Everybody remembers their local arcade, providing you had one. If you were lucky to have warm, sticky floored local arcade then hopefully, if you are like me, you could most likely remember the minute details of the carpet colour to the facial expressions of the regulars who slammed hours into the latest tech from Japan and the USA with their hard earned coins.
The smells, the noise and the exact temperature emitting from each individual machine. What machine you could hide a slush puppy on top of. What machine to avoid if a heavy smoker had been sat that all morning chuffing away at their leisure with a screwed up ten box of B&H gold. The sounds, sights and nuclear gamma rays emitting from each screen. The guy who worked there. The kid outside who was selling 3.5 back up disks. The chip shop closest to the arcade for meal times including lunch, light snack and sometimes diner.
My local was the appropriately but under optimised ‘Silver Dollar’ in Romford, Essex.
A quiet street, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the market laden with MA2 bomber jackets and baggy ‘Spliffy’ jeans, The Silver Dollar was at it’s it peak, completely dead.
Only regulars and some old chaps who ran a pool tournament on a Saturday morning were likely to be seen in here. Seldom was it that a new face appeared, welcoming was the establishment but yet always concerned with new faces by the regulars. Entering the arcade, I can still see and hear approximately ninety percent on offer here.
Black, purple and blue swirly carpet was directly beneath your feet. Years of fag burns, trodden in pickled onions and Wrigley’s mashed into the floor. Yellowed ceiling tiles with extremely dimly lit lights hovered above the tops of loud, hot and well used arcade machines. The walls, literally a Mecca for CVG & Mean Machine posters, neatly framed – drilled into the navy blue walls.
Two isles of machines, roughly ten against the left wall, back to back were at least six machines creating the middle sections and the second isle against the right wall were probably four machines, creating a large gap on the front right of the arcade for the big one. No, not Dance Stage Mega Mix – Daytona of course.
At the rear of the arcade were two large pool tables, one purple and one blue. Just behind the two pool tables was the hub of the entire arcade. On the left a unisex toilet. Well kept. On the right KOF 95 (The machine change like clockwork, right up to 2000) and Street Fighter 2. In the middle, the most important part, the old guy who owned the place. A tiny box with a glass window. The old guy, then in his late 60’s, was a wizard. In his box of wizardry, shelves of Panda Pop drinks – 30 Pence each. Mars bars, Wham Bars and the odd rarity or what ever flavour Push Pop that was in fashion.
He was the controller. The final boss. The wizard of all. He cleaned. Hoovered. Dusted. Sorted your change out. Sold you Strawberry & Ice Cream Panda Pops. Over saw the Pool Tables. Fixed PCB boards in front of your eyes, the smell still lingers up in my nostrils to this day. He never said a word. But he was a wizard so he didn’t have to.
Nobody knew his name.
It’s a strange sensation, but I can remember the heat patterns and smells of each machine. Sounds weird? Stand next to Track & Field for five minutes and then venture over to Mortal Kombat and give it a sniff. The first isle never changed. The machines were the classics. Gauntlet. Paper Boy. Track & Field. Joust. Defender. A robust and sturdy line up for any arcade new or old. These machines were the old guys possessions, obsessions and blood.
The back to back middle isle ventured mid to late 80’s then 90’s. To the left were Road Blaster up-right cab. CABAL ( A personal favourite ). A refurbed cabinet that contained Ghost’s & Goblins.
To the Right Metal Slug (This was in heavy, heavy use). Mortal Kombat. Smash T.V. WWF Wrestlefest 91’ Edit. TMNT Arcade. Many more. So many more crammed into such a small place.
The highlight and focal hub of the arcade however was the KOF cabinet in the corner right, back of the arcade. This was the cool place. Winner stays on. Always. No less. No more. It was religion, the nerve centre. It held the Terry Bogard kid territory. Red baseball cap and all. Beat him and you were in. You were one of them. I personally never beat him. Ever. So I watched. Mastering my craft whilst eating a packet of Cheese & Onion Golden Wonder.
Outside the BMX’s were stacked. The days went by slowly and the world turned whilst ten to fifteen vampiresque humans of all ages did their thing, crafting friendships and an addiction to all things Japanese, including Panda Pops (British) until the day the arcade closed.
The smell, sights and sounds have never left me. Nor the old guy who we all wanted to be when we were old and grey. Times have changed, but memories live on.
If the place were open today you could vouch it’ll still draw a crowd, with phones and cameras – streaming live plays and selfie’s in front of the machines. Back then we didn’t have that. We were their In the zone. All that mattered was the game you ere playing and what game you ere playing next.
Article by Daniel Major - aka. GuyFawkesRetro
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