Amusement pinball machines were not prevalent in Galveston in my younger years. The City was "wide open" so the gambling machines prevailed because of their higher earning capability. Pool tables and amusement machines in clubs and taverns were uncommon until after the crackdown on the gambling machines began in the 50's and 60's.
Some ancillary shuffle-type games were popular such as bowlers. The largest aggregate of amusement machines that I can remember was the penny arcade at Houston's Playland Park on South Main (before the time of theme parks). My first visits to the park were during and at the end of WWII.
I can remember the Evans Machine Guns so popular at the time. A enemy plane would fly across the backglass somewhat randomly and players attempted to score maximum hits. With successful hits the screen would flash red. This was typical of many war games featuring submarines, dive bombers, bombardiers, etc. See the Mike Munves Catalog on the informational page for illustrations of other machines of this era.
Another favorite of mine was a baseball game by Amusematic called Lite League. It was like a pinball in appearance, but the playfield glass was painted with illumination from below. The pitcher would wind up, throw, and if my timing was right I hit a home run. Or out. Or bases. I would like to see one of those old machines again.
I have collected some machines representative of the machines I played. Being from Galveston, I am primarily interested in gambling pinball machines, antique slot machines and consoles, how they work, pay out percentages, repairing and restoring them. I prefer electromechanical consoles and pinball machines.
See the machines I collected under the drop menu above. Hurricane Ike destroyed the pinball machines and console slots in September 2008.
Galveston has a rich history of being Sin City on the Texas Gulf Coast. The gambling was essentially controlled by the Maceo brothers from the '20s up until the city was shut down.
A good account of this history is provided by Frank E. Chalfant in his book, Galveston Island Of Chance. Chalfant includes many pictures of gaming checks used in Galveston and Galveston County throughout that period for collectors of these items.
Gary Cartwright's book Galveston A History Of The Island provides a more historical account of the city, and he includes several chapters on the Maceo era. He also describes the hurricane of 1900 which devastated the Island killing 6,000 people. Cartwright's book is available from Amazon and other booksellers.
The structure over the Gulf as depicted on the book cover above was known as Murdoch's Bath House. The photos were made about 1929. The picture of the viaduct was made from a vantage point on Murdoch's. The viaduct connected to an amusement center called The Crystal Palace which featured, among many concessions, a salt-water swimming pool. Rental swim suits, lockers and showers were available for the many tourists visiting the Island. Six railroads operated passenger service to Galveston and there were many excursion trains. Additionally, there was the Interurban, an electric rail operation from Houston that could run the 50 miles between the cities in 75 minutes.
In the '40s and '50s Murdoch's had a bingo parlor, restaurant, curio shops and souvenir stores and the "Bird Cage" which was a circular room filled with slot machines. Accross the Boulevard from Murdoch's were two Sportland arcades, each filled with slots.Two other bingo parlors operated, one on and the other just off the beachfront.The Beach Amusement Park was also in this area with thrill rides, Ferris Wheel, etc. with an endless loop of Hank Williams background music. The arcade within the park was essentially slot machines, but they also used Diggers as slots by filling them with watches, silver dollars, halves, quarters, and of course lots of dimes and nickles.Among the concessions in the amusement park were a Sit-down Grab ,Wire Joint, Dark Walk, Mirror Maze, Salt-water Taffy, Penny Pitch, Over-Under Seven, Bix Six wheel, Cat Rack or Punk Rack, Spill the Milk, Shooting Gallery, two Set Spindles and two Razzle joints, one on each side of the midway. Many vacations were lost right there. What is a Razzle? It is a flat joint carnival game called a count store. It could break the Chase-Manhattan bank in less than an hour.