Killing time

8 comments on Killing time
2 minutes

A post that got no love when I first ran it in 2009. So let’s try again.

I grew up in a very sedate family. We weren’t joiners and we weren’t goers. So except for grocery night on Thursdays we were home, Dad hidden behind the afternoon paper and the rest of us in front of the television. On warm-weather weekends I mowed a couple lawns for a few extra dollars, and in the winter I shoveled several neighbors’ driveways for cash, but that didn’t fill the time so I read a lot. I didn’t appreciate all the time I had on my hands. What I wouldn’t do for that kind of time today!

Instead, I whined and complained about being bored. Mom would say, “If you’re that bored, you can (insert chore here).” I did a few extra chores before I learned to be less vocal about my boredom! Then Mom decided I needed to be more active and take an interest in sports. She never insisted, but I was bored enough to take her up on trying out for basketball a couple years, going to sports camp one summer, and joining a bowling league in high school.

The Skid Row Bums, because we were always in the gutter.

I was a lousy bowler. And I didn’t much enjoy how I had to get to the bowling alley every week: on my bike, along a US highway, carrying my 14-pound ball. But I liked bowling league anyway because before and after I bowled I could play the games in the arcade room.

This was in the era when video games were just starting to crowd out pinball machines. I liked to zip around the field in Tempest, shooting the flippers, tankers, spikers, fuseballs, and pulsars (play a clone here), and I enjoyed chasing the vector-graphics tanks in Battlezone.

But I loved pinball. The bowling alley had one of the first electronic pinball games, the classic Black Knight. When you dropped a quarter into Black Knight, it growled, “The Black Knight will slay you!” And slay me it did, over and over again, its silver ball streaking across its bi-level play deck. But I got better and could play longer and longer on each quarter as I figured out the tricks to activate the Magna-Save electromagnet, enable multi-ball play, and win an extra ball (at which the game said, “Fight me again, Knight!”) I could happily spend all of my lawn-mowing money fighting Black Knight every week. What a great game!

Oh, yeah, and our team won the championship. One of my former teammates reminded me of that today.


8 responses to “Killing time”

  1. davidvanilla Avatar

    Yeah, that “I’m bored” thing never got past my mother, either.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Mothers universally have zero tolerance for such complaints, I think.

  2. Nancy (Roe) Stewart Avatar
    Nancy (Roe) Stewart

    Yes – Just ask Michael what his Granpa Frank had to say if he made a comment about being bored. There were always plenty of sticks to be picked up in Granpa’s yard!! I had just recently ran across the bowling picture. A fine looking group of young men !!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Nancy, I’m always glad to see you pop up in the comments. Sure, there are always chores to do! I think I got to meet Granpa Frank once, at the house on Lancaster. I probably didn’t leave a good impression. I had a fight with Brian Bartozek that day that got me banished from your yard for a week.

      As for the photo, I wish somebody had told me then that my hairstyle didn’t work. But I loved that parachute shirt. I was sad when I wore it out.

  3. Mandy Avatar

    My family was very poor so other than going to church or the trip to grandma’s house we were at home. I went to camp for a week in the summer during high school yrs. Played endlessly as a child outside with the Endres bots. Even tho we didn’t go to a lot of places, I never knew any different and enjoyed that time very much.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It was much the same for us. I would call us working class – our needs were met, but not much more. So we figured out how to make our own fun. It was a pretty big deal to send us to bowling league, as that cost $5 a week for each of us. Another pretty big deal was when Dad would put us all in the car on a summer evening and take us to Dairy Queen for a small cone.

  4. Russ Ray Avatar

    My dad bought a pinball machine in 1981 from a local car dealership (it was in the salesmen’s lounge). I’ve been chasing after one of my own for a couple of years now. The technology in the modern ones are amazing, but they’re getting into 5 figures to buy them.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      5 figures?!?!?! Oy!

      I’d love to have The Black Knight or Gorgar, the two games I played most back then.

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