The scintillating machine strategically placed by the front window of Shad's bakery immediately captured the full attention of my 5-year-old imagination. My Grandpa - who intended only to eat breakfast that morning – with one dime unlocked my lifelong passion to chase the silver ball.
I vividly remember the sensory overload of my hyperactive youth - the smell of freshly baked bread – cold blasts of wintry air as people came and went - and my building excitement as I stepped up on the crate giving me a first view of the playfield. I remember pushing the lever and raising my first ball into the launcher. My anticipation rose with the increasing tension of the ball launcher as I released it for the first time and my growing thrill as my first ball rocketed into the machine.
My excitement swelled to new heights as I felt the staccato thump, thump-thump of the ball hurtling from one bumper to another – the vibrations transmitting back through the frame of this marvelous contraption into my eager fingers now clacking the flippers in anticipation of first contact. I remember the intensity increasing with the volume of the bells and gongs as the ball careened over the playfield.
I wish I could say I was a natural pinball wizard – but my passion for the machine and a child’s love of the game was not diminished by its short duration or the disappointment felt as these first balls drained. It only served to strengthen my resolve to master the secrets of this living machine – a resolve that continues today and is enhanced through my hobby of repairing, rebuilding, and enjoying this piece of Americana.