PARKERSBURG, W.Va. -- Walking into Stephen Scohy's house is like stepping back to a time when the Cold War was still going strong, Michael Jackson topped the Billboard charts and pinball machines aligned the walls of arcades nationwide.
Scohy, now 44 and self-employed, was just a teenager in the 1980's. He says he vividly remembers running down to the Escape Hatch, the Corner Pocket and FunLand arcades on the weekends and spending all day playing his favorite game -- pinball. He knew how to make $5 last all day.
"As a child, I would spend all week mowing lawns or shoveling snow to earn money to go to the arcade," Scohy said. "I was good at pinball. I had a crowd that would watch me play.
"I could make a quarter go a long way. I knew all the tricks to get free games."
When playing pinball, reaching a high score or striking targets multiple times will earn the player an extra ball or a bonus game.
"I would put in a quarter and use my skills to win 10 free games. I would then sell the free games for $1, therefore making a profit," Scohy said. "If I was on my last quarter, I would play an easy game so I could make my stay last longer."
Pinball is a vintage arcade game, usually coin-operated, in which players control one or more steel balls on a playfield inside a machine. The objective, like most games, is to score as many points as possible. Players use the flippers to shoot the ball toward targets to score points.
Some of Scohy's favorite pinball games are Rolling Stones, Black Knight and Solar Fire.
Rolling Stones features two fast ramps and a moving Mick Jagger target. It plays nearly 13 original Rolling Stones songs, including "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" and "Shattered." Stern Pinball, Inc. manufactured this machine and more than 19,000 were made.
Black Knight features two playing fields and allows players to navigate multiple balls at once. Solar Fire is a rare machine with less than 1,000 produced and was part three of a four-part series. Williams Electronics, Inc., a company that went under in the '80s, manufactured both machines.
Pinball was at its peak of popularity in the late '70s through the mid '80s. If you ask Scohy, he'll tell you he prefers games from that era.
That's evident when peeking inside his North Hills basement. He has a total of 38 pinball machines, as well as 24 upright video games -- most of which were manufactured between 1976 and 1984. Although he has 62 games at home, he has more than 20 in storage.
"I've transformed my basement into an arcade. This is my hobby and I'm addicted to it. I can't help it," Scohy said. "I'm stuck in the '80s and this hobby is what keeps me from going crazy."
His basement walls are adorned with memorabilia, including placards advertising arcade games, RC cola advertisements, a stoplight and neon signs that read "Arcade" and "Game Room."
Scohy has added a payphone, a 1940's candy machine, drive-in speakers, a gumball and slot machine to his basement. He also has a Coca Cola machine that was used when cans did not have tabs, as well as a Freddy Kruger doll that speaks.
"I mainly collect pinball machines but I'm pretty much addicted to things that take dimes or quarters," Scohy said. "There's just something fascinating with putting a coin in, turning the knob and getting something in return."
To save money, Scohy prefers to buy pinball machines that need fixed. He's become a pro at repairing them considering he has repaired nearly 60.
"If machines are broke, I can usually can get them between $50 to $100. I may spend a couple hundred to get them repaired," he said. "If I were to get a brand new machine, I would be looking at around $5,000. It's more cost effective to fix them. I actually enjoy it, though."
Scohy has bought most of his pinball machines from EBay and other sites. He also attends three pinball shows a year that are located in Allentown, Penn., York, Penn. and Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The shows feature flea markets in which pinball wizards like Scohy can buy pinball merchandise.
Scohy has dedicated an entire basement wall to parts. He says he throws nothing away.
"I'm actually having more fun fixing them now than I did playing them," Scohy said. "It's not brain surgery. If a game is not working, I have to know why. I always have something to do."