High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shocking True Confession! I Was the Dell's Pinball Wizard..... Not a Deaf or Blind Kid... Just Dumb!

How do you think he does it?
(I don't know!)
What makes him so good?

A decade into the new millennium the section of the Dell house that was once the snack bar is still equipped with a pinball machine.

Back in the mid 60's, the Dell barn was Party Central, but the snack bar up at the house was also a cool place to hang out.

On a typical Dell night I ordered a sub, fries and cherry coke from Helen, sat down on one of those stools, swiveled to the right, and watched shows like Batman, Mission Impossible, The Monkees, Get Smart and Laugh-In on the Ettlines' old black & white television set.

See that refrigerator back there on the right near the door? That's where the TV was located. A former Dellette recently reminded me about the stacks of newspapers and all the rest of the clutter around that lunch counter and about the cats that roamed and climbed around while you were eating. Hunting for Dell rats, kitty?

When I finished eating
I usually got change for
a dollar and played a few games of pinball.

That same Dellette also remembers a piece of cardboard that John attached to the top of the pinball machine's backglass.

The cardboard placard was used to keep track of the prevailing high score on the machine, giving Dell rats
an incentive to bring their best game to the Bally table.

(Figure 6-B, every Dell Rat's favorite game: Mousin' Around!)
I have a question for you. Did you ever get so good at doing something that you could practically do it in your sleep? That’s how it was with me and pinball, especially when it came to playing the machine at the Dell.

I don’t see how John made any money off of that gravity
box because it was set up to make winning a breeze. You practically had to plow into the machine with a Mack truck
to get it to tilt!

Nudging? Heck, you could shake the machine from side to side, forward and back…even lift your end off the floor to keep the ball from going down the drain and still get away with it!

Let’s put it this way - when you played pinball at the Dell, winning wasn’t everything…it was the only thing, (the only thing possible!)

Over time, I learned some advanced techniques that enabled me to get Dell pinball down to an exact science. By pulling the plunger all the way back and using a snap action with the thumb of my other hand, I could launch the steel ball at maximum velocity.

I became so skilled at using the flippers that I could make the ball hop up and hit the glass. I could trap the ball on a flipper and then propel it directly into a specific bumper or target, or send it all the way up through to the top to begin another run down the playfield.

Practice makes perfect but perfect sometimes makes enemies. As it turned out I was too good at pinball for
my own good!

One afternoon I was deep in concentration in the middle
of a game of pinball when suddenly a large hand appeared
in front of me. The giant claw turned palm downward and clacked several coins loudly onto the glass. “You done soon?” was my interpretation of what the deep voiced stranger uttered. “Oh, yeah, I should be,” I replied as
I continued to play. The guy repeated his words, only
this time much more assertively and this time I got the message loud and clear. The dude wasn’t asking me...
he was telling me. “YOU DONE SOON! ME PLAY PINBALL!"

I glanced to my right and there stood a 6-foot, 5-inch, 250 pound goliath who looked like a bodybuilder, a pro wrestler,
a Baltimore Colts linebacker, a Green Beret and a beer joint bouncer all rolled into one! My stress level went through the roof when I noticed that there was not one guy standing there but two, and the second guy made the first one look like Mini-Me! Both behemoths looked pissed.

In seconds I came down with a terminal case of dry mouth and broke out in a cold sweat. My hands were clammy and my knees were knocking. I knew that it would be a fatal error in judgement to keep these gentlemen waiting. I elected to do the right thing and deliberately throw the game - take a dive as it were - but I didn’t want to be too obvious about it.

At first I tried to change my timing so that he flippers would swing too late and miss the ball, allowing it to go down the loser hole. But it was no use! I kept flipping the ball back up to the top of the incline – the very last thing that I wanted to do! After thousands of hours of practice my hand-eye coordination was automatic and undefeatable. I simply could not not do my best. I was hardwired to win!

I went into E.A.M. (Emergency Abort Mode), completely removing my hands from the flipper buttons. After taking this drastic measure I expected the ball in play to make a beeline for the hole. To my utter amazement that (expletive deleted) machine simply refused to quit! It seemed possessed by a demon that was hell-bent on my destruction!

