Schemer manages to eke out a living with the revenue generated from his modest-sized arcade at Shining Time Station. Here you'll learn more about the classic machines that entertained patrons for only a nickel apiece!
Schemer in his arcade, Season 1. The pay phone on the far right is a Western Electric 233G three coin slot model from 1965.
There's literally a wealth of entertainment history featured in Schemer's arcade that most of us took for granted during Shining Time Station's run. We decided to do some in-depth research into the arcade machines' origins, and occasionally consulting experts to provide Shining Time Station fans with interesting details about these set pieces. With that said, we present you with the results of our findings below!
The arcade's jukebox was the arcade's centrepiece throughout Shining Time Station's entire broadcast run. We'll set aside the notion that a musical troupe of little people live inside it to focus on the jukebox's origins. Wayne White revealed that this beautiful jukebox, though just an old shell, was customised for Shining Time Station by sculptor Barbara Galucci.
Though intended as a non-functioning prop, the jukebox is indeed based on a real-life prototype as confirmed by several jukebox experts we've consulted. Both Lindy Hooper and Hildegard Stamann suggested from its outward appearance that it was once a Wurlitzer model 616 jukebox built in 1937, which has gone through a few modifications. Lindy and Hildegard point out that one main feature on original Wurlitzer jukeboxes is a "window" which gave patrons a view of the machine's internal mechanism and 16 disc capacity 78 RPM records. All other manufacturers' jukebox mechanisms were hidden from view.
Original Wurlitzer 616 (left) and another later upgraded with an aftermarket "light-up" kit (right). Note how the mechanism and record discs are visible, a characteristic of early Wurlitzer jukeboxes.
Hildegard adds that it's probable that the first modification made to the jukebox was the installation of an aftermarket "Light-up" kit which was offered in the 1940s to make the older wooden machines look more attractive by using backlit illuminated plastic casings. One manufacturer of light-up kits was Gerber & Glass, and a typical style element used by that company are the musical notes seen on the metal frame on the sides of the cabinet on the Shining Time Station jukebox. Hildegard also mentioned that the center grill style can be traced to an English company, K.E.B., Camden, England, that once specialized in the repair and upgrade of pre-1939 jukeboxes.
Spotted on eBay, details of an old aftermarket "Light-up" grille conversion kit for Wurlitzer 616 jukeboxes. Front grille is identical to Shining Time Station's jukebox with red phenolic plastic sides.
We can deduce that the artist used the gutted shell of a derelict Wurlitzer 616 as a basis. In addition, with reference to the numbered photo below:
The jukebox's original rotary song selector from the jukebox (pictured right) is missing from the prop. On the original machine, a patron would look at a numbered list of available song titles under a panel at the top-front of the jukebox (3), push the corresponding numbered button for the selected song on the rotary song selector, and lastly put their nickel into the coin slot to play the tune.
The original small window pane to see the record player mechanism has been replaced on the prop with a solid panel. On the panel, the artist mocked up a rectangular push-button style song selector beside the song titles.
The jukebox's top was rebuilt slightly raised, with light panels covering up where song titles would be displayed on the original model. Whether Barbara worked with the existing shell, or had access to, to machined additional light-up kits is not known.
Musical notes relief typical of Gerber & Glass jukebox upgrades as pointed out earlier by Hildegard Stamann.
Coin Slot: On the original model, the base price to play a song was 5 cents. From left to right, a patron had the option of either inserting a nickel (max. 20), or a dime (max. 10), or a quarter (max. 4), with the internal mechanism keeping track of song credits.
The jukebox itself remained unmodified throughout the series' entire run including the Family Specials. The only subtle cosmetic difference noticed after Season 1 is the absence of the silvery floor casters beneath the machine (pictured right). They may have been simple floor protectors that were left behind or misplaced when Shining Time Station's production relocated from New York City to the Greater Toronto Area.
The prop did suffer some abuse during the production of the Family Special: Once Upon a Time, in a scene where it ended up in a garbage dump!
In the end, Barbara Galucci created a beautiful jukebox prop for the show that drew everyone's attention and stirred the imagination about the wee people inside who entertained us with their live musical performances!
