Electric Game Company

by Laurel | April 5th, 2010

Electric Flash Game

Electric Flash Game

I never owned an electronic game as a kid, nor was I aware of the Electric Game Company until I was an adult. However I became intrigued with the company and games as both were Holyoke in origin.

James M. “Jim” Prentice was the president of the company and it seemed to do quite well. The company began in around 1934 and a 1949 newspaper clipping reported about 200 in attendance for the company Christmas party — with Santa arriving via an electronic chimney!

A little more information on the company, courtesy of the Springfield Republican, 1956:

High School Invention Launched Game Firm

Electric Game Co. of Holyoke Now a National Leader in Its Line.

An electric baseball game that James M. Prentice invented while a student at Holyoke High School more than 25 years ago led to the formation of the Electric Games Co. — now 22 years old and a national leader in its line.

Prentice is president and Paul L. Lefebvre, formerly district sales manager in New York for the Hercules Powder Co,., is vice president of the company which employs about 140 on two shifts and occupies 80,000 square feet on the four floors of the former Mackintosh Building it owns at 109 Lyman St., Holyoke.

The game Prentice invented at Holyoke High was battery-operated, and with it players could conduct their own ball game. Bit at the time, Prentice did not associate the game with his own career.

After attending the University of New Hampshire, he worked for a short time at White & Wyckoff, and then decided to develop the electric baseball game. At first the game was manufactured for him according to his specifications and he sold it. After two years Prentice, his late father George, and his late uncle James Dougherty, began actual manufacturing of the games in two rooms at 177-179 High Street.

After a wartime period during which Electric Game Company manufactured 20,000 Army pup tents, 25,000 Navy bed rolls, Navy gas masks and small parts of the Navy’s five-inch gun.

Electric Game Co. shared with other businesses the postwar problem of conversion to peacetime products. But a combination of development ingenuity and the realization of the growing youth market, plus the surge in national business activity lead the company to its present profitable and strong position.

Today, according to Lefebvre, the business has been converted largely to toys, rather than games, although the electric baseball and football games continue in the product line.

“We have at the moment two of what we consider the hottest lines in the industry,” Lefebvre said. One is a Fuzz Buzz electric shaver, a battery operated plastic shaver with a buzzer enabling the youngster to join his dad in the shaving stint each day. This was introduced in late 1955, Lefebvre said, and Electric Game will sell 750,000 of them this year, the figure may even reach one million.

The second is a novelty item called Hole in the Head, introduced this year. This toy involved picking up dome enclosed pellets with a magnet and dropping them into the correct parts of a head that is inside. Lefebvre said the item has caught on, and sales will be approximately one half million this year.

Electric Game also has a line of electric build-it sets, with which their owners can make bicycle horns, little buggies that will run, telegraph keys, buzzing ray guns and conduct electrical experiments. These are all battery operated, hence Harmless, Lefebvre said.

These sets are good, we think, because a youngster learns something while he is having fun,” said Lefebvre.

An aircraft spotting game, with the player identifying more than 200 aircraft through silhouettes and flashing lights signaling right or wrong choices, is also a big item, according to Lefebvre. Another staple is an electric jack straws, which at 150,000 units sold annually “is not the biggest but is a staple.”

Electric Game already is looking ahead to the mammoth Toy fair to he held next March in New York, Lefebvre said, and has about a dozen new items fore presentation. These are trade secrets, he explains, and can’t be disclosed ahead of time.

Paul L. Lefebvre of Electric Game Company

Paul L. Lefebvre of Electric Game Company

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