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
MY FIRST PINBALL GAMES
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
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
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.