All boys love guns, so what kid wouldn't want a motorized shooting gallery right in his own living room? It's "just like the large ones at penny arcades," says this how-to from 1959, but this project comes with added value: as the maker, you'll have the bonus of being the coolest dad on the block, because your son will be the envy of all his friends. You'll also have the private satisfaction of knowing that you've trumped every other dad in the neighborhood and made them all feel like failures who don't do cool things like build motorized shooting galleries for their kids. That's a lot for a single DIY project to deliver.
This was a more innocent time in America — save the Cold War and the constant threat of a nuclear bomb — when people were a lot less freaked out about kids using BB rifles in the home. It was the late-1950s; almost a century since a U.S. President had caught a bullet, and it was a more trusting era, when the notion of bringing firearms to school and spraying students and faculty with gunfire would have been considered extreme. In mid-century America, no one was prattling on about kids becoming desensitized to violence because they spent a couple hours after school knocking off plywood squirrels with an air rifle.
The Coolest Dad on the Block doesn't come by his title without considerable elbow grease, however. Building the guts of a motorized shooting gallery is not something that happens quickly — and if you aren't proficient with a soldering gun or have the patience for rivets you might as well forget it. How many weeknights will you lose cutting and painting silhouettes of rabbits, ducks, and squirrels? All depends on how good you are with a jigsaw. It might seem like a lot of work, but once your kid grabs hold of his rifle and you flip that switch, those first twenty or thirty minutes before that kid gets bored are going to be proud ones. But even if the novelty lasts for as long as a few afternoons, it's likely that you'll have put more hours into that shooting gallery than he will. Might be easier — and definitely quicker — to just go luddite and shoot at real animals.
The fun of aiming at the same, tired, rotating vermin figures is bound to wear off sooner or later, and an adolescent will likely move onto other youthful pastimes like sticking firecrackers up cats' butts, smoking cigarettes, and breaking windows; it would still be four more decades before a tween could pummel a prostitute into a bloody pulp, shoot her in the head, and set her on fire courtesy of Grand Theft Auto. It might be said that the CGI prostitutes of one generation are simply the analog plywood Squirrels of another, but kids today have it all: pipe bombs and cop killing, hostage torturing, they even get to watch blood pool beneath the bodies of their victims after a sniping spree and experience the soulless rush of hooker sex, all sourced from a joystick without leaving the sofa. A kid of the late-1950s could only dream of that kind of fun.