We wish to extend our thanks to Lindy Hooper and especially Hildegard Stamann for sharing their expertise and insight with us!
Wurlitzer 616 Operation
The Picture Machine
In the series, Schemer's arcade "Picture Machine" played music videos for patrons when they inserted a nickel and began turning the crank at the side of the machine. Schemer likely had no clue how special this arcade fixture was when you consider the machine's actual origins and purpose. But then again, Shining Time Station is a special place isn't it?
In reality, the "Picture Machine" is based on a device invented in the late 1800s and popularly known in the early 1900s and 1920s as a "Mutoscope", also commonly referred to as a "peep show" machine given its risqué content.
The form and construction of these Mutoscopes varied greatly, from metallic constructs to devices enclosed in a wooden cabinet as pictured on the left and similar to the one seen in Shining Time Station episodes. Regardless of their outward appearance, the machine's functionality remained the same.
The machine operated on the basic animation principle of flipping a series of consecutively taken photographs, essentially presenting the viewer with a crude silent movie. The photographs were usually taken from a motion picture frames and printed on thick and durable card stock. The photos were mounted in order onto a circular spindle measuring about 10 inches in diameter (as seen on the right).
A spindle would typically hold up to 850 photo cards which would present the viewer with a silent movie of about one minute in duration. A poster of the movie featured in the Mutoscope would be hung on the backboard of the machine (missing in the Shining Time Picture Machine prop).
To watch a movie, a patron would insert a coin into the slot at the top, which once detected would release a lock and engage a mechanism operated by a hand crank located on the side of the machine. They would then look into the top viewer where a light bulb would flash on as each photo card flicked by, and the mechanism would disengage itself when it detected the end of the movie reel. The Mutoscope's operation is explained and demonstrated in greater detail in Kevin Keinert's video at the end of this section.
Picture Machine from Season 1 (left) and from 'Tis a Gift onward (right).
The Picture Machine prop featured in Season 1 of Shining Time Station was replaced with a different one when production moved to Toronto with 'Tis a Gift. The differences between the props are apparent in the picture above; the Picture Machine seen in 'Tis a Gift onward is less ornate, with the viewer and hand crank situated closer to the front of the machine.
Kevin Keinert explains how a Mutoscope works
Football (Soccer) Game
The "Play Football" (Soccer) arcade game manufactured by the Chester-Pollard Amusement Company, New York, between 1924 and 1926, was only featured in Season 1 of Shining Time Station. It was a 5¢ two-player game set inside an English football stadium, where opponents stood at opposite sides of the machine to control their team players with levers. Teams were distinguished by solid colored uniform tops made from cloth or knitted wool. Player movement was rather limited, but the object of the game was to kick a steel ball between your team's players until you were in a position to score a goal. When the steel ball was in front of your player figure, you would push the lever down to make his leg kick out and make contact with the steel ball. The table top was designed with sloped depressions to ensure that the ball will always land at a figure's feet (hopefully from your own team!). As seen in the photo on the right, the prominent "Play Football" sign on top of the machine is missing from the Shining Time Station version, and the original levers have been replaced or modified during some subsequent repair.
Schemer originally had plans to junk the game in the Season 1 episode Ring in the Old, but a patron convinced him to do otherwise by extolling the virtues of such a classic gaming machine. It looks like Schemer later changed his mind because the game was noticeably absent in the 'Tis a Gift holiday special and we can surmise that the prop was left behind in New York when Shining Time Station's production moved to Toronto.
Chester Pollard "Play Football"
This claw/digger game was built by the Exhibit Supply Company, Chicago circa 1934. Cabinetry styles varied somewhat, but with ethe exception of a missing top signboard, the one featured in Season 1 of Shining Time Station is a close match to the one pictured on the right with its walnut paneling and birch finish trim. The game was mocked up to be a merchant steam ship moored at some tropical port, where a player could attempt to pick up a bundle of candies or other small novelty using a claw attached the ship's cargo boom.
