My father owned a game bar in Tampa, FL called Yesterday's Pub when I was a young boy in the late 1970's. It was there on Saturday's before they opened and were prepping for the evening that my mom would take me to visit. I remember having great roast beef sandwiches, seeing lots of pool tables, being introduced to Space Invaders and playing pinball. I was too young to remember any of the titles, but I do remember loving it.
In the early 1980's, my dad bought my brother and I a Gottlieb Incredible Hulk pin for Christmas. It lived in our garage because you wouldn't put something like that in a home....times sure have changed. Soon after, we moved to a mountain in TN and continued to play the Hulk until it died. We could not find anyone to fix it so my father gave it to a neighbor that liked to tinker with electronics. I certainly wish I had that machine back in my possession.
We would continue to go back to Florida during the summers and my brother and cousins and I would frequent all of the arcades from St. Pete to Clear Water Beach. Video games were huge for kids by then, but my favorite machine to dump quarters into was F-14 Tomcat. I loved the energy of that machine, its speed, and how it yelled at you. The spinning beacons were fantastic!
Life moved on, I graduated from college and veterinary medical school, got married and moved to Gainesville, FL. My wife and I were in our first home and living with furniture left over from professional school. She had been really wanting a new sofa in our den. Imagine her surprise when she returned from a long day of residency training to find a couple of friends of mine and I carrying the old sofa out of our house. She was elated believing that I was surprising her with a new piece of furniture. Now imagine her dismay when she walks inside to find that the sofa had been removed to make room for my new F-14 Tomcat! I think I slept on the floor that night, but having the Tomcat and that piece of my youth back was worth it.
When she finished her residency, we moved to Charlotte, NC. The owner of the house that we ended up buying had a game room with a Galaga and Donkey Kong machine. When we first visited the house I asked him where he had purchased them. He explained that he bought them from an employee of his that fixed pins and arcades on the side. Here comes the huge small world story - his employee was the same guy that I had randomnly found on eBay 5 years earlier that sold me my Tomcat. Amazing!!! I negotiated the Donkey Kong into the purchase of the home and my little collection of coin operated games grew. I also re-contacted his employee, became his veterinarian, and called on him for repairs over the years.
We eventually moved to another home in Charlotte that had more room for my growing collection. I made friends with a Pinsider that lived in our neighborhood and was exceptional at restoring and sourcing machines. He located a fantastic World Cup '94 and my wife found that surprise in our game room. By now, she had become accustomed to my antics and I got to sleep in my own bed.
The next pin (Party Zone) was a project that came from Craig's list. The cabinet was in great shape, but the machine was mostly a mess. Captain BZarrs head did not rotate appropriately and none of the lights or flashers in the back box were working. The flippers were horrible and the playfield was filthy. My friend restored it and I helped a little. The before and after was incredible and most would not believe it was the same machine.
So, now I'm up to 3 pins, a Donkey Kong, a Centipede, and a coin op Tornado T3000 Foosball table. There is room for 4 more pins. I am obsessed in the search for a Bally Radical! and a Monster Bash(If you know of someone selling either of these machines in great condition, please let me know). I will likely round out the collection with a Ghostbuster's Premium and a Jersey Jack's Dialed In.
Tomorrow, I will be attending my first arcade auction. It has been a fun life long ride and I look forward to the adventures and new people I will meet through pinball in the future.