Two-Bit Arcade, La Verne
To me, the most important of all the arcades listed here, and the one
I most frequently visited.
The Two-Bit was a rather small arcade in a strip mall on Foothill
Blvd. Inside, it was about half pinball and half video games from
1979 to late 1981, when I noticed the video's were taking over more
The Two-Bit was run by some of the nicest local people you'd meet
anywhere. Right out of the blue they'd come up to you and offer free
games, or perhaps an official Two Bit Arcade T-shirt.
Occasionally, they'd even throw parties for the regulars. There would also
be high score contests, where the player winning the highest score on a
particular game. (There were also "unofficial" contests as well: I
remember one fellow playing Gorf all-day until 10 or 11 p.m. . .)
Of course, the Two-Bit staff also ran a tight ship too. Inside the operator's
booth, there was a list of people banned from the arcade (usually for hitting
games, begging games off people). I once saw some burly, motorcycle-gang type
actually picking up the front end of a pinball, lifting it about two or three feet,
and dropping it with a bang! (The manager kicked him out, and I never saw him
again after that). Smoking was never permitted at the Two-Bit, but
"dipping" was allowed (the management even provided paper cups for snuff users).
The Two-Bit existed until June 1983, when they moved to Pomona (to the space vacated
by "The Arcade" below) due to changing attitudes by the City of La Verne toward
video game arcades. At the new location, the name changed to "Two-Bit Games and
Grinders" and offered snacks (I recall a long list of sandwiches named after various
video games) as well as games. The Two-Bit probably gave up the ghost in
in 1985; I don't recall seeing it after the summer of 1984.
Active West Garey Center Bowl, Pomona
bowling alley also had pinballs and video games (along with
a pool hall, a bar, cigarette machines, ashtrays on the games, and
losers picking up other losers). But it was an occasional change of
pace. (and for awhile had an old pinball that charged 25-cents for two games, five balls each
In a world where 50-cents for three balls was starting to be the going rate, there was
a name for cheap pinballs like that--CHRISTMAS!
The Bowl closed down around 1986 or 1987; it is now a
Base Hits Record Store, San Dimas
This was a small record store in the perenially underperforming
shopping center at the corner of Bonita and San Dimas Canyon. There
were also about 7-8 video games here, with cardboard signs saying
"No Alcohol or Drugs Allowed" and "Do Not Put Slugs in Machines".
This joint opened up in Spring 1981, but faded away not too long after
they set up a "contest" among the local high schools in the area: whoever
bought the most records within a designated time period would get a
special prize (I think it was that the record store would sponsor a
school dance, complete with DJ). It turns out that after the contest
was over, the store simply awarded a dance to all the schools in
question, instead of picking the winner. That bothered a lot of
people, who then decided to buy their records (and play games)
G.G's Games of Skill, Pomona
According to rumor, this bare-looking block building, just south of the bowling
alley, was where all the "tough guys" and gang members
hung out. One day, I (being neither a tough guy or a gang member) walked in there
and found...a few video games and pinballs, a concrete floor and a bored looking
attendant. Where were all the toughs? I was the only customer in the
whole place. There wasn't the world's best selection of games, either,
but I played a few quarters worth and left.
In late 1983 or so, the building was torn down to build a shopping center. G.G's
moved to another shopping center near Towne and Arrow in Pomona, and was
renamed "La-La's Games of Skill". I don't recall if it lasted beyond
The Arcade, Pomona
How's that for a generic name? It was a relatively quiet arcade, about the
size of the "Two-Bit", in a large shopping center between a gun store and
a print shop. It had a few games I had not seen elsewhere (like Vanguard).
I also noticed that certain folks who had been 86'd from the Two-Bit would
occasionally show up here (and get high scores).
I discovered this place in Spring 1981 or 1982; by early 1984, the
"Two-Bit Arcade" (see above) moved into this place for awhile.
Chuck E. Cheese, La Verne
I know, that place was supposed to be for little kids, not teenagers. In
fact, there were signs posted saying "No one under 18 without a parent"
at the front door (ostensibly, to keep out the "Two-Bit Arcade" crowd,
which had started to grow somewhat rowdy by early 1983, especially at
But the rule was only fitfully enforced, and your average 17-year old high
school student could easily b.s. their way on in, along with an entourage
of friends and "dates". Once inside, there was the largest selection of
video games in La Verne (Bigger than the Two-Bit!) as well as skee-ball
and similar non-video games. I don't recall if they had any pinball,
I do remember eating pizza there once; it was rather disappointing.
