PACIFIC PINBALL MUSEUM
EAST COAST TO WEST COAST MIGRATION
Date: 9th July 2009
Report by Larry Zartarian
As the Board Chairman of the Pacific Pinball Museum (PPM), I have been actively involved for the past 7 years or so with a dozen other passionate and energetic Board members of the non-profit PPM in Alameda, CA.
Our mission is to establish a permanent home for our 700+ pinball machine collection somewhere here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Far from being a mere arcade, our goal is to become “The Smithsonian of Pinball”, as our founder and Executive Director Michael Schiess so often puts it. In other words, our aim is to educate and inform the public about the historical, artistic, scientific and technological aspects of pinball – and the role it has played as a truly unique American entertainment and art form.
About a year and a half ago, Mike and I received a note from a very good friend of ours, noted pinball collector and historian Gordon Hasse, Jr. (aka “Gordo”), who indicated that he was looking for a good home for the collection of pinball machines and related coin operated devices that he had amassed over a 35+ year period of collecting. What’s more, Gordo had heard of what the PPM was trying to accomplish and had decided that he wanted to donate his entire collection of pinball and related coin-operated machines to us.
Although we had communicated briefly over the years, and I had heard a lot about Gordo’s background as a noted author and pinball historian, I really was not all that familiar with the extent of his collection. But after speaking with Gordo at length, and finally meeting him in person at our 2nd Annual Pacific Pinball Exhibition last October, it immediately became apparent that we have a lot in common – not just our admiration and respect for Gottlieb’s “Golden Age” pinballs of the 1940s and 1950s – but also our shared goals, objectives and the passion we have for preserving pinball’s past and wanting to see it enjoyed by future generations. Rather than languishing as unassembled hulks in dark, cold and dusty warehouses, we believe that these gems should be restored and refurbished to the best of our abilities so that they can be played and enjoyed the way they were originally meant to be.
Being a very discriminating collector, Gordo had managed to amass a collection that includes at least one working or restorable example of every single-player Gottlieb woodrail pinball made from 1946 (Stage Door Canteen) through 1961 (Foto Finish), in addition to Gottlieb’s first 4-player Super Jumbo and first 2-player Duette (176 titles in all), plus 12 Williams games from 1951-1955 (including Control Tower, Shoot the Moon, Paratrooper, Twenty Grand, Grand Champion, Army/Navy and Wonderland); 17 other games from various manufacturers (including Rockola, Genco, Victory Games, Marvel, United, Exhibit and Chicago Coin); various related coin-operated amusement machines (including Seeburg’s Shoot the Bear, 2 Scope-A-Tone Video Jukeboxes, a Pop-Corn-Sez Popcorn Machine, and a 1952 Seeburg Model “G” Jukebox); along with a 1938 Lusse Brothers Bumper Car and an original “D. Gottlieb & Co.” Factory Sign.
As a noted pinball historian and author, Gordo had also managed to accumulate over the years one of the world’s largest archives of library-quality pinball and other coin-operated amusement machine literature, photos, ephemera and memorabilia, including 40 bound volumes of The Billboard magazine from 1948-1963; the complete collection of the late noted pinball historian Richard Bueschel covering the history of pinball contained in over 200 three-ring binders, and dozens of books related to pinball and allied coin-operated amusement devices. Gordo has also taken responsibility for completing the unpublished volumes 3 through 6 of the Encyclopedia of Pinball that was entrusted to him by Richard Bueschel prior to his death.
Once all the items in his collection had been inventoried, we decided that the best time to accomplish the move would be during the Spring or Summer months, as Gordo had stored his games’ backglasses in bubble-wrapped cardboard boxes in Morrisville, PA; and the games’ heads and bodies were being stored separately in Poughkeepsie, NY – a prime snow belt location!
Mike and I flew from our homes in Oakland, CA to Philadelphia, PA to meet Gordo, who had flown there from his home in Orlando, FL to meet us upon our arrival.
His brother, Pete, who lives in nearby Abington, PA, met the three of us at the airport. Pete had arranged for the rental of a 26-foot Penske truck that we would use for the next 2 weeks.
