When I was growing up in the 70’s I lived in a semi-rural area, the majority of my friends lived on the same road that I did. Ironically on that road several of my friend’s parents had pinball machines in thier basements. Or should I say a pinball machine, Space Mission. Yes, that’s right... on a road just a few miles long there were at least 3 Space Mission pinball machines.
This was also the time of the home video console birth and most of us kids all had Atari 2600’s. Of course there would always be several of us at someone’s house fighting over who got to play “Combat” or “Yars Revenge”, but for some reason I was always happy to wait in line or even not play at all, as long as we were at someone’s house with a Space Mission. For all I knew this was the only Pinball machine that was ever made. I was a sheltered kid and my family never went out much so I really didn’t know there were a lot more Pins out there.
A few years later I was at the age where my parents wanted me out of the house doing “constructive activities” and was signed up for a youth bowling league. Several of my friends were also signed up and we were allowed to ride our bikes to the Alley. Of course this is where I discovered that there were a lot more Pins out there and they were way cooler than Space Mission! Most of them had some sort of barely clothed, si fi women on the back glass with either swords or lightning bolts. This was much better than Bowling and needless to say I lost interest in that altogether. I soon figured out that I could take my game and shoe rental money and just play pinball… that is until my parents found out. Turns out the owner of the bowling alley also went to the same church we did and that was the end of the bowling league, pinball and any sort of unauthorized visits to the alley. Once again I was back playing the Space Missions that were in my friend’s houses.
In 1980 I was in 7th grade and had a bit more freedom and a daily lunch allowance. This was also the year that the “Plaza Arcade” opened. I wandered in there one day and went back to the pinball machines but was promptly chased out of there by the older high school kids that claimed that area as their own. Instead I started playing the video games and that totally distracted me from Pinball for years to come.
Fast forward to my first year out of high school and I had a summer job. I had several new friends and one day my friend Joe and I went bowling (ironic, right?) and there were the pinball machines again! Bowling was soon just an excuse to get out and play some Pinball. Of course this is where I found this brand new machine called “High Speed” and things were never the same again. Most of my money and free time went into that machine.
Once day, Joe and I went to his uncle’s house to help him build a retaining wall. When we were done Joe asked if I wanted to go in and play his uncles old Pinball Machine. When we went down into his basement there was yet another Space Mission! How many of these things were in my little city anyway? A few hours later his uncle came downstairs and said that he was so sick of that thing that he was going to sell it. He owed me for the work on the retaining wall and I ended up taking it home to my parent’s garage for the 50 dollars that he owed me.
Well, here was yet another space mission on the same road in the same town.
Of course I had my taste of High Speed and all the other solid state goodness that was out there and this pin didn’t quite do it for me anymore. I loved high speed so much that I found an old light from the top of a city truck and set that on top of back box to make it look more like High Speed… it didn’t and I received a lot of crap from my friends.
I had that machine for several years and the only time it got played was when one of my bands was practicing in the garage or when my nephews came over to visit. One day I was told that I had to get it out of the garage so I sold it for 50 bucks… (I figured I got the best out of that deal) and what did it matter? I was into Music, girls and cars and I also had a kid now. Pinball, like space mission was a thing of the past and I could care less.
Fast forward another 20 or so years, and like a raging case of the crabs, the itch came back. I had a good career, my kid was out of school and I was single again. I found myself with something called “Disposable Income” and just like my lunch and bowling money, it found its way into Pinball machines.
I now have several machines and constantly looking for more. Somewhere out there is a Space Mission with my name on it. It’s not the most interesting game in the world and it won’t see that much play... but this is a nostalgia thing that will most likely bring this crazy addiction full circle.
I can’t wait!