Shooting Gallery is couple's passion
By Jack Pasi
Hampton Union, August 25, 2015
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON — For 38 years, Hampton Beach visitors have enjoyed taking shots at the collection of amusing old-timey targets at the Shooting Gallery. Whether it’s just for fun or to blow off some steam, the Shooting Gallery always draws a crowd.
Perhaps even more loved than the gallery itself is the couple who have run it for decades. Elizabeth Moreau, a sort of greeter for the gallery, stands out in the typical Hampton Beach crowd with her quiet, introspective expression and kerchief over her hair.
Her husband, Robert Moreau, stays behind the scenes, repairing and adding targets in the early mornings before the crowd rolls in.
Robert Moreau, 76, originally from Portsmouth, has been working at the Shooting Gallery since its inception in 1977. Eventually he brought his wife Elizabeth, 72, from Salisbury, on board with him.
Previously the two had run a “ma and pa operation” TV business based out of Salisbury. “The only problem is that we didn’t have any customers – we just had friends,” Moreau said. Thus, he began looking for other work and ran into the Shooting Gallery.
“The first owner was Eugene Dean from Fiesta Shows, then a fellow named Mulcahy from Salisbury, we bought it from him and then sold it a few years ago (to D & D Amusements),” Moreau recalled.
“I was told they (Dean) paid like $100,000 for it. It came with 44 targets. It was a big success right from the beginning."
Moreau said he got his start at the Shooting Gallery doing minor repairs.
“They couldn’t find anyone to do it,” Moreau said. “Cost was prohibitive to get the manufacturer from California to fix it. So they called me in to repair it, and I liked it, it was all easy stuff. So I’ve been taking care of it ever since.”
All of the original targets are still working, Moreau said. This year alone, he’s added 6 to 8 new targets.
Though he’s never actually counted, Moreau presumes the number of targets has exceeded 300. “It’s getting hard to walk in there to fix them,” he said. He finds the targets at places like Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowell’s and then modifies them to make them to light up, move, or make noise when they’re shot.
“People enjoy it,” Moreau said. “I think a blind man could hit something in there.”
The most popular target also happens to be one of the original targets – the piano men. Hit one of the piano men and he will start to play a tune. Hit both and they will play in unison. All of the targets do their own little trick – hit the train target and it will run around the track making a “choo-choo” noise.
“It’s just a fun thing – you shoot, it does something, and it’s fun,” Moreau said.
At just $1 for 20 shots, the gallery is one of the most affordable attractions at the beach – and Elizabeth is typically eager to show a trick or two to newcomers.
“She teaches the kids how to shoot and she’s very good with the public,” Moreau said. “She loves it, she has a wonderful time. There have been three generations that come down and have had all their pictures taken together, she taught them to shoot when they were kids and they’re bringing their kids and they’re bringing their kids!”
Having gone through generations of families, Moreau’s fondest memories of his time at the Shooting Gallery are of the people. “I enjoy all the customers,” he said. “When you’re there every year all the time, they see you, and they talk to you automatically. The public is very nice.”
Though Moreau has certainly enjoyed his work, he noted that it takes a lot of effort to run a business in Hampton Beach. “It’s not a gravy train like people think,” he said.
Despite no longer having any ownership in the Shooting Gallery, Elizabeth still clocks in around 60 hours a week and Robert still fixes and adds new targets in the mornings regularly.
“I just enjoy fixing it,” Moreau said. “I get some satisfaction out of making them (the targets) work.” As far as the future goes, Moreau says he’ll keep working until he “drops.”
Brendan McQuillen, 10, left, and his brother, Liam, 13, try their luck at the shooting gallery at the Hampton Casino on a beautiful Friday afternoon. [Deb Cram photos]