Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Youthful Bliss





    i remember scott warner from the world of skateboarding, and i remember a wooden skate ramp at playland south. a crown royal bag full of tokens at playland and we were in heaven

  2. Hate to be a buzzkill, but weren't there a bunch of shootings, stabbings, assorted brouhahas and pier six brawls at Playland North. I seem to recall the Top Dawgs were somehow involved.

  3. I guess I have to comment, since I requested the topic. ;) What I remember: how gray everything non-game looked (what color were the walls? the floor? I honestly can't recall), the noises of the Space Invaders machine, which I did and do love (great game, I've introduced my kids and my niece & nephew), and standing by as the faithful girlfriend as my boyfriend tried to get enough points for extra rounds of pinball. I don't think I stepped inside after 1979.

  4. Anyone else love Qix and that game Bubbles with the spiders in the sink? I used to drag my kids there so I could play them. First time ever I got hooked on a video game. I would love to find a stand up Baby Pac game.

    What about Wizardland on Pierson Road (the building still stands btw a small appliance repair place). that place smelled so bad-like gasoline.

  5. Sounds like the Playland you're discussing is a lifetime away from the one the babyboomers went to in 1957 down by the Flint River bridge on Saginaw St. (next to Schipicassie's Candy store). Did it move? All game machines were mechanical(no one would hear of Pong or Atari for another 20 years). The most expensive pinball game was 5 cents and most others were 2 cents. Reynolds Stamp and Coin shop was on the second floor of the Kresge Building. A friend went there and spent his whole life savings of several dollars to complete his Lincoln head penny collection. We then stopped at Playland. He put down his coin folder to play the games and forgot the collection when we left. He ran back in about 10 minutes and found the folder on the floor empty. Someone had used every new penny to play the games. He was beside himself.

  6. Playland on the Flint River was my Saturday morning mecca during the 60's.

    I played all the games and seldom went to a tilt. If you did Playland, you know what the orgin of the word "Bonus" is all about.

    I dropped so much coin on slum and kept right on buying. I'm sure my tricky dogs are still lying at the bottom of the river, somewhere...


  7. Around 1961 or 62, when I first started riding the Civic Park bus downtown from Mallery St., Playland was one of my prime destinations. I probably wouldn’t have even known about it if my mom hadn’t told me to stay away from those places down by the river. I remember the many exotic mechanical games and pinball machines.

    My favorite was the heavy duty WWI style cylinder shaped machine gun. I don’t remember if it shot BBs or what, but in my eyes it was really close to the real deal. They also had the novelty counter where you could buy stuff like cigarette loads, hand buzzers or fake vomit and dog turds.

    I seem to remember a beatnik type hangout nearby with the cool cats sitting outside playing bongos and making the scene. It may have been called Plato’s Pad. Across the street were all those coney joints you could choose from. Man o man, those were the days.

  8. Oh Boy-Playland!!! Or Slayland as my brother called it after the shootings and stabbings at Playland North that Würstside Warlørd mentioned.

    I only went to Playland North out on Pasadena a few times and nothing sticks out in my memory except the black and white monitor Star Trek game and getting into a fight with the attendant went I went Baja on the Go-Kart track.

    Now Playland South out on Dort...... That place was like my second home from '80-84 after I got my license during high school and even college. I think just about every quarter I made on my paper route went to that place.

    The wall of sound of the front room as you entered hit you like a hammer. Not to mention that odd aroma of geeksweat mixed with cigarette smoke and Calvin Klein Obsession. The Playland crowd was always pretty mixed. Tons of Grand Blanc kids in Izod or Benetton with skintight Jordache or Calvins hanging out in the parking lot rubbed shoulders with every Poindexter or Proto-Goth type within 50 miles. On Friday or Saturday night you'd get the leather wearing muscle car bondo buggy driving "cool" kids showing up. They never went into Playland, they just hung out in the parking lot ducking into their car for the occasional hit on the 40 or bottle of Boone's Farm or Mad Dog that they managed to score from Awad's or the party store up the street in Whigville. They'd be hanging around to see if they could steal the date of some Poindexter. There were always cars with foggy and smoky windows parked around the sides of the building-conveniently not lighted.

