My Start in Pinball

By Billymac11

November 12, 2021

21 days ago

I started in pinball around 1971 or 1972, when I was 8-9 years old, walking or biking a half mile from my home to the long-gone Billy Blake's discount department store on Sunrise Highway in Sayville, New York. At first, there was a small arcade of a few pinballs and some kiddy rides right in the large foyer along with a snack bar as you entered the store. Not too long after, the arcade moved to a much larger space deep near the back of the store, with more pinballs, mechanical arcade machines like rifle shooting, driving games, baseball batting games, etc (all pre-video game/CPU-based games), and also more kiddy rides, like a teeny-tiny ferris wheel.

Games were a dime or three games for a quarter. I'd bring 3-5 dimes and with free balls and free games, could make it last quite a while, plus there always seemed to be a dime or two dropped on the ground all the time. Kids with change were something like squirrels with nuts, dropping at least a portion of it on a regular basis. Sooner than not, by '73 or '74, I got pretty peeved when they changed the pinball pricing regime to eliminate dimes and reduce the three-for-a-quarter to two-for-a-quarter! Around this time the Billy Blakes closed, not too coincidentally with the opening of the much larger and shiny Sun-Vet Mall on the opposite, westbound, side of the Highway. It had its own full-sized, no-kiddie-rides-taking-up-valuable-real-estate, arcade, with even more pinballs. It also had a greek pizzeria with, to this day 48 years later, my all-time favorite pizza, even though I now live 430 miles away from it. In 1973, Aegean Pizza, in the brand spankin' new mall, also boasted one of them new-fangled things, a video game, a stand up machine, all garish yellow and wood grain, called Pong. It wasn't pinball, but it got my quarters anyway while waiting for my slice to come up....

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