I came to Ann Arbor for the first time in 1976 and played a few games of pinball at Mickey Rat's, and then spent a lot of quarters during college playing pinball around town from 1985 to 1995. Â Â Here's a partial timeline of pinball in Ann Arbor with some personal memories mixed in. It's missing a lot of details; please fill in what I'm missing below in the comments, and I'll work the edits in to complete the story. Â
A vacant pinball parlor on South University, once the home of Campus Pinball and later Pinball Pete's, burned last Saturday. The neighbors had said that loitering and vagrancy were a problem at the building which had been boarded up for some number of years. The building, owned by the Tice Family Partnership, had once been on the market, but in 2004 there were no takers for the asking price of $1.2 million.
Feel free to tell us about your favorite memories of pinball in Ann Arbor and Pinball Pete's in the comments. If you've got old photos of Pinball Pete's, Mickey Rat's, Focus, Double Focus, the Dragon Inn, Simulation Station, Great Escape, Pinball Alley, Arcade Five or the Cross-Eyed Moose that you'd like to share, email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pinball in Ann Arbor: A partial timeline
1942:Â An advertisement in the Nov. 28, 1942 Billboard Magazine by a Chicago area amusement supply company advertises ball bearings manufactured by Hoover Ball and Bearing of Ann Arbor, MI for use in pinball games.
1954:Â Pinball is illegal in MichiganÂ and many other states; this review and roundup of state laws by Billboard Magazine is part of their ongoing coverage of the coin-operated amusement industry.
June 14th, 1967: The Who plays The Fifth Dimension Club, in Ann Arbor, MI, the second stop on their United States tour. I don't have a set list, but this is about the time that they wrote "Pinball Wizard", later part of their rock opera "Tommy".
1971:Â This photo of Pinball Alley at 330 Maynard St. is from 1971. A 1972 Billboard Magazine story lists Ray Ohannes as the owner. (Photo: Ann Arbor Historical Photos collection)
1973: Michigan Alumnus writes "Until three years ago, however, there was hardly a pinball machine to be found in Ann Arbor. What initiated the present craze is anyone's guess."
1976:Â MickeyRat's.Â The entry to Mickey Rat's is in an alley off Maynard St. in this 1976 photo. (Photo: Ann Arbor Historical Signs collection, Ann Arbor District Library)
1977:Â Campus Pinball.Â The entrance to Campus Pinball at 1217 S. University in 1977 displays a concert poster for Jeff Beck playing at Crisler Arena. (Photo: Ann Arbor Historical Signs collection)
Â Â Â "the past (and current) state of ann arbor pinball...
there used to be mickey rat's (on william), now replaced with a pinball pete's in the same place. upstairs, grungy floor, currently has 6 or 7 pins in good condition. current selection includesÂ whirlwind,Â fire,Â earthshaker, pinbot,Â rollergames,Â simpsons. pinball pete knocked down a lot of walls to put in more machines.
another pinball pete's on south u., this in an old house; used to be called something else. 5 or 6 pins also in good condition though some of the places they put them have non-level floors (so it seems). includesÂ diner,Â elvira, another whirlwind, another simpsons,Â taxi. i think pete knocked down some walls here too.
in the vid craze of the early 80's, a lot of arcades sprung up. among them were "focus" and "double focus". well focus closed but double focus lives on, corner state & packard. 4 or 5 pins in sort of creaky shape, not really worth a visit. uses tokens (not quarters) whichÂ increases the minimum investment.
used to be pins in a real grungy part of the michigan union, in the basement upstairs from the bowling alley. the bowling alley is now a computer center and the pin room is replaced by a suburbanized sort of mall thing with travel agents, a ripoff bookstore, greasy quasi-dorm food. the arcade has perhaps two pins, usually in medium bad shape. crowded, brightly lit, big screen tv, movie rentals. bleah.
detroit metro airport has a few pins, old electromechs in really abysmally horribly bad condition. like a gorgar with flippers so weak you can't get to the top of the playfield, sigh.Â i would gladly pay 50/75/$1 for gorgar if the machine was in top condition.
by the way, pinball pete is memorialized on the elvira pin (look at the stack of pizzas on the right hand side by the plunger)."
1997:Â The Ann Arbor City Council hears complaints in public comment time regarding youths being hassled at Pinball Pete's.
2008:Â The Pinball Hall of Fame is featured in Spirit Magazine.Â It is a non-profit museum in Las Vegas with an enormous pinball collection. Pinball Pete's founder Tim Arnold owns and maintains the machines.
Edward Vielmetti plays pinball for AnnArbor.com. Â His favorite pinball movie scene is from Anatomy of a Murder, where Laura Manion (Lee Remick) is quizzed by Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart) about her pinball playing at the Thunder Bay Inn: "When did you finally wrench yourself away from the hypnosis of pinball?"