Pinball really woven through the years

By CNKay

January 23, 2014

This story got featured on January 23, 2016


8 years ago

Well I guess I have always loved the game. I can remember a Kmart type store named Kings that was close to my parents home that we often shopped at. They had an area between the check outs and the customer service area with about 10 machines. These all being EM pins at the time and most set to .10 or 3/.25 . I guess I am showing age. Yes, I had a Fonz pinball man I remember playing that a ton. I think I was climbing on it to get up on a large storage counter top so that i could retrieve something that fell behind it and busted the front leg. My Father repaired "Fonz by Colleco" but other things bad happened to it and eventually out to the curb, as most childhood toys. Vertbird, Marx machine gun shooting gallery and many more. I had a really good childhood. Thanks MOM Thanks DAD.

So besides hoping that we went to Kings for household items and that i could pull my old sales pitch to Mom, "I just need 1 dollar and I will stay right by the machines you won't have to run around looking for me and shouting for me, i'll just stay and play the pinball machines." That used to work pretty good and being so young gave me that unsupervised high. To be honest I really don't remembered the names of any of the pins and did not have a favorite I just played them all.

Yeah we used to go camping a lot in the summer all up and down the East coast and the first questions that I learned to ask when we got to a campground was "do you have a pool? and "were is the rec hall?". Almost every campground had one and almost always at least two pinball machines, a pool table or ping pong. One pin I remember really enjoying was Ships Ahoy. I even remember some machine that you shot balls, but had no flippers a few buttons on top of the lock bar and a ton of numbers and I just did not get it. I did play my .50 worth and walked away feeling confused and robbed. Yes my first Bingo machine encounter and i didn't even know it.

So then there was a day when we went to Kings and upon checking out there was a machine with a line in front of it and almost everyone upon leaving the checkout would just get in line to play that brand new " Space Invaders". I was about 10 years old we played one game, that is all the store manager was allowing as there really was a very long line of people to play this wonderous machine. I do remember beating maybe one wave and walking away from machine holding my heart and my Dad saying" yeah that thing will give you a heart attack". It was shortly there after that things seemed to change a lot. The beginning of the arcade era!

The local drugstore Leader Drugs got two games and changed them on a pretty regular basis. Almost every store that could fit one had one. I remember some Asteroids, PacMan, Missle Command, Ms PacMan, Tempest, Star Castle, Satan's Hallow. Yes and that was during a time when Kings closed and not only did the drugstore have machines but full fledged arcades popped up. We had Great Games, a Chuck E Cheese type place called major magic's, JNC golf and games which is still operating, and of course one in every large shopping mall. Update JNC changed owners i believe and is mostly all redemption machines, yuck!

Yes I do remember some really good times in those places with good friends playing some really good pins like High Speed, Pinbot, Haunted House, damn the list could go on and on. Those were the days when we started to realize you had to read the instruction card, and really had to get twenty games under your belt or you had no chance of beating anyone.

And in those days, if you won that machine was yours, if someone else wanted to play they had to pay for your game as well. It was kind of a like being King of the hill. I do remember that especially on the pinball machines because we would go there every weekend and rarely had to have more than 2.00 for the night. If we would just play pinball. O yeah and there was a shoot penny up the coin return trick that kept us in mrs pacman heaven all day. This could be done on any machine with no coin return flap.

Then there were days that the arcades would have special coupons twenty or twentyfive dollars in tokens for 5 bucks. And you would just be in heaven. Trying to see how many games you could post initials to or if you wanted to save your tokens you could be the King of the Black Knight for a while. Yes it was arcade etiquette to ask who's machine it was if you didn't have two coins. Meaning to play a solo game without paying for his game. Many days we ruled the pinball row but sometimes we couldn't dethrone the King but that just made you play better. In arcade hay day. There were machines wall to wall and people as well, with coin holders on almost all the good games.

I think it was just a little before the Atari 2600 release that i convinced my parents to purchase an Atari home computer from a magazine ad in popular electronics. Man that was a great Christmas. We got the 800 and tape recorder. Shortly after the floppy disc drive and at the same time my Father got in good with the Atari Computer stores owner did repair work for him and any software I wanted I got for free. I remember my best friend getting PacMan when it came out for 2600 and although we had fun, it wasn't like mine. Mine was just like the arcade complete with intermissions. As was defender, asteroids, missile command, complete with track ball box and man there were a ton of cool games that were even just as good if not better than arcade games. I can remember a pinball construction set that I would tinker with several rainy summer days. Yes well besides maybe the economy and everyone having some home game system or home computers the arcades died off. As did pinball in my life for a while.

It was not until I built my home and had a very big and empty basement. I was in the breakroom at work and just happen to see the word pinball in the classifieds. I called the guy went over to his house and looking at about three games he had for sale. It is weird as I don't ever remember playing that one. Not like I can remember playing Black Knight or F14. I just remember looking it over, well, I see three pops, a spinner, kickout holes, rollovers, drops. Yep all the basics for a good game. I ended up taking a Flash pin home. Then for the next 10 years I seemed to acquire at least one dead project to keep me busy and happy. Everyone says it and it is true you get one game and it does not end there, they seem to multiple like rabbits.

I have been to several local shows, made a couple good friends and spend more time than I should on pinball related sites and forums but it is in my blood it always has.

I remember that same day driving home after playing the Space Invaders, my dad said "that machine is fantastic it will never break" and then thinking that surely was the death of pinball. Well the silver ball is still rolling and I am so glad that there are so many kind folks out there to help, to share, to donate, and to keep it rolling. It is by far one of the best hobbies i can think of.

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