Wildwood Daze – Botto’s and the Office

North Wildwood, New Jersey – Late 1970s

Botto’s

One of our favorite hangouts growing up at the shore was the beloved Botto’s Arcade at 10th and Surf Avenue. It was 2 blocks from our house and was a meeting place for the local kids.

In the first half of the decade, it was a small market full of food staples, sundries, and beach stuff. It’s where we used to go to buy our kites and string. But because Russo’s Market at 9th and Ocean was such a juggernaut and go-to spot they sort of ran Joe Botto out of business. Just geographic competition. Botto, a retired Philly cop, was never happy about that, but shifted gears and turned it into an arcade much to the joy of the neighborhood youth.

Botto’s had everything we needed for an enjoyable afternoon or evening as an alternative to the beach and boardwalk. A phonebooth outside in case you had to drop a dime and make a call, and a soda machine full of ice-cold beverages stood out front. Joe’s wife normally worked during the day, giving out change for the machines inside and operating the bike rental part of the business.

The place was small, but just the right size for us kids. A regulation-sized, slate pool table in the center of the room, and a thunderous jukebox packed with 45’s of all the hits of the day parked against the front wall near the entrance. (It played A and B sides! This way, I could listen to Walk this Way and Uncle Salty!)

All around the perimeter of the room were pinball machines and video games. My favorite pinball machine, Flash was where I spent most of my time and quarters. They had some of the greats… Eight Ball Deluxe, Gorgar, Wizard, Playboy, El Dorado, and Joker Poker, to name a few.

But, they had all the classic video games of the day in there too. Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Super Breakout, and Asteroids.

Botto’s was a place where teenagers could hang out, play games, chat, flirt, shoot pool, drink soda and smoke cigarettes. The owners were cool, and there was never any trouble there. I’ve spent many a rainy day or health night in that arcade. The phrase “health night” came from my mother. She used to say to me, “You’re out every night! Take a health night!”

You never knew who you might run into while you were there, but it was always a solid meeting spot to hang and make plans for where you may be heading afterward. It was surrounded by motels so even though its core audience was kids from the neighborhood, they always got a few tourists in there as well.

Across the street was a place called Golf City. It was pretty much a waste of valuable real estate that was home to a miniature gold course. Fun for the little kids and they had a small arcade as well, but overall it was lame.

Botto’s was the cool kid’s place. I spent many wonderful times in Botto’s in my youth, but sadly it’s now long gone. What stands in its place now is an ice cream stand.

All that’s left to remind me of the original Botto’s in the brick face and the door and windows. So picture this place without the A-roof, the awning, the sign, the benches, the lights, and the rest of anything pink.

What’s left would be a pretty boring-looking spot. But, none of that was important. Botto’s was about what was inside. The people, the music, the games, and the laughter.

The Office

That’s not what it was called. It was a little game room on the third floor of The Flying Dutchman Motel.

Right there on the southwest corner of the 3rd floor!

The photo I used at the beginning of this post is the motel before they added the 3rd floor. But that’s what The Flying Dutchman looked like in the 70s.

We knew the owners and they were cool with us going up there to smoke cigarettes and spend our quarters on their vending machines in their game room.

The reason we called this little spot The Office, is because we used it not only as a place to hang out and play but to have meetings. If there was some local drama going down or some stories to be told, this was the place it all took place.

I remember trying to tell my older sister some convoluted story about some things that had gone down on Morey’s Pier or some other crazy news from the neighborhood one day. She was trying to understand what we planned to do about this matter and I simply said: “Office…now.”

We liked it because it was high up off the street. We had a view and also liked the games they had in there. Just two pinball machines and an old 1972 Pong machine. There’s a link I provided, but it was so basic it may have been the first video game ever invented. But a fun game! Pinball was still king, but video games were getting better with every coming season.

The biggest difference between this place and Botto’s was, this spot was quieter and more private. You could hang up there, sit at the card table they had set up in there, and just chat. It didn’t have the number of games and music that Botto’s had, but this was our spot. Most of all, it was unsupervised.

