Oct. 20, 2019.
I can't recall the exact first pinball game I ever played, but going back into my childhood in the 1980s, some of my fondest memories are of summer vacations, hunting down games with my sister in hotel game rooms and arcades throughout Chicagoland and the midwest USA. I recall pumping many quarters into a pretty new Williams High Speed at the Don Q Inn, while on vacation with family in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. I was captivated by it's police car roller, voices and multi-ball action. On another family trip to California, I remember getting to play a very-new Addams Family. It really was a breakthrough in pinball gameplay and people waited in line to play it at a unique multi-level restaurant/bar somewhere in Sacramento. Around home (Chicagoland) there were always games to be found in bowling alleys, hot dog joints and pizza places, where I fell for pins like Earthshaker, The Simpsons, Funhouse and Blackwater 100.
Yet as I grew up I found myself playing less and less pinball. A friend in Milwaukee had several woodrail, early SS, pachinko machines and arcade games for use throughout his house, and I was intrigued by his collection. He had the games set to run on coins, with cups of nickels, dimes or quarters near the games. The experience of dropping the coins is so eretheral, I actually prefer coins over games set on free play. Still there was little pinball in my life age 20-40. But after a divorce left the house empty of furniture and a cantankerous customer at the repair shop I work at challenged me to fix a pinball game, I quickly found a project I thought looked good (1976 Night Rider) and bought it for $275 off Craigslist. I paid beefy co-worker Colin Wacker $50 plus lunch at Portillo's Hot Dogs to help me move it. I learned how to disassemble and move them about, and I got the game working fairly easily. I've been filling the house with project EM and SS games ever since!
Part of the fun [for me] now is rescuing pinball games from the most unfortunate places, and people's amazement as I grapple them and haul them away. I like the hunt, and getting them to work again is satisfying. I usually bring a helper when I buy a game, but I am a big guy and have been moving them alone lately. However, I would seriously recommend to take someone with or go as a group on any Craigslist-type deal. There sure have been some challenging game extractions and some interesting characters met along the way!
Always looking for more games, I recently added a High Speed to my lineup. It plays just as well and is as much fun as I remember in that Wisconsin hotel lobby 30 years ago.
Thanks to the pinside website and community for being here for new guys like me!