MIDLOTHIAN — The lights and sounds at the Texas Pinball Museum give visitors the impression a window into the past has opened. For only $10 admission, people can experience the joy and thrill of an arcade that’s only a short drive away in Midlothian.
Ed and Kim VanderVeen and Paul McKinney opened the museum to share their passion for pinball and the good times the game fosters with the public. The idea came out of the Texas Pinball Festival they put on in March of each year.
“We have been putting on the show for several years,” Ed VanderVeen said. “Collectors from all over the country and the world come. It’s thousands and thousands of people. It is a big, big show.
“We live here in Midlothian and the rest of the year the show has gotten so big that it has taken over our house and garage. It just has gotten ridiculous,” he said. “So, Paul and I and Kim said, ‘Let’s see if we can find a place here in Midlothian that we can open up as a nonprofit. It can act as an office for the pinball show and we will be open on Saturdays to see if people want to come and play.’”
The nonprofit museum’s mission statement notes that it “promotes the interactive art, science, history and culture of pinball machines, arcade video games and coin-operated mechanical amusement machines to promote and preserve them for current and future generations.”
VanderVeen’s interest in pinball and arcade games came about when he was a teenager and spent time playing “Galaga,” “Pacman” and “Donkey Kong.”
“When my youngest daughter was born, eBay was kind of new and was organized like Craigslist,” he said. “One day, my daughter wasn’t sleeping so I had her on my shoulder and I am surfing eBay at like 2 in the morning and an old arcade game came up called ‘Karate Champ’ for $100 in Fort Worth. I thought that would be so cool. So, I bought that and had to learn how to fix it.
“I then started meeting people who were into that hobby,” VanderVeen said. “That led me to meeting the guys that originally ran the Texas Pinball Festival when it started. That is where I bought my first pinball machine, which was a ‘Spiderman.’ I learned how to restore that and fix it. That turned into two machines, which turned into three machines. Pretty soon, my garage was full.”
VanderVeen said his wife Kim shares his passion for pinball and remarked that she is a “better player” than he is on the games.
The Texas Pinball Museum has machines from the 1970s up to the present day. These include classics like “Captain Fantastic,” “Space Mission” and “Sharpshooter,” along with new machines like “Lord of the Rings,” “The Addams Family” and “The Avengers.”
“Currently, the machines I have set up are from the mid-1970s all the way through 2019,” he said. “We have got the newest ‘Munsters’ game that came out and several electro-mechanical games from the 1970s.
“Pinball goes back to the 1800s,” VanderVeen said. “It’s called pinball because they originally didn’t have flippers; they just had pins, nails, in the game. The object was when the ball went up, you had to physically shake the game to make the ball go where you wanted it to go. It would go into the hole and you would then add up the points. As technology and things progressed, the game got more fun.
“In the 1930s, they added flippers,” he said. “That was on a game called ‘Humpy Dumpty.’ We actually have one of those. At some point, I will get around to restoring it. That will be a neat addition.”
VanderVeen said the response from everyone who has come out has been great, from visitors who’ve never seen a pinball machine to those who haven’t seen one in several years. Along with locals visiting, the museum also attracted musician Ed Robertson, the co-founder of the band Barenaked Ladies. Vanderveen and Robertson became friends after meeting in 2014 at a Texas Pinball Festival.
“He is a big pinball aficionado and collects pinball machines,” VanderVeen said of Robertson. “When his band and Hootie and the Blowfish came through Dallas a few weeks ago, we got together and I asked him if he wanted to see the museum. He said ‘absolutely.’
“He came down; we were closed that day anyway,” VanderVeen said. “We hung out here and played pinball that day. He bought one of the machines from us and we delivered it to the concert. He put it in one of his tour vans and it’s still on the road with him right now as far as I know.”
Robertson bought an old electro-mechanical from the early 1970s called “Joker Poker,” VanderVeen said, noting that Robertson already had a “Deadpool” machine he takes with him on tour in a road case.
The museum is open most Saturdays but VanderVeen advises people to check its Facebook page to ensure they don’t make a trip if it’s closed. Museum hours are from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Admission to the museum is $10, which is good all day. Children are $7.
Visitors receive a wristband that allows them to come and go as they like without having to pay to reenter. The machines are set up in free play mode, so no quarters are required.
“We try to open every Saturday but Kim has a full-time job, Paul has a full-time job and life is busy,” VanderVeen said. “It is just a way for us to share our passion for pinball, classic arcade games and old school jukeboxes with the community.”
The Texas Pinball Museum is located at 2100 N. U.S. Highway 67, Suite 2102, in Midlothian.
For more information, search for Texas Pinball Museum on Facebook or visit the website at www.texaspinball.com/museum/.