how i got into pinball

By douggalecawitz

August 11, 2017

3 years ago

My earliest memories of playing pinball were at the Blackhawk Motel in Wisconsin Dells. I was so short that standing on a stool light would reflect off of arcade games in such a way that i could not see the screen, but i could see the pinball playfield. It also seemed like my pinball games lasted longer in spite of not knowing how to play. I was at least seven before it dawned on me that both flippers need not be pressed every time in conjunction. Trips to arcades were something of rarities through most of my life as my family didn't have money. But when and where i could I'd play pinball.

Up through high school i didn't play much but i always wondered about owning a game. I even remember finding out that to buy Taxi would have cost me about $800. A tall sum for a teenager back then. It was some time after high school that a friend brought me to his friend's house. His friend had a basement full of pinball machines. The idea of owning multiples of these things. Of this being a full on hobby had never crossed my mind. I wanted desperately to join this guy's pinball league but my friend lost contact with him. But it was that visit that rekindled my desire to play. From there on out if a movie theater or bar had a pinball machine i'd play at least a couple of games.

For a summer i even worked in an arcade that had a pin. Viper Night Driving. After close i would play dozens upon dozens of games always trying to top my own scores. At this point the priorities began to switch and now i would go see movies at theaters that I knew had a pin or two. I began to try to search online to figure out places to play pinball, but resources were somewhat lacking back then. The next phase would begin with my first viewing of the documentary "Special When Lit: A Pinball Documentary".

Around the same time my band broke up and i had to give up another hobby (bowling) because my knees were beginning to go bad from too many hours standing at work. With two hobbies waning I ran across "Special When Lit" and it provided a catalyst which would propel my interest in pinball to new highs. Places to play were still thin on the ground. galloping Ghost in Brookfield usually had their pins locked away. On a trip to visit a friend in NY and relatives in Philly i was able to track down Piinball Parlour in Earlington where i saw and played many games for the first time including Banzai Run. On the trip back I was determined to find the PAPA headquarters featured in SWL.

PAPA's website at the time was far from informative and usually only listed results of competitions. But I was able to glean details and figure out where it was. Anyone who has been to PAPA knows it's in a crumbling industrial district. When i went there, there was one car parked next to the building and the door while not open was not entirely closed. So in my typical asshole way i opened the door and offered a tentative hello that echoed. A man came to the door and i asked about it being PAPA. He expressed surprise that i'd be able to find it. He could have told me to F off because they were closed, but instead he warmly invited me in, allowed me to take pictures, and even offered to let me play the games. not wanting to intrude i played one game each of Dirty Harry, Muhammed Ali, and Robocop. Three games i had never seen.

When i got home i asked friends if they'd want to go and began organizing a trip out to Pittsburgh for the July 2013 PAPA World Championships. At around the same time i believe i first went on Pinside to try to find locations near me. what a time to be getting into pinball! Headquarter Beercade opened in Chicago right near a friend's house where i spent the spring helping them pack up to move (my own home was flooded). I was told that if GGA didn't have their pins open that Brixie's down the road had multiple pins. The first Emporium in Chicago opened and I was told to visit the record store Logan Hardware because they had a free arcade in back. Finally Chicago Street Pinball opened in Joliet few year ror two later. Between that and yearly trips out to each PAPA event, a visit to the Vegas HOF, the Jersey Silverball Museum, Florida's Replay Arcade, many many other places and a dozen or so conventions plus the inestimable Pennsylvania Coin-Op Museum it can be said for certain that i am addicted. Bought my first pin Batman (1990) in 2015 and acquired a personal fav Title Fight (1990) in 2017.

That's my story, and i'm sticking to it.

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