This is probably one of the most important aspects of this little game room.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Pinball machines are designed so that you can’t rock them around too much or they’ll “Tilt.” What that means is, if you shake the machine too much or lift it up to slow the ball down or anything else to upset the machine while the ball is in play, it’ll light up, TILT, and the unit goes off and your ball drains down the hole. You’re done for being too rough with the unit and most of all trying to cheat.

But kids are creative, cunning, learning machines. You know that if the adults come up with some solution to thwart our fun or sustained play, we’ll probably work to come up with a solution to beat it.

So while the machine was on, we’d have one kid gently lift the lower front up off its legs and stack quarters under the legs, one or two at a time. This would flatten the play area on the board but not enough to TILT the machine. We’d get that baby up as high as possible. This would slow down the gameplay and go virtually unnoticed if someone walked in.

By applying this simple remedy, the game would be easier, you’d get a higher score and rack up more free games. That was the main goal. Free games! 

This also assisted with the legendary, “Back from the Dead.” What this meant was if you were in the middle of a game and the ball somehow got past your flippers, and towards the hole… if it was moving fast enough to bounce back out of the hole and back into play, it was always deemed a miracle, which was met with cheers from any onlookers. The ball literally came back from th dead!

So, we did that all the time up there.

Sometimes I would just go up there on my own and play pinball. I just wanted a little time alone to think and reflect on my life living at the seashore all summer. It was a brilliant and unforgettable few chapters from my young life.

Braces off, skin clear, and finally emerging from puberty!

Here’s a pic of me in 1978 on the 3rd-floor sun deck of The Flying Dutchman. The Office wasn’t just for pinball. It was also a great opportunity for me to meet the vacationing talent.

Pictured: Me with Ann and Gina Dougherty on the roof deck of the Flying Dutchman Motel -1978

Yea… tough times for Chaz in Wildwood!

If you liked this story, you’ll love my next book, Down The Shore, coming to a bookstore near you Memorial Day, 2023!

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Woman asks if she’s an asshole for choosing video games over her ex. The internet is divided

Long-term relationships always require compromise in order to thrive. Regardless of how peaceful the waters are, or how much you have in common when it comes to world outlook, there will always be small sacrifices required to make a relationship work.

One of the hardest parts of compromising in a relationship is figuring out the lines between giving up parts of yourself, and making changes for your partner. For example, demanding someone gives up a hobby is a different request than asking they cut down some of their hobby time so you can hang out.

In a recent Reddit post on the subreddit Am I The Asshole, commenter yhrowawayvideoganems asked the internet if she mishandled a situation with her now ex-girlfriend.

“AITA for breaking up with my girlfriend over my video games.

So I have a decent video collection, I will not post pictures as I do not want this post linked to my actual account.”

The OP (original poster) has collected and played video games for years, and it’s a solid part of her relaxation time. After two years together, her (ex) girlfriend and her decided to take the leap to move in together. However, OP’s ex-girlfriend had one fairly large request before moving in: that OP get rid of her entire video game collection.

“My girlfriend of 2 years 25f and me 24f decided we wanted to move in together, she kinda mentioned getting rid of my collection but I thought she was joking so I brushed it off. Turns out she wanted me to get rid of my whole video game collection, some of my games are worth some money and I’ve been keeping them so they can become more expensive. My collection is also 3 years of me thrift shopping and I do not want to throw that away, I tried to explain it but she refused and told me that I did not love her enough to make this sacrifice.”

When OP explained that she really values the games, and at this point getting rid of them would be a huge and unwanted sacrifice, her ex gave an ultimatum: the relationship or the games.

“About 2/3 days ago she called me and said it’s me or the fucking video games. I chose the games and she hung up on me. Everyone that I’ve spoken to (excluding a few people) have been telling me I fucked up, and that I should of picked her over some games. AITA?”

In the end, OP chose the games over her ex, and now people in her life are claiming she made a mistake. So, as many of us in the modern age do, OP turned to the internet to get a consensus on whether picking the games made her an asshole or not.

AnimalLover38 doesn’t think it’s a jerk move, since relationships shouldn’t be made or broken based on ultimatums.

“NTA, ultimatums almost never work anyways and are sometimes used as an easy way out of a relationship.”