Operationally, the machine was very simplistic in design and very much hands-off. Before a patron inserted their nickel, they would set the location where they wanted the claw to drop. Using a circular "locator" wheel on the machine's right-front panel, by choosing the FRONT, CENTER, or REAR arrowed directions. Once satisfied with the position, the player inserts their nickel, and the claw dropped automatically onto the location to hopefully grab and hold onto a prize. With luck, the desired item would then be dropped into the ship’s cargo hold, where it would slide down into the front-center delivery chute to be picked up by the player.
Image right used courtesy and thanks to Jim Roller - Vintage Amusements
Novelty Merchantman (working)
First seen in the arcade beginning of Shining Time Station Season 2, this coin-operated Steam Shovel game was manufactured by the Chicago Coin Machine Company in 1956. Chicago Coin made use of a converted then-contemporary toy steam shovel made by Doepke as the game's main feature. The toy steam shovel's boom was modified to raise and lower a bucket with a chain, and the base of the toy was motorised to pivot left-right and vice versa.
The game's objective was for a player to use two control levers to pick up lentil beans with the bucket from a depression, and fill a red hopper at the back of the machine with as many as you could before your 1 minute of play time ran out. One lever controlled the right-left movement of the crane, while the other was used to drop and control the opening and closing the bucket. At game's end, the contents of the hopper were weighed with a scale which provided a figure measured in "tons". Based on the result, the patron would be rated as either a "Beginner", "Advanced", "Qualified" or "Expert" player.
ManofMay's YouTube video below demonstrates the operation of his restored "Steam Shovel" game.
Chicago Coin Machine Co. Steam Shovel Game
Grandma Horoscope Fortune Teller
'Tis a Gift, SEASON 2 +
The Genco Fortune Telling Machine seen in 'Tis a Gift (left), and the version seen in Season 2 onwards (right).
Genco manufactured this animated fortune teller machine in 1957. The figure of an old woman comes to life after a patron inserts a nickel into a slot for a "fortune", or a dime into a slot for a horoscope. To receive a horoscope, the patron would turn the dial until his/her zodiac symbol is illuminated. The fortune teller would then move her head from side to side and and wave her magic wand and card holding hands above an bulb-lit crystal ball. Once the mystical theatrics were completed and depending what the patron paid for, a scroll containing either a horoscope or fortune would be dropped into a slot located at the front of the machine.
It is interesting to point out that there were actually two different versions of the fortune telling machine featured on Shining Time Station. The fortune teller first seen in the 'Tis a Gift special is a later modification to the model to replace the dispensing of a fortune scroll with a "Yes" or "No" answer flashed inside the crystal ball. After the patron inserted a nickel in the "Fortune" slot, they would ask the teler a question by speaking through a "vibra-phone" (a hole in the front cabinet window, where it's claimed that "Your voice vibrations choose the answer". Fans can easily make out the "vibra-phone" in 'Tis a Gift. The model seen in Season 2 onwards is the original version as described where the machine dispensed a fortune as a scroll.
In the video below, YouTube member OzziesRobots demonstrates how this "mysterious" fortune teller worked.
Genco Grandma Horoscope Fortune Teller
"Big Top" Vending Machine
For Shining Time Station fans afflicted by Coulrophobia, the sight of this vending machine first seen in Season 2 must have been unnerving!
This "Big Top" floor standing vending machine (also pictured left) was manufactured in the years 1969 to 1975* by a co-op between two Californian vending firms: the Advance Manufacturing Co. and Harby Industries. The machine is made of sheet metal while the clown head is moulded from Styrofoam. The machine dispensed large plastic capsules containing a novelty or toy.
The clown vending machine was not seen again with the resumption of Season 3.
Noteworthy Mention: The same vending machine model was featured in the 2nd season (2010) of the reality show American Pickers in the episode Gordon’s Gold Mine.
* Other sources claim that it was manufactured in the late 1950s to early 1960s.
Coin-Op Horse Ride
SEASON 3, Once Upon a Time
Horse ride seen in Season 3 (left) and possible basis (right)
The coin-operated horse ride seen in Season 3 has a rare very distinctive head, mane, stance and tail shape. Although we don't have any year, manufacturer or model details, a close match has been provided to us in this photo (top-right) by Jamie Berenbaum, a dealer in used and new coin-operated rides. This one in particular is from a dual-horse ride. With that said, without closer examination, we don't know if the horse featured in the show is on its original frame, or if it put together from miscellaneous parts recycled from derelict machines.
