As we indicated in a previous post about Timeline Arcade, we here at Next Exit Travel are big fans of arcades. It isn’t about nostalgia, our inner 12-year-olds just never died. We were in New Jersey for a family event and as we got in the car, WPT mentioned we were only a short drive away from Asbury Park – home to the Silver Ball Arcade Museum. Suddenly, we were detouring to the Jersey Shore.
The pinball machines were amazing – some over 60 years old and in perfect working condition. The variety of machines was impressive – from mechanical relics to Elvira offering sexy come ons to Charlie’s Angels. Galaga was my game back when I had to seek it out at mini-marts and game rooms and I probably played one of my best games in a decade on their machine. They also have Pong, Tetris, and an air basketball game that was a lot of fun. Most games have information about the manufacture and history of the machine, so it is a museum. A museum of fun where you can touch every exhibit.
The admission is time-based, so you can try a ton of games without worrying about running out of quarters. We only had an hour before we needed to hit the road, but it was enough to get a taste and want to go back.
The priest waves his crucifix through the air, administering last rites, as the guillotine lops off the head of the condemned and the curtain falls on the “French Execution”, one of more than 200 antique coin-operated amusements that comprise Musee Mecanique, tucked away amidst the touristy bustle of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
The French aren’t the only ones in the Musee’s phantasmagorical collection that show Grand Theft Auto how it’s done; there’s also an “English Execution”. Indeed, violent and nefarious scenes pervade these machines, some of which date back to the 19th century. One could easily picture a young Thomas De Quincey dropping coins in the “Opium Den”. Elsewhere, the shifty-eyed “Flasher” earns his moniker while “Laffing Sal” and “Jolly Jack” manically yuk it up against the strains of a century-old Wurlitzer Orchestrion.
Musee Mecanique’s founder, the late Edward Zelinsky, began collecting his automatons and amusements in the early 1930s. Today, Zelinsky’s family maintains his legacy in both form and function. Incredibly, all of the arcade’s machines are kept in their original working condition, so bring your pocket change; prices range from one cent to one dollar (most fall in the 25 and 50-cent brackets). Admission to Musee Mecanique is free.