Coney – The Full Story

 

 

Chapter by Chapter

 

Introduction

dunes watercolor

Over a hundred years ago, at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, was Coney Island. It is still there today. There are still traces of what was there way back then. But what would we see if we went back in time- a 100 years?

We would see 2 rabbits watching over the top of the dunes. Who are they?

They are Sister Rabbit, and her younger brother. They are exploring close to their burrow, underneath the hillocks of sand and grass. These were rabbits from Brooklyn- and even way back before all the building and railroads- these rabbits were tough.

As Sister always said- “We are survivors. We’ve got to stick together and watch each others backs. There are too many THINGS out there that want to do us harm.”

So Sister and Brother had to look out for each other- they were all they had in their world.

Playing in the sea

The Dangers in the World

Sometimes they were tempted to go into the ocean. But if they did go down to the waters edge- they had to be very careful. They could be snapped at by the lobsters and crabs.

Sister & Brother also had to watch out for the fox that was always lurking about in his bright red fur.

But the biggest danger was HUMANS!

Beach wagon

The Trolley and the Kids from Manhattan

One day, large metal monsters appeared on their dunes , with sparking fire on its top! Tracks had appeared almost overnight- blue metal rails that stretched as far as you could see.

One night the were woken again by the horrible noise as it roared past their little underground home.

That’s when they saw them. A girl with red hair holding a basket. And her little brother with his jaunty cap.  The girl with the red hair looked right at them, and smiled!

Trolley with Family!

The next morning, Sister was curious to find out where those metal monsters went to after they roared past their dune home.

“If we just follow these metal rails, they should take us to where the humans go” she said to Brother, who wanted no part of anything human.

The trolley ended at a group of buildings near the shore. The giant metal monster was sitting there quietly. It was hard to believe that this same thing made all that noise when it moved!

The rabbits remembered what is was like before so many humans came to the beach. Except for the lobsters, crabs and other sea life, the beaches were always clean. Not anymore.

They crouched amongst the leaves, bottles, trash and beach grass. Then they poked their little pink noses out.

Girls on Beach sketch

Brother was watching girls playing at the waters edge. Their fathers, dressed in sharp black suits, watched over them, their straw hats glowing in the setting sun.

Suddenly one of the girls turned around and looked right at Brother! It was the red-haired girl from the trolley last night! She came over to him. But he didn’t run away!

Sister quickly bolted back a few feet.

She just had such a nice face that he didn’t feel afraid. The girl reached her hand out to him, and scratched him under his chin.

“Nice little Bunny” she said to him, “you look like one of the rabbits I saw from the trolley last night.”  She reached into her basket and took out some pieces of fruit.

Suddenly one of the men turned around and yelled out!

“Get away from the animal, Millie!” he cried. “you don’t know what kind of diseases it could have!”

Meeting Fred

Then there was the time when they saw two men standing on a dune not far from their home.

“So this is where it’s going to be, Skip” said the man who was chewing on a carrot.

The man named Skip smiled. “Yes Fred- this should be something. I love your new designs.”

“See those little guys over there? They won’t know what is being built on their home- their own rabbit-hole. But that’s progress!!”

Fred gave a wink and held out the carrot to Sister and Brother.  “See- they’re not scared of me. They know I’m gonna bring fun to everyone- even to little guys like them!”

Fred then grabbed a wooden sign- and with a hammer he punched it into the ground.

Fred sign type

Luna Workers

The Building

Not long after, big machines, trucks and animals pulling carts filled with wood appeared. Right on top of where Sister & Brother lived!

Metal spikes were pushed into the ceiling of their burrow! Things in their home were falling all around them. So up they crawled one night to see what was happening.

Cowering Rabbits

Their rabbit hole now opened up inside a building. They had to push through some loose boards, to get to the surface.

Carefully sneaking around, they got to a doorway and peered out into the open.

All around they could see buildings towering into the dark.

“I’m frightened” said Brother. “I think we have to move. Move far away…”

“We ain’t leaving here- not like scared Rabbits! You remember that Brave Rabbit legend. He took a chance and went into the Farmer’s garden? He had courage! So we are NOT leaving our home. And if I have to get in the face of that cigar chomping human- to let him know he’s on OUR land- then I guess that’s just what I will have to do!”

