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For over a century, Coney Island has played a critical role in the development of both the amusement park and the roller coaster. Over that time, over 50 different roller coasters have operated in less than one square mile of ocean front, thrilling millions of visitors each summer. In this illustrated talk, Richard Munch, one of the founding members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts and Historian of the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives, traces the historical ups and downs of Coney’s long list of gravity thrill rides, from 1884 to the present.
Richard Munch has been documenting the roller coaster phenomena for almost 50 years. Growing up in Queens, he began riding coasters in NYC in 1973, after conquering an early fear of them. While studying at the City College School of Architecture, he was drawn to the rides of Coney Island, Rockaway Beach and Rye Playland. He traveled extensively in the late 1970s, visiting nearly every park in North America and discovered that many coasters were already on the endangered list. With demolition taking on a national precedence, including even the threats against the Coney Cyclone, he found himself in the middle of a critical time in coaster history.
Alarmed by the declining number of rides, he helped found the American Coaster Enthusiasts in 1978, specifically designed for enthusiasts and preservationists. Remarkably, even before the internet, the organization grew from 50 members to over 1000 during his tenure. It was at this time that the inspiration for a museum dedicated to the roller coaster was born, with the dream to save as many of the rides as possible, even with limited funding. He also assisted in the first ever roller coaster guidebook, Roller Coaster Fever and helped with a LIFE magazine feature on the new hobby. He also authored the club’s first Designer Series book, Harry G. Traver – Legends of Terror, and later produced the only comprehensive listing of roller coasters on a large wall poster. He recently served as Historian for the organization and is a board member for the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives project in Plainview, Texas.
He is presently a project manager for Onyx Creative, an Architectural-Engineering firm in Cleveland, Ohio and resides in Chagrin Falls, Ohio with his wife and three daughters. What excites him the most, to this day, are the friendships and experiences he has gathered over four decades – while watching the coaster population explode across the globe. Now he just dreams of that special place that will house all the wonderful treasures that has been collected in the last 30 years.
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