Archive for Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pinball wizard restores old machines

Jason Scheffelmaer, Olathe, left, plays a restored Attack From Mars pinball game while Taylor Brownback, 10, Basehor, watches. The two were at a pinball party Saturday, Dec. 4, at Gary Martin's home in Lawrence, where he restores old pinball machines.

Jason Scheffelmaer, Olathe, left, plays a restored Attack From Mars pinball game while Taylor Brownback, 10, Basehor, watches. The two were at a pinball party Saturday, Dec. 4, at Gary Martin's home in Lawrence, where he restores old pinball machines.

January 2, 2011


Pinball Party

Gary Martin, Lawrence, who restores old pinball machines, held a pinball party for other fans and restorers, Dec. 11, 2010 Enlarge video

Gary Martin’s pinball machines

Eight Ball Deluxe, released in 1980

Twilight Zone, released in 1993

Attack from Mars, released in 1995

Medieval Madness, released in 1997

Monster Bash, released in 1998

Lord of the Rings, released in 2003

On the street

Have you ever played pinball?

Yes, as a kid in the past.

More responses

Gary Martin sure plays a mean pinball.

You might say he’s a pinball wizard, but not only at the flippers of the game. He’s a wizard of the game’s mechanics, and restores the incredibly intricate arcade games. Six have a home in his basement and countless others have moved through his basement workroom.

Martin, also known around town as the man on Parkside Drive whose Christmas lights are programmed to music during the holidays, has a background in engineering that lends itself to his intricate hobbies.

But pinball is his first love.

As a high schooler in Atchison, he first started playing pinball on the Eight Ball Deluxe machine.

“It was in a bar that I wasn’t supposed to be in,” he said. “We would sneak into it. We weren’t drinking, we were just playing pinball.”

Now, as a 47-year-old IT professional at Lawrence Paper Co., Martin has plans to restore an Eight Ball Deluxe machine he found in Wichita. After more than 100 hours of work and thousands of dollars in new parts, Martin will have done his part to restore history.

“It’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t know what a pinball machine is,” he said. “They really are an iconic part of our history.”

Pinball machines that people see today have roots back more than 100 years and had a close relationship with cars.

Companies originally built the games with automobile parts. Flashing lights were actually turn signals, and lights in the playfields were made with dashboard lights. Early versions of the game had players launch the ball and just leave the rest to fate, until flippers were introduced in 1947.

As video games became more popular, some arcade companies started shutting down their pinball operations. About that time, Martin got into restoring machines. For a few years his interest dwindled as prices went up, but two years ago he decided to get back into it.

“It’s a little pricey to restore some of these vintage ones, but well worth it,” he said. “I’ve got a bunch of favorites here. I hang on to those.”

One of those favorites includes his latest restore job, Attack from Mars. The machine he found, originally released in 1995, spent its early life in a bar. The playfield was worn down from hours of play, the art on the outside was singed and an alien in the machine had been replaced with a rubber chicken.

“It was almost ready to go to the landfill,” he said.

Two months, $3,700 and 100 hours later, he had restored the machine.

“Most people don’t go at them as quickly as I do,” he said. “That’s one that we’re going to hang onto.”

Martin surrounds himself with people who love pinball as much as he does. His wife, Mary Ann, is hooked on the game, and she said their 11-year-old grandson has been playing since he was tall enough to reach the flipper buttons.

Martin also has collectors over to his house to play the games, hailing from Basehor, Prairie Village and Wellsville. The collectors are in an online group that talks pinball and keeps an eye out for available games.

“You can play pinball machines for months and months and never see all the features,” Martin said.

Jeff Collins, a collector from Prairie Village who recently visited Martin’s basement collection, sometimes buys machines Martin has restored. Collins, who has 15 games in his basement, admires the simplicity of the games.

“To me, that’s what’s so cool about it. Even if you’ve never seen one, you know how to play it,” he said. “It’s about how long can you keep the ball going.


grimpeur 7 years, 2 months ago

Yesss! Eight Ball Deluxe!

"Quit talkin' and start chalkin'!"

sourpuss 7 years, 2 months ago

The LJ World is giving Mr. Martin a lot of press for his hobbies. Is he running for city commission or something?

So_tired_of_the_whiners 7 years, 2 months ago

Maybe if you got off your butt and did something, the paper would write about you. The reporters do not go searching parents basements for stories... Snap!

sourpuss 7 years, 2 months ago

Wow, what did I do to you? I actually think my life is far more interesting than Mr. Martin's, but that is just me. Also, I wouldn't care to have it in the paper. My point is that everyone has interesting hobbies and two stories about the same person's hobbies seems a bit... odd. However, you seem to have problems with me and I'm sorry for offending you. It's just a local newspaper and I'm not your enemy.

Jay Riner 7 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Christmas Lights for City Commission? I think that is a GREAT idea. The city could use someone who thinks of others before their own wallet. There's a slight whif of collusion 'round town. Owners of "downtown" businesses, who are also council members, seem to be looking out for the best interests of themselves and not the general populace. I love downtown, but I hardly think that it needs to be the major agenda of the city council every stinkin' year. Support local businesses, yes, but do the council members REALLY have what is best for the city at heart or paying their own bills?

Kent Shrack 7 years, 2 months ago

We have a Pro-Football Gottlieb and a Dodge City by Gottlieb.

Nikki May 7 years, 2 months ago

I would love to get a pinball machine! Awesome hobby to have. I'm very jealous!

Bill Griffith 7 years, 2 months ago

Is that one of his disciples to the side?

lounger 7 years, 2 months ago

Cool and Informative article. I had no idea parts were from cars at first! In chicago I used to watch my neighbors dog while he was out of town and I had access to the Pinball machine! This was in the late seventies and it was an old machine then. For peeps like me the pinball machine will always be cooler than video games- period! The Who helped out a little too....

compmd 7 years, 2 months ago

I have an old Gottlieb Centigrade 37, but it has trouble starting up sometimes. Mr. Martin, you might be hearing from me...

Gary Martin 7 years, 2 months ago

@Compmd, If I can't help you get it fixed, I know a half dozen other techs in the area that can surely figure it out.

SeaFox 7 years, 2 months ago

Agh! So THAT'S where the Replay's "Attack from Mars" machine went! I sure miss it. :-(

Christine Hammon 7 years, 2 months ago

I just started my Attack From Mars tattoo....have been trying to find one to play, but have found some other great ones around town-Concorde at Conroys Pub is so much fun, and Addams Family in town off 6th Street at the Mexican restaurant.

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