Friday, July 09, 2010

Penny-in-the-Slot Machine

In the Olden Days of the 1960s, there was an amusement arcade in Tenby, discreetly hidden behind the walkways up the cliffs of North Beach.

I loved it. My mother disapproved of it, and had no interest in it, but the Communist was often up for an hour's gambling on the Penny Falls, and hang the cost: sometimes we lost as much as half a crown (that's twelve and a half pence to all you youngsters).

I was never interested in the fruit machines because I liked to have at least the idea that you might have a bit of control over the result. And hence I liked the Penny Falls. You rolled a penny - an old penny, much bigger than the tiddly little current ones - down a groove with the aim of position it, upon landing, so that it pushed a whole heap of other pennies over the edge of a small precipice and into your possession.

Oh, the joy of getting it right and watching them fall! And the particular joy of watching someone else who had got a whole pile of them teetering on the edge, and then given up. The second he turned his back I'd be in there at top speed, trying to persuade the lot to hurtle into my greedy grasp. The thrilling sound as - say - tenpence clattered down and became mine!

The other thing I liked there were the old penny-in-the-slot machines, like this:

You put one penny in the slot at the top, then turned the silver knob, bottom left, until a little silver ball came out. Then you used the knob, bottom right, to flick the ball and if you did it right then it would go down one of the "Win" slots and you'd get another go. A penny bought you about six balls and if you were highly skilled - as - (modest cough) - I was! - you could keep it going all afternoon at the total cost of one penny.

Even in the 1960s these machines seemed rather old-fashioned, and hardly anyone except me used to play on them. They lurked in a dark corner of the arcade, well away from those more sophisticated machines where you could drive a car on a track or use a grabby thing to fail to pick up a cuddly toy.

Finally, in the early 1970s when the currency changed, they were taken away. I missed them.

And then this week an identical machine - it may even be one of the ones I remember - popped up again in Tenby! It was great to put my hands on it and my hands immediately remembered just how to turn the dial on the left and just at what speed to flick the one on the right!

Suddenly, it was as though a gap in time - one which encompassed all games from the glorious Pong (electronic table tennis, sadly mocked by modern youth) to Space Invaders to Playstations - had closed, and I was ten again. Woohoo!

Then I remembered where I was, and where the penny-in-the-slot-machine now lives.

We were in the museum. Yes, since you ask, I did feel suddenly rather old.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Ruth said...

I think I fondly remember Shove-a-ha'penny machines but of course I can't cos that would make me older than I will admit to being. Perhaps it was in a former life that I would go into the arcade section of Oxford's annual St Giles Fair and get a thre'pence or sixpence worth of change to feed the machines. Nearly as fun as feeding the birds but, according to 'Mary Poppins', that worked out more expensive at tuppence a bag... oh dear, it's a fantasy, isn't it?!

7:55 am  
Anonymous Shooting Parrots said...

In my case, it was my nan who enjoyed nothing more than an afternoon in the arcade on the bandits, taking me with her, much to my mum's disapproval.

I don't know what you'd call them, but my favourites were the animatron boxes, especially the Haunted House. For a penny, ghosts would pop out of the chimney and the eyes would move in the paintings etc.

I think they may still have some of the old machines at the Pleasure Beach in Blackpool.

3:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember when Morecambe pier collapsed in a storm in about 1977. The local youths soon started diving for coins from the broken slot machines.
Val

8:29 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The End of the Pier at Southport
Lancashire this is an arcade of old machines and take old pennies its really good you buy the pennies and lose them but didnt we always - Paul

11:01 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home