The Pacific Pinball Museum
By James Grahame
This is the point at which I get misty-eyed, because chance childhood experiences so frequently define adult tastes. When I was ten or so, my family lived in a prairie town of about 400 people. Main Street was a dusty little strip with a handful of businesses including a rickety old hotel and an even seedier pool hall. I probably wasn't allowed to be in either, but I went in anyway and plunked down 25 cents for three games on a couple of battle-scarred Gottleib wedge machines.
That was in the late Seventies, at the dawn of the digital revolution. The clunks and chimes of those ancient tables quickly gave way to the bleeps and bloops of Space Invaders and fancy digital pinball machines, but I never forgot my first taste of electro-mechanical heaven.
Those early memories make Pacific Pinball the ideal place for me to while away an evening. Admission is $15 for adults and $7.50 for kids under 12 and all the machines are set to freeplay. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet of flashing lights and sparkling metal balls. The walls are decorated with stunning themed wall murals by Dan Fontes, Ed Cassel and many volunteers.
The stars of the show are 5 wood-rails and 20 wedge heads from Larry Zartarian’s collection, but you'll also find a roomful of digital machines from the 70s and 80s, along with a handful of modern machines in the back. It's almost enough to make me drive down to the Bay area (which Google informs me is a mere 1267 mile road trip).