Kiddie Rides At the Grocery Store

In front of many grocery stores and 5 and 10 cent stores once sat kiddie rides. These mini-amusement rides were coin operated and for a minimum investment a child could enjoy a brief moment of joy before being drug around the grocery store. At least that was the way I felt.

Polylerus at English Wikipedia, Kiddierides1, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

The ride pictured is a helicopter, but the staple rides of my era were Trigger (Roy Rogers’ horse), Silver (The Lone Ranger’s horse), and a paint horse we thought of as Scout (Tonto’s horse).

Once the trend caught on, manufacturers broadened their horizons and created spaceships, and stagecoaches, race cars, and trains.

I cannot remember how much the rides cost, but I would guess initially 5¢ or 10¢. Later, I am sure like so many coin operated rides the coin boxes were exchanged so they could require quarters.

There were, of course, gumball machines near the entrance of the store, too. Originally clear glass containers on a metal pole filled with colorful gumballs, they were the next luring step into the dreaded grocery store. Two hands, cupped together, caused mothers to stop and dig through their purse for loose change.

There was something magical about dropping a penny into a machine, turning the handle with one hand while the other was firmly seated at the bottom of the chute to catch the gumball, or jaw-breaker, or even a palm full of mini-candies. I do, recall on more than one occasion getting a rather hard and stale gumball.

The glass containers soon went the way of plastic and contained novelty toy items rather than gum or candy. Perhaps keeping the candy fresh became problematic. Plastic bubbles filled with cheap rings, or paper tattoos soon replaced many of the candy machines and the price went up. Always a quarter.

While some still exist, many of these machines disappeared in favor of the crane/claw machine. The machine is filled with toys and it seems very possible to snag one easily using the claw operated by a crane-like joystick or push buttons. Sadly, I learned these machines are programmed to deliver a toy only after a certain level of money has been invested – the payout.

Claw machine
Nlan86, A Claw Crane game machine containing unicorn plushes in Trouville, France, Sept 2011, CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s too bad the magic of dropping a nickel into a machine to get a quick ride on a bucking bronco has disappeared. At least I can remember them fondly.