Chuck E. Cheese eventually left La Verne for some unstated reason (maybe
the city jumped on them for letting too many unattended kids in. On the
other hand, I recall a lot of their restaurants closing all over by
the mid 80's)
La Verne Liquors
LVL always had two or three arcade games (always just under the limit
where they would legally be considered an "arcade" and would require
additional business licenses, etc.) Being a liquor store and not an arcade
also meant that it was open much earlier in the morning. This meant that
kids could drop by on the way to school to drop a few quarters on
"Pac-Man" or "Donkey Kong". Of course, the local newspapers were soon full
of indignant letters decrying all the "kids hanging out in a liquor store,
of all places, at 6 a.m.", etc, etc.
The Milky Way, Pomona
This arcade opened (along with the Indian Hill Mall) in Spring 1983.
The Milky Way was located at the extreme east end of the mall. It was a
big place, with about as much floor space as a discount department store.
The decor was dark glass, neon, and chrome, with millions of little lights
(LED's or fiber optics) blinking off and on in the ceiling, along railings
and in the floor. Prices were reasonable, such as 8 or 10 tokens for $1.
The arcade was a fun place, but it was also troublesome for the mall
management. The mall wasn't (and isn't) located in the best of
neighborhoods to begin with, and the arcade sometimes attracted a rough
element. Since the arcade was some distance from the rest of the mall (and
usually kept later hours), it was difficult for mall management to police
everything that was going on in there (I heard rumors of drug dealing,
fights in the parking lot, etc.)
Then there were a few people that went totally berzerk, saying that
the flashing red LED's in the ceiling had a "satanic influence" on kids...
Because of all these problems, the arcade closed in 1984. Around
early 1986, the arcade reopened in a much smaller location,
in a more central part of the mall. For a long while after it closed,
though, one could peer through the glass doors and see what was left
of the original arcade. All the games were removed, but the decorations,
the mirrors, the now de-energized neon lights, were still there, making
the space look like a high-tech ghost town.
In fact, most of the Indian Hill Plaza mall became a ghost town over
the years, as most of the shops either closed up or moved to the
rapidly expanding Montclair Plaza a few miles north (and nearer to the
freeway). There was (and is) little left except
for a few cheap stores. Recently, the Pomona school district leased or
bought most of the property, and part of it is now an elementary school.
Kenny Arcade, West Covina
An occasional stopping point for those long bike rides between Claremont and Covina.
If I recall correctly, parts of the movie
Private School were filmed here in 1983, and there was a big display in the arcade
reminding everyone of that fact. I also recall that the sign saying "Kenny Arcade"
was still being displayed long after the arcade closed (1985?)
Speaking of 1983, that's when I went off to UCSB, taking my arcade habit
along with me...(note: in all the following, I.V = Isla Vista, the student area
just west of the main UCSB campus).
Video Madness and the Side Pocket
Relatively small arcade and pool hall in Downtown I.V. (Is there such a place?) Across the
street from the original Kinko's copy shop. Video Madness was the
longest-lasting arcade in I.V.
In its heyday
(say, 1983-1987) it could be pretty busy on a Friday night, or anytime
on a weekday. Now, Video Madness (and I.V. in general) seem much quieter
almost every time I've gone back up there to visit...
When I was last in I.V. in late 2004; the arcade and pool hall had been
by a bar with no games in it....
This was an arcade located in the infamous Isla Vista Bank of America
building. Tokens were eight for a dollar, but many of the games were in a bad state
of repair. As I recall, it lasted only a few months in late 1983...The
bank building itself has gone through several new lives as a dance hall,
a gym, and a restaurant before it was bought by UCSB for classroom space
There was another arcade in I.V. not too far away from the bank, with just a
few games. It too only lasted a few months. (I remember playing a "Tempest" with a
very messed-up spinner in there. Not fun).
A couple of geeks from the UCSB Microcomputer Lab set this arcade up behind a liquor store
in I.V, around April 1986. Games were free for about a week after it opened, then they were
for some ridiculously low price (10 tokens for $1). After the school year ended, the owners
took the arcade back home to the Bay Area with them.
It was the late 1980's (about 1988 or 1989) when most of the video
games seemed to be "chop socky ninja rambo's" like "Street Fighter" and
such. I slowly lost interest...except in places where I could find
Pak Mann Arcade
I had noticed this arcade as early as 1982, on trips into Pasadena. When I started
working in Pasadena (1990-1991), Pak Mann was a frequent after-work hangout.
It could get rough at night, though...one time, one of my coworkers got
a parking lot fight there. This arcade closed in 2005 (after a long fight
with the City of Pasadena)
and reportedly moved to either Alhambra or Westminster....
The Reagan Years
I found this place in Downtown Fullerton in April 2000 while waiting for a
an arcade filled with the classic games of the 80's. (They sell games as
well). Currently, it's a bar with a couple of games in it.
And of course, there are always the
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