It all started with Grandpa, a Bar, and a Big Ball Bowler

It all started with Grandpa, a Bar, and a Big Ball Bowler

By TractorDoc

March 28, 2018

85 days ago

I grew up in a rural area -- far away from pinball machines, video games, and arcades.  My earliest memory of coin op gaming was with my Grandfather. . . I was single digits in age but that did not stop him from taking my brother and I into the bars with him while he was in charge of keeping an eye on us.  He would sit us down in front of the big ball bowler machine with a stack of quarters while he hung out at the bar with his buddies.  Not sure if that would fly in modern times, but we had a great time rolling strikes -- I vividly remember the hazy atmosphere, smell of cigarette smoke, and clicking sounds of EM score reels with a backround chorous of clinking beer bottles.  

Teenage years did bring a bit more exposure to the gaming world, but not what the average teenager likely experienced.  I will not say we grew up poor. . .  we were always clothed, fed, and had more than our share of stuff to play with but we spent most of our time outside or working for the family business after school.  I was turning wrenches when most kids were pushing buttons or a joystick.  When we finally acquired an Atari system in our house all my other buddies had Nintendo Entertainment Systems, Segas, or Gameboys and were regulars at the video/game rental stores.  When I'd venture out with friends into town or the county fair we would occasionally head for the arcade.  I would watch as they dropped quarter after quarter into those arcade machines, but those games never interested me.  I was drawn to the handful of pinball machines in the back corner. . . those mechanical marvels with their flashing lights, electronic sounds, and moving gizmos were captivating miniature worlds that kept my full attention for minutes (or frustrating seconds!) at a time, much like the bowlers did at the bar.   

Jump into my 20s and 30s and life's priorities were school, a job, a house, a wife, owning a business, and so on.  There was always time for fun but owning one of those pinball machines I enjoyed as a youngster was never realized due to funds, time, and/or not even knowing where to acquire one.  The internet was in its infancy as a resourse. . . but jump ahead a number of years and of course that has changed.  

So here we are in my 40s.  Life has become a little more stable and while I do not have money to burn there is a little extra to invest in extracurricular activities.  One day the brother calls, says to stop over some time and play a few games on his "new" pinball machine.  He picked up a Flash Gordon from the local craigslist and we had a great time playing four player games with the nephews.  The oldest nephew was a natural, I think he had the highest score every time.  That first evening of playing was enough to plant the idea in my mind that I needed a machine of my own and soon the hunt was on to find a game with a theme of my liking.  Before long I had a pinball machine in the house, and as many in the hobby know it was not long before several others followed.  Lately I have taken on bringing a project machine back to life -- combining my love for fixing things with my refound love for pinball.  It has been an enjoyable experience bringing friends and family together with the hobby and everyone has a great time playing.  

Recently the brother called again, said to stop over and check out the big ball bowler he picked up -- "just like the one we'd play with Grandpa" he said.  While we are competitive and I did enjoy rolling the ball again I do not see owning one of the bowling machines in my future -- just not enough space.  I will continue to enjoy and share the pinball machines I am able to own and look forward to contributing/learning as much as I can from Pinside -- an invaluable resource to the hobby.  

TractorDoc =  Mechanic/Veterinarian

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77 days ago
GREAT STORY !! Thanks for sharing ... always interesting to find out how other people got into this hobby !!
77 days ago
Nice store, thanks for sharing it with us. Have a good time in the hobby :-)
76 days ago
So what games have you ended with?
76 days ago
Thanks guys.
Current collection consists of Indiana Jones (Williams), Dirty Harry, Rollergames, Joker Poker, and a Stern Nine Ball.
The project machine is the Nine Ball, you can track the progress here:
71 days ago
I love the imagery of you and your brother bowling while gramps enjoyed a few with his pals (I can hear the bottles clinking) definitely a snapshot of a bygone era.
65 days ago
Awesome story! Thanks so much for sharing. Always good to reflect on the positive influences that got us to where we are today! Good stuff!!!
64 days ago
Loved reading your story. Thanks for sharing! Following your progress on Nine Ball; can't wait to see your clear coat, and putting it all back together.
62 days ago
Really great story! Thanks for sharing!
52 days ago
In a word - nostalgia. I think we'd all like to get back to those bygone days. The story wraps you up in memories. Well told!
48 days ago
What a great story, i love it!
33 days ago
The bar scene is vivid for me. Fine work, gramps, if you ask me.
20 days ago
Great story! I really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

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