The good ol’ days are alive in Hopkins

BY MIKE HANKS – SUN NEWSPAPERS

I’ll stop short of waxing philosophic about the good ol’ days, but I find that increasingly difficult to do.

I wouldn’t give up many of today’s conveniences for the limitations of the good ol’ days, but advances in technology and changes in the marketplace have threatened some of the simple pleasures of yesteryear, and that saddens me.

Anyone who knows me knows one of my favorite pastimes in recent years has been pinball. I’m not an expert on the subject, I didn’t grow up playing pinball, and I don’t spend as much time enjoying the game today as I would like to.

I played an occasional game of pinball as a youngster, but I was a child of the ‘80s, Pac-Man was my game. It wasn’t until five or six years ago that I discovered the magic of pinball, a game that has evolved over hundreds of years and owes its modern incarnation to the introduction of flippers in 1947.

The pinball industry has had its ups and downs since then, and for all the technology introduced into the simple concept of the game, I fear that it is nearing extinction.

I don’t really expect pinball manufacturing to cease in my lifetime, but the proliferation of the game has sagged exponentially since the last pinball renaissance of the early ‘90s, when digital displays became the industry standard and enhanced traditional gameplay.

Modern pinball no longer costs a quarter, but I’d have a hard time arguing that the cost of a game – typically three or four quarters – has kept up with the cost of doing business, from both a manufacturing and operational standpoint.

That’s what makes today’s anniversary all the more impressive. For more than four decades SS Billiards of Hopkins has provided a place to play pool and pinball. Unlike bowling alleys or bars that augment their income with a pool table or pinball machine, SS Billiards has survived primarily on the demand for felt tables and wood playfields.

Today, Sept. 20, marks 40 years of continuous operation under the same family’s ownership. (The business opened under its original owner in November 1970.) And it’s a throwback to an era that predates the Internet and fancy home video game systems.

For those of us who enjoy pinball as much, or more, today as we did when we were kids, local businesses providing an outlet for our passion are few and far between.

Just as roller rinks, drive-in movie theaters and record stores have been relegated to nostalgic novelties from days gone by, the arcades that served as homes for the latest and greatest in pinball entertainment have fallen off the map, too.

I have no idea what the future has in store for SS Billiards, but I know enough to know that the odds are stacked against a 50th and 60th anniversary celebration. I hope it beats the odds, as I really don’t want to reminisce about the good ol’ days in three or five years.

If you didn’t know that the good ‘ol days are alive and well in Hopkins, find some time to stroll down memory lane. SS Billiards encompasses everything we like to wax nostalgic about, yet affords us an opportunity to make new memories. Get ‘em while you can.

For more information about SS Billiards, visit ssbilliards.com.

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