University of Nevada, Reno




Coney Island to Circus Circus

By Harold


HaroldDuring the summer months of my high school years as a teenager, I got a job working on the beach at Coney Island. My boss had beach chair shops under the Boardwalk and when people hired a chair for the day, we would carry it out and set it up for them. If we started work at 8 a.m., we got 75 cents for the day. If we started work at 1 p.m., we got 50 cents. If we had two or three people at a busy station or day, we would pool our tips.

They told me you have to ask for a tip if they don’t give it to you. That scared me. “How do you ask for a tip?” They told me all you do is say, “We usually get something for our service.” Well, that worked very well, and we did very well on some days. During the Depression years of the 1920s and 30s, a nickel was very good. ...

After graduation, I got various jobs working on the different games in Coney Island—some on the Boardwalk—but the last one was on surf, and I believe Stillwell Avenue. That was directly next to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Stand. The next building was the game called “5 Star Final,” which had 20 or more machines that people sat at and rolled a ball under a glass that fell into a hole that lighted a star. When a person got 5 stars in a row, all the other machines would go off and the winner would receive his prize. I am relating the following to a show that the world “then,” “before,” and “even today” is a dishonest society we are part of. ...

Well, in order for me to get this job, I had to work a shady deal with the manager. Before each game, I would collect the nickel from everyone playing in my section. When the game started, I (and the other workers) would give the manager or whoever was recording a hand count of how many players we had, and he would record it to our name. We did this by giving him a hand signal (from 1 to 10). At about 2 hours before closing, the manager would tell us how many nickels we had collected up to then and how much money we were supposed to have. We would count up our money and take out any amount we had over. From then until the last game of the evening, we would get an account of each sheet that he recorded. If at the end we were over $10 or more, we would take that out, and when we counted our money later, we would turn in the correct amount or a few cents short, so as not to be too perfect. I made $18 a week and an extra $18 on the side.  Of course, we would turn this over to the manager, who would give us our share. ...


[After retirement] I was looking through the classified section of the morning newspaper and saw an ad that dumb me thought would be interesting and decided to give it a try. I knew that they did not hire seniors in that department, but what did I have to lose? It was for help on the midway at Circus-Circus Casino, which is where they have many different games for people to play. I went up and got an application, filled out all the information to the best of my ability. I was 70 years old. This was about September or October 1988.

I gave the application to the manager and told him, this only covers a very small part of my life and jobs I have done. I told him I lived in Coney Island, N.Y., and after graduation from high school, I worked on many games both on the Boardwalk and streets. I told him I worked at one of the largest games, next to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Stand. It was called “Eddie’s Five Star Final.” He looked over my application and then said, “I am from Coney Island and my mother is still living there.” How does this keep happening to me?


He hired me and when his assistants found out, they said, “Are you crazy hiring that old man?” They found out soon enough. Two months later, I won Employee of the Month award, which consisted of a certificate of merit, a patch pin emblem, $500 in cash and a beautiful jacket with the Circus-Circus emblem and the “500” Club on the back. I still have this jacket today—a little worn out, but the pride of my life. The Employee of the Month was given to all the various department of the casino. There are six different pictures like mine shown here of all the various departments and winners. They don’t do this today, but as they say, “Those were the days.”

Also, I proved they could hire seniors and they did. I worked there for 4 ½ years. I was 74 ½ when I gave them my notice to leave. They wanted me to stay on, but I had enough. Incidentally, I started work then at the minimum wage, as I just wanted something to do. It was then $3.35 an hour. They had a point system, whereby if you earned so many number of stars in a month based on how well you did on all your games each day, you would get a 15 or 20 cents an hour raise. When I left at 74 ½ years of age, I was making $8.20 an hour.


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