My dad had his 70th Birthday this past week it got me thinking about our times bonding as father and son. It is funny that the name of the place we bonded was the Rebel Arcade, yet it was here I got closest to my dad when my family would go to Lake of the Ozarks every summer.
This arcade is the high water mark for me when it comes to arcades.
I remember just how huge it was. You had arcade cabinets, pinball, air hockey, skee-ball, pool tables, and bumper cars in the back and even a small pool where you could race remote controlled boats. Going to the arcade was my favorite part of the trip. I would beg my mom and dad to go as soon as we got close enough to see some familiar landmarks.
As soon as we checked in to the motel room I would be jumping up and down tugging on my dad’s shirt excited to go. I really wanted to be old enough to walk to the arcade by myself since Mom and Dad always had to rest before we could go since they had to take turns driving the way down.
My dad loves to fish so some years we would take a boat and other times we would just fish by the shore and off the docks. I did not like fishing. I found it boring and taking a fish off the hook was gross. Dad would bribe me with more quarters if I went fishing with him. Mom did the same when she wanted to spend the day shopping in the tacky tourist shops that were all over the area.
On the days my dad would take me to the arcade it made all the shopping and fishing trips worth it. As soon as I walked in I hit a sound wall of beeps blips and chirps. The arcade was split pretty evenly with pinball taking up one wall and video games taking up the other with a mixture of carney games bridging the gap between the two.
I would make a beeline to the video games to check out what new cabinets they had acquired. Dad would find a pinball table that was not busy and pull up a stool in front of it. Back then you could smoke inside the arcade so he was set for however long I could make my quarters last. Moon patrol, Joust, and Burger Time were a few of my favorites.
I would go back to Dad when I had run out or was getting low to find him playing pinball. He would tell me I could take one from his stack he had sitting on the glass. I would rush off again hoping to get a high score to immortalize myself in a top ten list.
Dad and I would play some skee-ball and air hockey together but for the most part, I spent my time in the future of arcades while he stayed with the machines that put arcades on the map in the first place. It was not until I looked back on the trips as an adult that I started putting the pieces together.
I never questioned how my dad always had quarters. My kid thinking was that Dads always have money. Really it was because he could play on one quarter for a long time winning free play after free play. I remember sometimes coming back to see my dad and finding crowds gathered around him watching him play. Naturally, I would stop and watch along with them, but as soon as I saw a guy leave the machine I wanted to play I would go running back. I never achieved a high score or attracted a crowd when I played games, but I bet people remember my dad.
Midway through writing this article I called my dad up to tell him how bad I felt that we did not get to do more of the things he wanted to do on vacation. He told me spending time with his family was what he wanted to do. Whether it was at the arcade or at the lakeshore.
Cheers to you, Rebel Arcade. May you live up to your namesake and rebel against the trends of arcades closing. Fight as long as you can so others can build memories like mine of a dad wanting to spend time with his son and in the process becoming an arcade hero.