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I'm in Hull, a small seaside town near Boston in the northeast United States.
I grew up visiting the British equivalent of towns like this, and sure,
it's the middle of winter,
it is so bitterly cold here that the ocean foam has frozen.
There aren't any tourists, nearly everything's closed for the season,
but this town still feels a little like home to me.
There is one place on the seafront here that's open specially today though.
And it's the last play-for-cash Fascination Parlor in the world.
- A lot of these did exist back in the day.
I'm not exactly sure how many, all I do know is: this is the longest standing.
A hundred years old last year.
It was transported up here sometime over the past century from Coney Island
and now sits here on Nantasket Beach.
There are 64 machines here,
so on a busy night here we'll have 64 players.
The game begins with your bill on the glass,
we'll range anywhere from a quarter
to a dollar and maybe two dollars at a point in time.
We have the entertainment and gaming licence
for anyone to come in and play, as long as you're over 18 years old.
It is a game of skill.
Like everything in life, there is some luck that goes into it,
but certainly there are some skilled players that I have witnessed over the past year.
- So here are the rules: roll the balls into the holes.
Each time you sink a ball,
the corresponding light on the board switches on.
First to get a line of five, horizontal, vertical or diagonal, wins,
or in some cases, first to light up the whole board.
And here, you win cash.
There are other Fascination parlors
but this is the only one where you're not playing
for tokens you can redeem, you're not playing
against the house, you are playing against everyone else.
And if win, you're taking their money.
With the house taking a cut, of course.
But it is winter, it's the off-season, there are no tourists,
so today I am just playing against Chas, the owner.
Do you have three balls there?
- I do, I'm ready to go, how 'bout yourself?
- Alright, so it's a dollar?
- Dollar on the glass.
Where's my dollar bill?
Think I might be out, but let me double check.
- Do you need to borrow a dollar(?) - I think I do.
Thank you sir.
- Alright dollar on the glass. - Dollar on the glass.
- Alright, good luck Tom. - Alright.
- Three, two, one, roll 'em.
[balls rattling]
- So, we're playing to cover here.
- Playing to cover. - Okay.
- [CHAS] "It is winter right now,
"so the plan for the next few months is to reestablish the arcade,
"shake it up a little bit in there,
"meaning we're looking to make it easy
"for everyone to join, understand the rules,
"and get in here and be a part of the fun."
- How do you aim?
- [CHAS] "Every so often, these games will peter out because of their age,
"and there's a local gentleman
"who comes in on a weekend, fixes them for us,
"so we get right back at it the next week.
""It is still running on century-old technology,
"just a few different components are changed in and out, of course.
"They are all tied together into one circuit and work amongst themselves."
- Am I in the lead? I think I'm in the lead, just.
- Oh yeah, it's by three or four there! I gotta catch up.
[CHAS] "I think there's a place for it to expand and grow
"and be in a lot of different places throughout the world
"but the reason it isn't everywhere is, I think,
"we are a part of the technological era,
"and with different ways that you can stay busy nowadays,
"cell phones and gaming consoles, televisions,
"there are other things that pull away from old-fashioned fun, if you will."
- It's just not... yes, okay, three! I've got three, you've got four.
[CHAS] - "We're going to continue to build off of the history that Fascination,
"here on Nantasket Beach, has had for decades.
"I've heard numerous stories of the folks
"that used to run this over the past five or six decades,
"even more, and I wish these walls could talk
"because there would be a lot to talk about."
- Oh, come on, I've got one.
[TOM] "What I love about this is that these are
"century-old machines, built with the same relays
"that powered old telephone exchanges, and they're all interlocked together,
"in one really complicated circuit.
"No microelectronics, no wifi, just a lot of things that go clunk and buzz."
[CHAS] - "So when someone lights up the board,
"everyone on the sidewalk, everybody in here
"can hear it and they know about it.
"There's usually cheering, all the lights on the board go off
"and the gentleman calling the game, or the woman calling the game,
"will make the announcement that the winner is at, for example, 'table 13!'"
This has got to be it, come on.
- I've hit the one next to the one I need
six times now. - Game over, Tom!
[bell ringing] Winner, winner!
Good game sir, I'll take that and I'll take that.
- Yep, so close.
[bell ringing, then stops]
That was genuinely fun. - That was, isn't it?
The cool thing is, you get these folks
who have never played before, they sit down,
have just as much fun as we just had
and whether they've played it once or twice before,
next thing you know they're here
for three hours long, and as you can see,
it seems easier than it actually is.
- Yeah, cause the first one's like, oh, I'm lighting everything up,
and then, you cannot nail the one.
- Yeah, you cannot, you look and you try
probably twelve times. - Yeah. [laughs]
Thank you. - Yes sir, thank you Tom.
- Thank you to Chas and all the team here at the Paragon Boardwalk.
You can pull down the description
for more about them and about the Fascination Parlor.