Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
It can get really loud inside Musée Mécanique.
Walk in the place and you're immediately transformed, in both time and space, to another world, another era. The magic almost slaps you in the face, hitting all five senses at the same time. And you can't help but feel the nostalgia coursing through your veins.
In Part 1 of this episode, meet the arcade's roller-skating owner, Dan Zelinsky. Dan traces the history of the place back to his dad, Ed Zelinsky. Ed started his penny-arcade machine collection in 1933, but the story is complicated, filled with twists and turns that involve New Orleans and P.T. Barnum.
We talk with a couple of tourist visitors to Musée Mécanique who found the place thanks to some cameos in The Princess Diaries. Then Dan shares the story of how he acquired the infamous "Laffing Sal."
Funny thing: Do a podcast like ours long enough, and the most random and randomly awesome tidbits will pop in and make the cut.
Last episode, it was the Doc Ellis "LSD" perfect game that MLB doesn't like to talk about. In Part 2 of this episode, it's New Orleans and P.T. Barnum.
Musée Mécanique owner Dan Zelinsky shares the story of how his dad, Ed, bought the collection of the original San Francisco owner, George Whitney, and ran the Cliff House location until around 2002. Ed Zelinsky found the spot at Pier 45 just before he passed away, in 2004.
Whitney inherited a collection that showman P.T. Barnum brought to San Francisco from New Orleans. Much of it lived at Playland at the Beach before moving to the Cliff House, where it remained until around the turn of the century.
Condemned building, fires, and pandemics later, Musée Mécanique thrives today at Pier 45 in Fisherman's Wharf. Part 2 concludes the history of the place and our episode all about it. Hear more from Dan as well as visitors Brian and Michael, from New Jersey and New York state, respectively.
Join us next week as we kick off a series on San Francisco cemeteries!
We recorded this podcast in August and September 2022 at Musée Mécanique.