‘Nobody can take those away from us’: Couple that met at Coney Island reflect on three

CINCINNATI — They fell in love with Coney Island. And then with each other.

Krista and Mike Howard worked at the amusement park for over 30 years.

Krista learned how to swim at the legendary Sunlite Pool before she became a lifeguard in 1986. By her last summer in 2017, she trained and oversaw 115 lifeguards.

“She was like the little mayor of Sunlite,” her husband Mike said.

He’s no stranger to Coney, either. He started working as a parking attendant in 1986 at 15-years-old. He worked his way up to general manager in 2014, a role he held until 2018.

“We were very fortunate to have 30 years in a place where everyday you enjoyed going into work,” he said.

It was the people who made the place special, Krista said. She recalled her trips around the pool deck when she would stop to chat with members she’s known for decades: “The lifeguards used to laugh because when I would start off on my lap, they knew it would take me at least 30 minutes to get around because I would stop and talk to so many people.”

For the Howards, their workplace became family.

“A lot of members just saw me grow as a person as well, including through my pregnancies,” Krista said.

Their three daughters all learned to swim at the gigantic pool. They’re affectionately called “pool rats” because they’re there all day long, Mike said.

“They go from swim lessons to being members to being on the swim team to being employees to being parents of kids who start the whole cycle again,” he said.

It’s a cycle that’s coming to an end with plans for a new music venue at the same location. Fighting back tears, Mike described how it is a place families come to create memories.

Memories that are immortalized in decor around the Howard’s home, from coffee table books to historic pictures and posters.

One of their favorite pieces of Coney Island memorabilia is a custom-made sweatshirt from their daughter that holds a famous phrase from the park: “You don’t stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing.”

“We have lots of memories,“ Krista said. “Nobody can take those away from us.”

Many are sharing their memories in a public Facebook group.

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