During the Seventies and Eighties, there was an upmarket shopping centre on Main Street called the Constantia Centre. It was where Pier 14 is now.
In my mind it will always be distinguished by being the location of the first set of escalators I ever saw, and for a spectacular display piece that occupied the triple-storey foyer.
It was a massive cylindrical piece, with a couple of hundred vertical strands of wire, and these drip-fed streams of oil pouring down each strand. And all the drops were descending in formation! So it looked like sheets of heavenly raindrops were falling into the foyer of the Constantia Centre, which was also the first new-school shopping mall in Port Elizabeth.
The Constantia Centre was the scene of a vital bonding ritual that my father and I shared in my boyhood.
Every few months, perhaps three nights a year, my dad and I would go to the games arcade at the Constantia Centre and play arcade games.
It was our special night out, just me and him, driving out into the darkness on a Friday night to share our thrilling boys’ ritual of pinball, Ms Pac-Gal and motor-racing games.
Dad would wear his leather jacket and I’d wear my favourite light-blue one, the one with the military epaulettes and the corduroy patches. We’d park in the upstairs parking garage and stride through to the arcade in formation. The boys out on the town.
Dad would buy several pockets worth of tokens and we’d unleash ourselves on the place.
This was the heyday of Space Invaders, Tetris, Exerion, Galaga and those sit-down Asteroids games.
Then there were the old foozball tables, real pinball that you could tilt and get free games off, and one of the original Pong arcade-games consoles. We challenged each other to game after game, and I scarcely minded that I lost every one.
Ah, maybe Dad let me win a couple, but the point was I got to spend an entire evening with my father, who was usually so busy that he came home after dark every night.
Another reason was that Dad had worked out that I had an addictive personality. Given the chance, I would easily have spent all my free time and pocket money playing video games.
I guess he figured regular, sporadic doses would help alleviate my games craving without having it take over my life. Give me more time for sport and homework.
Whatever the reason, it must have worked. I’ve generally managed to keep my various addictions under control, I’m still into sport and I always get my homework done in time – as the Weekend Post editor can attest.
In addition, Dad and I have remained the best of friends. To continue the gaming theme, I recently gave the guy a Wii gaming console for his 70th birthday. We played a couple of Wii golf games against each other and it was just like old times. The boys gaming together again. Awesome.
I hope he doesn’t get addicted.