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Old Doc's GameWe’re long accustomed to seeing antique carnival wheels, ball-toss figures and shooting gallery targets in the collectibles category on eBay. Ten years ago we wrote an article for Games Magazine titled “Step Right Up! Folk art collectors are snapping up vintage carnival games.” But this is the first time we’ve seen an entire vintage game being offered along with its vintage game booth—wooden stick joint, canvas and all—as historical memorabilia. Is “Old Doc’s Game” a museum piece or merely an obsolete piece of carnival equipment? You decide…

The photo of the vintage Duck Pond and canvas-and-stick joint transported me all the way back to the New England midways of my childhood. In the 1950s and early 1960s, my parents operated games with traveling carnivals and at fairs—Pitch Till U Win, Balloon Dart, Cover the Red, Slot Roll Down–you name it, we worked it. In those days we still had home-made wooden joints instead of custom-built concession trailers.

Stick joint textI can almost feel the heft of the lumber. As a little girl my first job was to carry the little wooden braces from Dad’s big red truck to the location where the joint was being set up. Each stick of lumber had to be laid out on the ground in a preordained manner. As Dad and our roughie hammered together the hinged pieces, I handed out the nails and sometimes got to drop one in. The canvas ballycloth in particular evokes tactile memories of helping set up the joint because snapping the ballycloth onto the front of the counter was the very last part of the job.

ducks in tank The Duck Pond for sale on eBay is described as Classic 1950s Americana. “Up until last year this game was at the fair making money for over 50 years,” says eBay seller “houseofmemories802,” who is based in Vermont. “All original, all hinged together and comes completely apart for easy storage. I have the canvas sides and top, the light fixture board, the breaker, the original metal stand that it sat on, the motor and pump and approximately 30 of the original ducks.”

When ATZ got in touch with the seller for info on the game’s provenance, we learned that he’d bought both the Duck Pond and a Cat Rack Game from “an old timer whose Dad was in the business forever.” He added, “Someone should really take these and keep them original as they are. I’m sure they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore. I have a feeling it might take some time on eBay because of the price, but then again it only takes one person.”

ducks textAlthough the price is indeed on the high side—$2,900 or best offer, I find it laudable that the seller is trying to preserve a piece of Vermont fair history. It’s sad when artifacts such as old carousels and old photo albums get broken up and sold piecemeal to collectors. When that happens, the items lose their historical context and become curiosities set adrift in the world. We’re pretty sure the kids who played Old Doc’s Game at the state fair will miss this gaggle of ducks.

cat rack The seller is also offering Old Doc’s Cat Rack, a ball game which is sometimes called a Punk or Doll Rack. The game includes 28 vintage punks, the original throwing balls, and the original stick joint and canvas tops and sidewalls. Says the seller, “This is the complete package as it’s been set up at the fair since the early 1900s.”

Update, December 3, 2011…

In 2009. ATZ wrote about this eBay auction of a complete cat rack as well as a duck pond, stick joints and all, which belonged to an old-timer whose father had been in the business forever. The seller tried to preserve these pieces of Vermont fair history and offered the games in their entirety for many months on eBay, but no buyers came forward. The dolls were (and some of them still are) being sold separately for $150-$175 and the antique stick joint is now available for a mere $249!

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