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A Family-Friendly Game with a Ridiculous Illicit Past Comes to Olympia, Wa.

Mafia, Car Bombings in Seattle, Corrupt New York Politicians and the Innocent Game Caught in the Middle.

According to the Seattle Times, the game once lead to a string of car bombings, dead bodies, and a corruption sting that led to indictments against the Seattle Council President, A King County Sherriff, and government officials from top to bottom.  

“Children and minors who play these machines and frequent the establishments where the machines are located sometimes commit petty larcenies in order to obtain funds, form bad associations and are often led into juvenile delinquency and eventually into serious crime,” stated New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia whose concerns echoed sentiments occasionally heard today. 

That game is none other than Pinball. Pinball has a strangely hilarious past. Wrongly targeted by overzealous politicians, pinball was nearly eradicated.

Photo’s provided by Olympia Pinball Museum

The results of LaGuardia’s vendetta against Pinball was a game that was illegal to own or operate, which could result in substantial monetary fines and up to a year in jail. The law lasted in New York City until 1976. South Carolina only recently made Pinball legal for minors to play in 2019 with their recently active laws stating.

“SECTION 63-19-2430. Playing Pinball.

 It is unlawful for a minor under the age of eighteen to play a pinball machine…

(9) “Status offense” means an offense which would not be a misdemeanor or felony if committed by an adult including, but not limited to, incorrigibility or beyond the control of parents, truancy, running away, playing or loitering in a billiard room, playing a pinball machine, or gaining admission to a theater by false identification.”

The South Carolina law is simply one of many throughout the country that has long been unenforced, but stuck around despite the the popularity of games like Call of Duty.

The Olympia Pinball museum, locally owned and family operated (Real Family not Mafia Family) by Welby and Tonya Bergum along with help from their son and daughter, are opening the pinball museum on July 3rd. Admission prices are 20 dollars for adults, 15 dollars for children–No quarters necessary!

Meet the Bergum’s, owners of Olympia’s newest unique attraction!

During a year, where traditional July 4th festivities are going to be far and few between, the Olympia Pinball Museum is an excellent opportunity to get out and do something fun with the family.  

Welby informed me they have been collecting Pinball machines for the last 25 years. Their collection of more than 80 games includes machines that are 60 plus years old. Their collection also includes 1979’s Hercules, which is not only one of less than 10 remaining machines in the world, but it’s also the largest pinball machine in the world. 

This will be their second grand opening. It was a grand opening the Bergum’s were not sure was going to happen. Like many other businesses, they faced an unexpected inability to do business, while unfortunately still having many of the costs it takes to run a business.

Welby said, “Our lease started February 1st. We opened on March 1st. We were only open for 6 business days when we closed on March 13th due to COVID-19. We are still paying on the lease. The building owner owns the market next door, and he is struggling as well.”

How do you play Pinball?

Welby informed me, “Each pinball machine has a playing card to the left that will show you the sequence to hit the targets and how to get special features of the games. Each game is unique and has its own hidden features. Most games have a skill shot, bonus multiplier, multi-ball – the newer the game, the more multi-ball(s) features you will have. Some games even have a video game mode, where you use the flippers to run from a dog or shoot things like UFOs out of the air. Each game is super unique to its own theme and gameplay. Some may have one flipper button all the way to 4 flipper buttons. You would have to stop into the museum and play them all to see all the different features the games have. You can even ask anyone with a staff shirt about the features for a certain game, and we can tell you all about it! Pinball and arcades are our passion, and we love to share it with our community!”


Written by Amanda Finn

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