Al Garber

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Michael J Thompson

Apr 20, 2023, 2:27:01 AMApr 20
I became friends with Al back in the early 1970s. Over the years we lost touch. Even though we weren't seeing each other, our live paralleled. We collected the same machines and we enjoyed collecting EM machines.

When I learned of his passing I read everything about him that I could find on the internet. There was one story that I came across of what he described as the most fun of his pinball collecting days.

He told the story of his friend Mike (that's me) and he taking Mike's Metro Stepvan up to San Francisco to buy a sh*t load of machines. The way he described the day was funny as hell and it brought back a lot of memories.

Well my browser history got corrupted and I can't find that story in this group. I understand that there is another group called the EM Group but I can't find it. Any help in steering me in the right direction if you remember reading that story of his would be greatly appreciated.

This Sunday I will be going up to see his wife Debbie and begin the process of appraising all of his collectables as well as helping her deliver a Quick Draw pin.

Well thanks folks, I am in Sacramento so I look forward to seeing some of your in Davis Or Lodi.

Kerry Imming

Apr 20, 2023, 8:25:44 AMApr 20
There is an EM Pinball group on Facebook that's been mentioned many
times. There is also an "EM Pinball Tech" thread on Pinside that may be
a good place to ask for help (or just start a new thread there).

I only knew Al through this newsgroup. I made a very basic mistake in a
post and he corrected it in a way that made me end up feeling good that
I made a mistake. I try to emulate that but I'll never be that good.

- Kerry

John Robertson

Apr 20, 2023, 4:31:43 PMApr 20
I would suggest going to Google Groups and typing in "
al garber mike" and see what turns up...

Good hunting!

John :-#)#
(Please post followups or tech inquiries to the USENET newsgroup)
John's Jukes Ltd.
#7 - 3979 Marine Way, Burnaby, BC, Canada V5J 5E3
(604)872-5757 (Pinballs, Jukes, Video Games)
"Old pinballers never die, they just flip out."

Bob Langelius

Apr 24, 2023, 6:09:10 PMApr 24
Might try: "Al Garber Mike Step Van" - Al was a cool dude:

In advance, I'd like to apologize for telling this lengthy tale.
However, who else but pinheads could appreciate it. The 1980's part
was written a few years ago when I could remember stuff. The last
paragraph,added today:

It was late October of 1980, just about the perfect time to be
involved with EM pins. The Solid State games were being demanded by
location owners throughout the area. Route Operators had finally
accepted the SS games, their warehouses reflecting this, being full of
recent EM Route pulls. One Operator had so many, he had the bodies
stacked four high.

I had been buying from these guys for a few years and had made it to
the top of their call lists. These companies had “connections” and as
long as you didn’t try to negotiate (there really wasn’t much need as
their prices were always well below what the distributors were
asking), didn’t haunt them with complaints about previous purchases
and paid in cash, you could expect to be dealt with fairly.

The usual calls were from Dan or Joey. Each sported rather thick New
Jersey “Wise Guy” accents. When they called, they were clearly going
out of their way to do me a favor and let me know, what they’d be
willing to part with. But there seemed to be a different tone in the
calls now, not desperation necessarily, but a real interest in
“seeing” me soon and wanting to know how many machines could I

I had worked with a guy, Mike that I had mentored in pinball repair.
He slimed me a couple of times and had been dropped off of my “A”
list. But he did have two socially redeeming characteristics, lotsa
cash and a large step-van. I scrounged up all the cash I could and
called Mike to arrange a bulk buy.

The next day we drove up to San Francisco (Mike in his step-van and me
in my pick up) to Dan’s shop.
I almost flipped when I saw the mountain of EMs he had amassed. Dan
wasn’t playing his usual “I’m doin’ you a real favor Al” act. He was
ready to deal. We ended up with about 30 pins priced anywhere from $50
to $250, dirty, but not abused. These were gonna clean up nicely. We
spent the next couple of hours knocking them down. Heads went in the
back of my pick up and the bodies and parts in the step-van. It was a
squeeze, but we didn’t leave anything behind.

We got back to my place and unloaded. Mike and I alternately picked
games. (I got first pick since I made the connection.) I was going for
the big dollar items and surprisingly, Mike went for the players. When
we were done, we each had 15 pins to do with as we saw fit. A couple
of the wedgeheads I chose went into the house and the rest were stowed
in the garage, on their ends awaiting their destiny. I helped Mike
load his choices back into his van and went inside, showered and
collapsed on the couch.

