It all started with a few nickels...

By justyn

April 13, 2021


31 days ago

Back in my day, pinball only cost a nickel!  No – I’m not 90 years-old - but I grew up frequenting Electric Castle's Wunderland in Portland, OR where every game was $0.05 (after admission, of course).  While we tried to beat every arcade game they had, I was drawn to pinball and a Whirlwind machine in particular – for the challenge, the brightly flashing lights, and the catchphrases that somehow are indelibly inked in my brain (Uh oh – looks like rain!)  It helped that the fan provided sweet relief after a raucous, sweaty beat down on one of the many arcade fighting games. 

My first real experience with pinball was in Reno, NV at Circus Circus, where parents eager to lose their money gambling handed children rolls of quarters and dropped them off in the arcade (to likewise lose their money).  While arcade games were fun, they relentlessly ate quarters and would leave me broke, bored, and waiting for a parental resupply.  But pinball provided free games, if you had the skill, and I mastered the ramps on Cyclone (“Hey you!  With the face!”) to quickly rack up free games for when the quarters ran out. 

I continued to play pinball in college at the bowling alley on campus (go Huskies!), at our local bar (RIP Dante’s), and on occasional trips to the seaside arcade, but I somehow never thought of owning my own machine.  Why it didn’t occur to me - Cost? Space? Fears of complicated maintenance? - I’ll never know.  Fast-forward to my 40th birthday, and a huge celebratory trip that ended up getting canceled.  How to console myself?  By buying myself a brand new Medieval Madness remake, naturally. 

As with many others on this site, the addiction took hold rather quickly.  Before long I was looking into container buys for reimported pins, scouring Craigslist and OfferUp for deals and “barn finds”, and generally immersing myself in the world of pinball.  My second pin, an immaculately restored Junk Yard (courtesy of @MBecker) quickly left me wanting more (and more, and more) and led to a recent 12-hour roadtrip odyssey to snag a Revenge From Mars that is fresh off the boat from Italy and which will be the focus of hundreds of hours of restoration over the next year+.  I’m now buried under piles of Novus 2, microfiber cloths, soldering irons, flipper rebuild kits, rubber rings, leg bolts, and everything else pinball – and I love it.  Who knew how all-consuming this hobby could be!  If only it hadn’t taken me 40 years to realize the joy of owning a pinball machine.

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