer-Mangels. “My parents’ house was filled with Mangels’ memorabilia, Mangels stuff.”

Mangels got to see one of his grandfather’s classic shooting galleries restored to its former glory on Surf Avenue this past summer. But he fell ill last August, and his condition swiftly deteriorated, culminating in his passing on Feb. 1. He is interred now near his grandfather, in the family plot at Green-Wood Cemetery.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.