A Plethora of Vintage Pinball Machines

We experienced a true national treasure yesterday during a brief jaunt to Asbury Park, New Jersey. On the aptly named Ocean Avenue (which runs roughly north and south just inland from the beach) resides the Silverball Museum and Pinball Hall of Fame.

The name might make one think this establishment leans to the stuffy side—a museum for pinball, really? What, are the machines protected by velvet ropes with electronic alarms at the ready should anyone reach across?

They are not. Instead, the Silverball is filled with literally dozens of vintage pinball machines (and a dozen or more early video arcade games, for good measure) from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, all there for the playing after you pay a very reasonable entry fee at the door. No quarters needed—just hit the “new game” button and you’re ready to go. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet for pinball buffs.

Naturally, we were drawn to the oldest of the machines—surely you’re not surprised to hear that—and the granddaddy of them all was Knockout, a machine that debuted in 1950. Not only did it feature the typical flippers, bumpers, bells and lights, but if you hit the right doodad at the right time (we never did figure out exactly how it happened), a pair of tiny tin pugilists duke it out in a ring right there in the middle of all the pinball action (there’s a referee there, too, to make sure the Marquess of Queensberry Rules rules are observed).

Vintage Pinball Machines: Knockout--1950 Vintage Pinball Machines: Knockout--1950 Vintage Pinball Machines: Knockout--1950

Other games from the 1950s that we took a crack at included Hawaiian Beauty (1954), Lightning Ball (1959) and Rocket (1959).

But our most thrilling moment of the afternoon was when we came across El Dorado, a game we spent hours (and untold quarters) playing in college (it was the lone pinball machine in our dorm center). We were convinced back in the day that it was a really old game, but no, it turns out it was only two or three years old at the time, having debuted in 1975. After more than 35 years, encountering this game again was like reuniting with a dear old friend.

Vintage Pinball Machines: Hawaiian Beauty--1954 Vintage Pinball Machines: Hawaiian Beauty--1954 Vintage Pinball Machines: Lightning Ball--1959

Vintage Pinball Machines: Rocket--1959 Vintage Pinball Machines: Rocket--1959 Vintage Pinball Machines: El Dorado--1975

If you find yourself within an hour’s drive of Asbury Park—heck, within two or three hours’ drive—and you have even a passing interest in vintage pinball machines, you owe it to yourself to spend the afternoon at the Silverball. Believe us, you will thank us for the recommendation.

At the Drive-in

photo of a 1950s drive-inYesterday, on Jeopardy, there was a category in the Double Jeopardy round that was entitled “At the Drive-in.” Host Alex Trebek noted that the category was intended to commemorate the fact that this year marks the 80th anniversary of the first drive-in theatre.

Below are the five questions in the category; how many can you answer? (Hover your cursor over the questions to reveal the answers.)

Camden in this state was the site of the 1st drive-in; creator Richard Hollingshead's large mom hated theater seats.

Made a national standard in 1967, it annoyed drive-in owners by forcing them to start the show an hour later.

The opening credits of this animated TV show feature a trip to the drive-in, Dino & all.

The 4,000 drive-ins of yesteryear are now 400;

Intermission trailers often reminded patrons not to drive away without removing this from their cars.

Shopping for Sandy Relief!

Here’s your chance to snag some great holiday gifts while contributing to the ongoing Hurricane Sandy relief effort.

Over at our sister site, Cladrite Designs, all proceeds from sales of “New York the Wonder City” shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs and other products—as well 25% of proceeds from sales of every other Cladrite product—will go to relief efforts.

(By the way, the 25% donation applies to all purchases of Cladrite Radio gear.)

Many people in the tri-state area are still suffering, and the struggle to return to normal will be a painful and prolonged one for so many. So while you may not be hearing as much about the aftermath of Sandy in the media today, rest assured there’s a great deal of work still to be done. And what could be better than helping those in need while also checking a few names off your holiday gift list—it’s a win-win!

So head over to Cladrite and start shopping!

Who doesn't love the Circus?

When we’re planning to get out of town, even for a short jaunt, we always do a little advance research, jumping online to see if there are any vintage clothing shops, classic movie theatres (hard-top or drive-in), and/or venerable mom-and-pop eateries in the vicinity of our destination.

Yesterday, a visit to the in-laws on the Jersey shore was on the docket. Since it was to be a one-day sojourn—down and back in one day—there was to be no shopping or movie-going in the offing, but one has to eat, no?

And eat in style we did at the Circus Drive-in in Spring Lake, New Jersey, which has been serving up hamburgers and hot dogs (not to mention soft-shelled crab sandwiches) since 1954.

The Circus is a seasonal shop, opening around April 1 and shuttering for the winter months in October. You can be served in your car, drive-in style, but there’s also indoor seating—well, semi-indoor. There’s a roof over your head, but there are no walls—only are plastic panels that can be lowered to keep patrons warm and dry if the weather’s uneasonably cool or inclement.

The Circus looks pretty much as it always has (the two black-and-white photos below are taken in 1954 and 1971), and the food’s darned tasty. My cheeseburger was darned good, and the crinkle cut fries were top-notch, too. And best of all, the Circus features our favorite kind of ice in their drinks. We’re not entirely sure what to call it—it’s not crushed, really (though it’s often called that), as it comes out of the machine in this form—but it’s a type of ice found mostly at old-school establishments: drive-in restaurants, soda fountains, drive-in movie theatres, etc. We know it when we see it and it makes our heart go pit-a-pat, so if some knowledgable Cladrite reader knows the proper term for it, please let us know.