EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Slot | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'slot'

The Purple Mile

The Purple MileI think you kind of have to be kind of old to remember slot cars from the 60’s and 70’s, but our own Playland at the Beach had a famous track built into the original location of Topsy’s Roost that many of us old guys who were kids back then remember.

The Sovereign 220 [The Purple Mile was it’s nickname] was to slot car racers what Mavericks is to surfers. Slot cars were sort of like hot wheels on steroids. They were bigger and had a little pin that stuck down into a slot that received electricity from a hand grip that you squeezed. The tighter you squeezed the more electricity would go to car making it go faster. There were several tracks you could buy for home, but it was never the same as the Sovereign 220. I remember going in their with a friend of mine somewhere between 1965-1969 which was probably towards the end since I would have been about seven when it closed. I remember the smell to this day. Now I know it to be the smell of ozone as the electrons were splitting the oxygen in the air and making it recombine into a not very safe gas.

The track was big. It was the largest slot car track ever built and being a small kid I could barely see the end of it so you’d sort of lose track of where your car was on the track. I can’t remember how much it cost to run your slot cars on the track, but being seven I didn’t really care about money back then. I was still having adults pay for the penny candy I was eating all day long to fuel  me up to run around like a madman.

Unfortunately slot cars were starting to be old news by the late 60’s just like Whitney’s Playland at the Beach. It was closed down and the track was sold to someone in Texas and it was sold again and probably again until it wound up being bought by a hobbyist in Ashland, Massachusetts who restored it to it’s former glory. I managed to find a video of the track as it looks and operates today which isn’t much different than it was back in the 60’s now go grab some electrical wire and a 9-volt battery to click the wires together to make sparks so you can get that same smell in your room just like the old days at the slot car track.

Who Was Charles Fey?

Since I’ve been using the wayback machine I’ll turn it on again and look at a man who was born in 1862 in Bavaria. A man 100 years my senior, one of 15 children who left Bavaria to seek his fortunes in the US starting in New Jersey and eventually ending up in San Francisco.

He liked to work with mechanical things and because of this he eventually wound up working at the California Electric Works where he met his friend Theodore Holtz whom after awhile decided to leave CEW and start their own company. The Fey Company specialized in telephone, telegraph and electrical equipment until in 1895 Charles Fey created a device he called the Liberty Bell, a boxy contraption that you would insert a nickel into and pull an arm on the side of the machine to cause three wheels to spin and depending on what three images came up you could win up to five dollars [if you got three liberty bells].

Charles Fey was the inventor of the first slot machine and it happened here in San Francisco. In 1980 E. Clampus Vitus placed a plaque commemorating the invention of the slot machine at the location of the original Fey Company at 406 Market Street.

The original Liberty Bell machine can now be found at the Liberty Bell Saloon and Restaurant in Reno, NV owned by the grandchildren of Charles Fey. It is made of cast iron and weighs in at over 100 pounds and believe it or not, it still works.

So here is a salute to Charles Fey the man who invented a way to take money from the willing without even having to be there. He was better than any disposed Nigerian Prince I’ve never met.