Saving Fascination

Fascination is an amusement game, found in many seaside amusement parks, from the 1920s.  It’s a combination of Skee Ball and Bingo.  Players roll a rubber ball down a four-foot table into one of twenty-four holes.  A switch in each of those holes detects the ball and lights a corresponding lamp on the table’s backglass.  The object of the game is to light 5 lamps in-a-row.  Winners can be paid in Tickets, Prizes, or Cash.

Fascination was such a popular game that there were THREE Fascination Parlors in San Francisco alone!  One was located at Playland at the Beach and another was on Market Street.  I’m not sure where the third one was.  Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk had a Parlor, as did Circus Circus in Reno and Las Vegas.  Sadly, all of those Parlors are gone now.

Read more about Fascination here…

The original tables were completely electromechanical beasts with large relay racks to control them and detect “wins” in any of twelve paths.  Over the years, many Parlors decided, for whatever reason, that their machines needed to be “modernized.”  Each operator came up with different methods and followed different paths to accomplish this.  All involved ripping out the relays and ball switches to replace them with Logic Boards and optical Ball Detectors.

Who would ever predict that the act of “modernizing” these machines would actually CONTRIBUTE to their demise.  Let me explain…

As Logic Boards in the “modernized” tables began to die, many Parlor Operators discovered that there was no one to turn to, to repair them.  Oh sure, you could attempt to go back to the company or individual(s) who performed the upgrades, but where WERE they?  Vanished.  Gone out-of-business, retired, or worse… dead!  Now what?  No documentation exists for the Logic Boards, mainly because all the upgrades were proprietary.  Every vendor had a different idea on HOW to do it.  Since there were NO standards for doing conversions, there’s also no universal solution to repair dead equipment.  This situation spelled doom for Fascination Tables everywhere.

As I mentioned earlier, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk had a Fascination Parlor

Former Fascination Parlor at Santa Cruz

Former Fascination Parlor at Santa Cruz

and their converted Fascination Tables began falling victim to this issue.  As more and more of their “modernized” tables lost their Logic Boards, SCBB found themselves dedicating considerable (and valuable) Real Estate to a growing number of dead tables.  In 2008, the difficult decision to close the Parlor and remove all of the machines was made.  Some of them were sold to collectors and disappeared from the public eye.  Luckily, four of them were donated to Playland-Not-At-The-Beach, in El Cerrito, where they were placed in service in 2009.

In 2014, the Logic Boards in these rescued tables began following their siblings to the grave. next…

“Can I help?”


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