The first pinball I remember playing was near Dayton, Ohio. I was a young teen and on an outing with a youth group when I wandered away and straight into a college game room! I don't remember what game it was, wish I did, but I do remember it was a lot more fun than what our group was doing!
It was several years later when the Beechmont mall in Forestville, Ohio was built. It had an Aladdin's Castle with brand new pristine pinball machines. This is where I fell in love with a 1973 Williams OXO and played Mata Hari, Amigo, Ro Go, Jack in the Box and Jubilee. I used to search for and find arcades in Cincinnati. I went to The Gameport at the Cincinnati Airport and an arcade in northern Cincy. I even played a brand new Close Encounters at a pinball parts supplier and pinball distributor. I was impressed with the blue displays. Every new game is fun to play! My brother and I went downtown to play pinball. He bought some sneezing powder from a joke store and blew it into my face while playing pinball. End of pinball outing. My eyes burned so bad I wondered if it would hurt my eyesight. Aren't little brothers wonderful!
I left for college in 1975 and quickly found the game room at the University of Arizona next to Louie's Lower Level in the Student Union. All freshmen were required to reside in dorms. This was allegedly to focus the freshmen on their studies and not their new found freedom away from home. I am convinced this rule was to bring cashola to the University dorms, cafeteria, book store and, lastly but not leastly, the game room.
I spent way too many quarters in the game room. But I do remember playing these games - all EMs:
Air Aces, played with a famous 'to be' MLB pitcher
The operators would occasionally throw in foreign game like a Playmatic and their weird square pop bumper caps or Sonic, but like the Chicago Coin pins, they were not played much.
During my sophomore or junior year, a new arcade was opened just west of the university. I enjoyed playing there and, during my senior year, worked there for a while.
They had an OXO and I bought if from Fool Around - my first pinball! You can read about the story here:
... or here ...
Like in Cincinnati, I and my friends would seek out game rooms here in Tucson. We went to Golf 'N' Stuff where I got to play a brand new Atari Atarians and a Time 2000 or a Space Riders. I was impressed with The Atarians - there were no visible switches on the top side of the playfield.
I ended up with several more pins, a Williams Expo and a Williams Pat Hand before I lost interest in pinball and made my career my priority. I visited a gameroom at Craycroft and Broadway for a while and then in the late 80s found another arcade in Tucson where I played a Williams Space Shuttle. That was the last time I put a quarter in a game until last year when I put a couple of dollars in a Batman 1966 at D&D pinball.
I sold all three pinballs in the late '80s when a coworker made me an offer I couldn't refuse. What was I thinking, selling my beloved OXO? Well, $1,000 went a long way back in 1987!
I used to have recurring dreams that I needed to get a pinball out of my basement, bring it to the ground floor and begin working on it to make it playable again. Other dreams were about routing my pins in game rooms. I didn't have a basement and there aren't any game rooms nearby where I could put my pins, but the occasional dream would remind me about my hidden, subconscious pinball dreams. I must act!
There were memories that might have triggered my dreams and this might have been another reason. Back in the early 90s I was working at Hughes Aircraft Company, Missile Systems Group and I was talking to someone in the cube next to mine. He told me how he was a collector of antiques and old games. I told him about my interest in old pinball machines when he told me about a warehouse in Chicago that he knew about. He said that every game in this warehouse could be had for $200 each. Visions of a road trip with an 18 wheeler ran through my head. It never happened, of course, but I have always wondered how my pinball life would have changed if I only had made that trip.
Around 2015, I was able to return OXO and Expo to the fold. The 'friend' I had sold it to had never paid me the money he borrowed so I was able to get both machines and cancel his debt. I could have gotten Pat Hand too, but I passed. It was hot and I didn't feel like moving it. It also was not one of my favorite games. Big mistake! Never turn down a free pinball machine.
So, I then had four games, but still wasn't that interested in pinball. Imagine my surprise three years ago when I found Pinside and got the pinball bug, again and found that old EMs could still be purchased for $200 - $300. I thought there and then that I wasn't going to miss out a second time on these diamond in the rough Project Pins. I started watching Craigslist for any cheap pins and read the 'Some Nice Looking EMs just came up on CL’ thread here on Pinside. @dirtflipper posted a The Amazing Spider-Man in Tucson for $200. That was my first Project Pin of the 'New Era.' It only cost $200 but I have more than $500 in it and it is still sitting in a back bedroom, not working. Words of Wisdom to the uninitiated - don't make a Gottlieb System 80 one of your first Project Pins!
I got got so good at finding pins that I decided to start my own thread that listed Project Pins for sale all over the country:
After that, pins began to arrive at Pecos' Palatial Pinball Parlour, named when I only had four pinball machines. I must be psychic! Some were $300, some were $100ish. I even got one for free. I began what is now my full-time job - restoring these old marvelous mechanical machines. Credit the manufactures that after 40 years, these machines can be brought back to life. They will never play like they did when they were brand new, but the games I restore look and play very much like they did when they were new.
Some of my restored pins have left Pecos' Palatial Pinball Parlour. A couple went to my Project Pin guy in trade for games that I wanted. Two went to D&D Pinball on 4th Avenue here in Tucson, two went to Pinsiders and one went to the guy who sold me his Project Bally Double-Up.
I have started on a new pinball adventure. I didn't like having my working pins sitting in my collection collecting dust. I guess I am more player and restorer than collector! :-) These games were meant to be played and I wanted to share some of the joy I have experienced over the years playing them. So, I started my own pinball business, Pecos Pinball. I will be routing EMs and early SS pins here in Tucson. It's been a tough slog through the red tape and persnickety business owners who just aren't sure about having a noisy pinball in their place of business.
Check out my collection. It truly is Pecos' Palatial Pinball Parlour now! With any luck, pinball will be a big part of my life for some time to come.