I didn’t touch them for a couple of days. It took me that long to
recover from the move. I eventually went out to the garage and set
five of them up for shopping. By that weekend, they were ready to go.
I made a couple of calls and had three of them on location. Dragging
another three out of the group, it was my goal to have five up in the
garage at all times and to get ready to sell for Christmas. About the
second week in November, I placed a small ad in the local paper:

Pinball Machines sold by Private
Party. Why rent them for 25 cents
When you can own them this cheap

The next day I had three calls. I had sold and delivered two machines
by that evening. Two more out of the pile got set up. The next day
yielded about the same results. I had already made my money back and
really hadn’t begun to sell to the Christmas shoppers.
I called Mike to see if he’d be interested in making a second run.
Mike said he hadn’t had much luck in selling anything but said I could
take his van if I wanted.

Two days later I was up at Joey’s shop this time. Joey was more of a
Bally fan. He had quite a collection of Capt Fantastics, Wizard!s, a
Hokus Pokus, Aladdin’s castle etc. He also had one lone wedgehead, a
Gottlieb Big Hit. It looked like it hadn’t been used.
“Hey Joey, what’s the story with this Big Hit?” He told me that it had
been on location in a small deli up on Russian Hill. The deli closed
after a month and it took him two years to get it back out. “By the
time I got it out, it was no good to me on the route, so it just sat
there” Joey said, “I’ll take a hundred and a half for it.” It didn’t
seem like a bargain at the time. Wizards were $250 and Cap’ns $350,
but I bagged it anyway. I figured with a baseball theme, I could turn
it quick enough. I got out of Joey’s place about three hours later
with another fifteen machines.

This time it was my garage that had them stacked like cord wood. I
kept five up and shopped at all times and put a second ad in the paper
in the Holiday gift section. Sales kept me busy.

One night a young guy came over. He looked about 19. He said he wanted
a pin, but his major concern was a warranty. I said “Well, these are
used games and there really isn’t any warranty available. If it
breaks, I can walk you through most fixes over the phone.”
He said he wanted a ninety day warranty and was willing to pay
additionally for that. The only game I really felt that comfortable
about was that Big Hit from the closed Deli. I told him the story and
said it only had about 400 plays on it and I’d warranty it for $300
above asking price. The only thing he said was “Sold”. A couple of
days later I delivered it. Nice looking house in a good neighborhood.
I guess this kid’s mommy and daddy were doing alright. I loaded the
pin on an appliance dolly and dragged it to the front porch. The kid
answered the door and led me to where it was going to be set up. In
the room was a keg cooler and a couch and five guys that looked like
they had been waiting to play pinball for their entire lives.

I worked quickly. I asked the guy if this was some kind of fraternity
or something. He said no, that he was the Western Regional sales
manager for a new shoe company called Nike and the five guys were his
sales team. They were a tight group and did most everything together.
By the time I was tightening up the last bolt in the head, they had
already lined up, waiting their turn to play. I gave the kid a quick
intro to the coin mechs, fuses and operation, handed him my card and
had him sign and date the maintenance card.

Things went smooth for about five days. He called and said one of the
flippers was acting weird and one of the lights wouldn’t light. I got
there in a couple of hours and was led back to the pin. The guys were
all sitting on the couch, waiting. It didn’t take me long to fix the
flipper and replace the lamp. I filled out the maintenance card and
logged the playmeter……1700 plays ?!?!? it’s only been five days. “hey
are you guys playing this 24 hours a day???” “Pretty Much” was the
response I got. Oh well…at least it wasn’t that far away.

I received two more calls in the next month, minor stuff considering
the constant work out it was receiving. Then it stayed fairly quiet.
As the 90th day approached, I called the kid to see how it was going.
He said it had been working fine. I told him I’d swing by and give it
a good cleaning and rubber replacement if he’d like, he was very
appreciative. Once again, I went back to the machine which of course
was being played. I announced that after this game, I’d have to work
on it for about twenty minutes. The “five” didn’t understand why I had
to interrupt them…the machine was working fine. I think the kid
intervened on my behalf. When I was done, I slid my card in the cash
box, shook the kid’s hand, wished him luck and went home. I never
heard from him again.

Today, January 23, 2009 I get an e-mail from Rick, another Team-EM
member in Michigan. He and Pete had gone over to a friends house to
work on a pin. It was a "Big Hit" the instruction manual had a rubber
stamp on it which read:

Arcade Amusements
Al Garber
(415) 364-1050

Michael J Thompson

May 10, 2023, 4:59:11 PMMay 10
Thanks very much Bob Langelius!
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