From Abington, PA we drove to Morrisville, PA, where we spent most of the next day loading the neatly stored and arranged backglasses onto the Penske rental truck, and later that evening we drove 170 miles to Poughkeepsie, NY where we began 2 days of opening 5 different storage units in LaGrangeville, PA that contained the games’ heads and bodies. The storage units were just minutes from Steve Young’s Pinball Resource in nearby Poughkeepsie.
We were very fortunate to have the help of Mike Weitman and his father Maurice, who both live approximately 2 hours away in New Jersey for our 2 days of opening and emptying the contents of the 5 storage units.
Our main task was to move the various heads and bodies from the units onto 2 separate 53-foot tractor trailers that were going to make the 3,000-mile trek from Poughkeepsie, NY to Alameda, CA over the next week.
While loading, we were also able to meet with Steve Young. Along the way, we had also transferred all the backglasses from the Penske truck onto the two 53-foot United Van Line 16-wheelers.
As we began to paw our way through Gordo’s vast treasures, it immediately became apparent that this was no ordinary collection. Indeed, there was “Ali-Baba”, peering at us from just inside the first roll-top door of the very first storage unit, followed closely by “Flying Trapeze” (Gottlieb’s last pre-flipper game), then “Marjorie” (named for David Gottlieb’s daughter), and eventually the entire “Fairy Tale” series from 1947 and 1948 (“Humpty Dumpty”, “Lady Robin Hood”, “Cinderella”, “Jack ‘N Jill”, “Olde King Cole”, “Ali Baba”, “Alice in Wonderland”), followed by “Harvest Moon”, “Double-Shuffle”, and the almost never-seen “Mermaid’ – just to name a few.
We were truly reduced to kids in a proverbial candy store, as our jaws kept dropping as title after rare title was wheeled out of the storage units and carefully placed onto the awaiting trucks.
After two days of loading, the two 53-foot trucks were on their way for the cross-country journey from Poughkeepsie, NY to Alameda, CA. That night, we were able to visit Steve Young’s Pinball Resource and were treated to a narrated guided tour of his amazing facility.
The two 53-foot trucks left for Alameda, CA and arrived 3,000 miles and 5 days later. In the meantime, I returned to my home in Oakland, CA, but Mike and Gordo drove two days and 1,200 miles south to Orlando, FL to pick up about 20 more machines plus backglasses and parts that Gordo had set up at his home.
Jim Dietrick, PPM board member and owner of The Pinball Revival Co., had flown to Orlando the previous night to fill the vacancy that my departure had left. Mike picked up Jim and began the last leg of this daunting move. After taking the remaining games from Gordo’s Orlando, FL home in 100+ heat and humidity, Mike and Jim set off for their 5 day, 3,000 mile journey to Alameda, CA, where they would be met by many members of our PPM crew, including myself, Jem Gruber, Helmut Jordt, Dan Fontes, Melissa Harmon (Mike’s wife), Tanio Klyce, Rob Perica, and Gary Pratt and Dean Davidson (the two United Van Lines truck drivers). One day earlier, this same crew of folks had managed to unload, store, map, photograph and catalogue the entire collection from both of the large trucks.
Now, the task of restoration and refurbishing many of these games begins! As a result of the collaboration between Gordo and PPM, we have truly become a world-class museum and are well on our way to becoming “The Smithsonian of Pinball”. The PPM collection now includes many examples of early bagatelle games from the early 1900’s, many “pin and ball” games from the late 1920’s and the 1930’s, and a nice sampling of 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s machines from the “Golden Age of Pinball”. When you include hundreds of today’s modern solid state and dot matrix display games, we are now approaching 700 machines.
We are hoping that Gordo’s generous donation will spur local collectors to consider donating some of their machines to us as well. As it now stands, our current Pacific Pinball Museum is bursting at the seams and we are actively looking for a much larger permanent home to house the entire collection. Part of our fund-raising effort includes producing the annual Pacific Pinball Exposition (PPE), with over 400 games on free play. It’s the world’s largest pinball machine show, held each year in nearby San Rafael, CA, and many of Gordo’s games will be on display and playable during this year’s show. We hope many Pinball News readers will be able to attend, and also look forward to seeing you at our Pacific Pinball Museum soon!
For more details on both our PPM and PPE efforts, please visit our web site at www.pacificpinball.org