    Every noisy videogame invented by Atari, NAMCO, or Williams was on the upper level at one time. I'd pump 10 or 20 bucks into the token machine and get a huge pocket full of tokens and take hours to burn them. I absolutely remember the "Bubbles" game (loved it! but I think they were ants not spiders) and Qix (and Tempest-still have carpal tunnel from spinning that knob) mentioned earlier. All the hot girls played Qbert or Ms. PacMan. But, I was massively into Joust. My brother and I would play 2 player and a quarter would last an hour between us sometimes. That screeching terradactyl and guys on little flying buzzards zipping around the screen at blinding speed were pretty awesome. We even had nicknames for action during the game "Haircuts, Rubberlance, Alamo-position, John Wayne-ing, 'dactyl dogmeat, etc." I also loved those early green or blue simple line graphics games like Battlezone. Playland even had a sit down "Red Baron" that was awesome. But StarCastle was the king. I almost had a heart attack when the big ship in the middle launched a giant fuzzbomb at my ship with accompanying ear splitting roar. The howling game soundtrack and sound effects were adrenaline inducing beyond belief. My uncle was a Missle Command prodigy-I never saw him lose. He just eventually walked away at some ridiclously high level.

    Then there was the second room downstairs loaded with pinball machines. I bet my initials for high score are still burned into the Gorgar machine. Me Gorgar-Me Got You!!!! The over the top gaudy Flash Gorodon machine with pulsing discobeat music and strobe light, as well as the Black Knight game with Magna-Save all got my attention. That room led to the invention of the term "Helen Keller Pinball"-when your ball is rolling around hitting nothing and the machine is silent. Much taunting by friends would ensue. There was a back door by the pinball machines, that was supposed to be closed but always somehow managed to get propped open-even in the middle of winter for quick escapes from the occassional visit by an officer of the GB Township police or Genesee County Sheriff.

    The putrid brown carpet was worn threadbare, the walls were a mix of dingy grey and washed out blue, the attendant was always scary looking, and had his head buried inside some machine or other in his secret little backroom. But there never was a place like Playland for pure out and out fun. I spent so much time inside, I never did use the Go-kart track or putt-putt course that came in later. I could never get past the Tapper machine without one more round.....

    I went back a couple years ago and the game selection is just a shadow of it's former magnificence (thank you X-Box)and the place was absolutely overrun with small children (thanks to Bonkers next door)-even when I was there on a Friday night. Not a teenager in sight-except this overgrown one.

    Besides Playland, Flint was blessed with a number of Video Arcades. I could do a whole thread just on Flint's other videogame arcades: Aladdin's Castle at Eastland Mall; Electric Avenue at Windmill Place; Invaders Arcade in GB; and whatever the name of the one at Genesee Valley was.....

    But, Playland was always the best......I wish I could head out tonight and drop another quarter in that old Joust game....

  9. Aaaaah, thank you Darwin. That's the Playland I remember.

  10. And thinking about where we used to play... what about the stinky putt-putt course on, maybe, Corunna Road? Right near the sewage treatment plant. Why on EARTH did we play there??

  11. Ah, Playland. That was a favorite date destination for my boyfriend and me. We would always double with my cousin and his girlfriend who also happened to be my best friend. So many good memories. I played Tempest, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, the original Mario Brothers game, and so many more.

    I don't remember any gang activity, but then I went to Playland South, so maybe it wasn't around there?

  12. At Playland North, does anyone remember a side room that held a really odd-looking game? It was a glass (or plexiglass) case, and it contained a plastic UFO at each end. Between the two UFOs was some kind of miniature landscape, like the kind that model trains use. It looked like the UFOs might shoot light or a laser at each other. I never actually saw the game in operation. I've been trying for 20 years to find out what the game was, but so far no one else remembers seeing it.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at