January 31, 2012

Slot Machines with a Hollywood theme often make my day

Click on photos to enlarge

There is a great deal of competition for players in the slot machine areas of large casinos. Manufacturers attempt to attract attention by having appealing graphics, artwork that stands out in a crowd.

We recently posted pictures of slots with Chinese themes, including dragons. Also to be found are games featuring movies and movie stars, television personalities and shows, animals and famous rock 'n rollers, among others. When you have a show business personality or a TV or motion picture theme, a royalty must be paid.

Just because a slot is created with The Sopranos, eBay or Elvis as the hook doesn't mean it will be a success. If the game itself is not interesting, it will not last because of the competition. One of the most successful current slots is Buffalo, which features that animal. No one is receiving royalties of the use of the image.

Visually, just about my favorite slot machine is Viva Las Vegas which includes pictures of that motion picture's stars, Elvis and Ann-Margret. It has been a total bust and few if any can still be found here in Las Vegas. It is a very competitive business.

Photos by Frank Barning

January 29, 2012

"Get Your Kicks on Route 66" is an anthem for those of us who enjoy travel

If you ever plan to motor west,
travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.

There are several popular songs that inspire some of us to travel. One of my favorites is "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66" which was written by Bobby Troup in 1946 and was initially recorded by the Nat King Cole Trio.

You might have thought that this was the theme song of the TV show from the 1960s, "Route 66". But according to Wikipedia, " The producers of television show Route 66 commissioned a new theme song because they wanted to avoid making royalty payments for Troup's song."

In 2007, Vivian and I took a two-week bus tour of the west, mostly visiting National Parks. Part of the journey was on Route 66 and the sign posted here was snapped in Seligman, Arizona. To me, Route 66 is a symbol of the awesome travel opportunities that the United States has to offer, from sea to shining sea.

When I was a youngster, stamp collecting was one of my hobbies. In 1934, the United States Postal Service had issued a series of stamps featuring National Parks. My favorite was of Yellowstone's Old Faithful Geyser. As a result, I longed to see it in person. Vivian and I visited Yellowstone in 2007 and it was a dream come true.

At times, when you travel, it is difficult to remember some of the places you have visited or just driven through. Therefore, I take photos of signs. The above are some of them from our National Park tour.

Photos by Frank Barning, except Old Faithful

January 27, 2012

My field of dreams was a cement schoolyard in Forest Hills (Queens), NY


“Field of Dreams” is one of the great sports movies. My field of dreams was not in rural Iowa. Instead, it was in Forest Hills (NY) at PS 101, also known as the School in the Gardens.

Kindergarten for me started at PS 101 in 1947. By the time I reached third grade, the school yard had become the favorite place in my Lilliputian world.

I remember that Mr. Steinfeld was the physical education teacher and on mild days, instead of letting us romp around the gymnasium, he would lead the boys into the school yard, often to play softball. Learning to catch, throw and hit a ball was part of growing up for many boys. Kids today are more interested in becoming conversant with the internet, but in those years that followed World War II, simpler things were all that was available.

I can still remember the softball games that Mr. Steinfeld organized. We learned about batting orders, running and throwing to the correct base, where the various fielders were positioned, and other basics of the game. No one taught us to hit, throw and catch. I learned by watching the older boys, and trial and error, lots of errors. In my beginnings as a softball player, I idolized the older guys and watched some of them closely to learn the game.

Mr. Steinfeld was particularly patient with his young would-be athletes, but he had a problem with me when it came to hitting. Every time I hit the ball, instead of dropping the bat as I began my run to first base, in my excitement I would fling it. He was none too pleased because I was damaging his precious equipment and putting my schoolmates in harms way. After awhile, my dangerous habit was broken.

From this humble beginning, I became a softball addict. It might seem strange that it was softball, not baseball, that became my game of choice, but there was no option in Forest Hills then and probably now. Nearly all of the ball fields had cement surfaces, Rare was a grass field, especially at public elementary schools in the Borough of Queens.

The bases on these diamonds were simply painted squares, not the padded bags found on baseball fields. Few of us ever slid into a base. I was in mortal fear of tearing my pants and incurring my mother’s wrath. When I started to play what we called “hard ball”, I was totally unable to slide on a dirt infield, the residue of my softball days.

The first chance I had to play real baseball was when the Forest Hills Little League was inaugurated in 1954. I was 12 years old and have always regretted that I only had one year of Little League. My team was sponsored by Alexander Cleaners located on 108th Street. Our motto was something about cleaning up the rest of the league, which we did.

One of the highlights of my youth was the summer “vacation playground” at PS 101. We played softball every day, could use the gym for basketball, volleyball and other activities and there was even a lunch program which was similar to the regular school-year lunches. The food was usually so bad that my mother packed a lunch for me and I only bought milk and ice cream. I can still remember the terrible tuna sandwiches on Fridays, provided in deference to the meatless needs of the Roman Catholic students, and the world’s driest peanut butter sandwiches with raisin mixed in. Yuck.

