Friday, May 25, 2012

Getting The Prize

Do you remember these machines? You would always (and still) find them in the lobby of your local grocery store, tucked against the wall as they beckoned every child to tug at mommy's sleeve and ask if they could have the spare change after mommy bought her groceries to have a piece of candy.

Well, technically, we never asked politely. We usually placed our heads up against the plastic, eyes glued on the contents as our parents knew we would make a scene in the parking lot/car about not getting ANYTHING WE LIKED from the BORING GROCERY STORE. Yes, we would say this loudly in the backseat of the car, besides ourselves and filled with indignation, that our parents would make us put away the groceries when we got home -- a.k.a. subject us to child slave labor -- without giving us any reward.

I remember these machines in particular. One would be filled with toy prizes encapsulated in round plastic. Another would be filled with jaw breakers/fireballs. The third would be filled with candy sort of like Mike and Ike candies.

And the last was filled with nuts. There was always a ton of nuts in those machines, and I can't remember ever buying them even when the three others were empty. The Mike and Ikes were always good to chew on when you just wanted to have something in your mouth after snacking on cookies.

I also stayed away from the fireballs/jaw breaker candy. I wasn't fond of eating really hot stuff, and the jaw breakers looked like beat-up marbles in the machine. If I found a machine that instead had gumballs, I'd jump at the chance to get as many as I could even though they looked old enough to use as cannon shot when evading a small third world country.

Then there were the prizes. You could find bouncing balls, green toy soldiers, key chain pieces, small magic slates or any cheap toy that you could fit into a container that was the size of an adult's palm.

There was always one toy that every kid wanted, but there were maybe two in the entire vending machine. And we would save up our money to fill up bulging pockets as we couldn't wait to get to the grocery store. We'd plug our change into the machine, holding out hope that this day would be the day that we'd get the prize.

Sometimes it was. But more often than not it wasn't.


  1. You know, I don't think I've ever gotten anything from those machines. I know my mom never gave us even a penny to put in 'em (altho she'd happily give us a penny to ride the mechanical pony). I think I eventually figured out that I was ahead to just go to the corner store and buy what I wanted. And I didn't have to play the lottery to get the one prize worth having. . . ;)

    1. I remember the pony. I think I rode it once, when I was really small. There was also the mechanical rocket ship, and the fancier grocery stores has the video games.

      As long as you treasure your prize, it doesn't matter how you came about in getting it :)

  2. GREAT post. I always bought gumballs, but did indulge in one or two attempts at winning the good prizes from other machines. I never recall winning anything spectacular, but one time I got a bunch of temporary tattoos that I assumed would make My Mom go, "Oh My God, Jimmy, what have you done? Did you get a tattoo? Oh My God!", and then she would faint away. Instead, she asked me if it was temporary (it obviously was, as it looked all smudged and stuff from being applied by a seven-year-old with his spit) and then she asked if there was another she could put on. Much more fun outcome, all things considered. In those days when only sailors and circus freaks wore tattoos, I was the only kid with a tattooed Mom, at least for one day :-)

    1. I remember those tattoos. Usually were birds or butterflies or some type of motif. I'd stick them on my arms, whenever I got one. Those were the one prize that were few in the vending machine :)

      Your mom is so cool!

  3. The gumballs and the tattoos! :) Memories. I really looked forward to the cereal prizes though. Lol.

    Michelle, how have you been?

    1. Those cereal prizes were the ultimate toy surprise. And I remember a lot of them needed assembly. :)

      I'm doing great! The Overlord (my daughter) is growing big and beautiful and happy. So I can't complain :)


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