Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Now Playing at the Penny Arcade

Yesterday I offered up my top ten favorite things that I miss at Walt Disney World. Number six on my list was the Penny Arcade on Main Street U.S.A. The hours I spent there are unforgettable. The best reference I've found regarding the ol' Penny Arcade is an old Steve Birnbaum Guide to Walt Disney World from 1981. The write up on the Penny Arcade is extensive and includes:

"...there are authentic old-time games - a Kiss-O-Meter, tests of strength, and an antique football game.

"In addition, in the center of the front section of the arcade, there are a number of machines that show very early "moving pictures" - that is, stacks of cards on a roller that can be turned to flip the cards and thereby "animate" the images they contain. There are two types of viewing devices - Mute-o-scopes, first introduced around 1900, whose rollers must be turned by hand, and Cail-o-scopes, developed about a decade later. These are turned automatically. Both of these are worth your while. Most stories here are comedies; the humor is broad and slapstick - good for at least a smile (if not a roar) and as amusing comments on the changing ideas about what tickles a funny bone. On the Cail-o-scopes, you can see such stories as Yes, We Have No Bananas, in which a suitor slips on a banana peel and is ridiculed; Tough Competition, in which sailors come to blows over a pretty girl; Texas Rangers, where the good guy lassos the robber; and Run Out of Town, in which one unfortunate man has paint dumped on him, falls into a manhole, is knocked over by a car, sits on a freshly painted bench, and knocks over a paint bucket - all in a single day. During A Raid On A Watermelon Patch, two fellows do and are discovered. Oh Teacher concerns the antics of a teacher's pest. Brigitte On A Bike shows a real sourpuss taking a tumble; it might be subtitled, "Or The Trials of Riding In A Long Skirt." Particularly interesting is Captain Kidd's Treasure, in which a pirate lass shows knees, bare arms, and ankles. The display of skin - which would rate a solid G today - must have looked positive risque three quarters of a century ago.

"Among the Cail-o-scopes , the best are probably Expecting, which is a funny cartoon about people waiting, and Knock Out, which documents a World's Heavyweight Boxing Championship between Joe Louis and German fighter Max Schmeling; but some of the others are also worth a peek - and the cost is only a penny."

Ye Olde Good Times!

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