Editor's Note: Russ Jensen has given me not only his permission to republish his pinball writings dating from 1979, but also a phone interview, and all of his articles. Many people consider Mr Jensen to be a true Pinball Historian, and I agree. Enjoy! JLP


As a child I always had an interest in electrical things. My father, an electrical engineer in the telephone and later the aircraft industry, had taught me about electrical circuits from the time I was about 5 or 6. And when we moved to a town called La Canada (when I was in the fourth grade) I had my own workbench in the back of the garage.

At that time my mother would many times take my sister and I to downtown Los Angeles on the bus, which required us to change busses in the neighboring town of Montrose. It just so happened that the corner where we waited for the bus was also the location of the shop of a local coin machine operator, a Mr. Glenn Catlin by name.

The area where Mr. Catlin put out his trash for collection was right behind the bus bench and I soon discovered that he threw out various electrical items which I often recovered and brought home to experiment with in the garage. On several occasions I even got bold enough to knock on his door and ask him if he had anything that I could have. He was always very friendly to me.

At one point, Mr. Catlin moved his shop out of that building and into a "quonset hut" building on the same lot as his home, about a mile away. One day I went to his new location and knocked on the door. He answered and invited me in. When I asked if he had any electrical parts he wanted to get rid of he surprised me by offering me an entire pingame if I could haul it away.

Well, I went home and asked my father for help and we went back to Mr. Catlin's. He then gave me two pingames, Bally's VARIETY and VOGUE, both from 1939. Pinball machines had been outlawed in most of Los Angeles County years earlier and he could no longer legally operate these games.

After setting up these games in my garage, and using my electrical knowledge to get them going, other kids in the neighborhood played them and asked where I had gotten them. Two of the boys who lived near me soon went to Mr. Catlin's and got their own games. One got Chicago Coin's MAJORS OF '41 and the other Genco's VICTORY.

Since these fellows had no knowledge of electrical things I was called upon to get their games going, and keep them that way. I eventually traded my VARIETY for Genco's SEVEN UP. I currently own both a VARIETY and a SEVEN UP - but not the actual machines I owned as a child.

After a while I got tired of VOGUE and SEVEN UP and sold them to an ex-neighbor who had moved. A while after that I went back to Mr. Catlin's and he gave me a "console style" game by Stoner, called ZETA. This game, made in 1938, had a circular playfield with a crude "pop bumper" in the center of it. A very novel pingame indeed. I eventually traded ZETA for Exhibit's 1940 game LANDSLIDE which I took with me when my family moved from La Canada to Inglewood in 1951. That game a friend and I eventually dismantled when we were in high school.