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Sunday, April 10, 2005
Pinball Memories IV: Sky-Line

When I was about 12, my aunt and uncle moved to Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. Their house was on a hill about a mile from the ocean, so it was quite common for us to visit there for a weekend in the summer. They had three sons living with them. The twins, Tommy & Terry, were about a year older than I, while Marty was two years younger.

Of course, not every weekend turns out to be perfect for the beach. One rainy Saturday, my cousins and I went down to a local pool hall. I spotted a pinball machine in the corner and went over and started feeding it dimes.

Sky-Line is an interesting machine because it is organized around a gag. As you can see, the backdrop is a swanky penthouse club, with men in tuxedos and women in colorful gowns. Most of the people are staring at the elevator, waiting to see the next couple arriving for the evening.

The object of the game is to get the elevator to the top of the building. When you hit the bullseye targets at the top left and right, the elevator indicator advances one floor. Get the elevator to the 15th floor and the doors pop open revealing:

Years ago, I was reading in the usenet forum a discussion of this machine, and one writer commented that when the doors open, they reveal a homeless couple; he found the joke unfortunate. I replied that he was looking at the game with far too modern eyes and not considering the time the game was built.

In 1965, when Sky-Line was released, the hit new television show was The Beverly Hillbillies, which is the answer to the trivia question: What is the only TV show to be #1 in the ratings its first year? CBS had other shows featuring country bumpkins--Green Acres, the Andy Griffith Show, Petticoat Junction and Gomer Pyle, USMC.

And that's what the characters in Sky-Line are: rubes. The image of the woman carrying the basket with a goose in it is a particularly common shorthand of the times for a hillbilly.

When I told him this, the guy thanked me profusely. He was so glad he could now enjoy the game without feeling any guilt. Of course, I couldn't help wondering whether a gag at the expense of country people was ethically superior to a gag about the homeless, but that's just the heartless Republican from flyover country in me.

Previous entry in the Pinball Memories series


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