By Russ Jensen
This will be my first "all original" article for PinGame Journal. Way back in 1978 I began writing a column for a new coin-op magazine which had just started up called Amusement Review. I decided at that time to call my column "Five Balls, Five Cents" because that was the inscription on the instruction cards for almost all pingames from the early 1930's up until ten cent play began sometime around the 1960's, and my column was primarily to be devoted to older pinball machines.
When publication of that magazine ceased about one year later, I started looking for someplace else to write. Then in early 1981 I made arrangements with a magazine called The Coin Slot (at that time published by Bill and Roseanna Harris in Colorado) to put my column in their magazine - at first redoing some of my past columns I had done for Amusement Review, and then writing entirely new articles.
I continued writing for that magazine (under three different owners) until this June when that magazine sadly ceased publication - my articles having appeared in every issue (except for two, I believe) from 1981 until this year. I have since made arrangements with Jim Schelberg to move "Five Balls, Give Cents" to PinGame Journal, probably appearing several times a year.
This time Five Balls, Five Cents will be devoted to my visit to the 1999 edition of the pinball show called "Pin-A-Go-Go" which was held in the Sacramento, California area in May 1999. This was the third year for that show, but for the first two years something sadly always happened to keep me from attending.
The show this year was held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 14, 15, and 16, 1999. Early Friday morning, my friend Ron Tyler and I left our home in southern California in Ron's Cadillac for the over 300 mile trip to the show site in Northern California. Ron had to drive me since due to vision problems I am no longer able to drive. We made the drive in a little less than eight hours (we stopped at several roadside rest areas, and once for lunch) arriving at our motel a little after 1 PM, checking into our room which we had reserved at the special "senior citizen rate".
After putting our luggage in our room we made the approximately ten mile drive to the show site which was a large fairgrounds building in the Sacramento suburb of Dixon. After getting our badges (we had pre-registered) we began looking around the room to see what was there.
Near the back of the room we found a nice exhibit of early 1930's pins, supplied by my old friend, and pinball "super-collector", Richard Conger from northern California. At least two of the games were of "mystery manufacturers" as Richard later told us he has never been able to verify exactly who made them.
Also, sitting directly adjacent to Richard's games, was the newest pingame at the show - Williams/Bally's "hope for the future of pinball", REVENGE FROM MARS, the first in a planned series of what they call "Pinball 2000". The placement of that game next to Richard's vintage pins ably demonstrated how much the pingame has changed over the years!
In the remainder of the room there were many pingames already set up for viewing and playing. During our initial pass through the room we bumped into my old friend Sam Harvey who was busily engaged in one of his "projects" - making a list of the games at the show, including their serials numbers.
I then began my "project" - the photographing of electro-mechanical (and a few solid state) pingames which I don't already have pictures of in my 1000 plus game pinball photo collection. In order to keep from duplicating my existing photos I brought with me a computer-generated listing of my photo collection. As at other pinball shows, I was amazed by how many games were at the show of which I did not have photos.
One of my personal favorite activities when attending any pinball or coin-op show is always getting to visit with many of my "pinball friends" with whom I have become acquainted over the years. :This show was no exception. In addition, I got to meet several people who I had either never known before, or with whom I have had previous contact only through computer email correspondence, or the rec.games.pinball pinball newsgroup on the Internet.
As for dealers selling pinball related parts and literature, the major one who had a booth was Jim and Judy Tolbert with their "For Amusement Only" booth. In addition, there were a few other people selling things, but most of these were primarily selling pingames.
Several weeks before the show I had made arrangements to meet (and possibly have dinner with) a gentleman named Bear Kamoroff who had recently published a very nice book for pinball owners called PINBALL MACHINE CARE AND MAINTENANCE, which by the way I highly recommend to anyone owning a pinball machine (both electro-mechanical and solid-state). Shortly after arriving at the show on Friday I located Bear and we had a nice chat. During this conversation I learned that Bear and I had another interest in common, the history of New Orleans Jazz music (which had been my major preoccupation back in the 1950's).
At that time we talked about having dinner together (possibly that evening), but due to an unexpected personal errand Bear had to perform we had to postpone that plan. The next day, however, Bear, Ron, and I ended up sharing a nice lunch and good conversation at a small local café, during which we discussed pinball as well as New Orleans Jazz history.
