Shuswap man goes full tilt for pinball

Shuswap man goes full tilt for pinball

Howard Vangool shows his collection of retro machines

Stepping into Howard Vangool’s basement, one is greeted by a multitude of flickering lights accompanied a disjointed chorus of swooshes, clicks, gunfire and the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 proclaiming, “I am the future.”

The lights and sounds emanate from Vangool’s collection of pinball machines. There are currently 10 machines, along with a vintage “cocktail table” arcade machine, a converted upright cabinet arcade machine, a Japanese three-reel slot machine and a pachinko machine.

While the Terminator 2 pinball machine may have been the future in 1991 when it was released, all of the machines in Vangool’s collection are both retro yet trendy, as pinball is seeing a resurgence, both competitively and as sought-after collectibles.

“Five years ago, pinball was basically unknown. Now, there are pinball stores running full time… It’s actually amazing, we’re almost at a renaissance, a new age of pinball machines,” said Vangool. “For pinball people, there are some machines that are coming out that are just incredible. Lord of the Rings started it off probably six or seven years ago.”

Five years ago, the Shuswap photographer picked up his first pinball machine, Data East’s Time Machine, a game that allows players to travel back in time from the 1980’s, to the ’70s, ’60s and the 1950s when the machine simulates an older, pre-digital pinball complete with bell chimes.

Vangool got into playing Time Machine and soon after found himself responding to an ad for a used Lethal Weapon pinball machine. And so the collection began.

“I have an electronics background, so people were phoning me and saying, ‘hey, I’ve got one of these in my basement but it doesn’t work. Can you come and fix it?” said Vangool. “So I’d go over there and take a look. Each one of these machines has its own story, basically.”

One of Vangool’s more memorable pinball purchases took him to Rossland in the West Kootenays. It was for Comet, a Williams Electronic Games Inc. machine from 1985.

“It was the first one (digital pinball) to have the million point shot on it… It was a big deal when it came out,” said Vangool. “So the guy said, ‘I’ve had this machine for 14 years and I’ve only made the million shot three times or four times in my life.’ So I get it home and start playing it and that night I got the million point shot three times.”

With their popularity increasing, Vangool said decent old pinball machines have become harder to find. When he gets them, Vangool has no problem lifting the playing field and doing the repairs needed to get them back in tip-top condition – provided the parts are available.

“I’m always looking for machines,” stresses Vangool. “If anybody has got a machine sitting in their basement or whatever, I always offer the fairest price I can. If it’s not working, I can’t offer a ton of money because – usually it’s a board gone or something like that, boards can cost $300, and then I have to put in $200 worth of LEDs.”

Vangool has had up to 15 pinball machines and sells them from time to time. There are a few, however, that will remain staples to his collection.

“I probably would never sell GoldenEye or Lethal Weapon and probably not Terminator – Each one of these is worth $3,000 and probably more,” said Vangool.

Asked if there’s a particular machine he’d like to add, Vangool says there’s a few, but the 1997 Williams’ classic, Medieval Madness, tops the list.

“Medieval Madness is actually being remade because it was named as the number one, most wanted pinball machine…,” said Vangool. “That one for sure. To find one in somebody’s basement or something would be awesome.”


@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

A member of the Avalanche Canada South Rockies field team gathers important snowpack data that is used to produce daily avalanche forecasts for the region. (Photo by Jennifer Coulter)
Avalanche Canada receives $180k for office renovations

The money was granted through Community Gaming Grant

The rocks are painted and then hidden around town. Those who find them can keep them, leave them where they are or hide them elsewhere. (Submitted)
Spreading love and kindness in Nakusp

New group launched to nurture rock painting and hunting community

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Heather Barker. (File)
Manslaughter charge laid in Vernon woman’s 2018 death

Shaun Ross Wiebe, 43, faces manslaughter and assault charges related to the death of Heather Barker

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens
From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

Kamloops This Week.
48 COVID-19 cases and one death associated with outbreak at Kamloops hospital

One of the 20 patients infected has died, meanwhile 28 staff with COVID-19 are isolating at home

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The scene of a serious crash on Highway 33 in Kelowna that killed one and severely injured two others on June 20, 2018. (File)
Driver found guilty of causing death, injury in 2018 Kelowna crash

Travis Ryan Hennessy will face sentencing at a later date

(Michael Rodriguez - Capital News staff)
Downtown stairwell fire suspicious, Kelowna RCMP say

Crews were called to Gotham Nightclub for a report of a stairwell fire

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Head Brewer Kody Rosentreter, owner Wes Greve and taproom manager Lisa Deleo celebrated North Basin Brewing’s grand opening Jan. 22 and 23, 2020. (Contributed)
Osoyoos’ first microbrewery celebrates grand opening

The brewery hopes to show that the Okanagan is more than just wine country

Most Read