Why I started the Iowa Pinball Club

by Aaron Klygo

I’ve been a member of other pinball clubs in several other states over the years. When I moved to Iowa and realized that there wasn’t one, I decided to put my Internet skills to work. It was a “build it and they will come” attitude. Learning from previous experiences, I wanted to add some features (not all of them are implemented yet) and benefits to the club and its website.

1. Offering IFPA (International Flipper Pinball Association) affiliated tournaments to increase our competitive members’ WPPR rankings.

2. Offering free leads for pinball machines and arcade games for sale in and around the Iowa area. To do this, I created a simple online form for local game owners to solicit club members. After all, our club members are their target market. This often results in the best price for the games’ owner. Additionally, the fact that we pay cash and pick up your machine only helps!

3. Hosting or going to a home game room party can be a flippin’ good time! Being around like-minded home arcade fanatics who can, and often do, beat your high score gives you a new goal to shoot for. It’s beyond exciting!

The main reason to start a local pinball club is friendship and community. Online resources like Pinside.com are useful. However, a buddy who can come over and help you diagnose a problem is priceless! Besides, afterwards you’ve got to “stress test” the game by playing it!

Since it’s inception, the club has been steadily gaining members. We are currently up to 15 members, which is pretty good considering that the website isn’t that old, and exposure has been somewhat limited until now. The good news is the site has already received several pinball machines and video arcade games for sale in Iowa. There have even been some games from other states that have been posted on our website.

Iowa Pinball Club Meeting

The Iowa Pinball Clubis located online at www.IowaPinballClub.com. We host get togethers at members’ home game rooms, local bars, and arcades with playable pinball machines.

My goal as the founding member is to motivate members to host pinball parties and IFPA affiliated tournaments on a regular basis. If you get 8 members to host 2 parties a year you’ll be flip’n busy playing pinball!

Guide to starting your own pinball or arcade game related club:

Today, you don’t need to be a “tech savvy” nerd to create a useful website, though it sure helps! There are lots of free tools out there. Do a quick search for Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal,or Joomla! They are quite easy after the initial setup. I chose html5 for Iowa Pinball Club’s website and hope to add a wiki page soon. Websites are evolutionary, so take your time! Start small and it will grow and so will the amount of members.

Everyone collects for their own reasons.

I always find it interesting to hear what possessed a person to start collecting pinball machines! So I asked a fellow Iowa Pinball Club member by the name of Nick Manwarren, who just so happened to have designed the club’s logo, to share his story. I have included it here to close out the club’s article.

The Beginning of an Addiction

“Whacca whacca whacca”, is all you heard coming out of my living room. The year was 1987, and I was at the pinnacle of my Pac-Man career. The Pac-Man cartridge had been in the Atari 2600 for a least 5 hrs, and I was still going strong. Not bad for being 7 at the time. “Time to Eat!” yelled my mom from the kitchen. It had been time to eat for the last half hour, but I didn’t care, I was eating. For dinner I was having small yellow pellets like it was going out of style. I was truly in the zone. Then out of nowhere everything went dark, and I was left looking at my reflection on the black television tube. My father had pulled the plug, and I was devastated.

Flash forward to 22 years later, now being 2009. Here I was staring at the blank, non-working glass on a 1978 Gottlieb Charlie’s Angles pinball machine. It was a gift for my wife’s 30th birthday. I had no idea of the world I was about to uncover.

I have always been interested in the lights and sounds of the arcade. My family had a membership to a resort, in Northwest Iowa called Cutty’s. It had tons of things to do for kids who were growing up. It was a place for firsts too; first time I kissed a girl, first time I smoked a cigarette, and the first time I ever played pinball. The game was Williams’ 1986 classic, High Speed. I was probably around 10 when I played for the first time. I was instinctively drawn to the lights and sounds of High Speed, it was exciting. But my love affair would be short lived, as there was more of an influx of arcade games coming in and moving the pinball machines out. Some of my favorite arcade games remember playing were: Toobin‘, Out Run, Cowboys of Moo Mesa (I know this one is weird!) Street Fighter 2 and TMNT. The pinball machines took a back seat for many years, until my wife turned 30. I couldn’t think of a thing to get her for her birthday. I was stumped!

It was a sleepless night when I shot out of bed and remembered that she was promised a pinball machine for her 10th birthday, and she never got it. It was kind of a running joke around the house, but I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to surprise her with one 20 years after she was let down.

I went to my computer and looked on eBay, and to my surprise there was one in my town for $150. Wow, I can swing that, I thought. So the next day, I called and arranged a time to meet up with the seller. I took a little road trip about 10 minutes away, and there she was.. in a Morton building not used for 10 years. a 1978 Gottlieb Charlie’s Angles. The playfield was in great condition. The backglass on the other hand, was a different story. About less then half of the paint was gone. I talked him down to $100 and my first purchase was complete.

Charlies Angels and Tri-Zone pinball

I was so green that day. I had no idea what I was doing, I look back and cringe at all the classic rookie mistakes that I made. For starters, I had nobody there to help me load it. When I finally got it in my truck, I still had the legs on it, so it was sitting upright. The head of the machine was also still attached…and oh yeah, I didn’t have any tie downs. Seriously, I am not making this up. By the grace of the pinball gods, I finally made it home without spilling that thing on the highway.

The next two years were spent learning and soaking up as much information as I could. I listened to every podcast I could find, read every book I could grab. I didn’t even know there were different companies, different games designers, and illustrators. I took Charlie to see a doctor, and he got her operational. She had the normal older machines problems, battery corrosion on the MPU board, new power supply, but $200 in parts later she is a tank. It wouldn’t be long until I felt the itch for another pin. I bought a 1979 Williams TriZone. It needed a little love, but not much. There is something very special about the late 70s and early 80s artwork. I love it. I have also added a Neo-Geo 160 in 1 Cart Arcade machine to the collection.

From here the obsession grows, bigger and probably more annoying then ever according to my wife, but I always tell here that it’s her fault. I am now in the process of getting my third pin. I hope to add a High Speed to the arsenal to make everything come full circle.

The people I have meet so far in my pinball travels have been amazing, very patient and willing to teach and share their knowledge. I think without the power of the internet, the pinball hobby would be in a sad state. People willing to share their knowledge are the key, that is why I have joined groups like the Iowa Pinball Club and various forums. It takes networking to keep this hobby alive.

~Nick Manwarren