Raymond Maclane Proutt


February 2nd, 1942 to November 19th, 2009



………………As soon as Billy’s parents had dropped off to sleep, we’d scamper out the second floor window.  The late 1950s were the heyday of coin-operated gambling machines in Maryland.  Waldorf, on the southern shore, was the Mecca, but Boomtown was its own Promised Land.  The GIs stationed across the road were easy converts, but so were the sons of their noncoms and occasional commanding officers.  Every bar, bistro, and hamburger joint up and down the strip possessed two or three gambling machines, often in a variety that was frankly bewildering.  The great thing for us, there was no age-limit.  If you could reach the coin slot, you could gamble with your grandfather.  We turned up our noses at the fruit-laden one-armed bandits.  They were for suckers. Our hearts belonged to the bingo-pinball machines.  They drew us in like moths to a flame. Glass-covered labyrinths of bright paint and garish lights, they were pocked with 25-numbered holes into which you tried to guide five steel balls. Coax three or more of them into the right alignment, and you won. Sometimes you won big.  For the more nickels you fed into the machine, the higher you might drive up the odds.  You might even luck out and bribe the machine into unlocking sections of the game board, which could then be rotated like some one-dimensional Rubik’s cube, creating new combinations for winning really, really big. We were drunk on our pinball wizardry, positive we could beat the machine’s tilt mechanism every time.  All it really took was the subtle nudge, the gentle slap, and the careful hula.  Master those fine-motor skills, and you could manipulate gravity itself, caroming the steel ball off pegs and springboards straight into the desired hole. But it was all self-deception. There wasn’t a slot on the planet capable of fattening racketeer bank accounts faster than the bingo-pinball machine. Its Chicago-based manufacturer had fixed the gears that set the odds and controlled the payout.  Still, we stayed up all night emptying our commissary earnings into those cash-boxes, tethered to the forlorn hope one of us might score a bonanza and spot dejected onlookers to the consolation of hamburger with fries. The number of evenings this happened, I can’t precisely recall. But it must have been at least a dozen times, and maybe way more, if truth be told ……………..








~ Bingo Pinballs – “The 1950s” ~



Last Updated 11-08-2010