When it got to be dinner time on Friday evening, my friend Ron and I joined my old friend Sam Harvey and another friend of his and drove to the nearby town of Vacaville (where our motel was also located) and had dinner at a local restaurant. After then returning to the show site and doing some more looking, visiting, etc., Ron and I returned to our motel to retire for the night.
The next morning; (after having breakfast) we returned to the show site. There were apparently a few more games which had been added since the previous evening. I again photographed a few additional games for which I did not have photos in my photo collection. My friend Ron played many of the games, but I just continued roving the aisles and visiting with some of the pinfans who were there.
I shall now attempt to give a "rundown" of approximately how many games were there from each decade.
From the 1930's there were 14 games - all for display (not for sale) from the collection of Richard Conger that I mentioned earlier. From the 1940's there were only three pingames in the showroom - two owned by Richard - none of them set up. From the 1950's there were five games. There was also an interesting coincidence - two games from that decade were both the same game, Gottlieb's CRISS CROSS from 1958, one of which was beautifully restored by one of the people hosting the show. There was one other game in good condition, plus two others in "as-is" condition.
There were also 16 pins there from the 1960's. And from the 1970's decade there were 18 electro-mechanical pins, plus 14 more solid-state machines. There were also 25 pins from the 1980's, plus 32 from the current decade.
The following is a chronological listing of most of the pingames which were on display at the show:
PINGAMES AT PIN-A-GO-GO GAME MFG. YEAR PRICE Bingo Bingo Novelty 1931 Whiffle Automatic Ind. 1931 Baffle Ball Gottlieb 1932 Ballyhoo Bally 1932 Daisy Peo 1932 Jiggilo Ace Novelty 1932 Midget 1932 Shooting Star (square) Specialty Mfg. 1932 Six Star ? 1932? Unknown ? 1932? Zipper ? 1932? Airway Bally 1933 Bullet Pierce Tool 1935 Finance Chicago Coin 1936 Formation Genco 1940 Sky Ray Keeney 1941 Hot Rods Bally 1949 Slugfest Williams 1952 1250 Can Can (As Is) Williams 1955 Casino (As Is) Williams 1958 50 Criss Cross (2) Gottlieb 1958 Merry Go Round Gottlieb 1960 Corral Gottlieb 1961 Egghead Gottlieb 1962 Flipper Clown Gottlieb 1962 Preview Gottlieb 1962 250 Skill Pool Williams 1963 World's Fair (2) Gottlieb 1964 595, 650 Fun Cruise Bally 1965 Central Park Gottlieb 1966 850 Eight Ball Williams 1966 200 Pitch & Bat (Baseball) Williams 1966 Subway Gottlieb 1966 King of Diamonds Gottlieb 1967 Sing Along Gottlieb 1967 695 Pit Stop Williams 1968 200 Target Pool Gottlieb 1969 Rock N Roll Williams 1970 675 OBO Fireball (German) Bally 1971 Jackpot Williams 1971 695 Klondike Williams 1971 595 Space Time Bally 1972 Time Zone Bally 1972 650 Darling Williams 1973 200 Hee Haw Chicago Coin 1973 Travel Time Williams 1973 Flicker Bally 1974 625 OBO Wizard Bally 1974 Captain Fantastic Bally 1975 675 El Dorado Gottlieb 1975 795 Hi Deal Bally 1975 425 Old Chicago (2) Bally 1975 275, 650 OBO Top Score Gottlieb 1975 Aladdin's Castle Bally 1976 675 OBO Blue Chip Williams 1976 Fandango Playmatic 1976 495 Playboy Bally 1976 Spirit of 76 (2) Gottlieb 1976 200, 475 Evel Knievel Bally 1977 450 OBO Lost World Bally 1977 425 Contact Williams 1978 200 Middle Earth Atari 1978 200 Space Riders Atari 1978 Buck Rogers Gottlieb 1979 Dracula Stern 1979 Hercules Atari 1979 Stellar Wars Williams 1979 600 OBO Xenon (2) Bally 1979 200, 600 Counterforce Gottlieb 1980 Fathom Bally 1980 Firepower Williams 1980 400 Panthera Gottlieb 1980 Spiderman Gottlieb 1980 Time Line Gottlieb 1980 Black Hole Gottlieb 1981 Spectrum Bally 1981 Eclipse Gottlieb 1982 Haunted House Gottlieb 1982 Spirit Gottlieb 1982 Grand Slam Bally 1983 200 Sharpshooter (2) Game Plan 1983 150 