pinball: first contact (1971)

By BillVolckening

May 07, 2021


43 days ago

Every summer our family drove from New Jersey to Rangeley, Maine, where we spent two weeks together at the lake. I was five years old in 1971, and things were different that year. The place we used to stay closed down permanently, so we had to find a new place.

Just up the road from our old digs was a place called True's Camps, where we rented a cottage. There was a boathouse. The lower level of the boathouse was at water level, and it had room for a couple small motorboats inside, with an L-shaped wooden dock wrapping around the front of the building. It smelled like gasoline down there, especially when the outboard motors flooded and made rainbows along the water's surface. 

The top floor of the boathouse was a recreation room. There was a ping pong table, pool, a jukebox and a pinball machine. It was the first time I'd ever seen a pinball machine, and I was thoroughly enthralled. Most five-year-olds don't have a lot of spare pocket change, but somehow I managed to get quarters to play the pinball machine. No idea what machine it was, but the theme had something to do with playing cards.

I watched the older kids play, and quickly learned it was better to control the flippers independently than it was to bang on both buttons at the same time. Whenever someone scored high enough to win a free game, there would be a loud knock from inside the machine, and it always got everyone's attention. That's what I wanted to do, make the machine knock. For the whole two weeks in Maine that summer, I hunted for left-behind free games, and begged Mom and Dad for quarters. All I wanted to do was play pinball.

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