Biography of Sidney Ames 1930-1950
According to the “Guide to United States Naval Administrative Histories of World War II” (by the Naval History Division, Department of the Navy – published in 1976), an RPIO was part of the Division of Naval Communications, and was responsible for maintaining and distributing certain secret and confidential publications, in addition to operating a mail and courier service. There were many RPIOs, as they were associated with every major Naval operations base.
Mr. Ames served at the San Juan RPIO through the summer of 1944. He then received a commission, becoming an Ensign. During the fall of 1944, he attended officer’s school in Hollywood, Florida. That winter, he attended Naval Training School at Harvard University, where he studied Communications. In April, 1945, he was transferred to the RPIO in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he served during the remainder of the War.
Sam then purchased a small building at 22 Mill Street that had been a tailor’s shop, but it was too small for the bowling alleys Sam had in mind, so Sam had to hire a carpenter to lengthen the building. Eventually the building accommodated 7 lanes of bowling and eight pool tables. The family lived in an apartment above the business.
During the school year, business was good, as lots of college students from the nearby University of Maine, organized into bowling clubs, were patrons. But the business closed for the summer after the college students left town for their summer vacation. So, during the summers of 1934 and 1935, Sam, Fannie, and Sidney all travelled together on the carnival and fair circuit with some of the first pinball machines ever to be made.
Hearing from an associate on the carnival and fair circuit that a stand was available at Old Orchard Beach, Sam opened a summer business in Old Orchard Beach in 1936 with a few arcade games. By 1940 this summer business was well established and had 3 stands, including roll-down poker tables and “Kentucky Derby” horse-racing tables, which did very well.
The tables were manufactured by the Scientific Machine Corp of Brooklyn, NY. The Ames family was on good terms with Scientific Machine’s owner, Max Levine, later buying some of the company’s Ski-Bowls. One of the oldest games still working and on the floor of the Half Moon arcades, “Batting Practice”, was made by Scientific Machine, and can be seen below.
“Oliver making 2 shelves over 10 strikes for prizes we take down every nite, the shelf went all the way across. He didn’t know his picture was being taken.”
Obituary for Fannie Ames, published on January 3, 1973 in the Laconia Citizen.