JAMES CONEY ISLAND: My Fondest Memories
by Bill Thompson (with thanks to Ben Thompson)
(Selected for use in JCI 80th Anniversary Ad Campaign in 2003)

If you grew up going to James Coney Island regularly like I did, it's hard to pick just one favorite JCI memory.  But all of mine involved my dad.   In 1923, when JCI started its first year of business, Dad was only a few months old.  According to family legend,  he asked that his baby bottle be filled with JCI chili.

When he started his career, Dad worked downtown, and he would preach the joys of dining at JCI to everyone he met.  Our family spent many Saturday afternoons downtown, starting with coneys at JCI followed by shopping and a movie.   During the work week, at lunchtime Dad was always ready for a "chili checkup and a wine punch" (2 coneys, small bowl of chili and a Delaware Punch).  A 1960's newpaper photo captured Dad patiently standing in line, anticipating his treat. 

One day in 1968, he looked over at a fellow JCI customer and instantly recognized a famous face hidden behind sunglasses and a cap pulled down low.  Dad waved hello, and the mystery man smiled and waved back.  It was none other than John Wayne, in Houston while filming "The Hellfighters".  Dad respected The Duke's privacy and did not interrupt his hot dog dinner, but told our family about it that night, confirming that John Wayne had excellent taste.

Dad, our "1922 Original", passed away last year.  To James Coney Island, "The 1923 Original" - Thanks for the Memories and Best Wishes for your Second 80 Years!

Back to the JCI Page

Back to the Thompsonian Institution