Without any flippers flipping, the bumpers somehow kept bumping, the slingshots kept slinging, the targets kept dinging, and the free games kept popping. The Shady Dell pinball machine was literally playing itself!

With a litany of four-letter words being hurled at me by the menace 2 society standing to my immediate right, I made the brilliant deduction that The Amazing Colossal Man and
his pal Dellzilla were not amused by my stupid human trick. They were measuring me for a casket!

I finally gave up trying
to get that last ball to drop. Deciding that it was better to be a live coward than a dead pinball wizard, I made
a hasty exit, stage left.

I headed out the door hoping to get lost in the sea of faces down at the dance hall just in case the incredible hulks
came looking for me. As I walked away in humiliation I swear that stubborn hunka junk was still dinging away defiantly!

I hated having to walk out, leaving behind a dozen
free games of pinball for those husky hijackers to inherit;
but I had the last laugh...

...they were gonna have to stand in a puddle to play them!

Have a Shady day!


  1. I grew up in a little country store in rural NC and daddy had a pin ball machine in there at one time and I remember having so much fun. You had the advantage on me with the untiltable machine. It is still a very happy memory and really enjoyed reading about your near death experience.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed my true story, Odie. I always loved pinball and played whenever and wherever I could. I caught Pac-Man fever in the 80's but never made the transition to modern gaming. Thanks so much for your comment, Odie, and have a great day in Carolina!

  3.'s about 10 years since the last time i saw(& played!) one!

  4. As you can see, Katia, the Dell still has a pinball machine. Catch the next flight out of Rome, head on over and I'll challenge you to a game or two!

  5. Loved your story Shady. It ain't worth dying over a pinball game. I am terrible at pinball, no one has ever accused me of being agile or co-ordinated. We have a place in town called, Scandia Golf & Games, where they still have pinball machines. I used to take my grandchildren there when they were young. They were the first place to get a Pac-Man machine. It was a lot of fun to play that, but I have to say my favorite was the "Star Wars" game when it came to Scandia. It kept yelling out, "Use the Force Luke!"

  6. I loved how they just HAD to come out with a Ms. Pac-Man one year later as if the original wasn't quite enough. Never played that Star Wars game, Belle. Did it included Chewy and his partner......(drawing a blank here).......Han Solo?

  7. Love your post!!! And I miss REAL pinball machines . . . would love to buy one.

    Thanks for visiting and following my blog . . . I'm following you back :-)

    Have an awesome Sunday . . . Gina

  8. Welcome to SDM&M, Gina, and thank you for becoming my 25th follower. Your support is greatly appreciated. I hope you'll drop by again soon!

  9. About Pac-Man - Even God said it isn't good for a man to be alone! As I remember it, the Star Wars game featured Luke Skywalker. You were in his jet fighter shooting Storm Trooper jets, then you had to enter the Death Star valley and explode it.

  10. Belle wrote: << Even God said it isn't good for a man to be alone! >>

    Really? I thought that was Charlie Sheen!

    A double dose of Belle today! I'm blessed! Keep 'em comin', my dear friend!

  11. What a great story! You told it so well! I LOVE these pictures! I want to crawl into them and have a milkshake at that counter!

  12. I get the feeling that you would have loved the Dell, Joan, and the gang would have loved you back! Thanks for your comment and please visit us again soon!

  13. I too was fierce with the flippers and the sulton of the silver ball. My dad bought home a used PB for me back in the day. My friends would come over and try to best me but I was the true wiz. Bet I could've given you a run for your money...but I have a feeling I would probably lose to you. :)

  14. Hey Copyboy, thanks for stopping by! I begged my parents for a pinball machine but never got one. However, they did buy me a 3/4 regulation size pool table. Pocket billiards was another obsession of mine. I practiced day and night until I was the reigning champ of my neighborhood, able to play every type of game and even perform trick shots. Thanks for your comment, Copyboy! Come back soon!

  15. damn i want that pin ball machine!

  16. You can take your pick, Paige, just leave Mousin' Around for me! Thanks for your comment, my good friend!


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