Pinball Wizard



There are some customers with whom I feel a close affinity. Yesterday I had one in my studio. He was about my age, and as we were discussing some of the memories he wanted me to preserve for him, he started triggering some of my own memories.

I honestly don’t remember how this came up in conversation but I shared with him how, when I was in high school, my buddy Gary and I used to climb into one of our cars and, from our home in Rockville Maryland, drive nearly 30 miles to Frederick Maryland. Why you may ask? To go to a bowling alley in order to play a pinball machine.

It made perfect sense to us at the time. In the early 70s, in Rockville, the pinball machines gave you 2 games for a quarter. But in Frederick, at least at this particular bowling alley, a quarter gave you three games. Plus, if you hit high score… you’d get a free game added. And as you accumulated more points, you would be rewarded with more free games.

There were times when Gary and I would play that pinball machine all night long on just one quarter.  Our trips to Frederick became more and more frequent. Because we were both athletes, Gary had the bright idea one day that instead of spending the gas to drive up to Frederick, we should simply run up there. After all, it was just a little more than a marathon (which, by the way, neither of us had ever attempted). Being a teenager and therefore devoid of common sense, I quickly agreed and we made plans to leave early the next Saturday morning.

That Saturday I was waiting on the designated corner that was to be our meeting place. No Gary. I found out later that his parents had planned a family outing that he couldn’t get out of. There were no cell phones at that time so he couldn’t call me.

So I set off without him. Three hours into the “run” I realized that I had made a huge mistake but I was too stubborn to quit. I settled into a “run for a while, walk for a while” strategy. Nearly 8 hours later I arrived at the bowling alley. I played one game of pinball just so I could say I did and then prepared to head back.

Only then did it hit me that a marathon ends after 26.2 miles. I, however, was only halfway there. I still had 30 miles in front of me to go in order to get home.

Thank goodness I grew up in a time when hitchhiking was a tad bit safer than it is now.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit

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