The Freddy Garms, mentioned in this excellent piece on the restoration of the old Coney Island Wonder Wheel was my uncle. I remember riding the wheel a few times as a child, the cars that swing into the center and back was something I’d never experienced before.
When I moved to New York to go to acting school, I lived with my Aunt Helen and Uncle Freddy for several months. Their generosity allowed me to live my dream of becoming an actress.
The wheel was built over two years by concessionaire Herman Garms, who built a forge on site. It was complete over two years, from 1918 to 1920. When he died in 1935, his son, Fred, took over. But by the 1980s, Freddy Garms was ready to part ways with it. He didn’t have to go far to find a buyer: Denos D. Vourderis, the operator of a kiddie park sandwiched between the Wheel and the boardwalk.
By 1976, Vourderis was helping to manage the kiddie park, and by 1981 the owner had sold it to him.Garms had been impressed with Vourderis’ work ethic at the kiddie park and his commitment to it at a time when the rest of Coney Island’s amusement attractions were sinking into disrepair. By the early 1980s, like the rest of the city, the fortunes of the area had reached a low point, and revenues were so scarce that rides like the Wheel were no longer regularly maintained.But throughout this period, Vourderis had invested in the upkeep of the kiddie park, making it one of the few successes of the time. Garms sold the Wheel to Vourderis, for $250,000. The Wheel’s only operating instructions were on a hand-scrawled note on the back of a carton of cigarettes from Garms that included the helpful message, “Good Luck.”
Fascinating article for any fan of Ferris Wheels and Coney Island. The fact that I have a Ferris Wheel as part of my website design is not a coincidence.