Nostalgia, Killer Sharks, Amusement Parks, and the Sterile World We Live In

“If you blog it, it is no dream.”

Killer Shark LogoLast year at this time, while I was embedded deep in yet another bout of nostalgia, I posted about an old school video game called Killer Shark (1972). I had been lamenting the fact that this game was inaccessible to me now, and how much I loved the flailing shark as it moved back and forth across the screen. Well, yesterday I got a comment on that post alerting me to the fact that Loressa Clisby of Daemon Keep Games has developed a facsimile version of this arcade classic. She rules! You can download it here, just keep in mind that it only works with Windows (luckily I have one of those vestigial operating systems hanging around).

And to throw the gauntlet down, I have taken a minute and a half screencast of myself playing the game, and I have to say that despite the fact that I have only been playing for half an hour, I am the best already. I challenge any of you suckers!

This whole thing led me to search out some information about the place where I played the original Killer Shark arcade game for years: Nunley’s Amusement Park in beautiful Baldwin, Long Island. It was a suburban family amusement park (the last of its kind) that had all the amenities of a large amusement park, in the classic style of Coney Island mind you, only in miniature. There was a miniature roller coaster, cups and saucers, ferris wheel, hand carts, miniature golf, and the famously opulent carousel that was designed in 1912 by Stein & Goldstein of Brooklyn and is one of the few that have been preserved and recognized as a landmark.

Image of Nunley's CarouselI think I can say with some certainty that it was a special place for just about every kid who grew up on the South Shore of Long Island (and far beyond I’m sure) for over half a century. That’ where I played Killer Shark as a kid, but it is also where my friends and I whiled away many a Summer’s day playing video games, skeeball, getting our fortune’s told by a gypsy automata, and beating each other up over a soft ice cream or a slice of pizza, which were served by “the Greeks” who wore white and red vertically striped shirts (all of whom must have worked there their entire lives, for over the twenty year span I frequented Nunely’s, there was never a new face behind the counter). It was were I took my first date in 5th grade, and where I got broken up with more times than I care to remember. I loved Nunley’s, it is a painful reminder of the fact that even the suburbs had some style and dignity at one time. It was closed at the end of the Summer in 1995, never to re-open.

On that day the South Shore of Long Island got that much more barren and desolate. The land was sold off to some speculator that brought in a chain auto parts store (what vision and imagination!). I actually think about Nunley’s on a regular basis these days while I struggle to entertain two young kids with things to do. I think about how much I would appreciate a place like Nunely’s which has some old school class, wasn’t in some fucking mall or surrounded by box stores, easily accessible by public transportation, and would be just as much fun for me as would be for my kids. All we got is Chuck E. Cheese’s and the rest of that corporate junk, it’s really disheartening how much we have gutted ourselves of any kind of unique and wonder-filled experiences. Everything remains the same, predictable, and utterly sterile. I want a time machine.

Actually, wait…I kind of found one! It’s called YouTube, and it has a great video discussing the history of Nunley’s, its fabled carousel, along with its (at the time) imminent demise. If you watch the video, you can see how the whole place was set up, and the video games actually were placed on the perimeter of the walls around the carousel, you can also see the skeeball if you look hard. Wow, how cool is that! YouTube, I love you!

Image of Nunley’s Ferris Wheel from Cabin333’s Flickr account.

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4 Responses to Nostalgia, Killer Sharks, Amusement Parks, and the Sterile World We Live In

  1. Jen says:

    Kids also love cardboard boxes. You don’t have to go anywhere! When I was 10, my brothers and I dug 2 giant holes in our back yard using mostly kitchen spoons. We thought for sure we would have a tunnel by Halloween that we could turn into a haunted house. We did finally get the two holes to connect, but the hole wasn’t even big enough to fit my arm. We gave up on that project. Dad rented a tractor to fill in the holes. Kids are creative. Nunley’s, hole in the yard, YouTube, they’ll find the fun if we let them.

  2. Reverend says:

    Jen,

    I’m not Thoreau, or one of those deluded hippies that wants to forsake culture all together. I want some kind of illustrious, pubic, and commercialized space —I just wish they all weren’t so vacant these days. But, your comment resonates deeply, because by two brothers and I (along with about a dozen kids from our neighborhood) built and entire labyrinth of underground tunnels in our backyard. It was a truly elaborate piece of engineering on the part of my oldest brother. We dug flashlight into the sides of the walls, and covered up some of the holes in the yard with plywood. It was like a gigantic moles nest for kids. Unfortunately, it was extremely dangerous, and when the neighborhood kids got talking, and local parents came knocking, we ultimately were ordered to fill it all in by the police. Who were mellow and, if I remember correctly, were rather impressed with the whole thing.

    Yeah, playing in your yard and doing wild, homegrown stuff was something we did and enjoyed, but we also live in the world, and I enjoyed Nunley’s just as much, and while we have cardboard boxes and YouTube, I have to say we don’t have the same kind of localized flavor and class when it comes to public spaces for having fun together, never mind the god damn playdates. And that is an isolating and alienating reality that is further killing our culture.

  3. Matt says:

    Wow! I was looking up the KILLER SHARK GAME because I remember playing it every time I went to Nunleys too!!!! None of my friends remember this arcade. But it was the arcade I played the most when I went there. I LOVED IT. I actually later found out that this arcade game appears in one of the opening scenes in the movie jaws.

    So funny. I probably went to play this game and had to wait my turn while you finished up. Or visa versa hahaha

    I have seen tons of old nunleys pics…. but there not tons of pics of the arcades and pinballs they had inside. If you ever find more. Let me know!

    • Reverend says:

      Matt,
      Thanks so much for the comment, nothing like a fell Long Islander discovering my seedy corner of the web. Nunleys has been on my mind a lot recently given I will be starting an OG 80s arcade/bar in Fredericksburg, VA, and I am realizing just how amazing Nunley’s was. So many great video games, so much space, and the way they lined the perimeter was so cool. Tearing down that place was truly a mistake, if it could have struggled through the late 90s and early 00s, it would have been a premier destination again, there are so few places like it, and it was so damn authentic.

      Also, funny you should mention the Jaws scene, I blogged about this game another time, and in that post I included the video from the move, as well as a screenshot: https:///killer-shark-1972/

      It’s a good point about the Nunley’s arcade pics, I’ll have to do some digging. I could swear I had a few in this post, but I do not. But I did find . What’s more, that quick search was pure gold, I learned my old neighbor has done a mural of the Nunley’s carousel horses at the Baldwin LIRR station, which is brilliant!
      Anyway, thanks for the comment, it’s very much appreciated, the stuff you find when prompted is always the best stuff.

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