Fred’s Dream

Fred Thompson went to sleep with images of electric swirling lights dancing in his head.As his eyes began to close he saw dunes and grasses. As he fell into slumber he remembered the rabbits…

He was at his desk. Leaning back in his chair eating his favorite food –  carrots! Suddenly the door to his office opened- and then slams shut. 

“Who’s there?” he shouts out.

A brown rabbit leapt up onto his desk- scattering pens, paper and ink everywhere! The rabbit stood on his hind legs- and pointed her white and pink paw right at his nose.

“So you’re the guy who is building all this stuff all over the top of our home!! You mind telling me what gives you the right go build on my property?”

“Hey Rabbit… I didn’t know that was your home until I saw you earlier today. Besides, why should I have to explain myself to a stinking rabbit!       ?”

With that, the rabbit leapt into the air, spun around- and whacked Fred right in the mouth with his hind feet.

“You haven’t seen the last of me”, he yelled as he dashed out of the room.

Fred sat up in bed. “Wow what a dream”, he said to himself, “ Imagine if I could figure out a way to have talking rabbits as a sideshow at Luna. That would pack them in!!”

Coney - A Trip to Luna Park

Opening Night at Luna Park, 1904

The Park Rises

The banging sounds of construction continued for a long time.

Then one night- all the loud noises stopped. There was total silence. Hearing nothing at all, they decided to climb to the surface. Pushing aside the loose floorboards, they made their way through the building.

Carefully opening the door, Sister went out first.

She thought to herself, “All the stars have come down from the heavens!”

In the center of it all stood a large tower- with lights all over it- and circles on the side that constantly changed color and shape.

Emerging from a doorway at the base of the tower was their old friend on the dunes, cigar-chomping Fred with his buddy, Skip.

Fred waved his arms, then disappeared back into the tower.

Suddenly the lights right near the rabbits started to move! They rose up into the sky and began to spin around the rabbits heads. Faster… and faster!

Sister grabbed Brothers hand and pulled him back into their building- and down, safely, into their burrow.

The Children on the Way to Luna Park

Millie, and her kid brother named Alexander, were getting ready for the big trip to Luna Park. They read all about it in the papers. It had been so hot in the city- and they were looking forward to getting out into the open in the clear, cool ocean air.

Millie remembered being dressed up by her mother, and hurried out of the apartment, down the stairs and into the hot afternoon streets of Manhattan.

They all got onto the streetcar which took them to the terminal, where the steamboats left for Coney Island.

Millie  could see children like her in between the coats and dresses of the adults. She smiled nervously at Alexander.  Soon, she was seated at a window on the steamship- moving along in the middle of the river. She fell asleep thinking about the Statue of Liberty…

Skull Ride

Sister’s Dream 

She wandered alone in the middle of Luna Park. She was lost. 

She found herself in the middle of hundreds of humans walking all around her.

She spotted a dark place just ahead. It looked like a little container- place to get way from all the feet and bodies of the people.

Suddenly she was traveling in a fast machine. Like the trolley monsters but smaller- rabbit sized. As she looked down she could see Luna Park spread beneath her. The trolley raced through tunnels with openings that looked like huge teeth. 

The trolley lurched to the right, flinging Sister into the air. And she landed right into the lap of someone on a train. Why, it was the little red-haired girl! 

Onto the Heads Subways!

The Park Opens

Brother & Sister take a Tour

Sister and Brother now felt brave enough to visit the magical place above their heads.

As the rabbits walked along, in the shadows, they could see all the way to the entrance to the park. The front entrance to Luna was closed with large metal gates.

Some men were holding a long hose, spraying the ground so it became wet and shiny. Some water droplets floated down on the rabbits. It felt good.

Just then, they heard a large screeching sound! Over their shoulders they saw the huge metal gates opening up. Hundreds of people began to stream into Luna Park!

Panicked, they ran to the tower, and quickly spotted a ladder! Up they went- paw over paw, up and up, to the top of the Luna Electric Tower.

They had never been this high up in the air. Ropes with hundreds of flags stretched out in all directions from the tower. They could see over the walls of Luna.

The flapping of the flags in the breeze must have lured them out. Sister took one delicate step out onto the rope attached to the tower, and walked out into midair!

Of course, Brother had to follow- and one after they other, they quickly raced across to another tower! They were above the humans. The crowd sounds filtered up but were whisked away by the ocean breezes.

Rooftops at Luna

Fred in Control

Fred could see all of Luna Park from his office high up in a tower.