Time Fantasy Williams 1983 High Speed Williams 1986 800 OBO Pinbot Williams 1986 Fire! Williams 1987 795 Heavy Metal Meltdown Bally 1987 795 Spring Break Gottlieb 1987 750 OBO Cyclone Williams 1988 500 Swords of Fury Williams 1988 Taxi Williams 1988 795 Big House Gottlieb 1989 400 Elvira - Bally 1989 1695 And The Party Monsters Police Force (2) Williams 1989 825, 750 OBO Back to the Future Data East 1990 875 Bugs Bunny's Bally 1990 1295 Birthday Ball Diner Williams 1990 1195 Funhouse Williams 1990 800 Game Show Bally 1990 725 Whirlwind Williams 1990 1000 OBO Class of 1812 Gottlieb 1991 1475 Gilligan's Island Bally 1991 950 Harley Davidson Bally 1991 2300 Terminator Two (2) Williams 1991 1175 Black Rose Bally 1992 895 Getaway Williams 1992 Lethal Weapon 3 Data East 1992 1100 Rocky and Bullwinkle Data East 1992 1175 OBO Super Mario Brothers Gottlieb 1992 850 Judge Dreed Bally 1993 850 Star Trek - Williams 1993 1195 The Next Generation Tales From the Crypt Data East 1993 1750 Twilight Zone (2) Bally 1993 Dirty Harry Williams 1994 Freddy (A Nightmare) Gottlieb 1994 1495 Road Show Williams 1994 Stargate Gottlieb 1994 1250 Baywatch Sega 1995 Breakshot Capcom 1996 1695 No Fear Williams 1996 1495 Tales of the Williams 1996 Arabian Nights Cirqus Voltaire Bally 1997 2500 No Good Gophers (2) Williams 1997 Cactus Canyon Sega 1998 3995 Monster Bash Williams 1998 3900 Revenge From Mars Bally 1999
When it came time for dinner on Saturday evening, my friend Ron and I drove into Vacaville and went to a very nice Mexican restaurant (I LOVE Mexican food!). After that great meal we returned to the show for some evening playing for Ron, and roving and visiting for me.
That evening I got to talk with two nice people (among others). First, I got to meet (I may have met her several years ago - I'm not sure) a young lady named Kelly Altmueller who, up until a few months before, had been the publisher of the interesting pinball magazine PINHEAD CLASSIFIED. That publication was always enjoyable to read because it always contained some very obtuse humor which was generated by Kelly herself. I really enjoyed talking to Kelly in person (one of my personal highlights of the show) as I had subscribed to her magazine for several years, as well as communicating with her via email many times.
Another person I got to meet Saturday evening (and again I think I may have also met him several years ago) was a gentleman named Steve Charland with whom I had also communicated via the Internet on several occasions. Steve had brought to the show for display, and for people to play, his collection of early Gottlieb solid-state pingames, which was a highlight for many of the show attendees. Not too long after visiting with these two nice people Ron and I left the show for the evening - and for that matter for good, since we had seen and done all we had come for.
On Sunday morning we had made plans to meet my friend Sam Harvey and one of his friends for breakfast at a small local restaurant/bar - Sam had been bragging about their food ever since we met him at the show as he had eaten there in past years when attending these shows. Sam was right about the food, and we also enjoyed the "small town atmosphere" at this establishment.
After breakfast we said goodbye to Sam and his friend and began our trip home. Our drive home was uneventful, and we arrived back in our town in the late afternoon. Both Ron and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the show!
If the Pin-A-Go-Go is held again next year we will probably attend, barring any conflicts. During the show I heard it rumored that the two people who have put on the show for the past three years don't want to continue since it's too much work. But they are trying, I understand, to get someone else to host the show next year. So, if there is indeed a show we will probably attend.
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