One of the very first memories I have of pinball is of a Superman in our basement back in the early 80's. I was probably not much older than 3 or 4, but I remember playing it. My sister does also, but it was not the Atari version, which I currently have. She remembers it having ''flip scoring'', and I just remember playing it and thinking this was fun stuff. It seemed full size? from what we remember...(if anyone has any information on it, let me know. My search has turned up nothing)
Fast forward several years and to my next few memories of early pinball. My parents owned a seasonal home in York Beach, Maine, where we would spend much of the late spring and summer months every year as a family. Thinking back on those times are some of the most cherished moments of my youth. A LOT of alone time for a young kid, as my sisters always had ''better'' things to do, rather than hang around with their younger brother.
I spent much of my time roaming around downtown shops, playing basketball at the court, catching an early evening movie at the vintage theatre. I would plop down on the beach sometimes, but often times would feel the need to go in Fun O' Rama- A huge beach side arcade.
I barely remember playing and seeing a Taxi, High Speed, and a lousy Black Knight in the late 80's. 15 or so years later these become easily recognizable not only as classics, but to many collectors and players as well.
The arcade was dominated by all the best arcade and video games, really a true ''Arcade buffet''
I would play some skee ball and some vids from time to time, but I became very disenchanted with how fast my quarter was gone.
Then I discovered pinball, and some great ones too. One of the very first games I would play and feel a connection with was Funhouse, Earthshaker and Whirlwind. Here, I could win free games, and it felt more my fault if I lost. 3 balls and the chance at extras? Kids love this stuff It was always a good day when you got to put your name in too.
Fun O Rama had about 8-10 pinball machines. I would play the Lawlor pins the most, not even knowing who he was or that they were the same designer/pins. They just felt right to me. Then came The Addams Family, which knocked my socks off. Little did I know, I was playing a legendary machine, but man, I couldn't play it enough. The pinball bug had bit, and later in the summer of 1993 we purchased a Gottlieb Bounty Hunter for $350 from a New Hampshire antique store. (which I still have to this day-an amazing feat, given my collection history)
Through out the mid 90's, pinball becomes fuzzy for me. I remember playing a good deal of Freddy a Nightmare on Elm Street, among others. Funhouse was starting to become just an old game, and many of my other old friends, such as Earthshaker and Whirlwind, disappeared from the lineup.
In 2003, my folks had sold the summer home and York Beach became just another moment frozen in my mind. I would visit from time to time, sometimes several years in between. Very bittersweet, and changing rapidly. New construction and homes, the complete removal of the vintage theatre, and VERY busy with vacationers everywhere, much more than I had remembered.
One visit to Fun O Rama several years ago, I noticed Funhouse was still there, only now he was demoted to the very back corner of the arcade, where his years of service would go unnoticed.
''This was one of the very first pins that got me hooked!'' I told my wife. Rudy looked about as unimpressed as my wife did. He was tired, literally. Probably wondering why he hadn't join his friends ES and WW long ago.
I was planning a small day trip up to York with my wife's family a few weeks back to have a beach day. I thought I would go online and youtube the old arcade, to see if there was a video. Sure enough, there was a 2012 video, and I saw The Funhouse. The next morning I sprung out of bed and called the arcade to ask if it was for sale. They told me it was, and the price was $1700. I told them I would be there the next morning. This was a crazy chance after all these years to own a real piece of my youth and I was excited. One of the very first pins I played and became addicted to!
I showed up cash in hand and there it was, buried in a corner (I have a picture on my friends camera, I will upload later)
I offered $1400, to which he replied ''nah, owner won't do that'' I then offered $1500 ''I'll check, he says''
10 minutes later ''he said he'll split it with you at $1600''
Out of all the pinballs I have had or acquired, this was one of the strangest feelings. I was excited, and glad, but at the same time felt I was removing another old piece of York Beach, my childhood and many others too. It was only a matter of time of it being sold, as the owner confirmed that 5 other people were seriously interested but they (Fun O Rama) didn't want to ship it, or they never came back. For that reason alone, I felt enough time had passed over the decades, that Rudy should come home with me as much as anyone.
I wheeled it out the back, down the busy main street I once frequented with Reebok ''Pump'' sneakers with, down the short sands parking lot and in the bed of my truck. We then spent the day at Long Sands beach, and it was as good a day as I've had there in 20 years.
Funhouse plays exceptionally well, with no errors, but he is dirty and needs a bath. Not sure what my plans are with it yet, but I'm leaning towards new parts/restore but for now, to just clean up the playfield so it's fresher to be a good player.
Pinballs are the closest thing to a time machine that I have found. Doesn't everyone want to go back in time?