Bells & Whistles

Been pretty busy lately, as expected. What becomes difficult when one is busy is finding the time to look at the details that make up the bigger picture. If you enjoy details, pictures and stories as much as I do, then you are usually willing to sacrifice a bit more sleep to pursue the ever changing truth.
1977 Jungle QueenDuring the past six months I have run across more than my share of late 70`s electro-mechanical Gottliebs for some reason, and that`s when I first noticed this particular detail. This summer I was asked to do an on site estimate of a 1977 JUNGLE QUEEN that had been stored in a shed for the better part of the past decade, without a playfield glass to protect it ! The crazier thing was that the client wanted me to fix it on location, and for it to be perfect when I was done. After trying to explain that this would be a costly and time consuming process in the worst kind of way for the both of us, I advised him to bring the machine to the shop for an over-haul. I also reassured him that the mouse crap and cat hair would no longer haunt his dreams & hopes for a "perfect pinball" if he followed my advice. He insisted on a home service call and was willing to pay the going rate. I told him that even if I did the repair on location it would not be without several return calls while the machine comes back to life and finds "its beat", sort of speak. Even though he said he was willing to pay, I refused the job out of good conscience, no point being half-assed about what this machine really needed. Never mind the lively discussion that ensued, he agreed to have it shopped at a later date.
What I noticed while doing the estimate was a cheap looking circuit board next to a near perfect chime unit. This flimsy looking circuit board mounted with Robertson screws was definitely not standard Gottlieb issue, and neither was a 3 inch open faced unprotected speaker screwed into a cross rail near the cashbox. (No, Gottlieb wouldn‘t do that either) At the time I paid little attention to this realizing that it was just some kind of home made sound board created to keep up with the newer solid state pinballs that were now gradually losing their seemingly timeless bells, buzzers, gongs and chimes to those then new and exciting electronic beeps & blurps.
This fall I get a call from a woman who seems to be in a bit of a panic to repair a pinball that she had just sold by means of a Kijiji ad for $300. Once it was picked up and set up by the buyer, it stopped working. The buyer was pissed because he was told that it was in working order. No surprise there. So before taking the job I asked her the standard questions - name and make of the machine and were the counters the type that light up or move & turn physically. She had owned the machine for the past twenty years but could not answer the questions with any certainty, just that the machine made strange electronic sounds when they played it. So not having last summer`s experience with the mouse crap at the forefront of my mind, I logically assumed that this was an early solid state pinball. I showed up at the buyers house expecting a power supply problem or some connector screw up, but no, I came face to back box with an EM Gottlieb 1977 VULCAN that made weird noises when I turned it on. Once I got it started by unjamming and properly lubricating the gummed up credit unit (in those latter GTB EM models the credit unit plays a bigger role in the games` start up sequence than their previous EMs) I was again assaulted with more goofy sounds instead of that satisfying electro-mechanical clatter alone which Gottliebs have when they go through their score reset sequence. I then propped up the playfield, and once again, there was that same homemade looking PCB screwed onto the side of the cabinet with no chimes in sight. The new owner asked me if there was a way to turn that thing down and get him a set of chimes. Jumping Jesus I thought, same cheap assed crazed operator trying to compete with progress once again. Probably the same yahoo who operated that Jungle Queen laden with mouse shit I saw last summer, but I was dead wrong. The truth changes as more information comes to light, and like one smart man once wrote well over 100 years ago now, « Truth has never yet clung to the arm of an inflexible man. » So, understanding this in my gut, I fixed the machine and moved on. Knowing that time would help to edify this detail eventually.
Last month, I get a call from a new client, fairly young guy who is really into EMs. Asks me if I fixed older pinball machines because he was thinking of buying a Gottlieb "SURF CHAMP" off a retired guy for $200, but it was acting goofy. Luckily, I had a client to see in his area and told him I would come by to look at his purchase and give him an accurate estimate. The machine was filthy and had been tampered with significantly over the years. Upon closer inspection, - no chimes just that circuit board screwed to the side of the cabinet making an awful humming sound. It was time to get to the bottom of this detail. I told my client that it would be preferable to bring his machine in for an over-haul and a complete clean up, he agreed 100% and hauled it over.
Later in the shop I began the preliminary gutting and cleaning of the whole machine. To remove the motor panel and bench it for proper inspection, I unscrewed this PCB "thing" from the side of the cabinet. After taking a good look at it by disconnecting it from its 6VAC power source, (yes you read correctly, gets its’ supply voltage from the same tap as the minature lamps then rectifies it to DC), and its 24VAC sound input triggers coming from three different relays and the three chimes, things began to come clean.

The circuit itself appears to have been made locally in Montreal for Laniel Canada who at the time was distributing and operating pinball machines. (FYI- Laniel Canada is now exclusively a vending machine distributor, located at 7101 Trans-Canada, in Ville St Laurent) The name of the company was embedded on the solder side of the circuit - Synchroson. The model of the board seems to be 1600. This was no doubt a kit sold through Laniel Canada`s parts department as a sound upgrade for older EMs once the solid state pinballs began dropping their chimes for sound boards at the very tail ass end of the 1970`s. It was a way to keep the EMs on the road longer without sounding out of date.
Once repaired, the goofy and now outdated sounds this circuit made mixed with the regular rhythmical EM clatter and beat had gradually brought me back to a pivotal period in pinball history. The bells were gone, and the whistles began to blow, which pointed the way to a new era in amusement. As I played, and was subjected to the six different tones that came out of that cheap speaker, I found myself playing another one of these strange sounding Gottliebs (I can`t remember which one) in the back of a greasy spoon restaurant on St.Laurent boulevard late one evening. Just between Ste.Catherine street and what was then called Dorchester Boulevard, where the smell of steamed hot dogs and hairy Greek men melded with the cheap perfume of the prostitutes as you walked out onto the main.