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Posts Tagged ‘carnival game’

Jerry, Ball Toss Game

Jerry, Ball Toss Game, Jones Walk. May 29, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Having grown up working behind the counter of Mom’s Balloon Dart and Dad’s Spot Game, I feel a special kinship with game operators. It’s not an easy job, especially when there’s no awning and the sun is setting in your face. If nobody plays your game, you don’t get paid. The Coney Island indie game agents whose portraits are in this photo album are survivors and jacks and jills of all trades. Jerry was a crew member on the Zipper until the ride lost its lease and was shipped to Honduras. Now he runs a ball toss game on Jones Walk and is one of the stars of Zipper, Amy Nicholson’s documentary about the rezoning and redevelopment of Coney Island.

Monica, High Striker. West 12th Street

Monica, High Striker. West 12th Street. August 28, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Monica, the High Striker Queen of Coney, has been on the road with traveling carnivals. In Coney Island, she was displaced several times due to changes in land ownership, yet she always manages to come back. When I worked a game on Jones Walk, Monica was a few doors down. Since then she’s been on the Bowery and is now located on West 12th Street. This is the spunky gal who told a Voice of America reporter last year that independent attractions like hers give Coney Island its soul. “Our spirit will live on long after we’re dead, honey. We are the blood, sweat and tears on the block,” said Monica in a feature about Coney’s amusement parks.

Skin the Wire

Janice, Skin the Wire, West 12th Street, Coney Island. March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

What’s the difference between an agent and a clerk? Agents work their own game or for a percentage of the profits rather than an hourly wage. They don’t wear company shirts and hats. They know how to call people in to play and are adept at getting you to play some more. The key to their longevity is making sure everybody walks away happy. One of my favorite signs in Coney Island–now long demolished, but its operator is back– is WIN BIG! BIG! PRIZES FOR THE FAMILY!!!


Carolyn, Roll-A-Coaster. West 12th Street, Coney Island. March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Janice and Carolyn work the games of skill on West 12th Street next to the mechanical wonders Miss Coney Island and Coney Island Always and the Coney Island History Project. Roll-A-Coaster and other ingenious games are the creation of Benny Harrison, who should be designated the Wizard of West 12th Street.

Coney Island Arcade

Manny, Coney Island Arcade Games on the Bowery. March 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Target the Coney Island Cat and his human, Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade and Games, recently left Coney’s Bowery forever. Evicted by the landlord, they moved to Las Vegas. Jimmy Balloons, who operated his Balloon Dart on the Bowery was also displaced and has since reopened on Jones Walk under the Wonder Wheel’s big neon sign.

Jimmy Balloons new Balloon Dart

Jimmy Balloons new Balloon Dart under construction in Coney Island. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita


Related posts on ATZ…

May 16, 2013: Shooting Gallery Revival in Post-Sandy Coney Island

April 22, 2013: Saying Goodbye to Manny and Target the Coney Island Cat

April 2, 2013: Shoot the Freak Reborn in Coney Island as Shoot the Clown

April 13, 2012: Photo of the Day: Catch 1 Ball Win This Prize

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6 Balls, Score Under 14 Or Over 28. July 7, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

These two clowns are neighbors of Miss Coney Island, the dancing mannequin, on West 12th Street in Coney Island. Score Under 14 or Over 29 to Win a Big Prize!


Related posts on ATZ…

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

April 13, 2012: Photo of the Day: Catch 1 Ball Win This Prize

April 10, 2012: Up for Auction: Collection of Carnival Knockdown Dolls

December 7, 2011: Jones Walk’s “Miss Coney Island” Shimmies Over to 12th St

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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!


Related posts on ATZ…

November 21, 2009: Nov 28: Coney Island Arcade Auction of Pinball Machines, Coin-Op Games

November 16, 2009: Rare & Vintage: Coney Island Sideshow Banner by Dan Casola

November 3, 2009: Coney Island’s Shoot Out the Star Still Open… Players Wanted!

August 16, 2009: Coney Island Carnival Games: My Photo Album

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