Created on 12-02-2002 - Last Updated 2-27-2016
[_____The Father of the Bingos_____]
Considering United beat Bally to the public with the first true bingo and considering United, Keeney, and Williams all had their own design engineers that quite the title to bestow on someone, but in this case – I think almost everyone agrees its more than appropriate and since one of the Senor Historians of all times quoted it (Mr. Richard Buschel) I don’t mind giving Mr. Hooker this title again today.
One day I opened up my email and found that a Mr. Russ Jensen wrote and I am so very thankful, neither my computer or myself deleted it by mistake. Russ had seen the first two webpages I released and advised corrections for both often – lol – After a mere handful of emails, Russ asked me for my mailing address and I passed it along never even wondering why, and again my luck was running large. I got a few things, this-and-that, and then a VHS shows up that
was awesome – A Don Hooker interview, that was pure gold in it’s self. Well Mr. Phil Hooper has taken copies from Raymond and myself, fixed them, and you can now download and view this wonderful history at your leisure:
~ Trust me and go watch it – This guy was the Man! ~
One of the interviewers interrupts Don more than he certainly should have, breaking apart some threads that should have been finished out, but still a wonderful picture is painted and it leaves the a smile on the face of the curious viewer and leaves them full of wonder and their imagination full of puzzling questions and dreams.
I like the fact it touches on Don’s having joined Bally early enough to have worked on the Horserace Games, which explains some of the design choices and history and will tie into the Reflex unit when we revisit it in greater detail. Don also touches on the atmosphere at Bally, sharing a few tales about Si and Ray and how relaxed things were and I think you can see in his expression and manner how it likely was a leading force behind his creativity and success.
Now here is a guy who designed at least three of the Horserace Games, including the famous Citation and backed up that with some 60 bingos directly under his belt, and the legacy behind all the following games that were at least 80-90% based upon his initial design concepts and work. I suspected Don was gone from Bally by the mid 60s at the latest and in the interview, I think Dick confirmed it to be 62” – Quite a career!
Don also touches on other technology he generated, including the dollar acceptor, a magnetic dice game, autotest equipment to test the sub-assemblies, and the “kicker” that he says he would have made millions on if he would have patented it. He speaks to the first step in designing the bingos as the need to calculate all of the odds and master them, or you simply didn’t know what you had – Also the reasoning for developing the autotest concept, so you knew the machine were built-to-print – One or two wires off on the assembly of a bingo, might not mean it wouldn’t work, but it likely meant that the odds would be off and it could cause the machine to be a looser. One of the edges he said bally had in their favor!
He eluded to working on the “floor” and even developing a way to test the tension of springs, to ensure they were in spec for the correct operation of the bingos – Don was obviously a hands-on designer involved in every aspect of the bingos – Front-to-Back and on out into the Field.
~ Billboard Magazine Jun 21st 1958 ~
~ Billboard Magazine Sept 25th 1961 ~
Christian Marfels 1998 Bally The Worlds Game Maker mentions Don on 5 pages:
Pg 31: “Shortly thereafter, Bally presented a novel pinball game, Surf Queens, which incorporated
Don Hooker’s patent of rebound effects on balls from bumpers, by holding the wafers in an elevated position.”
Pg 35: “Don Hooker was the mastermind behind Bally’s bingo games, and Bally set the standard in the years to come.”
Pg 38: After Ray stepped down: “Decision making rested now with the board of directors which consisted of
members of Ray Maloney’s family and some key Bally executives, such as Herb Jones, William O’Donnell,
Bud Breitenstein, Don Hooker, and Joseph Flech.”
Pg 39: “……..Ice Frolics, and Miami Beach, to name just a few. The engineering mentor of these
games was the one and only Don Hooker.”
Pg 75: “Yet there is more. At Pacific Amusement Company, Frank Nicolaus had worked with
another engineer, Donald Hooker, and on his recommendation, Ray Maloney hired Don
Hooker as well, and the rest is history, as one might say.”
Where did it all begin!