Marty’s Playland entertains your inner child with Skee-Ball and other nostalgia
The timeworn sign reads “25 cents.” I feed the machine my quarter. CLICK! The black, flip-style scoring display resets to zero, echoing the sound of an updating flight board. CLICK! CLICK! CLICK! Nine nicked and battle-bruised wooden balls are set free from their stall, at my right, and roll toward me with rumbling excitement. SMACK! The balls come to a synchronized stop. I crouch down, lean in toward the inclined ramp in front me, and gently grasp one of the baseball-sized spheres between my fingers. I swing my arm back in a pendulum-like motion and CLICK! I am transported to another time.
The vintage Skee-Ball games at Marty’s Playland in Ocean City, MD are more than just an arcade attraction; they are time machines—transporting players and onlookers of all ages, to a simpler time—a perfect destination for summer.
“Every game takes me back to my childhood when I played Skee-Ball with my parents and family as a boy,” said James Harvey of Odentown, MD, whose family has been coming to Marty’s to play Skee-Ball for over 40 years. “I am glad that I am able to continue this family tradition with my kids and give them the same kind of fun, lasting memories that they can recreate with their children.”
As I launch my first ball up the ramp and over the ball-hop (a hump at the end of the ramp), I am reminded of my own childhood when I use to organize Skee-Ball tournaments amongst my family at shore-lining arcades. Then, mid-reminiscing, a bicycle-sounding bell chimes as my ball enters the top scoring 50-point ring, causing my inner child to jump for joy.
“The Skee-Ball machines here at Marty’s date back to the 1970s … so they have many unique vintage features, including the [bell sounding] 50-point ring” said Dan Dypsky of Pittsville, MD, a 15-year employee and current technician of Marty’s Playland.
Unlike Marty’s vintage machines, most modern Skee-Ball games have 100-point rings that can set off electronic sound effects or flashing lights. Marty’s Skee-Ball machine’s are also unique for their size. Measuring 14-feet in length, they stretch four feet longer than those of most modern day machines, which usually measure 10-feet long.
“Everything about these classic games emits a sense of nostalgia,” Dypsky notes. “I’ve seen people come in to this arcade for just the Skee-Ball—year after year and generation after generation. It’s truly a unique game and fun experience for children both young and old.”
Other nostalgic attractions fill Marty’s Playland as well. Heading to the back of the arcade, I try my luck at Marty’s vintage Crane Digger machines from the 1940s. Although unable to master the Diggers, I feel myself becoming more skilled in maneuvering the mini-crane within its wooden cabinet with each quarter spent.
As I left Marty’s Playland, I counted not the tickets or useless plastic trinkets won, nor the quarters spent, but only the minutes until I could return to the arcade and once again reminisce about a simpler time alongside other vintage-loving Skee-Ballers. Although… I must say, I did walk out of there with a pretty cool plastic, fluorescent orange clarinet.
Marty’s Playland (http://www.martysplayland.com) is located on the Boardwalk at 5 Worcester Street, Ocean City, MD, 21842. Hours fluctuate depending on season, weather, and traffic. In season, the arcade opens at 10 a.m. and generally keeps its games running until midnight or later.