Thursday, March 4, 2010

Goodbye, Funarama

Anyone who grew up going to New Hampshire's Hampton Beach as a kid probably spent hours and hours - and a good deal of their parents' quarters- at Funarama, right on the boardwalk. The place was classic, with everything you'd expect at a great arcade: skee-ball, air hockey, vintage photo booths and video games. One summer years ago my family rented a big old house on L Street for two weeks with my aunts and uncles. Almost every night after supper, my sister, cousins and I would head down to the arcade, using our skee-ball skills to earn tickets that we traded in for friendship bracelets and pencil erasers. Simple, innocent fun.
Last week, in the early morning hours of February 26, a five-alarm fire destroyed Funarama and the entire block it sat on. The blaze began in a nearby, 60-year-old hotel. The building had no sprinkler system, and the fire spread quickly with the help of hurricane-force winds. No one was hurt, but a piece of my childhood was gone forever.
Reading the news articles brought tears to my eyes. I hadn't been to Funarama in ages, but I loved that place. I had taken for granted that it would always be there, just as it had been for decades, one of those places to which you felt you could always return.
Events like this one always remind me to cherish each and every experience and each and every person in my life. Because so often, places and people can disappear quickly and without warning, leaving behind only memories. Now, I'm glad I saved a strip of photos from one of the arcades' booths. My cousin and I, fresh off the beach in our bathing suits and sunglasses, cheeks freckly from sunshine.

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