As an aside, the gumball machine featured in the series from Season 2 onward (top far-left) resembles one from a range available in the 1920s that were manufactured with an iron base to provide added stability. Although the one featured in the show may be an authentic antique, it could easily be a replica machine built and sold by Great Northern (right) in the mid-1980s.
This section covers the arcade machines that were only seen once in an episode or special which deserve an honorable mention!
Seen in Season 1 "Promises, Promises"
In the Season 1 episode Promises, Promises, Schemer expands his arcade empire by bringing in extra arcade machines and taking over the station's floor-space; a coin-operated horse and elephant ride, and a pinball machine.
With some detective work, we were able to find an exact match for the elephant ride featured in the episode. Its vintage and make is still a mystery, but adventurous fans visiting Manhattan's Chinatown can actually see it on display in front of the Bayard L.C. Pharmacy Corp. at 62 Bayard (pictured below). It was still there in 2017. If you do plan to visit, be sure to bring a quarter! and we'd welcome any photos and information about its manufacturer ;)
We believe that the coin-operated horse featured in the episode is a 1950s vintage "Cow Pony" manufactured by All-Tech Industries. The machine's fibreglass or aluminium/steel cowling and rider step board that normally covers up most of the frame is missing. Fans can watch the ride in action in the video below, courtesy of YouTube member Cheryl Chester.
All-Tech Industries Cow Pony Ride
The pinball machine featured in the episode has been identified thanks to expert Jay Stafford, Editor of the Internet Pinball Database website.
Based on the available visual cues and characteristics seen in the low resolution episode screen-capture of the machine, it is without a doubt the "Star Light" model manufactured in 1984 by Williams Electronic Games Ltd. and was a 4 player game. The artwork on the main panel a wizard character gazing at an orb with a flying dragonfly-type insect.
With the promotional advert for this pinball game proclaiming that "Your future is in the stars!", we're informed that only 100 units of this model were built. It's a wonder that given its rarity that this pinball machine made an appearance on Shining Time Station! You can find additional deltails about the Williams "Star Light" model on Jay's website. YouTube member tntamusements also explains the game's workings in detail in the video below.
1984 Williams "Star Light" Pinball Game
Seen in "'Tis a Gift"
Exhibit "Blue Streak" claw/digger machine (left) and an as-yet unidentified strength/grip machine seen in 'Tis a Gift
A few additional arcade machines were featured in the Holiday Special 'Tis a Gift. Tucked away in the back corner of the arcade was a claw/digger machine that was very different than the one seen in Season 1, and a strength/grip test machine.
Unfortunately we've not yet been able to identify the grip machine, but were able to match the claw machine's make after consulting James Roller of Vintage Amusements, who specializes in the acquisition and restoration of vintage claw/digger machines.
Mr. Roller identified it as an Exhibit Supply Co. model called the "Blue Streak" (manufactured circa 1939). James mentions that the company produced several versions of the "Blue Streak" with different trim packages, but their most dintinguishing feature was its cobalt blue mirror on the machne's back wall. We again would like to thank Mr. Roller for his insight :)
We can see that the version that appeared in 'Tis a Gift had its front panel plate modified at some point to replace the triangular bottom piece with one that was square.
Seen in "Mr. Conductor Gets Left Out"
The coin-operated televisions featured in Season 3's Mr. Conductor Gets Left Out are TV-Chairs from the 1970s that once relieved many a passenger of boredom (and coins) in bus and airport terminals across North America. Manufacturer is not known at this time.
Seen in "Once Upon a Time"
1975 Seeburg "Entertainer" Jukebox seen in "Once Upon a Time"
In the Shining Time Station Family Special Once Upon a Time (1995), Schemer tries to woo Stacy's attention away from Ned Kincaid by delegating his old jukebox in the rubbish dump, and replacing it with a more "modern" model.