The vacation playground program had a wonderful feature, traveling softball teams. We would play other nearby Queens schools and it was exciting to travel with a group, usually by bus or subway. To me that was a road trip. While my Brooklyn Dodgers might travel to Boston or St. Louis, I was thrilled to visit PS 3 or PS 144. There were teams for boys under five-feet tall and for the bigger kids. If you were short but a good enough player, you could be part of both teams. One summer, I played for both teams.

For me, the opportunities offered at PS 101 were as much as a child who loved to play ball could have hoped for. We learned sports, teamwork and leadership skills.

And at night, a few hours after the schoolyard gates had been carefully locked, there was usually a “hardball” game on television, in black and white. My beloved Dodgers were on Channel 9, but if they were not on the tube on a particular evening, then the Yankees or Giants were usually available on Channel 11.

What a great childhood featuring my own field of dreams.

January 24, 2012


In honor of Chinese New Year, our previous post was illustrated with slot machines that featured dragons. Here are six more with a China theme, including two with beautiful pandas.

January 22, 2012

Slot machines with a Chinese theme are numerous in the Year of the Dragon

Chinese New Year began on Jan. 23 and ends on Feb. 9. After the Super Bowl, it is the second biggest annual event in Las Vegas. To celebrate the coming of the Year of the Dragon, here are five slot machines that have the mythical creature in the name or design. Slot machine manufacturers are well aware that many Chinese-Americans are big slot players, so it is good business to use designs that appeal to them.

Here in Las Vegas, Chinese New Year is a big deal. Hotels promote special New Year events and menus, and there is considerable national and international advertising to attract Chinese visitors, foreign and domestic.

Vegas even has it own Chinatown with a bevy of fine restaurants, Asian supermarkets and specialty shops. It is a short trip from the Las Vegas Strip (Las Vegas Blvd.).

January 20, 2012


The Barnings have lived in Las Vegas for six years and Vivian has become a seasoned slot machine player. She frequents a dozen or more casinos around the Las Vegas valley, records her best wins in an Excel spread sheet and analyzes the data.

Her favorite slots aren't necessarily the ones that are the most lucrative. Those shown here are among the most fun. She is shown with Wicked Winnings II which has yielded some of her best wins in the past couple years.

Vivian reports, "These slots have stood the test of time, have interesting bonus rounds, plus you can get significant winners in the regular game as well as the bonus rounds."


The focus of Barnstorming is changing. Instead of "Primarily featuring memories of the good old days of baseball card collecting and other baseball stuff," the theme is shifting to stories and photos relating to slot Las Vegas (including slot machines and casinos), travel, personal memories and some baseball.

January 11, 2012

Here is the second photo of Dave Pope leaping for Dusty Rhodes' homerun in game one of the 1954 World Series at the Polo Grounds

Click on photo to enlarge

As promised in our previous post (Jan. 6), this is another picture of Dave Pope's desperate leap in the 10th inning of game one of the 1954 World Series. It was taken within a couple of seconds of the other shot. You can see that the ball hit by pinch hitter Dusty Rhodes of the New York Giants has bounced out of the hands of a fan in the right field stands.

The International News Photo's camera man was Vincent Lopez. Considering the angle he must have shot from, it is a remarkable picture.

January 6, 2012

Here is the action photo that was air-brushed to appear on the 1956 Topps Dave Pope card

Click on photo to enlarge


My November 16, 2011 story had to do with the 1956 Topps baseball card (No. 154) of Baltimore Orioles outfielder Dave Pope. Part of that article stated:

The 1956 Topps typically had two images, usually a head shot and also an action or posed photo of the player. The action shot of Pope was what caught my attention. I vividly recalled the photo. It was from the 1954 World Series when he played for the Cleveland Indians against the New York Giants.

Topps, in those days, often airbrushed uniforms and caps of players who had been traded to update the information. In the action shot of Pope, the Cleveland on the front of his uniform had been removed and no team name appears. It is also of note that Pope appears to have a ball in his glove, which wasn't the reality of the play.

The photo was memorable because Pope's leap was at the right-field wall at the Polo Grounds as he made a desperate attempt to catch what became one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history. The batter was pinch hitter Dusty Rhodes whose 10th inning "blast" off future Hall of Famer Bob Lemon went all of 260 feet and gave the Giants a 5-2 victory in the first game of the World Series. It was referred to, at the time, as a "Chinese Home Run."

To update the story, I knew that we had the wire service photo of the catch in our collection and after a thorough search, it was finally found. The picture confirms what I had written in November. It was taken by an International News photographer.

The caption attached to the picture explained, "Fans battling to make the catch, DEFLECTED the ball. This gave many TV viewers the impression that the ball had bounced off the wall instead of going into the stands."

Our next blog post will include a photo of the same play, from a different angle.