Growing up in a seaside town, Penny Arcades were a fairly big part of my summer, Easter and Christmas holidays. Oh and weekends. It was always a treat to take my bag of 2p coins to the beach and try to win big. (Trust me, you wouldn’t want to go swimming. I was being euphemistic when I said ‘seaside town’ what I meant was ‘an island in the Thames estuary’.) The arcade is still there, but it’s in a sorry state. Perhaps there isn’t really space for seaside arcades anymore?
On Brighton seafront, nestled under the archways by the pier, sits a quiet relic of seasides past; the Mechanical Memories Museum, or as it says on the other sign, the National Museum of Penny Slots Machines (1895-1955), or as it says on yet another sign, the Old Penny Arcade Museum. It’s a quirky little museum, and although the signage is a bit schizophrenic, the premise is simple; here are slot machines from days gone by
After trading in modern money for some old money, you’re ready to hit the slots. This museum doesn’t just offer you things to look at and reflect upon, no! Instead, the old slot machines are kept in working condition so you can have a go. All those hours spent shooting Zombies in various games came in useful playing an early forerunner of the arcade shoot-em-up, but the real star of the show was the scarily accurate palm reading contraption, which was spot-on describing my companion Imogen (you might remember her from this adventure).
The Penny Arcade Museum is charming enough, and it is great getting hands-on with seaside history but there were a few things that would have made the visit a bit more satisfying:
- It was great playing the games, but it would have been nice to have known what I was playing. Where was it from? Was it popular back in the day?
- Photos were allowed, but only for ‘personal use, not for the internet’ (please note the photos used here don’t show the inside of the museum) but we live with social media now, the internet is ‘personal use.’ I found the main point of the museum was not what things looked like, but how much fun it was to play the games. Surely, if photos were shared it would encourage visits?
- What was it with all the names? The story of the museum itself seems to be quite a tale, so why not tell it?