I’ve long been a fan of playing pinball. What I did not realize is how little I knew about the strange twists and turns associated with pinball in the 20th century. I learned all about this when I spent the day at the Sunshine Laundromat in Brooklyn, New York.
In summing up my experience at Sunshine Laundromat, I must say that it was one of the greatest pinball experiences I’ve ever had. In addition, I must add two other important points. First, the establishment provides a patron with other entertainment options as well. Second, I learned a great deal about history, particularly the history of pinball, during my visit at the Sunshine Laundromat.
It Really is a Laundromat
The first thing you need to know about the Sunshine Laundromat is that the name means something. The Sunshine Laundromat really is a laundromat, complete with real washing machines and dryers. Had I been so inclined, I could have done a load or two of laundry while at the venue.
I walked into the Sunshine Laundromat and was a bit disappointed. There were washing machines, dryers, and few classic pinball machines. The pinball machines really were of an iconic nature, but I expected so much more.
The Secret Door at Sunshine Laundromat
At what I thought was the rear of the establishment, I came upon what appeared to be a stacked washer and dryer. In fact, what looked like a stacked washer and dryer was a door that took me into a whole other world.
Walking through the disguised door, I entered into a space that featured more than a couple dozen iconic pinball machines, each one of them was a true classic. These machines included pinball gaming greats like Safe Cracker, Big Bang Bar, and many others.
Each of the machines was available not only for display, but for play. I spent hours have the most unique and enjoyable pinball experience of my life.
Libations at Sunshine Laundromat
There is a full bar with friendly, pinball experienced, bartenders on hand. The libations include some delectable craft brews and a myriad of cocktails, including some house specialties.
A History Lesson at Sunshine Laundromat
After playing on some great machines, and enjoying a couple craft brews, I was fortunate to obtain a history lesson and about pinball in New York City during the 20th century.
The first coin operated pinball went into use in the Big Apple in 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression. I learned that not only did coin operated pinball machines become a much enjoyed pastime for many people otherwise trying to survive the Great Depression, these games became controversial as well.
Pinball was pegged as a form of gambling in New York City, and in most every other major city in the United States. Efforts commenced to make pinball illegal. What I didn’t realize was that when coin operated pinball machines first went into use, they did not have flippers. Flippers didn’t appear on pinball machines until 1947.
Ultimately, the New York City Council banned pinball machines in the Big Apple. After the ban, on January 21, 1942, New York City police raided multiple establishments where pinball machines could be found. These included such businesses like arcades, candy stores, bowling alleys, bars, and amusement centers. Over 2,000 pinball machines were seized. This was thought to be about 20 percent of the total number of pinball machines in the city.
Once the machines were seized, police officers followed the example of law enforcement officials that seized liquor during Prohibition. These police officers took hatchets to the machines, destroying them.
Pinball Goes Underground
These raids resulted in pinball “going underground” in New York City and elsewhere in the country. Pinball machines were tucked away in dimmer pubs, adult bookstores, and the like. What I never imagined is that the pinball ban in New York and elsewhere remained the law until the mid 1970s.
The history of pinball, including the game being made illegal across a good part of the country, underscored what the disguised door at Sunshine Laundromat was all about. Indeed, as I think about, the entrance to the back room at the establishment, and the backroom itself, has something of a speakeasy look and feel about it.
In summary, if you have any interest in pinball, or if you as a person who enjoys learning about history, Sunshine Laundromat is a an establishment you must visit. You truly will have an incomparable experience that will not long be forgotten.
Jessica Kane is a writer for The Pinball Company, the best online source for new, used, and refurbished pinball machines, arcade cabinets, and more!