The jukebox featured in the special is a 1975 Seeburg "Entertainer" model, which played 45rpm record discs providing 160 Hi-Fi song selections chosen from a backlit song title board. The machine had stainless-steel sides and featured a set of flickering white infinity tri-lights on a mirrored background.
Watch YouTube member burchini1's video below to see and hear how the "Entertainer" worked - only we don't believe that there's a band of rats inside playing the selection in this jukebox!!
1975 Seeburg "Entertainer" Jukebox
Seen in "One of the Family",
"Queen for a Day"
1950-71 Austin J40 coin-op ride seen in "One of the Family" & "Queen for a Day"
Original Austin J40 pedal car (left) and one adapted to a coin-operated ride (right)
The riding horse was replaced in One of the Family and Queen for a Day by this coin-operated car which has a very interesting origin. This vehicle actually started out as an Austin J40 pedal car manufactured between 1950 to 1971 by the Austin Motor Company Limited in Bargoed, South Wales, England. These high-quality and detailed push-pedal cars were manufactured by a crew of disabled Welsh coal miners at the Austin Junior Car Factory using scrap metal cuttings from the Austin Motor Car Factory in Longbridge. The car was a very adaptable with many being converted to fun-fair roundabouts and mounted coin-operated rides such as the one featured here in the Shining Time Station Family Specials.
1950s Austin J40 Coin-Operated Kiddie Ride
Arcade telephone seen in Season 2 (left) and Season 3 (right)
We began the arcade tour with the mention of the payphone seen in Season 1 (Western Electric 233G), so it's only fitting that we end on the same subject! Viewers will notice that a different payphone was brought in by Production for use in Season 2 (seen upper left). It's a challenge to positively identify a make and model without being to inspect the telephone. With Season 2 of Shining Time Station taped in Canada, we can only guess that the unit seen is a vintage model manufactured in the late 1950s by Northern Electric (Canadian equivalent to Western Electric).
Yet another different telephone was featured in Season 3 (upper right - from Schemer Alone), which was used until the series ended with the Family Specials. Unlike the payphones seen in Seasons 1 and 2, this model has the distinctive feature of being mounted on a wall board.
We asked Gregory Russell from the Telephony Museum for his expertise in identifying the make and model of this telephone. Wall board aside, Gregory speculated that it may be an Automatic Electric Co. payphone from the early 1960s. Possibly a model LPB 82 55, the dial and the instruction plate is a little lower than those seen on Western Electric payphone models. This model, and other payphones of the period accepted nickels, dimes and quarters.
It's interesting to note that the same payphone from Season 3 was used as a prop for Schemer's room in the direct to VHS Shining Time Station Special: Schemer Presents.
In the video below, Youtube user Telco Steve demonstrates how this type of payphone was installed and functioned. We can just imagine hearing Schermer's mother's voice from the other end!
Automatic Electric Three Slot Coin Telephone
Where have all the Shining Time Station props gone to?
The short answer is that we don't know. The arcade machine turnover seen between Season 1, 'Tis a Gift and Season 2 may be an indicator that the machines were leased or rented to Shining Time Station production by a prop shop or collector. The jukebox, however would have been owned outright by the Production. After Shining Time Station wrapped up in 1995, Catalyst Entertainment (now CCI) would have been the logical custodians of the jukebox and other Shining Time Station artefacts featured in the show (mural, ticket and information desks, walls, signage etc.)
An enquiry to present-day CCI Entertainment in Feb, 2013 deepens the mystery. Executive Assistant Kerri Grasser wasn't sure what happened to the props in storage after HiT Entertainment acquired the STS property, adding that "they may have been destroyed".
We have since learned that some of the props may have been acquired by, or sold to the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) Prop Department in the 2000s. The CBC sadly dismantled their prop department during the Spring of 2007, with the inventory sold to independent prop warehouses and auctions. Were any of the surviving Shining Time Station props included in the lot? Unfortunately, there's no way to tell as a contact with the CBC informed us in 2018 that they did not keep an inventory of the props that were disposed of, and that anyone who might have been able to provide insight are now long-gone as well.
If anyone can confirm or has any information about the fate of these props, please contact us directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Becky, Dan, Kara and Mr. Conductor in the arcade - Season 3