The Reagan Years

November 16, 2004 at 9:07 pm | Posted in Fun Indoors | 4 Comments


Driving home last Saturday from another shooting session, I relived a bit of my youth at The Reagan Years Arcade in Fullerton on the southeast corner of Commonwealth and Harbor. 25 cents was a lot during those years, but this time I had no problem plunking down two dollars to play classics like RoadBlasters, Moon Patrol, and Kung Fu Master. The $1 Silent Scope game was just there to make you feel better about playing the older games for a quarter. It was sad though – the place was deserted – just me and one obsessed guy who played Defender the whole time. At least it’s still around, unlike the Pak-Mann Arcade in Pasadena where Dave and I used to hang out. Pak-Mann closed about two years ago.

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  1. I checked out The Reagan Years for the first time on Christmas Even, Friday 12/23/2004. My fiance Holly and I rolled by at about 8pm Friday evening thinking it wasn’t open because it was completely dark. I turned around and drove by slowly for one last look before heading to my aunt’s in San Fernando Valley for Christmas. Low and behold, the neon OPEN sign was lit!!! Amazing!!! Even though the answering system said the hours were 9AM to 1AM daily I didn’t expect it to be open on Christmas Eve. There was a parking spot right in front on the street so I pulled in. Wow it was dark in there! The heavily tinted large front windows block out all street light. The front door however was proped open. We walked in and I pointed out various old games…wow, Super Pac Man, wow Donkey Kong! Then I spyed the reason I had come to The Reagan Years….the holy grail of competitive arcade games…TRACK & FIELD!!! There she was in all her 21 year old glory. I had my picture taken with the machine and proceeded to look around at the place before starting to play. WOW was the place dark. The only light in the whole place was from my white shirt reflecting the blacklights from the 20 foot ceiling and the marquee’s of the arcade games themselves. After browsing all the games I immediately began seeking an attendent whom I imagined giving my dollar and saying those 3 infamous words “four tokens please”. I had a huge smile on my face while I searched with dollar in hand hoping to indulge in some 80’s arcade game conversation with a friendly attendant and how I had traveled 150 miles just to come to The Reagan Years. After circling the machines 2 or 3 times I realized there was no one to be found…Holly then motioned for me to come over to the entrace where there were token change machines available as it was impossible to hear her speak over the loud roar of classic arcade games. I thought to myself, where is the infamous arcade attendant as I put my dollars into the machine for my “Ronnie” featured tokens. About that time I noticed the arcade had an eerie almost unsafe feel to it because of the darkness, thunderous sound and lack of human beings. “I came to play so it’s time to hit it” I thought to myself on the way to the Track & Field machine as I stared at the dimly glowing metal gated doorway in the back corner of the arcade. I thought, that must be where the attendant is even though I had noticed it earlier but didn’t dare to venture back there. Immediately I noticed the buttons didn’t work on the 1 player side of Track & Field. I tried player 2 and for some reason they have the player 2 controls wired to the first player except only the left run button works and 60% of the time the player 2 jump works properly. The other 40% it just makes momentary contact, just enough for the 20 degree angle long jump, ugh! I managed to run an 8.95 100 meter dash and get an 8.65 long jump with these adverse conditions. I made it to the high jump and my jump button started malfunctioning giving me 3 fouls. I was dissappointed to see it looks like they reset the records daily or have them reset with the game’s power since it was all fresh scores on the machine. So naturally I ran a few “world records” and “high scores” into the game. It was after my 3rd Track & Field play that Holly says to me “something bad has happened here, something really bad, I can feel it”. “It’s giving me the creeps”. Of course I blew it off immediately with “what, why do you say that?” “You’re just saying that because it’s dark and stuff.” I walked around a little more as Holly followed and I pointed out various games to her and explained some history but the whole time all I could think about was her comment and how creepy the place truly was. It’s really the same feeling I had all along, the place reeked of deception, deceit and an all around shady atmosphere. I really wanted to stay and play some more but I began to feel like this isn’t a place I should keep my fiance at for more than a few minutes. Hey, bring the bro’s and we can roughhouse and live dangerously for a night but not the fiance. I didn’t want to alarm her by acting like I was now freaked out even though I was. I pointed to the air hockey table and said “honey your favorite” hoping to get her mind off of her suspicions. We attempted to play but the table was unplugged. I searched for a plug and found one on a wall not so far from the mysterous soft glowing gated doorway where I now imagined a huge 400lb bearded greasy biker no longer waiting to take my dollar for change but to take my wallet and my life with a bloody hatchet. Heck, with that Silent Scope machine in the background popping off shots every 3 seconds at ear splitting decible levels that biker could come out with a shotgun, put a load of lead in us both and the sound wouldn’t get beyond the doorway of The Reagan Years. I thought to myself “is the the same establishment i’ve read so many cool things about online???”. As I was about to plug in the air hockey table I purposly dropped the plug and said to Holly, “naw, this will take along time to play and I really don’t feel like hanging out here that much longer.” I popped one last token into Track & Field. As I stood in front of the machine after my game I contemplated playing again because I had 5 tokens left and I contemplated taking a look at that gated back doorway. I decided against them both for reasons of fiance and personal safety. I decided i’ll be back some day (in the daytime or with a posse) and can use the tokens then. I was happy to leave the Reagan Years safe and sound. While the place definitely optimizes the 80’s it’s not a place I would want to be at alone on any night. One can only imagine the place at 12:30am on a deserted night. It would rival any haunted house ever concieved I can promise you that. I’m not sure if it was the deserted feeling of an 80’s arcade on Christmas Eve or something else at The Reagan Years but it was quite an experience that I will not forget. This story is true, i’m not exaggerating and i’m wondering if anyone has had any similar experiences and why there was no attendent anywhere. Even with me banging and making tons of noise on Track & Field? In the 15-20 minutes we were there we could have cleaned the place of 20 or so arcade machines. Is anyone ever present?

  2. Thanks for your comments. I always make sure there are people around there, so I wouldn’t hang out there after the dinner crowd leaves the surrounding restaurants. It’s probably even more desolate on Christmas Eve. Yes, many of the games are broken and I’ve lost a few quarters on bum machines.

    I Googled a bit and found this article about the owners. It seems that they started The Reagan Years in downtown Fullerton five years ago – the arcade, a restaurant, and other businesses. Now, their restaurants have closed and they may have sold the arcade to someone who isn’t keeping it in good condition or have simply given up and let it die slowly.

    Its really the same feeling I had all along, the place reeked of deception, deceit and an all around shady atmosphere.

    Maybe the owner is making a statement about the real Reagan years 🙂

  3. The arcade has gone through a resurrection along with the adjoining bar called The Slidebar. It’s better than it has ever been, with a larger clientele and less shady atmosphere. The games are maintained a little more, and there are new tokens. You should check it out.

  4. I’ve driven past the Sidebar along Commonwealth a few times and didn’t see any signs that the arcade exists. I suppose I now have to go inside and see for myself. Thanks for the update.


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