How I failed English Composition and other stories of pinball glory

By pinworthy

May 06, 2013

This story got frontpaged on June 03, 2013

11 years ago

During early to mid 70s (as a teen) I developed a strong attraction to pinball. This led to a rather bad habit of skipping classes during my first year of high school. During my sophomore year I had a free period prior to my English Composition class and often that hour was spent playing an El Toro machine located at a nearby 7-11. Far too frequently I would realize that class was about to start and I would not be able to get to class before the bell so it was better to skip it. A ridiculous but simple justification that caused me to reach the teacher imposed limit on missed classes. After that point each missed class dropped my grade one letter until it dropped below a passing. On the positive side I held the unofficial high score on that machine for the rest of the school year.

When I wasn't supposed to be in class I was fortunate to have access to a great pinball arcade called Funway Freeway. It was located in the Cinder Alley section of the old Cinderella City Mall in Englewood CO. I would spend many afternoons/weekends playing all the new "state of the art" EMs and got pretty good. For me it was the "golden age" of playing, 5 balls@$.25 per game, the sounds of the chimes and the music piped through the arcade, feel of the knock when you won a game, the musty smell tinged with ozone from the switches arcing ... it was a complete sensory experience. Whether alone, or with my best friend, 2-3 hours of play time would usually mean less than a buck out of pocket because we could win and sell off the extra games to the next player.

Like many players, in the early 80's, I made the switch from pinball to video arcade machines and enjoyed the usual suspects; Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, etc.. One of my favorites was an obscure game called Bag-Man. In 1983, after playing it for 7-8 months at a local arcade, it went up for sale and I bought it. It was in my house for next 6 or 7 years and during that time I discovered my father enjoyed to play it as well. I ended up giving him the machine on a birthday and he had it until he passed away 6 years ago. I took the machine back and each session playing again brought my dad back to me for a little while. After a couple years it was time to move and it was sold.

During the 90s I would take my young son to a local arcade and tried to get him interested in the pins but he was too young and while I found some of the newer pins entertaining, a lot of the magic was lost. He and I would play driving games (I still want a Sega Championship Rally) and other things he enjoyed. We still enjoy a bit of Time Crisis when we find one to play.

My wife knows that I have a passion for gaming, whether it is on a computer, console or in an arcade so one year for my birthday she gift wrapped two rolls of quarters and drove us (along with my son) to the arcade located in Lyons, CO. We spent several hours playing a variety of pins and had a blast (BTW I highly recommend them). That evening stirred a long forgotten set of memories that I couldn't easily dismiss.

That brings me up to a point earlier this year when I was becoming annoyed by a move away from my roots to a new city and frustrated by the restrictive nature of my other hobbies/pursuits. I decided that a home arcade would be a great place to unwind and give me an outlet for my need to "tinker" (a wannabe Tim Taylor for those of you who get the reference). Ultimately my searches led me to games that were favorites of my closest friend during those the early days of playing pinball, touching off more memories. We had lost track of each other after our 20 year high school reunion and I decided this was the time to reconnect and share stories from those days, which has been a great side benefit.

I decided that if I was going to buy a pin I would need one that would revive those strong memories from my youth and that meant getting an EM. I also knew it had to be a Bally Wizard. My weakness would be cosmetic repairs and the visual impact of the machine is as important to me as the game play. I did some searching and found a machine with a good back-glass and playfield with minimal wear. It was sold as working and while it plays OK, it has a couple silly issues that I can't resolve. I joined here to use this group's expertise to help point me in the right direction trying to fix those minor glitches. I look forward to all the knowledgeable minds here on Pinside.

After the Wizard purchase I continued to watch Ebay and Craigslist for other familiar EM machines. I found a great deal on a Williams Sky Lab (another favorite from the past) and a Williams Aztec (bought because my wife likes the artwork but will stay because it is quickly becoming my favorite). While far from complete, my little arcade is starting to take shape and with the lights down low and the stereo/iPod playing my "Pinball Rock" playlist ... I am almost back at Funway Freeway.

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11 years ago

What a great story. The essence of pinball drifts through this tale. Best of luck with your 'Home Highway'.

11 years ago

I really enjoyed your story. You write well for someone that flunked English Composition. :-)
Welcome to Pinside!

11 years ago

Welcome to the site! Great story!

11 years ago

Great story,good luck with your arcade..

11 years ago

sounds like my dad, he tells me how he failed his schooling because he was busy playing pins and bingo machines

11 years ago

Great story. I would give you an A+ for your short written composition.

11 years ago

Great story! Thanks for posting it.

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