As Peter H. and Mary C., my friends in high school, would know, I like playing electro-magnetic pinball machines. John C. (Mary’s elder brother), Mary, Peter, and I played regularly on a Hi-Diver machine in the entryway to the C. house. We even talked about forming a team, having shirts embroidered with our nicknames, and touring amusement parks. What a scam!
The C. house was a friendly home. Mary and John’s father was a professor of some sort somewhere. As a prof, I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t recall his discipline or his name. Their mother was ill with a disease that I also don’t recall, but the C. place was pleasant and we had lots of adolescent fun there. In addition to playing endless hours of pinball together, John and Mary sometimes had other events, too. For example, during the period it was on TV, they held “Bat Parties,” which were brief gatherings of 6-12 friends who ate popcorn and hooted about the camp-ness of “Batman,” a 1960s American television series. Other times, Peter, Mary, and I would talk in earnest-adolescent ways about what we were reading, politics, the war, civil rights, current music, and such.
But, for the four of us, the Gottlieb Hi-Diver machine was a frequent center for our gatherings. We’d play and, while one player was at the flippers, others would comment, announce, and analyze the player’s play, the game in general, or life and literature and such.
I was probably the weakest of the four players. John (“Pop Bumpers”) was the eldest and most revered player; he also knew how to fix the machine. Mary (“Little Miss Pinball”) had great control of the flippers and a inexhaustable store of witty, wry observations. Peter, an intellectual who saw meaning in just about everything, played great combinations on the flippers and spun around while saying “Oh no!” when he lost a ball. I was known as “Lucky” because I developed a technique for hitting the side of the playfield box at a particular moment, thus causing the ball to come out of an almost-sure exit and stay in play; it helped that “lucky” alliterated my last name, of course.
All this by way of noting that I aquired an old pinball machine this past weekend. I bought and transported a Bank-A-Ball, made by Gottlieb (same manufacturer as Hi-Diver). It was an adventure. I drove from C’ville to dang-near St. Louis Saturday, got the machine in my truck, stored part of it overnight in a hotel where I spent the night, and drove home with it Sunday. I was driving for ~23 hours.
Bank-A-Ball is a good game that allows one to win extra games by points (of course) and hitting certain targets under certain circumstances. It was marketed in the mid 60s and came out just after the way-classy wood railed machines (those are the ones where the frame is wood; Bank-A-Ball has metal around the edges of the playfield). The machine that I have plays well, though it’s been through a not-so-perfect restoration.
Still, the point is that there’s a pinball machine in the room next to my office. Although there’s no resident wizzard, there’s a lot of fun to be had. I’m adolescent again, which is a sorry situation for the world.