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GameRoom Review of Pinball and World War 2

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Following here is a review of Pinball and World War 2, 2nd Edtion, published in the June 1998 issue of GameRoom magazine. The review was written by GameRoom publisher Tim Ferrante.The article is reprinted with the permission of GameRoom and may not be reproduced or copied in any fashion without the prior consent of GameRoom.

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PINBALL AND WORLD WAR 2 (2nd Edition) by Terry Cumming, (No ISBN number) 120p, spiral bound, 8.5" x 11" illustrated, b/w.

Canadian pinball enthusiast Terry Cumming has again chosen a slice of silverball history and delivers this interesting study of wartime conversion pingames and the culture that spawned them. This was an era of factory re-toolings and flamboyant patriotism, entire industries fitted with new manufacturing equipment to produce vital supplies for the massive war effort.

Not even the lowly pinball manufacturers were immune; D. Gottlieb, Bally, Genco, Chicago Coin and the others were required to cease game production. This four-year production halt provided an opportunity for the entrepreneurial minded to keep the supply of new titles flowing via conversion kits and techniques. By recycling pre-war equipment donning new backglasses and playfield art, thematic creations such as Smack the Japs, Bomb the Axis Rats and Keep 'Em Flying were unleashed upon a unified country. Providing a visceral outlet for the pervasive disdain towards America's enemies, they boosted morale and helped maintain the fighting spirit "back home."

To mount the tale, Cumming relied heavily on period Billboard magazines to provide the visual and historic documentation. It's an enormous undertaking, but the author doesn't simply slap pictures on a page. He reveals a larger portrait of a populace thinking, breathing, and moving in unison. It's an interesting assembly because you're reliving the war from the coin-op industry's perspective.

Among the many chapters are the patriotic advertisements from the manufacturers. Bally's efforts ... "contributes to the deadly efficiency of American battle planes," Exhibit's plant "is dedicated to war work," and Chicago Coin devoted, "100% of our efforts to vital war mechanisms." This proud outcry of the determination to win by the amusement machine community is combined with chapters that include a conversion machine game list, industry stories, period images of all sorts, and even a pinball historian checklist!

This second edition corrects the earlier edition's image clarity problems and while some adverts still suffer from their murky origins, to simply have them all under one cover is achievement enough. Cumming's homegrown publishing empire has produced another winner and we recommend his other book, A Catalog of Early 30's Pinball Ads (see review GameRoom, Dec 97) as the pair are a terrific way to quickly grasp the early days of the silverball.

© Tim Ferrante and GameRoom magazine, 1998.

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Last updated: May 11, 2005

© Terry Cumming, 2000-2005