Sunday, 28 July 2013

Clown Time

A while since I featured any coin slot machines, so here's a short article around the theme of clowns.

In the amusement arcades of the 1950s and early 1960s most machines were still mechanical rather than powered by electricity. In any case "electrONic" was a word with an extra syllable and not yet in everyday use. It certainly did not mean the current meaning of the word, which now implies printed circuit boards. And that was probably because transistors were not in use until the mid sixties so complex electronics had to be performed with valves and wires and a chunky base unit.

There were lots of these in those 1950s arcades. Most people called them "Allwins", though that was a popular model of them. We called them "Flick-a-Balls" because that's what you did! They were an efficient way to lose money, though if you got the trick you could usually replicate it. A win got you your penny back and a free go.

Peppy the Clown (Sometimes "Pepe") was popular with children because at the time there were lots of puppet shows on children's TV. Cheaper to make than either cartoons or live action shows with expensive actors, the strings were painfully visible even on the small black and white TV screens of the day. This arcade machine played music and you could press any of four buttons which lifted his arms and legs. Wow, we knew how to have fun in those days...!

Moving out of the arcade to the stalls along the pier or on the Pleasure Beach, these were usually lined up side by side along the stall. Ping pong balls were put in the clown's mouth and dropped through the tube and into a numbered slot below which gave the score. Of course, the clown's head and therefore the tube would be moving all the time and ping pong balls bounce a lot! A variant had a goose's head instead of a clown and the cheapie version had no moving parts, but had a sloped perspex sheet down which you rolled the balls which bounced off a back plate before dropping to the lower level and then rolled back down towards you, landing in a numbered slot.

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