Some History We Don't Want To Lose!


"Jim Hanson's Memories"

"Jim writes to us from Rapid City, SD. He is an avid player and enthusiast of bingos, beginning as a player in the 50's. His background includes the repair and restoration of many of the 50's and 60's bingos, as well as many other coin operated games and antiques." Jim will be posting articles here as his time permits.




Variety, Big Time Article, posted 8/4/05

HI-FI, VARIETY, and BIG TIME incorporated BEACH CLUB'S familiar arrangement, et, center card, super cards, numbers line up, and score panels, along with the new BUMP and MAGIC LINES features. BIG TIME marked the end of  BEACH CLUB's "standard" features, which reigned for approx 2 yrs after BC was manufactured in Jan,'53. United's fixation with BC generics, et, United's CABANA {3/53}, continued for 3 yrs, all the way to their last machines in 1956.

I have some vague recollections of VARIETY being the first bingo machine I played as a youngster, in Cashman's Cafe. I can remember being there with a couple of other kids and they were "guiding" me as I was playing it, telling me what numbers I needed. I barely missed a number that would have put 20 "games" on the meter, which would have made me the "hero" of the moment, or however long the 20 games lasted. Later on I can remember watching some older kids playing that same VARIETY at Cashman's, and how they were moving the lines up and down, and rearranging the numbers into winning combinations almost every game. Man, that was some kind of magic to this kid!

VARIETY must have been a huge attraction when it first appeared on locations, like a new hit movie for bingo players. I would guess that, initially, operators had to stay close to it for security reasons as well as maintenance. I know of one operator, personally, who told me of emptying a full cash box twice a week, and along with coin jams and other maintenance, VARIETY kept him on the move like nothing before.

The magic lines undoubtedly enhanced the bingos well beyond anything before them, and with all 5 lines, BIG TIME was tops. The "trick" is to get all 5 magic lines lit, and unless the reflex is well into the loose state, you are lucky to get to the 4th line on BIG TIME. 3-in line horizontal scores are fairly easy to arrange, but 4 or 5-in line scores are elusive, even with all 5 lines, because it's not that easy to get a number in each line to arrange a 4 or 5 winner. So there was more "magic" to BIG TIME than might have met the eye, at the time, namely the nickels in the cash box. The magic lines of VARIETY, and BIG TIME, with all 5 lines, are truly MAGIC! In my opinion they have a mystique that is unmatched by any of the "magic" features that followed. I would attribute this, in part, to the ingeneous design of the solenoid operated shift units and the unique sounds they make. What fascinates me most is the way you can move numbers in a single vertical line, et, split two adjacent numbers at the top or bottom into the corners, or arrange 3 or more vertical numbers into a more favorable setup, or a winning combination, like MAGIC!

GAYETY, which followed BIG TIME, is one of my favorites. It's MAGIC LINES and MAGIC POCKETS provides an additional juggling act. The magic pocket feature allows you to mechanically move a ball from hole to hole in the top {1-7} line to the right or left, or release it for further play. GAYETY'S magic lines and pockets complemented each other well, and the two features combined to provide entertainment that held the interest of players. The only thing BIG TIME had over GAYETY was the novelty of all 5 lines. Personally, I think GAYETY is a much faster and more entertaining game to play. It's the only machine I ever scored the 4 corners on, commercially. Definitely one of the "best of the 50's" bingos, in my book.

GAY TIME must be included here as well. I remember a beautiful GAY TIME head, including the backglass, years ago, that I would dearly liked to have had the bottom for. There were 5 or 6 other heads along with it, all nice, including 2 United's, that had apparently been confiscated and the bottoms done away with. Maybe there was some plea bargaining on those, do you suppose? GAY TIME added a 4th magic line, and RED and YELLOW lines with score booster panels, appearing on a bingo for the first time. GAY TIME also adds two additional odds panels for a total of 10, with one on the high end. I've never played GAY TIME, but it looks like a fun and exciting machine.

In my next article, we'll do MIAMI BEACH, then "turn the corner" head for New York for the premier of Bally's next magic acts, BROADWAY and NIGHT CLUB. And to top it all off, a baseball "DOUBLE HEADER"! Any
Yankees fans out there?