Father Shares Love of Pinball with Son
Before video games, there was pinball. In Cambridge Springs, there's a couple of households where pinball is still the preferred game to play.
You can find Randy Hale playing pinball inside his basement. Randy has been flipping a shiny silver ball off the bumpers of a pinball machine since he was a ten-year old newspaper boy.
"I collected money on Saturdays from some of my accounts. Now, I got a pocket full of quarters so I would go to a store and buy a pack of baseball cards or two. Then go to the arcade and play pinball for 2 or 3 hours until the quarters ran out,” remembers Randy.
The arcade, on Main Street in Cambridge Springs, was a popular place for townies like Randy and students from Alliance College. It's now gone. Pinball has long been replaced by other amusement games. But, several years ago, Randy told his son Mike about his old pinball playing days. Mike recalls the conversation.
"So, we went out to breakfast and I asked him, ‘What was your favorite game?’ He told me “North Star” and he started to tell me about the game. I knew nothing about pinball,” remembers Mike.
For years, Mike was obsessed with buying his dad a pinball machine. Not just any machine, but the machine called “North Star” which Randy played at the Main Street arcade. Mike eventually found one. He bought it three years ago from a collector in Clarion who made a prophetic statement.
"He warned me when I was loading it into the back of the truck with my brother,” remembers Mike. “He said, 'Just so you know, this won't be your last.' And I kind of shrugged it off thinking ‘No, this is just a gift for Dad and this is the end of it."
The collector from Clarion was right. Mike now buys and restores old pinball machines. There's now 27 of them divided up between Randy's basement, Mike's house and garage. Mike and Randy host pinball parties at all three locations for friends, family and community groups. The high scores for each machine are posted on the wall.
"I think what's really satisfying for me is watching people come in and enjoying my hard work,” says Mike. “That's not to show off or be bragging, but when I see people like my dad's friends come in and they just light up and I see the joy that they have, there's a lot of pride that comes with that."
Mike, who knew nothing about pinball three years ago, recently left his job as technology supervisor for Intermediate Unit-5, to manage a pinball museum in Girard, Ohio. Pinball changed his life. It all goes back to the day his dad told him about a machine called “North Star.”
Mike's garage has pinball machines that go back 50 to 70 years. It also has old favorites such as Arcade Baseball, Shuffle Bowling, and Target Shooting. He says there are still two pinball machines he wants to find. They are called "Joker Poker" and "Neptune".