Pinball: Corvallis’ Ballsy Fall From Grace

Oh, Corvallis. You’re swell. You have awesome bars, great venues, a plethora of locally-owned businesses, a fantastic weekly paper *cough* and the only Wal Mart presence has yet to evolve from a husk (although the work being done does wake me up at 7am every day). But still, there’s something missing. And it whirrs, clanks, thlocks, rings and occassionally yells theme-based phrases at you.

No folks, we’re not talking about robot Abraham Lincoln, we’re talking pinball. Yes, pinball: physical microcosms of joy that have been replaced by virtual golf and bear hunting (I wish I were joking). Having gotten a chance to play some private machines recently (for the first time since I was about eight), my adult brain quickly realized what I was missing. Although the more modern games are plagued with themes based on pop culture brands as hideous as “World Poker Tour,” the very concept of a self-contained Universe in which physics command the progression of events is just brilliant. Although certain cultural decays that we are experiencing in the first world are apparent and well-documented, having the chance to experience something like this first hand was intense. Today’s gamers may have special seating, fancy headphones and voice chat, but it all seems like a farce if they’ve never stood behind one of these glass-topped boxes and absorbed an archaic, but necessary ingenuity under terms and conditions that don’t reward failure with a respawn.

So where can you play some pinball in Corvallis? Almost nowhere. There are a few machines around town (for example, check out Clodfelter’s, Suds and Suds,the Peacock, the Pizza Hut on Kings, Harrison’s, Squirrels, and Kings Blvd Laundromat), but they’re spread out and a few are so poorly maintained that they’re barely playable. According to local enthusiast Brian Morrisette, there are about five private collectors in town and you pretty much have to know them to get your greasy palms on the machines—and this leaves local residents in a position where they need to skip town to Eugene (try Blairally Vintage Arcade and Level Up Arcade), Portland or even Salem in order to get their fix. Come on, Corvallis. Who does a guy need to threaten around here to get an arcade downtown?

To add insult to injury, apparently this great city of ours has fallen a long way. During my research, I came across an old article from the Eugene Register-Guard. On March 28th, 1976 two boys were taken into custody on account of them having stolen money under the guise of a fundraiser. And that wasn’t enough—they also dipped into the purses of old women and ripped off a Corvallis engineering firm. What dastardly purpose did they have in mind? Pinball. Oh yes. They even asked the undersherrif to drop them off at the bowling alley after the interrogation because they still had some change left. Basically, pinball is just that awesome. But it’s more than just incredibly fun.

“The effect it had and still has on the pop culture of [our country] is tremendous and without that our lives would be different,” says Morrissette.

Brian Morrisette makes my high score look embarrassing while playing White Water.

And as a newcomer to the obsession, I whole-heartedly agree. Pinball is one example of something we could all seriously use in our lives—something less disposable. And despite it having dwindled down to nearly nothing, I’m willing to bet that if you stop a random person on the street, they’ll be able to tell you exactly what it is. That’s really saying something.

Have a machine around town that needs some work? Contact Brian Morrissette at He and his father are experienced and capable technicians able to repair and maintain solid state machines; and upon consultation some electro-magnetic components.

Check out the website,, to find playable pinball machines outside Corvallis.

by Johnny Beaver