Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summertime, And the Living is Easy

Here's another one of Dad's photos, City Beach in the crush of another beautiful Lake City day. You can see Playland pier in the back; dang, what a great place when you were a kid. Forget Coney Island, we had a reasonable facsimile right here that was good enough.

A kid could have a hell of a great day at City beach with a dollar bill. There was the Merry-go-round, Rock-o-plane, tiny tot roller coaster, Bumper Cars and the ever popular Swings which literally put you over Lake CdA. [We always imagined one breaking and sending a rider way out into the lake.] I rode everything at least a couple times but usually spent my money in the arcade. There were a few very special machines there.

You couldn't afford to do everything on a dollar but at least a couple times each summer I'd shoot the growling bear with the light beam (pre-laser days by a damn sight) rifle. It was great hitting that glass eye in his side, causing him to raise up on his rear legs, growl and turn. Great shooting! And there was skee-ball and pinball and ancient hand crank flip picture movie machines. One was a snake eating a rat and the other (if they didn't catch you looking) was a fan dancer.

Then there was the good stuff. There were two post card machines. For .02 you got a photo of a movie star (starlets on one side, hunks on the other) or, even better yet, hot rods and custom cars. Why or why didn't I keep all that crap? Yeah, famous words we all can claim.

But then there was the greatest arcade game of all time. There was an (of course, ancient) early try at a soccer game. It was basically a large aquarium size glass case that stood on metal legs (hell, it was all metal). On the front were a slot for a penny a hand lever on each side. In the case was a playing field covered with little players and a goal with goalie at each end. The field was lumpy and low spots were in front of each player so the ball wouldn't go dead. When you flipped your lever, all the men on your team would kick one leg, plus your goalie would cross the goal. So you'd flip that lever in an early version of foosball. The balls were steelies (yes, steel balls) and you got one for every penny.

Hell yes it was fun, and it got even funner as the game became more about trying to break the glass with a kicked steelie than it was pushing an abacus like bead for scoring a goal. And at a penny a ball, I tossed a good share of dollar bills, a penny at a time into that machine playing and trying to break that glass. Amazingly, and with what had to be like 1930's glass, it never broke. No matter how many solid shots on glass we slammed, it never even cracked.

A penny a ball. Try and have that much fun nowadays.


  1. I lived down there too. My brother and I took swim lessons every summer. Remember sitting on the beach before and after sessions shivering, wrapped in a towel, just waiting to go into the arcade. Though I lived for the bumper cars, Mom loved the Ferris Wheel and always took us on it when ever she could. Remember climbing under the pier? Man we were brave.

  2. How about throwing handfuls of sand at the bats under the pier? What little bastards we were.

  3. Dave... I love this stuff !
    Does this mean we are getting OLD

  4. Every time I see a picture like this, I think "I must be in there somewhere!" Every summer day of my childhood looks like this in my memory. I just discovered your blog...thanks for stirring up my memories today.