Holden and the Central Park Carousel
When JD Salinger (Who grew up in the 1930s across the street from Central Park) wrote about the parks Carousel in his 1951 novel Catcher in the Rye, the ride was relatively new to the park. That is to say, it was the latest installation of the ride. Four other carousels versions had stood exact on the site since 1871, although the 1951 version was the only one built within a covered structure.
Actually, Salinger was probably referring to the carousel, one of the largest in the US, of his childhood since he had started writing the novel in the late 1930s. That version of the ride burned down in 1950 as did the prior version in 1924.
Today’s version of the ride was made by Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein in 1908. It was originally installed in the trolley terminal on Coney Island in Brooklyn, where it operated until the 1940s.
Over 250,000 people ride the carousel every year.
Excerpted from Catcher in the Rye
After we left the bears, we left the zoo and crossed over this little street in the park, and then we went through one of those little tunnels that always smell from somebody's taking a leak. It was on the way to the carrousel. Old Phoebe still wouldn't talk to me or anything, but she was sort of walking next to me now. I took a hold of the belt at the back of her coat, just for the hell of it, but she wouldn't let me. She said, "Keep your hands to yourself, if you don't mind." She was still sore at me. But not as sore as she was before. Anyway, we kept getting closer and closer to the carrousel and you could start to hear that nutty music it always plays. It was playing "Oh, Marie!" It played that same song about fifty years ago when I was a little kid. That's one nice thing about carrousels, they always play the same songs.
"I thought the carrousel was closed in the wintertime," old Phoebe said. It was the first time she practically said anything. She probably forgot she was supposed to be sore at me.
"Maybe because it's around Christmas," I said.
She didn't say anything when I said that. She probably remembered she was supposed to be sore at me.
"Do you want to go for a ride on it?" I said. I knew she probably did. When she was a tiny little kid, and Allie and D.B. and I used to go to the park with her, she was mad about the carrousel. You couldn't get her off the goddam thing.
"I'm too big." she said. I thought she wasn't going to answer me, but she did.
"No, you're not. Go on. I'll wait for ya. Go on," I said. We were right there then. There were a few kids riding on it, mostly very little kids, and a few parents were waiting around outside, sitting on the benches and all. What I did was, I went up to the window where they sell the tickets and bought old Phoebe a ticket. Then I gave it to her. She was standing right next to me. "Here," I said. "Wait a second--take the rest of your dough, too." I started giving her the rest of the dough she'd lent me.
"You keep it. Keep it for me," she said. Then she said right afterward--"Please."
That's depressing, when somebody says "please" to you. I mean if it's Phoebe or somebody. That depressed the hell out of me. But I put the dough back in my pocket.
"Aren't you gonna ride, too?" she asked me. She was looking at me sort of funny. You could tell she wasn't too sore at me anymore.
"Maybe I will the next time. I'll watch ya," I said. "Got your ticket?"
"Go ahead, then--I'll be on this bench right over here. I'll watch ya." I went over and sat down on this bench, and she went and got on the carrousel. She walked all around it. I mean she walked once all the way around it. Then she sat down on this big, brown, beat-up-looking old horse. Then the carrousel started, and I watched her go around and around. There were only about five or six other kids on the ride, and the song the carrousel was playing was "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." It was playing it very jazzy and funny. All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she'd fall off the goddam horse, but I didn't say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them.
When the ride was over she got off her horse and came over to me. "You ride once, too, this time," she said.
"No, I'll just watch ya. I think I'll just watch," I said. I gave her some more of her dough. "Here. Get some more tickets."