Before computer games, there were pinball machines. If I had a nickel for every time I played one of those beasts in the 60s… well, I’d have all my nickels back. And it would be a significant pile.
We’re not going to talk about my addictive personality at the moment – that’s a given, something the Goodwoman of the House never tires of reminding me. But of all the pinball machines I ever played – and there was a pile of them – this one was indisputably my favorite. It showed up at the Jigger Shop (Cheshire Academy’s hole-in-the-wall luncheonette and post office) and was an instant favorite.
The full specs of this game are here at the The Internet Pinball Database – I’ve culled one or two photos to give you a feel for what it looked like.
Full view, photo by Tim Brady
The playing field, photo by Tim Brady
The back glass, photo by Alan Tate.
Bazaar flyer from Bally.
Closeup of the reward schema.
This one was the first machine to have the feature of closing the flipper gap when you hit a certain bumper (in this case, the “U”), which allowed you to keep a single ball in play much longer. If you lighted all the L-U-C-K letters, you would light up one of the crescents at the top of the back glass. In addition to replays for certain score levels, you were granted a free game for lighting crescent 5, and another for lighting crescent 9. Those replays were accompanied not by bells or whistles but by a loud mechanical “snap” which was unique to any machine I had ever played.
Nowadays, modern pinball machines are totally electronic, with amazing graphic displays and what seems like THX-quality sound, and frightfully complex playing fields. If you’re not from the generation that was addicted to these machines, the old ones operated with magnets and solenoids and mechanical relays, long before printed circuits became ubiquitous. Despite being simple by comparison to today’s machines, many of them were frightfully clever, and all of them were designed to be maddeningly captivating.
I imagine that being a pinball repairman was a full-time career back then. Lots of moving parts to break, lots of resistors to fry.
I haven’t played a pinball machine in decades, and I was no “pinball wizard,” but I keenly recall the blood-pumping hours I spent in front of these machines, and this one example in particular.
The Old Wolf has spoken.