My first encounter with a razzle was at San Diego in 1953. I was a recruit at boot camp at the Naval Training Center. Our company had progressed to the point of our first liberty.
Catering to Navy personnel was big business in downtown SD. Amidst naval clothing stores where the then recently discontinued 13-button uniform trousers were sold, locker storage facilities where boots could store civilian clothes were photography shops, tattoo parlors and penny arcades. Attractive girls would pose with sailors for photos in the coin operated photo machines in the arcades for a consideration..
One of the arcades had two carnival-type concessions set up. One was a razzle and the other, a swinger.
The swinger caught my attention first. The swinger is usually a suspended small bowling ball and bowling pin. The pin is set perpendicularly beneath the ball, and the object of the game is to push the ball past the pin and knock it down on the back swing.
When the pin is set perpendicular to ball, the ball will miss the pin on the backswing the same amount of space it missed hitting the pin on the forward push. It is impossible to hit the pin.
The game is demonstrated by setting the pin off center slightly which allows the pin to be hit on the backswing. I could always hit it on the free try, but never when the money was on the line..
See YouTube video of a swinger.
The swinger joint was flashed with cartons of cigarettes and that was the prize (or cash for them if the player did not smoke). The agent used a carton of Camels instead of a bowling pin as the object to knock over on the back swing.
Cigarette cartons in those years were wrapped in wax paper. The swinger agent would demonstrate his skill by sticking a paper match onto the carton with only the head of the match protruding past the carton itself. He would then knock off the match without hitting the carton. It did make it appear to be a game of skill.
After losing a few dollars on the swinger, I turned to the crowd of my buddies gathered around what I now know was a razzle. Ten points or more would win some serious money, and Burl had 9-1/2 points already. Thing was, he was broke. He offered to share and share alike if we would help him get that 1/2 point needed. So we pooled our money and pursued that 1/2 point that would pay us a handsome jackpot. Soon all of us were broke. We never got that last 1/2 point.
So much for our first liberty in San Diego.
The razzle is probably the best flat joint ever conceived. It is simple, elegant, with no mechanical gaffs. It is vicious in that the concept is, if a person spends 50-cents, the agent can many times get all the money the player has with him, and send him home (or today to an ATM) for more money. I do not know of any games more powerful. Some were as powerful, such as the Creepers (Skillo, Camel-Back spindles) but there was the disadvantage of a discoverable mechanical component.
A few years ago I searched the internet to see what information I could find about these games. I found nothing. The general public does not know the actual names of these games so they would not know what to search for.
WikiPedia was still anonymous. I decided to write a glorifying article about the razzle designed to provide humor to those folks who were "with it" and who came across my article.
Below is the original article posted, and the WikiPedia article as it appears today. Some of my original words are recognizable.
Razzle is a little fun game sometimes presented on carnival midways. This generic name is seldom known to players as it is generally presented as Football, Ten Points Win, Baseball, Mo-Co, Indian Poker, Cajun Bingo or other name selected to generate interest for the locals.
Razzle consists of playing board with numbered holes, averaging 120, upon which eight marbles are spilled from a cup. The numbers are added to a total and that total is displayed on a chart (looks something like a calendar) with the value for that number displayed beneath it. The player does not have to win or lose each play, but can incrementally progress through the game to an ultimate win.
Very nice prizes are offered. The best part of the game is that more than one prize can be won in the same game. All the player has to do is score a certain number, usually 29, and that adds additional prizes.
All regular Razzle players try for 29. Besides awarding additional prizes, the prizes are guaranteed to the player together with the player's investment in the game upon successful completion of the game. Not many games offer such a generous proposition. After scoring 29, the only way a player loses is to drop dead or quit before finishing the game.