Obscura Society LA: Pinball Forever! - Atlas Obscura
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Santa Ana

Obscura Society LA: Pinball Forever!

Join Obscura Society LA and Dave Miner from Pinball Forever as we get infected with pinball madness!

In 1976, the fate of an entire industry depended upon the hand eye coordination of Roger Sharpe. As Mr. Sharpe entered the large room that hosted New York City's council hearings, he knew one mistake, one slip of a finger, would put a serious dent in his life's work, not to mention many others who had fallen in love with the same game he had. This could be the one chance they had to overturn the city's ban on pinball. 

From the mid 1940s through the mid 1970s, pinball was illegal in many American cities, like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. Determined to be a game of chance, not skill, pinball was considered a form of gambling that took money from the "pockets of schoolchildren in the form of nickels and dimes given to them as lunch money."  Pinball, at the time, also was thought to be run largely by the mob. As the years passed, pinball became more than just a gambling enterprise. The games became more complex, technologically advanced, and the machine art more visually interesting and reflective of the times. Pinball was fast becoming something more than just a game of chance to bet on. It was becoming part of the American culture; a culture of rebellion, of youth, and of highly dexterous people.  

Back to New York City, 1976: Mr. Sharpe enters the city council hearing determined to prove to them that pinball is a game of skill, not chance. Armed with two machines to prove that neither are rigged, he allows the council members to pick which machine he should play and then begins to exhibit his skills. Not impressed, the council members are on the verge of upholding their ban. Seeing this, Mr. Sharpe pulls off what is now considered one of the biggest moments in pinball history. Before he pulls back the plunger to launch his final ball, he declares that the silver ball, relaying only on his pinball skills, will zoom through the middle lane. He pulls back the plunger and the silver ball did exactly that. Roger Sharpe, reminiscent of another New York sporting legend Babe Ruth, had called his shot. The New York City council immediately declared the ban on pinball over. 

On August 17th, join Obscura Society LA and pinball historian, aficionado, and collector Dave Miner at Pinball Forever in Santa Ana as we explore the greatness of pinball. Beyond other pinball tales, attendees will get to enjoy and PLAY Pinball Forever's immense collection of pinball machines ranging from the early days of pinball in the 1930s until modern times. 

Pinball Forever is a family business created to provide an opportunity to appreciate the evolution of technology and the impact of invention and commercial art pinball has had on American popular culture.  With playable examples from the 80 years of pinball history arranged chronologically, the games at Pinball Forever provide a fascinating mirror to our pastimes and obsessions.

In addition, Dave will show interested parties how these complex machines work and the nuances needed to keep them operating correctly. 


 - This event is family friendly and for all ages!

 - The event, which will include a talk on pinball history, Q&A, and plenty of playing, will be approximately 3 hours.

 - Water and a few snacks will be provided, but please do not bring anything other than water into the pinball room.