On Neff Road: Getting my penny’s worth


Some people do spring cleaning. June and I are both doing fall cleaning. She is getting ready to move, and I, just like my mother, love to move things around and discover treasures I had forgotten I had tucked away in that “why am I keeping it/I can’t part with it” box.

June: I just found those old cards I got at the fair that have actors on them.

Me: I hate to tell you, but I have one of yours. It’s Donald O’Connor. Do you want it?

June: No. Do you want this stack?

So goes the conversation taking on a new direction straight to the Penny Arcade at the Darke County Fair. I know you all have some of those little treasures. We all took those once precious pennies into that tent to the left of the race track and tried our luck. We played pinball, had our fortunes read and hoped that the love machine would tell us that our favorite guy really loved us. When the pennies ran out, we took off in search of a parent who just might have a bit of change.

A big old claw would pick up cheaply made toys and toss them into a chute….if you were lucky. There were gumball machines that added to the already large amount of sugar we had already consumed with cotton candy and candy apples. You could squeeze a handle to learn what strength you held in those skinny arms. If you had no idea how much you weighed, for a penny you could have it announced it to everyone in line behind you. Marbles shot off into space and horses raced around a track. Boxers fought and balls were tossed into holes. For a penny you could learn how your day was going via the horoscope machine. How about a piece of soda mint gum to settle your tummy? Maybe you stood on a box and looked into the big, round Mutoscope at a movie. There was a personality tester where you could find out if you were shy, exotic, glamorous, studious. It was a place you could shoot a mounted gun and not take the life of any living thing.

Yes, one conversation turned into a column of penny memories.

June: Do you remember the one machine that you could type your name onto a circle that surrounded a silver star? I spelled my name wrong the first time and had to do it again.

I remember putting a penny into a machine, and it coming out flat with a message on it. I’m missing those days when a penny was worth every moment of delightful time spent in the Penny Arcade. Hey, June, remember the plastic kewpie doll on the end of a stick? (fuel for another sister conversation)


By Pamela Loxley Drake

On Neff Road

Pamela Loxley Drake is a former resident of Darke County and is the author of Neff Road and A Grandparent Voice blog. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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