Looking at this photograph I can almost smell the salt air and see the boardwalk. I think that since the Doran clan originally comes from Belfast, North Ireland they are hard-wired to love the ocean. Here in this delightful photograph from 1943, siblings Margaret and William Doran are book-ends to Margie’s best girlfriend at Coney Island.
Margie was beautiful, lots of fun, my god-mother, and my favorite auntie. I had lots of sweet aunts, and I cherish the memory of all of them, but there was something unique about Margie; she was a great listener in a family of talkers. Born on 1 June 1921, she would have been about 22 years old here. I love her hair-do, with the flower tucked in by her ear, and her stylish dress with the stripes, that somehow gives a nautical air. Her little brother, Billy, was born 22 June 1929, and he would have been about 14 years old. His curly red locks and mass of freckles would mark him Irish in any crowd. Maybe since they both had June birthdays they were celebrating at the beach.
Coney Island, in Brooklyn, was an easy subway ride from their home in Harrison, NJ. It was called the “tubes” back then, and my father would talk about jumping the turnstile to ride free. He would also talk about how Luna Park, at Coney Island, was so lit up at night it looked as bright as day, and he’d sing this:
We’ll take a trip up to the moon / For that is the place for a lark / So meet me down at Luna, Lena / Down at Luna Park.
Whenever any talk of the beach would come up, my father would also recite this old favorite:
It was midnight on the ocean / Not a streetcar was in sight / And the sun was shining brightly / For it rained all day that night.
As the days lengthen, and the warm weather approaches this summer, I hope to get to the beach, and not come home until it’s midnight on the ocean. I also plan to re-watch the old musical, Coney Island, with Betty Grable – from 1943 – and sing along with a few of the old chestnuts from the film, such as “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and especially “Who Threw the Overalls in Mistress Murphy’s Chowder” .