07 July 2013

Crane Games

Girl with toy dog, 1942

When I was little and my family lived in Philadelphia, we lived nearby a 1950's-themed diner. I loved the place, and one of the things that I loved about it was that it had a crane game. I'm not sure that this was authentic to the diner's theme, but as a small child I found it a thrilling amusement. Every time I played I would insert a quarter with the hope of getting a good toy, only to be disappointed to by coming up with nothing at all. A little research tells me that crane games can be set to have a certain payout percentage, and my experience with this particular machine leads me to believe that its payout was close to nil.

Bizarrely, the only other crane game I ever played was also in a place themed to a past time period, and even more bizarrely that place was Colonial Williamsburg. The hotel my family stayed in was operated by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and was right in the historic district, but it had a lot of modern amenities including a small recreation area with a bicycle rental service and a game room. The game room only had a few games, one of which was a crane machine filled with stuffed animals. Given my past experience with such games, I never expected to win anything from it, so I was shocked when my first quarter won me a stuffed dog. It wasn't a toy that I ever would have purchased for myself, but for many years I kept it anyway as proof of my triumph over the crane game.

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