Skee Ball and Sea Wolf (Rehoboth, part 3)

January 22, 2008

I will always remember the feeling of standing in the arcade at Funland on a summer afternoon, with an ocean breeze blowing through the wide open space. Feeding quarters into the machines. Hearing the symphony of bells and whistles, pings and pops, crashes and crunches coming from all the different games. Being young and not knowing or caring what time it was…

I love skee ball, and Funland had plenty of lanes. There really is something oddly satisfying about getting in to a nice rhythm of sending the heavy brown balls smoothly up the lane, one after another, and watching them pop pleasantly up into the various holes. That center hole was nice, but hitting one of the special holes up in the top corners meant you were golden. (Truly, hitting one of those was usually a freak accident more than anything else.) The skee ball lanes at Funland did not offer tickets to redeem for prizes, at least not back when I was there, which is part of why the games were so cheap (only 5 or 10¢ each!). You had to “get your high” off of a high score alone. That’s a character-builder, right there.

I haven’t set foot in an arcade in many years, but I do remember with fondness a few particular video games in the arcade at Funland. By far, the one I spent the most time playing had to be Sea Wolf. There is a photo of one of the machines as I remember it, if you click here and scroll down a bit. I’m sure the game existed in other arcades around the country, but I only ever recall seeing it at the beach. Maybe there was something about playing a shoot-boats-with-torpedos game in a setting where you can smell salt air… I don’t know. But I enjoyed it. It had the simplest of black and white displays, and it played that familiar sonar “ping” sound over and over. I looked through the periscope and fired off missiles with a thumb button. It was all about timing. The missiles seemed to move painfully slowly sometimes, and I had to figure out just how much to lead my shots off ahead of each boat in order to hit them. Then, every so often, the little PT boat would make its appearance… and there would be a small adrenaline rush as I tried to fire off a round at the right time to sink it. The most satisfying feeling had to be when I would fire a torpedo that was going to miss whatever boat it was intended for, but right before it disappeared it would strike the PT boat just as it was making its appearance! The game wasn’t quite prepared for such a turn of events, as the high-pitched sound of the PT motor would continue to play even as I watched the boat sink. What can I say? Simple pleasures.

The other favorite of the video games that I remember was one called “Gun Fight.” Another one-color game, this one could be played with two people simultaneously, or it could be one player versus the computer. It was simply a game of two cowboys shooting at each other, with the requisite tumbleweeds and saguaro cactuses (cacti?) getting in the way now and then. I think if you got shot, a little gravestone with “RIP” appeared where your man had been standing. Thrills upon thrills! But I think that Gun Fight and Sea Wolf were my favorite games because they were so simple and straightforward… just aim at something and try to shoot it. No dancing aliens or bizarre cartoon characters. Just shooting.

I haven’t been to Rehoboth Beach in many years… I think the last time I was there was in the summer of 1988. Sometimes I think I would like to go back, but then I am afraid of being disappointed. Because things have surely changed since I was a kid, and I think I would prefer to just hold on to the great memories in my head… memories of being young and sunburnt, running barefoot down the sidewalk toward the beach on a hot summer day, deciding how to spend my quarters, and feeling like I was the queen of the world.



  1. Laura, I loved to read your memories of Rehoboth Beach. Brings back lots of memories for me too, of sunburns and itchy sand that was always so hard to get off…and the donuts and fries too.

    You did not mention the racing dogs game where you won so many stuffed animals. I thought it was one of your favorites, but then I think you got tired of it when it became too easy…and other folks would give you quarters to play and win for them.

  2. Hi Mom,

    I thought about writing about that horse racing game (horses, not dogs) but then I thought I had already gone on long enough, and people were getting bored. 🙂 It was a favorite and I actually would love to sit down and play it again now to see if I still have the magic!

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