My first pinball experience was in August of 1976. My older siblings would swim in the “Counties” swim meet at Rye Playland. There were hundreds of people competing and the races went on for days. During the long breaks between family members and friends competing, my older brothers would take me away from the boredom. One afternoon they provided me with a life changing experience. They walked me past the pool, through the Art Deco towers, down the stairs and to the boardwalk. A couple hundred feet down on the left was the arcade. For anyone not familiar with the Playland Boardwalk its where the scene with Zoltar from the movie Big was filmed. The arcade there had various games from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Pins, crane games, shooting games, skee ball, you name it. The sounds oozing out of the arcade doors on a summer night, coupled with the smell of the beach and the scents of popcorn and cotton candy were truly magical to a nine year old.
My family competed in the “Counties” swim meet for several more years. So every August a visit to the arcade was guaranteed. As I got older, my mom would let me walk to the arcade alone. But that would not happen without her first spending a couple of minutes digging through the bottom of her purse looking for a few quarters. To this day, whenever I hear an old EM game, in my mind it instantly transports me back to that location 45+ years ago.
On a separate note, it was sometime in the 1990's I found a picture of my mom, her sister and her parents (both of whom died long before I was born) at the beach. It was around 1938 and I recognized the architecture behind them. I asked my mom where it was taken and she said Rye Playland. The really amazing part was they were just below the boardwalk, in front of the arcade I would discover almost 40 years later
Fast forward a couple of years and for Christmas when I was 11 my parents had a 1/2 scale pinball set up in our living room. I had an interest in flying at an early age so it seemed fitting the game was called Flying Aces (I actually followed my passion and found a career in aviation. My profile picture for anyone with a keen eye is a P-51 Mustang in the colors of top Mustang Ace George Preddy). I thought the game was for one of my four older brothers, but was head over heels when I found out it was for me. The game was huge hit with all my friends as well as my mom - she worked the overnight shift as a nurse and would always play a game or two when she got home before going to bed. Time passed, I graduate high school, went on to college and the game eventually went into storage and was stil there 25 years later.
Shortly after getting married 7 years ago, my wife saw it and asked that I clean it up so we could play it. It only took one game and she was hooked. Not long after that she suggested we buy a real pinball (Black Rose)…so we did. As soon as we had Black Rose she said “you know what would look good next to that?... Another pinball”. No doubt I married the right woman. The best part of it all, we have a hobby which we both love and it’s still a huge hit with our family and friends.