But what was this he saw on the flag ropes?

Up the Towers!!

“Rabbits don’t climb, do they?”

Skip leaned back and let out a big laugh.

“Yup, it’s those rabbits again, Fred. You know, if I didn’t know better, I would think that they were after you!”

“I guess you’re right, Skip. I had a dream about rabbits the other night. Think of Alice in Wonderland and the white rabbit and the fall down the burrow into a magical place! Isn’t that just what this place is, Skip? It’s an omen I tell you!”

And at that moment, the rabbits ran right up to their window!

“Hey! Did you see that Skip? Those crazy rabbits are making faces at me!

Me! Fred Thompson- king of Luna Park being shown up by a couple of bunnies!”

 

Still Up in the Air

The rabbits couldn’t believe that they had seen that human with the carrots again!

They continued doing their fun in the air. But the humans below were far too interested with what was happening on the ground.

A parade of animals was making its way down the large boulevard.

They saw so many wonderful things that day! But as the day heated up- and the sun was directly overhead, Sister and Brother began to get sleepy. They soon fell asleep.

 

Coney Parade Coney - A Trip to Luna Park

Coney Parade Coney – A Trip to Luna Park

Millie & Alexander in Luna Park

The day at Luna Park had been a whirlwind for the kids- and and even for their Mother! They loved the giant elephant parade- and the circus act that was performed over the lake. Millie then saw something strange. There were rabbits walking on the ropes high up above Luna Park! Were those their rabbits?

“What are you looking at, Millie?”, asked her mother.

“Just some rabbits way up on that wire, Mama. Look, see them up there?”

“There’s nothing up there- just you and your imagination again!”

Mama was right. The rabbits were gone. But by the look on Alexander’s face, Millie knew he had seen them too!

Now Millie was thinking about THE RIDE! The one she was waiting for.

The Trip to the Moon.

The ride promised to take you to the Moon on a space-ship! And on the Moon you would see real Moon People!

The Fall from the Skies

Sister and Brother had slept a long time up on that tower.

Sister opened her eyes and looked at Brother.

“We slept too long! We have to get back home right now!!”

Luckily they were back in the main tower, which was close to their home. Climbing over the side they started to descend down the long ladder to the ground. Halfway down, they stopped on a ledge.

At that moment a man popped his head over a wall!

“Hey what are you little guys doing all the way up here? This is no place for you!”

The man then pushed a broom at them.Sister backed up into Brother, who was holding onto the ladder. She flew over his head- but he caught her leg. The two of them began to bounce all the way down the ladder!

Down the Tower!

Caught on the Ground!

Plop! They landed in a heap on top of each other!

One woman saw them, and started to kick at them and scream!

Mice! Rats!! There’s something nasty on my feet!!”, she yelled.

The crowd parted- men rushing to the woman’s aid.

One policeman laughed. “They ain’t no rats. Those are a couple of scared little bunnies. Here, let us take them away.”

Rabbits on the Run

One of the cops had a burlap sack in his hands, and the other cop grabbed Sister & Brother and thrust them into it. Plunged into the dark!

They bounced along in the dark for a while. The policemen were talking to themselves.

Finally the sack was put down. They had stopped moving. The policemen’s voices grew fainter.

“OK, we both need to push real hard at the top of this sack”, said Sister.

And with all their combined strength- they pushed. And they pushed! But they couldn’t budge the sack. It was tied too tight! Then they got lucky. The sack opened!

And out they scampered- into the dark.

A surprised restaurant worker had opened the sack by mistake.

“Hey Kid!!  Do you know what you just did? You let our prisoners escape!” yelled one to the policemen- running to the now empty sack.

The pale-faced and shocked kid felt real bad! “I’m sorry officers! I thought it was a sack of potatoes for dinner.”

“Yeah, next time stay out of police business!”

The policemen walked away, twirling their nightsticks.

“You know, Joe, you were a little hard on that kid. And calling those cute little bunnies prisoners?! I think if you had a real prisoner you would be as scared as those 2 little bunnies!”

“Ah, shut up Murph, and eat your doughnut.”

Airship

In the Trip to the Moon

Millie and Alexander were so excited when they  walked through the entrance to the Trip to the Moon. Big glowing letters spread out across the entrance-

TRIP TO THE MOON.

