The changing market for woodrail pinball machines.

Woodrail flipper pinball machines were manufactured from 1948 up until the late 1950s. Aptly named because of the absence of stainless steel metal rails alongside the playfield glass. In fact, up until about 1955, all machines were supplied with hardwood legs as opposed to metal. Both the upper and lower arches of the playfield were also milled from hardwood as well. The only real metal to be found on these classic machines were in the mechanisms.

Woodrail pinball machines peaked in value in and around 2003-2005. A typical woodrail that would have easily fetched $1500 or more in the collector circles now only realizes about 60% of that amount, on average, unless you are buying an example in exceptionally good original condition. Sadly, not many machines of this quality caliber exist today. It would be safe to say that the hands of the workers or skilled craftsmen who built these machines are long gone. Today, it is also estimated that games built in the 1950s have an average survival rate of 5%. 50 machines out of 1000 produced isn’t much.

To really appreciate these games, you have to get into the groove of the era. Forget any comparisons to more modern machines. The speed and depth of play, light shows and sounds are not even in the same ballpark. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and should not be seen as such either. In actual fact, many of these games should be considered marvels of engineering and manufacturing, considering that they are now between 50-60 years old or more! If you take the time to study and understand the nature of a woodrail, you will soon realize that most titles possess a fair amount of depth to the game play.

Back in the day, it was all about replays (free games) which could be enjoyed or cashed out by the operator of the establishment. And with most woodrail games, there are multiple ways to win replays.

For me, the other draw is in the art and the themes of the games. You can really place yourself into the era of these machines but becoming engrossed in the art. What was trending, popular or desirable at the time? It’s all there. Forget licensing. The artists were able to create their own worlds from their own imagination. Today, everything seems to be packaged around a media mogul, ultimately backed by a huge corporate entity. In 50 years, what messages will this be delivering about society today?

So if you get a chance, reach into your pocket, pull out a nickel, and step back in time. Imagine the hands that have touched the game. Where has it been? Who has played it? At which locations did it live? How many stories could the machine tell, and what ghosts or spirits may still be lurking…

Have some fun and appreciate the history and evolution of pinball!


Beth Hoeckel

These gently apocalyptic images are mixed media collages by artist Beth Hoeckel. The dreamlike quality draws you into another world of a futuristic past. An impression of the future reflecting on a bygone era. A 1950’s futurism study.

They are brilliantly entising, you wonder about the situation, the story behind the collated image.

As though you have jumped into a famous five or secret seven story, but way better.

All images from her website here.

Finally Marilyn did her first exercise in class, a “song and a dance.” My dad [Lee Strasberg] had developed it to deal with inhibitions and expression that was often tied up when the actor got in front of an audience. Most actors just sang “Happy Birthday” because they were afraid they’d forget the words. Marilyn picked a harder song. She stood up there alone and began to sing, “I’ll get by as long as I’ve got you…” Well, the tears began to pour down her face. She kept her concentration, not wiping them away. She was sobbing and singing, and when she finished everyone in the room wanted to run up onstage and hold her. She beamed a luscious smile through her tears. There were still some skeptics—“Well, thats not acting”—but she had won over some of her toughest critics. These kids were snobs. They looked down on movie actors. They were in theater.

Next she did her first scene in the private class. She’d been watching for over a year. It was from Odet’s Golden Boy. Sometimes when she was nervous, she’d erupt in hives. Other times she’d relapse into a childhood stutter. Marilyn’s great fear was that under pressure, in front of people, she might freeze as she’d done on movie sets. Some people thought she was dumb when she was just plain terrified.

She was scared. Even my father was nervous, though with his phlegmatic manner it was hard to tell. Attendance was on and off in classes. That day the room was full, SRO. Everyone had brought along their “show me” attitude. They were going to see if Pop had sold out his ideals for fame and notoriety with the greatest sex symbol in the world.

She was playing Lorna Moon, a woman who wants desperately to change from her old life of conniving and hustling because she has fallen in love. Marilyn started slowly. The scene opened on a hot stifling day, and she created the heat of the day so well, she actually began to sweat.

The initial jealousy and resentment of the other students melted as the scene began. She moved around, doing bits of business. This was a Marilyn no one had ever seen on the screen. Her movements were natural, graceful, not the exaggerated sexy walk she was famous for. She was a real person. When she spoke, there was nothing to dispel the humanity and simplicity of that impression. She gazed at an imaginary road before her. “Look at all those cars…” She was gutsy, vulnerable, charming, sad, in love, desperate, soft, with an edge…no whispering or breathiness, just herself.

The scene ended. Before his critique, Pop couldn’t resist turning around to the roomful of students and asking, “So, was that excellent or not?” She’d proven herself that day before one of the toughest audiences she would ever have. She was justifiably proud of herself afterward, like a kid who’d crossed the street for the first time. It was obvious my father was proud, too. He also looked relieved. “You were wonderful,” I told her. I meant it.

- Susan Strasberg, Marilyn and Me



An exhibition of Parks’ rare color photographs, entitled “Gordon Parks: Segregation Story,” will go on view this fall at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The photos capture a particularly disturbing moment in American history, captured via the lives of an African American family, the Thorntons, living under Jim Crow segregation in 1950s Alabama. See all of the photos here.