“Unless OP was jobless and spent every waking moment playing games rather then being an adult with a job then there’s no reason for her gf to make such a big deal out of it. Maybe OP’s girlfriend wanted out of the relationship but didn’t know how to do it so she just chose the one thing she knew OP would never part with and made a big deal out of it.”

dandelionii echoed the fact that ultimatums are manipulative, and it was perfectly fine for OP to pick her hobby.

“NTA, ultimatums are stupid and unfair and if she’s willing to make this big of a deal over a videogame collection (which you presumably purchased with your own money) it doesn’t bode well for the future.”

merinis pointed out the fact that a healthy relationship would involve someone who shares an interest in video games, or at least understands and doesn’t mock it.

“Exactly. OP would be better off finding someone that isn’t trying to be so controlling, and maybe even someone that shares his her interests.”

Hunterstewartmurdock defended ultimatums as a right in any relationship, and pointed out that people are allowed to have dealbreakers and lay them out for their partner. That being said, they don’t think OP is a jerk for wanting to keep their collection.

“I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with an ultimatum, some things are dealbreakers for people and that’s alright. If I dated someone with bad hygiene and they refused to shower every day, I would demand better hygiene from them. If not I would leave. It doesn’t make me an asshole and it doesn’t make them an asshole, it just means maybe our priorities don’t line up and we aren’t right for each other. They can do find someone else who is ok with their flaws and I can find someone who is ok with my flaws.”

“That being said, demanding that she get rid of her collection is petty and demeaning. NTA in this case for sure, but very close to NAH in my opinion.”

Rich000123 defended the ex-girlfriend by pointing out how vague the original post is, and that it sounds like there are important details left out. It’s never made clear how large the collection is, or whether OP has a videogame addiction, or whether this has been an ongoing conversation, all of which would paint the larger picture.

“The vague response from the OP makes me certain that there is more to it. OP is also not even offering any potential reasons for why the gf is making the ultimatum. I can’t accept that they have been together for 2 years and she has no idea where the ultimatum is coming from. The intentionally vagueness, along with the friends saying she is TA makes me lean towards believing that the OP is intentionally leaving INFO is therefore the TA.”

“As a side note – I see a lot of projecting in the comments for why people are claiming the ultimatum happened. I can agree in some ways that a ultimatum alone is a reason to end the relationship but there is a lot of excess explanation that people have determined (e.g. the gf doesn’t like gaming, the gf wants all the attention on her) which the OP has never claimed. Let’s everyone try and stick with the fact that we know.”

not_really_an_elf brought up the fact that OP’s IRL friends think they’re an asshole, which indicates there is more to the story than is being told. The fact that they refused to post a picture of the collection doesn’t make them look good.

“Mate, I bet the reason people you know irl are telling you you’re an arsehole is because they’ve seen your collection. Post pictures or describe exactly how much space they take up.”

PolitenessPolice echoed the call for more info, because the omissions seem purposeful.

“INFO

I refuse to believe that’s all there is to this, people don’t just act like this unless there’s something wrong. Like, how they’re stacked, is it a hoarding problem, how much money do you spend on games, how much time do you spend playing them, etc.”

“Like, nobody acts that irrationally for no reason and especially not over bloody games. There’s got to be more. Did she give a reason? Has she ever shown any disdain for your collection previously over the years?”

DirtyPotatoPeople suspects this may be a hoarder situation, in which case the OP is the asshole in denial.

“I think it’s perfectly reasonable – depending on how big this “collection” is – to not want a big portion of your space devoted to games no one is playing. I wouldn’t have thrown out an ultimatum like that but the gf is perfectly justified in pushing for them to be put in storage or something.”

“OP is also being suspiciously vague about the whole situation, including the extent of her collection, which makes me think she’s either being dishonest or simply in denial about her hoarding habits.”

“Just sounds like a validation post to me and all the immediate jumping on board with OP because of reddit’s hate of anti-video-game anything makes me sad because I honestly don’t think what she’s collecting is the issue here.”

 

The real question left at hand is what do YOU dear reader, think of this situation?!

 

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