Rockbrat Remembers: Fonzies Pinball Parlours, Henry Winkler & Abe Saffron

Atari Hercules – circa 1979

On a previous post I penned about pinball and The Manly Fun Pier, I made reference of a pinball parlour called ‘Fonzies’ at Collaroy, on Sydney’s northern beaches that Mr. Rockbrat and I used to frequent. We were dead keen for the silver ball, as we used to rather walk or pedal down this ridiculously steep street to get to Fonzies. Wasn’t so bad going down, but heading back, it was a long bloody walk! I have been reading a book called the Pinball Compendium, and it threw my memory back to the various other places we used to play pinball. Let me digress though. I can clearly remember in 1979/1980 when the Space Invaders explosion broke. Was this first commercially produced video game the one that drove the first nail in the coffin of pinball? Maybe, maybe not. I recall piling the coins into those table top space invader machines, from Blue Waters (where you’d still get change for a dollar after a game of Space Invaders, can of Coke and paddle pop) – to the Laundromat at the Top Shops, to The Duck-In and other places that are now lost from memory. Yet it was always pinball over Spacies – and Fonzies though was the king – Pinballs galore, juke box playing, soda machine – what more did a kid need ? What I didn’t know was that Fonzies at Collaroy was part of chain of “leisure centres” that opened in 1979 all across Sydney, and that The Fonz himself had invested his money into these as well. Not that I remember, but according to this old edition of The Sydney Morning Herald from July, 1979, Henry Winkler also came out to Australia in November, 1979 to launch the pinball centres – and he was bought out here by Alan Saffron – son of “entrepreneur” Abe Saffron, that’s right, “Mr Sin”, “the boss of the Cross” . Fonzies existed in 10 locations across NSW, from Wollongong, Rozelle, Newcastle etc – as well as the original parlour in Kings Cross. The  article makes reference to the world largest pinball machine, “The Mighty Hercules”, which Im sure was located at the Collaroy. Atari put out Hercules, with the pinball being roughly the size of a cue ball! Anyway, here is the old article. Sit on it Malph……

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