Ballston Spa couple transforms home into pinball paradise

December 01, 2017 05:28 PM

BALLSTON SPA - George Riley of Ballston Spa has always loved cars.

"I like restoring classic cars, muscle cars," he explained.

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Riley also owns a few beauties.

However, in 1996 when he and his wife were outfitting their finished basement, he and his wife, Pat, thought it would be cool to have a pinball machine.

"One to go with the rest of the room and I thought that would be it," she admitted.

However, George was hooked and one pinball machine became two, then three, then 10 and then, 230 machines. That included around 150 or so machines set up at one time.

George didn’t even care for pinball when he was a kid. Neither did Pat. However, something about the machines – the lights, the sounds, just got under their bumpers.

"It’s habit forming," admitted George. "Each machine is so different from the other machines. It just becomes addictive to want to have more than one."
"It’s amazing how we collected so many," admitted Pat.

The couple traveled all over the country, even up to Canada on "Pinball Pilgrimages." George had a particular interest in solid-state machines made by Gottlieb. He set out to own all of them – and he did.

"There’s only four people in the world that were known to have all those machines and we’re the only ones to have them all set up.

Problem is, their home in Ballston Spa couldn’t accommodate hundreds of pinball machines, so they made their home bigger. In addition to building another room for the machines, there’s also a building in the backyard that was constructed to house the pinball machines.

It’s certainly unusual – so much so it landed them in Volume 3 of the "Pinball Compendium" by Australian author Michael Shalhoub.

The Riley collection has started to shrink some in recent years. It had to once it became hard to walk around.

Riley has been selling them off – a few here, a few there and getting back to his car collection. That’s not to say it’s "GAME OVER" for pinball.

"I’ll never be out of pinball machines, by no means," assured Riley. "They’ll still be pinball machines here. My kids and our kids will have to worry about doing something with them down the road," he laughed.


WNYT Staff

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