By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange Tempe
I feel about pinball machines the way I do about drive-in movie theaters – yes, there may be far less of them than there used to be, but I sure hope they don’t disappear. I mean, it’s not like either has been rendered obsolete. Video games offer a similar diversion as pinball, but lack that visceral feeling of knocking an actual ball around inside an actual, physical, space. And drive-ins strike that happy medium between the relaxing space of the home theater and the group experience of the multiplex. So while my nostalgic side loves both, I can’t exactly afford to buy a drive-in.
A pinball machine on the other hand…
Three quarters of an inch. That was the difference. In my years of hitting up thrift stores I’ve never run across an actual, full size, pinball machine – so when I saw the “Lady Luck” on my way out of Tucson, I knew it would be coming home with me. The only problem: after taking the legs off, it still was a smidgen too large for my trusty old Volvo station wagon – three quarters of an inch to be exact.
Fortunately, my ever-obliging parents came through, and a couple hours later the machine and its new owner were riding back to Tempe in the bed of a borrowed truck. And after a hernia-inducing 3-man heft into my apartment, the Lady was finally home. And, ya know… broken.
Did I forget to mention that the game was all kinds of beat up? Probably – my joy of discovery often clouds little details like that. The wood and glass told a woeful tale of abandonment, of prolonged exposure to the elements. I began to realize why it found its way into thriftdom. So, yes, I have a pinball machine, but it is tattered, non-functional, and currently in my kitchen.
Ah, but like all good Buffalo customers, I’m one for reusing – so that’s what I went about doing with ‘ol Lady Luck. With the assistance of a mechanically-inclined friend, I went about saving our 47 year old patient. Just replaced the power cord’s plug, drilled open the lock (keys were, of course, inside the machine), replaced some rubber rings and a solenoid coil (“Hey, no more burning smell!”) and it was as good as new.
Well, almost new. I don’t have the money (or patience) for a full restoration, but that’s just fine with me. I prefer things a little worn in, items that proudly wear their age. Anyway, now the game plays great and I’m glad I made the effort. Consider my nostalgic itch scratched.
Until I can afford to buy that drive-in.