Pacific Pinball Museum Opens
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Eric J. Kos

Dan Fontes designed and executed the mural of pinball art that forms the backdrop for Larry Zartarian's vintage "Wedgehead" (left) and "woodrail" (right) machines in the Pacific Pinball Museum's new wing. Fontes had a little help from Alameda sign painter par excellence, Ed Cassel, and a few others. Curator Michael Schiess presides at left.

At 1510 Webster St. a new Alameda institution has been born. From the origins of the Lucky Ju Ju Pinball Gallery has grown the Pacific Pinball Museum, more than likely the only facility of its kind in the world. For a modest admission fee, visitors will learn about the history of pinball, the art, physics and functionality of pinball throughout the years, plus get to play almost 100 unique machines arranged in chronological order.

The newest wing of the museum opened as quietly as it could Nov. 17, featuring more than 40 new woodrail and wedgehead machines on free play from the esteemed collection of Larry Zartarian that date to the 1940s and 50s. The oldest piece in the collection is a French Bagatelle dating to the nineteenth century.

Curator Michael Schiess continues to advance his dream of showing all 800 pinball machines in his collection in one space, for now, he's doubled his ability to exhibit machines from the 40 or so he started with at the Ju Ju.

For some, pinball puts Alameda on the map. Berkeley resident Doug MacFarland comes to town almost every weekend to play pinball. "Me and my pinball buddies must have put a few grand into the Alameda economy since we've been coming here," MacFarland said. "We never used to come to Alameda."

The expansion of the museum was no single handed effort. Pinball fans from all walks of life contributed to the renovation of the space formerly occupied by the Record Gallery (now located across the street). Carpenters, electricians, muralists, exhibit designers and painters donated valuable time to the museum's non-profit mission. Even I lifted a paintbrush to help with Dan Fontes' amazing pinball mural.

In coming months, Schiess has many plans for the location on Webster. The rotating gallery of art has also been expanded and more expansive shows will now appear in the "chill room" as its tentatively named. An expansive retail shop with fun collectibles for pinball fans is in the works. Plus some of the machines themselves are for sale there.

For those familiar with the Ju Ju, the museum is now open daily 2 to 9 p.m. "Back Door Ju Ju" will continue until midnight on weekends just as it has for the past eight years. Only now you can play nearly 100 different pinball machines for just one admission fee to the museum.

As if opening an entire new wing wasn't enough, Schiess and the pinball bunch have been launching an exhibit at the San Francisco International Airport Museum in the past few months. This high profile exhibit comes from a local source: the Pacific Pinball Museum, Alameda, CA.

For more information on the museum, visit www.pacificpinball.org, or 1510 Webster St.

 

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