Home is coin-operated museum
(Peoria) Journal Star
WASHINGTON, Ill. - Dan Metroff has a basement game room that any child can love. In the lower level of his home in rural Washington there are some 20 coin-operated devices, including a pinball machine, slot machines, an electronic keno game, a jukebox, a vintage riding horse, a shooting gallery and penny arcade games with mechanical claws to grasp stuffed animals and toys inside glass cases.
Off the game room is a small room designed to look like a 1950s diner.
"My granddaughter had her fourth birthday party this spring in my basement," said Metroff, 51. "The kids loved the diner. And there were lines up three deep to get on that riding horse in our game room."
Metroff, a machinist at Caterpillar Inc., spends most of this free time in the game room, where there is a wall-mounted, flat-screen television, a wooden bar that dates back to the early 1900s, a card table and chairs, plus his coin-operated machines, old photos and numerous old signs - many of them advertising Coca-Cola. A red-and-white-striped couch in the game room was made from an old Coca-Cola cooler.
For Metroff's wife, Dianna, the spacious upstairs sewing room is where she spends a good deal of her time making wedding dresses and doing alterations for friends. She is a purchasing agent for the inpatient pharmacy at a local hospital.
The two moved into their Cape Cod home 2 1/2 years ago. They brought with them the machines from the game room of their previous home in Peoria.
"I've always had a fascination with coin-operated machines," Dan Metroff said. "About 15 years ago I bought a Coca-Cola machine from the 1950s for $150. It was very rusty. I tore it apart and restored it. And that got me started collecting all sorts of machines."
Over the years, Metroff has purchased machines at shows in Chicago, area flea markets and over the Internet. Many of them are antiques.
His prize is a Watling slot machine from the late 1800s. He also has a number of machines that date to the early part of the 20th century. Prominently displayed is a reproduction of an old popcorn machine and a Twilight Zone pinball machine made in 1994.
"All the machines are set up to operate with tokens of free play," Metroff said. "That's the only way to legally own slot machines in Illinois. I'm not a gambler. I don't go to the gambling boat. I like playing the slot machines, but I don't like losing money. Nobody loses here."
Metroff said he typically buys his machines for between $800 and $2,000. When they are restored, he sells some for a modest profit.
His diner is a small room with a linoleum floor that has a black-and-white checkerboard pattern. The room features a penny weight scale, a Route 66 neon clock, old photos of Peoria, old Coca-Cola signs, the large 1950 Coca-Cola machine and a booth from an old ice cream parlor. On the booth is a tabletop jukebox record selector.
"When we have parties, our guests love playing the machines," Metroff said. "They also think our diner is a lot of fun."
"The living room is our museum," Dianna Metroff said with a smile. "It's like our basement. There are some antique machines and some fun things in it that our grandchildren love."
The living room has several coin-operated machines, including Metroff's Watling slot machine. It also features a short row of movie seats from a theater of the late 1800s, an antique brass cash register from 1910, a wooden hobby horse, a reproduction of a Rock-ola Bubbler jukebox from the 1950s and several toy pedal cars.