Davey Stone No News Here: Saturday mornings at Pleasurama

Davey Stone

 

Ramsgate resident Davey Stone is a former bestselling author for Disney in America and Hodder in the UK.

He recently wrote a book about growing up in Ramsgate called Too Much Information, which nobody bought so he now uses the copies as doorstops in his house or occasionally as toilet paper.

He lives in Thanet coffee shops and has no friends.

(Davey is actually a successful fantasy author best known for his series of books The Illmoor Chronicles. He runs independent publishing house Kingsbrook with wife Chiara)

 

If you lived in Ramsgate during the 80s, being a kid obsessed with arcade games was a test of both mental and physical stamina. If you wanted to play Double Dragon, you had to mission it all the way to the boating pool on the West Cliff, as Pleasurama didn’t keep the original Double Dragon machine once a few of the better beat-em-up games had flooded the market.

The West Cliff boating pool was a weird place at the time. On one side of the actual pool you had a sort of miniature monkey zoo and on the other side a small cafe that seemed to specialise in bacon rolls with a few arcade machines stacked against the wall. This made for a really interesting place to hang out, as you could either peer through the windows at a lot of screaming primates flinging turds at each other…or you could go to the other side and see the monkeys.

@DanRetro

Double Dragon was the only machine worth hitting the boating pool for: all the others were at Pleasurama. We LIVED at Pleasurama on Saturday mornings.

You’d get up really early, arrange to meet at least one mate at the battered helter skelter next to the rear entrance of the park and then head in, starting on Rolling Thunder or Wrestle War and working your way down to Golden Axe and Operation Wolf.

If you came in from the beach end, you’d start with WWF Superstars and work your way backwards through the building until you got to that really odd bit at the front where there was always ONE poor bingo caller upsetting all three members of The Blue Rinse Triad, a group of elderly women that occasionally brought along a wretched and equally ancient-looking man who may or may not have been married to one of them. It didn’t seem to be the bingo caller himself who caused the problem but it was often a result of the language involved in shouting the numbers.

’13! Unlucky for some!’

‘Why did you look at my husband then?’

’88. Er…Two fat ladies!’

‘You cheeky b*st*rd! We’ve lost a stone between us…’

’28. In a state…’

‘He’s STILL looking at us, Betty!’

The old guy, for his part, never said a thing…but he always seemed to have a brown paper bag containing some sort of liquid that cheered him up with every fresh sip.

Pleasurama was also the hub for birthdays, as long you wanted your birthday in The Balls.

The Balls was an affectionate nickname for the assault course and soft play area that served as a cheap way to celebrate your kids’ birthday during the 80s. It was especially handy if you wanted to slope off to the pubs while the Pleasurama staff dished up triangle sandwiches and the five-pound cake you bought yourself from Tesco knowing it would be thrown up in the toilets ten minutes after the second session in the ball-pit.

The machines themselves were used by SO many kids that they began to take on a life of their own. The big metal gun on operation wolf was probably grabbed by more boys during the 80s than the average school pencil case. Then there was golden axe, a side-scrolling fantasy adventure game where the scantily clad female barbarian was clearly twice as hard as her skinny boyfriend or the dwarf granddad who constantly tagged along with them. I spent HALF my pocket money on Golden Axe. The other half went on Rolling Thunder, a game where you played a cowboy leaping balconies and amassing an assortment of guns in order to defeat a hooded cult.

If you got fed up with Pleasurama, you could always head next door for bowls of cockles and whelks…or those strange Ramsgate sausages covered in the sort of batter that tasted oddly of something nasty you could never quite put your finger on.

Pleasurama fire 1998

When Pleasurama burned down, it signalled the end of an era…because it took away ONE more place kids could go to hang out and take part in the sort of activities you could only enjoy in those dark halls with the crap lighting, sneaking between the shadowy columns and treading on that godawful maroon zigzag carpet you never saw anywhere else.

Pleasurama might have been cold and damp, it might have been smelly and draughty and it might have been full of broken machines and bad noise. The staff might have been rude and dismissive and – sure – you might get accused of smoking, stealing or jacking the odd car….

….but it WAS a place to go, wasn’t it?

6 Comments

  1. I think his writing is fantastic. Imagine being that bored and miserable, you would troll a local paper’s comments section.

  2. Nice one Davey, hit the nail on the head, although the boating pool had a good few more games worth visiting for; Gryzor, 1942, Alex Kidd, Robocop, Formula 1, to name a few.

    In the other end, with the grab machine and change machine, there was a weird space shooter with a metal joystick, and we figured if you hold the stick and touch the coin return slot, you got zapped with electricity haha. We had competitions who could stay held on and get zapped longest hahaha I won, of course. Many times.

    • Brilliant! Love it! Robocop was amazing…but SO damn hard. I’m actually trying to remember if I ever made it through that first street – I don’t think so?!!!

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