My love affair with pinball began around 1982. I was thirteen years old and lived in Hawaii because my father was in the Navy and stationed at Pearl Harbor. We had recently moved from San Diego and our new next door neighbors had three sons, one a year older than me. The neighbors son and I became good friends, fixing up bikes together and cruising around on them and just hanging out a lot.
About a year after we moved in the neighbors got a Mata Hari that all five of them played a LOT. It was kind of funny because the person who played the most was my friends mom who was German and straight from Germany. She had a thick German accent and unintentionally taught me a lot of crude German words and sayings, every time the ball would drain! I spent every free minute I had next door playing all I could but being just as content watching everyone flip for hours. I started playing pins around town all I could.
Fast forward about 8 months and Christmas was coming soon. My parents knew I loved pinball but I wouldn't have dreampt of asking for a machine of my own. Money was kind of tight and my parents just didn't buy gifts that were that extravagent. We got nice things but a pinball machine wasn't in the cards,.....so I thought.
Two days before Christmas I was in the living room and my parents said,"I think there's somebody here to see you". As I walked down the hall towards the front door I couldn't see anybody there. We lived in townhouses and there were a lot of cars always parked outside. There was occassionally a delivery truck dropping off furniture or a moving truck moving in the latest family to arrive in military housing but nothing ever for me. Today would be different......
I walked out front and there was an unmarked box truck with two guys getting out of the cab. One off them walked up to me and asked,"Are you Erik"? "Yea", I said, still oblivious. They turned around without saying anything else and headed to the back of the truck. I just stood there,still completely clueless. They opened the back of the truck and started pulling out a pinball machine. I lost it! Like the geeky kid I was I started jumping up and down and crying! My parents directed them up upstairs and too my room. It was up a flight of stairs with a 180 degree landing half way up. Not sure they were thrilled about that but they muscled it up the stairs and into my room.
After getting it set up for me and having me sign for the delivery I finally calmed down enouigh to get a good look at the machine. It was a "Meteor" and was in flawless condition. My parents had gone to an operators warehouse a few weeks before that and had looked at and played a lot of games before deciding Meteor was the one. I played that game every waking moment that I wasn't at school.
In 1984 it was time to leave Hawaii and my Dad was stationed at Moffett field in Mountain View CA. Meteor came with me. I still played it quite a bit but with what I considered more exciting games coming out in the mid to late 80's I played it less and less. I played a lot of newer pins around town and of course by then video games were in full effect. Finally around 1986 I made a decision I kick myself for to this day.
I had a friend in high school who's older brother had a handful of video games in his garage. We struck a deal to trade my Meteor for a stand up Space Duel that he had. My parents tried to talk me out of it but they said it was my pin and I could do what I wanted with it so the deal went down. I played Space Duel quite a but and eventually traded it for a stand up Dig Dug as it had become my favorite video game. Being a broke kid, living with my then girl friend, (now my wife), once the joy stick started screwing up I sold the Dig Dug to a guy who fixed video games and had several. That was around 1991.
I continued to play pins around town but always wanted another of my own. By 1996 I was through school and working as an auto tech, finally making decent money. My wife knew I wanted another pin and one weekend I told her I was going to look for one, so I cracked open the San Jose Mercury News classifieds and started searching. It didn't take long before I ran across an ad that read, "Pinball Machine, works, $475". I called the number and the guy explained that the machine worked and I could come and look at it but he didn't know much about them as his specailty was video games.
I drove over and to my surprise was greeted by "Bill", the same guy I had sold my Dig Dug to, years before! I played a few games and told him I'd take it. Money hit the glass and he agreed to deliver it to my house in Cupertino.
I've had my Comet pin for 23 years now and this Fall, (2019) I finally had the general illumination fixed that hadn't worked since I got it in 1996. I am also doing a lot of things I've wanted to get done on it for a long time. New coils,(for the second time), flippers rebuilt, pop bumpers rebuilt, lots of new parts, pinscore displays, LED's etc. I still kick myself every time I see a Meteor at a show and would like to get another one some day but I don't think I'll ever let Comet go, it's been with me for too long.
A few years after getting Comet I picked up a rough, non-working Space Shuttle for $75 at a thrift shop. I never got it working and sold it when I moved out of Cupertino to Santa Cruz. That was around 1998 and is another thing I kick myself for to this day. Besides not booting the roughest thing was the playfield. Seeing Space Shuttle hardtops now makes me ill,......Kick, Kick.....
I have four kids that all grew up with Comet in the house. It would break and be down for a few years before I'd get it fixed but they all still have a healthy love affair with pinball. It's especially cool now that my youngest is 16 and my oldest 22, to attend shows together. It's time well spent and a lot of flippin' fun!