There were costumed people there to help Millie, Alexander and their Mother onto the airship.

Attention Fellow Moon Travelers! In a few moments, your captain and his mates will board your spaceship, and we will embark on our Trip to the Moon. In your wildest dreams you have never seen the wonders that you will be seeing tonight!”

Smoke began to billow all around them. The ship then started to rumble and shake…

Sister & Brother Get Saved-

Or Do they?

They ran away from the policemen, and scampered through the dark, into a building that they thought had the opening to their burrow. They leapt into a large, dark room with a machine in the center. It was shaking and made a terrible sound!

They didn’t know where to go next. They were frozen with fear!

Millie to the Rescue

They saw them in the fog. Their 2 little bunny friends!

Looking VERY afraid!

So Millie and Alexander began to wave to them.

Brother saw her first. He nudged his Sister and pointed to Millie waving to them. She was gesturing for them to go to her!

On the Moon!

When they got off the ship, all around were little men and women who were called Moon People. They were VERY little, around the same size as Alexander.

Millie figured out that this wasn’t really the Moon. The Moon wouldn’t have a gift shop, selling souvenirs of their trip.

It was all pretend!

But it was still so much FUN!

Mama was still staring at Millie and her basket.

“You know you can’t keep them!”, she whispered.

 

Fred’s Big Entrance

Just then a large crowd came bustling directly towards the kids. A man in a dark suit, held his hand out.

“Hello there, Sweetheart! Did you enjoy my little Trip to the Moon? I hope the Moon People didn’t scare you,” said the Man with the cigar.

Millie smiled. “No, Sir. I liked the ride very much, thank you.”

“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Fred Thompson- the creator of all this wonderment”

“Ahem… you see, little girl… Millie, is it? We have a little problem.”

Millie knew what he meant, but she wasn’t going to give away her rabbits!

“I don’t know what you mean,” she lied.

“I think you do, Mil. And you  do too, Squirt,” pointing at Alexander.

“I’ve had my eyes on those 2 little rascals for quite some time now. These are quite unusual rabbits- they are brave- and seem to love Luna Park almost as much as I do.”

“If I did have them, what would you do to them?” asked Millie, holding tight to the basket.

“I’m gonna make rabbit stew out of them, what did you think?”

Millie and Alexander recoiled in horror!

“Hey Guys, if you knew what I’ve been through with these rabbits, mostly in my dreams, you would know that I’ve grown to love those little critters. They belong here as much as any of us!”

Millie believed him, so she handed the basket to Fred. He opened the basket and there were Sister and Brother- still scared, but alive and well.

Fred let out a big cheer. Of course, that meant that everyone else cheered.

“And you promise not to hurt our rabbits?” asked Alexander.

“Listen Chums, no one is going to hurt these rascals as long as I am alive!

And Millie and Alexander believed him.

Afterwards

After the excitement of the Trip to the Moon, Sister and Brother went back to the dunes. They found a nice place that was like their other home, before it was built over!

Millie and Alexander went back home with their Mama. She never did give them a hard time about the rabbit thing. She didn’t even tell Papa! Maybe it was because the nice Mr. Thompson gave them all lifetime passes to Luna Park for being such good sports- and taking care of his rabbits for him. Millie and Alexander would visit Luna Park many times afterwards- and they always looked for their little friends.

Fred continued to have success with his Luna Park. It was so successful in fact, that other folks decided to copy his idea and create their own parks. They were also nice.

And he never forgot his rabbit friends. So he had something special made in their honor- that only Millie, Alexander, and Mama, knew about.

Every now and then, Sister and Brother would venture back to Luna, through their old burrow. Something about the entrance from their old home looked different. It was brighter now. And they no longer had to push boards away to get up into the park.

Still being careful, they climbed out of their burrow, out into the room. Slowly, with much more confidence, they walked out into the sun-drenched Luna Park.

The End… Of the Beginning

So what had Fred Thompson made for Sister and Brother? He had his finest carpenters and painters create a miniature entrance for the rabbits, into their little burrow. With carved columns, detailed and painted doorway, it was all lit with tiny lightbulbs.

And above the doorway, a glowing sign was installed.

It simply said: “The Magic is Here”

"The Magic Rabbit Hole" from the upcoming book: "Coney - A Trip to Luna Park"

“The Magic Rabbit Hole” from the upcoming book:
“Coney – A Trip to Luna Park”