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Fascination – Old Fashioned Nantasket Beach Fun Since 1945

Posted on: August 29, 2011


Fascination – Old Fashioned Nantasket Beach Fun Since 1945

189 Nantasket Avenue, Hull, MA 02045

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Ever since I was little and we’d visit Paragon Park at Nantasket Beach I’ve always been fascinated by the Fascination game. Hidden behind the glass doors, air conditioned for comfort- what exactly was this mystery game that all the adults gravitated to?

It seemed only appropriate that days after my recent birthday when, sigh, I must be an adult at this point, my sister and I dared ourselves to open the doors and see what Fascination is all about. Come on inside with us!

Fascination Nantasket Beach Hull MA Paragon Park RetroRoadmap.com
First off I was glad to see that the Fascination game was still there at all, at the former site of Paragon Park. The park closed somewhat unexpectedly in 1985 and since then the local businesses have fought to draw the summer crowds that once paraded up and down the sidewalk across from the beach.

Here’s an artists rendition of what the Nantasket Beach thoroughfare looked like back in the day, courtesy of a vintage postcard displayed just down the street at the carousel that once graced Paragon Park. Note the long line of peaked white roofs.

You can see those roofs still today, though unfortunately many of the seaside shops, arcades and restaurants have closed down. So sad.
Playland Pen Penny Arcade Nantasket Beach
But all of us are in luck, as the Fascination sigh still shines brightly on the Avenue!

Don't Just Walk By! Fascination Nantasket Beach
In business since 1945, the Fascination game in Nantasket is the oldest one in the country, the game tables having originally been installed at Coney Island in 1918.

Opening the glass doors you will find yourself in an air conditioned- and smoke-free space – lined on either side with games that look like a table version of skee ball or bingo.

Fascination Game Players Nantasket Beach(I am seriously in love with the crazy quilt colorful patchwork of a linoleum floor!)

When we walked in there was a game already in play so we tried to figure out how to do it by watching folks. We saw rolling balls, lighted circles but still were clueless. So we admitted our ignorance, approached the gentleman in the booth in the back part of the room and confessed that we had no idea how Fascination worked. Boy did we feel goofy!

Fascination Game Caller Nantasket Beach

Lucky for us the man in the tower was new owner of Hull’s Fascination game, Bartley Kelly!

A local resident, he told us he had always loved the game and when the opportunity came around recently to buy the game he jumped right in. Friendly to us obvious newbies, he made us feel right at home and explained the simple rules: Roll the balls, light up all the circles, and the first one to light up all the circles wins a small cash prize.

Well, that’s easy! We rolled a few practice balls as Bartley suggested, then placed our dollar bills on the glass for the next game and started rolling to win!

It goes a little something like this:

We noticed that the place had been more crowded earlier, and Bartley said they had had a spin-the-wheel game going on, where the amount of the prize increased. They have things like that going on throughout the evening to keep it interesting. We did our best, but from the look of concentration on many folks’ faces, there were some serious Fascination players here.

I always say when I win the lottery (not if) I want to bring back Nantasket to its former glory and I’m glad Bartley got a jump start on my plan. It made my heart swell to see the place all lit up on Nantasket Avenue, just like the olden days.

And while some more modern folks may have the Human League going through their head when they come here, we here at Retro Roadmap HQ couldn’t help but put on this 45 to get in the mood:

  • http://www.roadsidewonders.net roadsidewonders

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Outstanding pics :)

    I have to admit that I watched the folks playing Fascination at Knoebels Grove for quite some time before I “got” what their goals were :)

    • http://retroroadmap.com Mod Betty

      I realized doing my “research” that there are different rules depending on where you go – some of ‘em you have to get one line, or one color, here at Nantasket you have to cover ‘em all. Noted for next time!

  • http://facebook.com/andrew.long1 Andrew Long

    Great piece on a great piece of South Shore lore.

    Here are some of my photographs of Nantasket at Night, with a few of Fascination:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/a_long/sets/72157626762776347/

    • http://retroroadmap.com Mod Betty

      Andrew- thanks for stopping by Retro Roadmap and for the kind words.

      Wow, some of your photos of Nantasket and the area – fab mood captured! Keep up the good work!

  • http://facebook.com/andrew.long1 Andrew Long

    Thanks very much. Here’s one more, of the Carousel, coincidentally with a somewhat retro, Instamatic feel (years before Hipstamatic):
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/a_long/217174818/in/set-481692