RACINE — Racine historian Jim Mercier is always on the lookout for memorabilia to add to his collection, which contains thousands of items originated from the community.
Mercier never knows what he’ll find, he said, but when he came across an online auction in Missouri for a pinball machine made right in the building he hosts a lot of his collection — the Racine Business Center — it was fate.
“I knew right away: I just had to have this,” Mercier said.
The wooden pinball machine, once coin-operated, simulates a game of poker.
The player will pull on the bar to slingshot a silver ball out; depending on where the ball lands, the player will now have that card in their “hand.” Each silver peg is assigned to a deck of cards, whether it’s a king of spades or three clubs.
Mercier said it was common for the pinball machines to be played side-by-side, and for bets to be made on who landed the better hand.
Origins of the pinball machine
In the 1930s, right in the midst of the Great Depression, Racinians — or anyone in America, for that matter — were desperate for fun on the cheap.
Enter pinball machines, where one penny could get you about seven silver balls and kill a few minutes of time. Almost every drugstore or tavern had one, Mercier said.