Step into the Past at Musée Mécanique

IMG_8973I’m don’t really go to arcades all that much anymore, but when I do think they are a blast. Recently I have been finding myself at Dave & Buster’s with a group of friends ready to play more and more. I stick to games such as Jurassic Park or Transformers. Basically any two player game with a seat, two guns, and 3D glasses for the huge screen. I love the stories, always wonder what’s next on the adventure or what’s creeping around the next corner. So when I saw Musée Mécanique while in San Francisco from across the street I couldn’t pass up a chance to see where arcades and video games all started.

Musée Mécanique is located at Pier 45 at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf, right by the water’s edge. Outside it looks like a big warehouse, but inside it’s nothing but fun and a good time. There are hundreds of old arcade and mechanical games that you won’t find anywhere else. Most of them are still playable and when Katie and I went admissions was free!

The collection is owned by Edward Galland Zelinsky. He started his collections when he was only 11 years old and now the Musée Mécanique contains more than 300 items. These items include coin operated pianos, antique slot machines and animations, ping pong machines, and even fair games.

We walked inside and were immediately greeted by “Laffing Sal“, also known as “Fat Lady”, an old favorite in San Francisco. She was previously located at Playland at the Beach, an old seaside amusement park located next to Ocean Beach in the Richmond District, from 1940 until it closed in 1972. Now she can be see making people laugh or possibly terrifying children at the Musée Mécanique. As we stopped to admire her, a girl walked over and slipped two quarters into her slot. She suddenly came to life cheerfully laughing and laughing away, her whole body swaying as she chuckled.

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“Laffing Sal” finally stopped laughing after what seemed like a lifetime and we moved onto check out the rest of the museum. We walked past an old steam motorcycle, possibly the only one in the world. It was built by Mr. Gillingwater in 1912 and Edward Galland Zelinsky  won it in a drunk late night bet with George Whitney for a 1904 Franklin. A few weeks later George asked Edward who he got the better deal. Edward said he did and knew it was true when George asked if he wanted to trade back. Recently someone offered Edward $250,000 for it.  I think we all agree that Edward definitely got the best deal that night.

We continued and found some information on the 1850 Flying Horses Carousel in Watch Hill, RI which I remembered riding when I was a kid. Around and around we went the one to get the golden ring wins another ride. We also found an original version of Rock ’em Sock ’em game called 1928 National Novelty  Knock Out Fighters. We gave it a try. The game is completely mechanical, but due to the constant wear there needs to be constant tinkering to make sure the fight is fair otherwise the game is a little one sided.

The last thing we saw was a coin operated Toothpick Fantasy carnival town by Woody Burke. He made it using over 150,000 toothpicks and liquid cement. Eighteen electric motors provide the energy for all of the moving parts, including the rides and train. The entire Fantasy is portable and can be taken apart and put back together in 30 minutes, a very unique feature that is not seen in many other coin operated displays.

The Musée Mécanique was a lot of fun. I would have never expected to find something like that at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s fun for all ages, weather you’re an adult and want to remember your childhood or a child and want to have fun playing some games. If you’re in the area you should stop by and check it out.

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