by Alessio Crisantemi


Much anxiety about nothing…
It was really a success

Although we believed in our project, we were somehow afraid of not succeeding or failing to meet the public’s expectations. Despite these reservations, we decided to go ahead.

Happy Days” is based on an idea by a group of editors from “L’Automatico”, and the success we have achieved has been our biggest satisfaction: it was the sort of challenge where no matter whether it was an outstanding success or failure, it would not change our ideals.

As it is said: No matter how it goes, it is already a success.
As it is said: The first time is only an early stage in which mistakes give you experience.

And it has really been a success beyond all our expectations, and those of other colleagues in the business. We are really satisfied, and there is no point in hiding our happiness.

Since the very beginning we have run into several problems which have interrupted our job and hampered our plans, but finally they've all gone and what really matters now is that the public visiting the first Happy Days exhibition have fun, and those who attended this show may come next time too.

We now realise that at the eve of the show's opening, the words “next time” were for us synonymous with “next year”, but today they mean “next show”. This is because the 6th and 7th January were really happy days for us and although we still don’t have a final date for the next event, it is definitely coming.

Few months ago, when we first talk about organizing a “Happy Days” and first made contact with the collectors for the exhibition, we were largely criticized because of the dates chosen - the 6th and 7th of January - were not easy days in which to move into Terni (Happy Days’ location).

The fact is that collectors are really eccentric people, whose attention and curiosity about something new must be inspired… otherwise, they would not be collectors. !? Besides, moving pinballs and juke-boxes is not as simple as moving a stamp collection! But that's not to criticise someone who chose to visit our exhibition just as a spectator.

One of our main goals for this first show was to ensure the public were excited when visiting the exhibition, but in the end “only time will tell”.

Happy Days represents the introductory step in trying to shine a new light on this particular field, which in the recent years, has been eclipsed because of a few negative impressions ranging from the illegal use and consequent seizure of the games to the controversial and never-ending laws.

Considering the golden era of the automatic machines, which has created a positive and lasting impression on human history, the best thing to do is look back to the past happy days.

People and collectors who understood our intentions, didn’t hesitate to contribute to our project, moving from their cities and delighting our exhibition with the presence of some of the rarest pieces never seen before.


During the preliminary works, while the theatre was being set up, two of the exhibitors withdrew their participation because they didn’t have enough time to prepare pieces to exhibit or they just couldn’t make the move from their cities to the event. These are the normal problems which can happen and which test the organisers when the final countdown to opening has begun.

The setting-up of the pieces which began a few days before the opening was a hard work, in which attention was given to even the smallest details to produce a unique atmosphere which allowed the pieces’ values as well as their beauty to be clearly shown. Once every piece had been placed, coloured lights were chosen and strategically positioned. Moreover, music and videos completed the scenery to help create the true atmosphere of those unforgettable two days.

10 o’clock of the morning of 6th January was the deadline by which everything had to be ready. No need to say that in the early morning, in a tense atmosphere, collectors and organizers were giving the theatre the final touch.

Ten o’clock: everything ready, the music played, the curtain raised.

Beyond all our expectations, only a few moments after the opening, lots of visitors of all different ages were walking down the corridors inside the theatre. Our greatest satisfaction was in seeing their amazement and the smiling eyes turned towards these rarities. Predictably, children were so joyful and interested in the games that their eyes shone with happiness.

Unexpectedly, parents and grand-fathers, who intended to allow their nephews to play pinballs, were able to re-live some events of their youth evoked by the music of twist and rock’n roll.

We were helped in achieving a real spectacle by the exhibition of several antique motorcycles, record collections and magazines as well as a wonderful pink Cadillac: a mass of details, a mixture of colours and lights together with the charm of the shining pinballs, juke-boxes and slot machines allowed us to create a fantastic atmosphere.

Besides the scenery, a soft background music, sometimes interrupted by the sound of any little bells or any records accidentally loaded in one of the numerous juke-boxes, was spreading around people like a delightful veil of nostalgia.

Happy Days Special

More than a hundred "stars" came together to provide the public with an open-eyes dream including the oldest piece, built ages ago and the Buffalo Bill, of which only 500 pieces have ever been built.

Seventy pinballs, twenty-three slot-machines, seven juke-boxes, video games and several other devices are the numbers for Happy Days.

But numbers are not the most important matter: slot-machines, except for the two "Indianino", managed by Novaro Noci and Luca Terrabusi, seemed to be brand new, for they looked so shiny all lined up in a row starting from the oldest built in 1910 to the youngest one dated 1936. By the way, none of them were made in Italy but all coming from the United States. The whole looked like a museum parade in which most pieces are almost impossible to find in our country.

Nothing was left to chance as far as the pinballs are concerned. Twenty three of the seventy pieces had been manufactured before 1960 and among the whole, a few were extremely rare items, details of which are given below according to their importance. Williams and Gottlieb were major forces in the pinball business in the past as well as in more recent times.

The most important and rarest Gottlieb manufactured game was Buffalo Bill, of which only 500 pieces were built in 1950.

From the ‘50s also are Daisy May and Lady Luck (released in 1954 with 600 and 700 pieces), Wild West (1951 / 800 pieces), Bank A Ball (1950 / 816 pieces), Globe Trotter (1951 / 910 pieces), Dragonette (1954 / 950 pieces), Alice in Wonderland (1948 / 1000 pieces), Classy Boiler (1956 / 1100 pieces); also, Happy Days (1952 / 2200 pieces), Jockey Club (1954 / 1150 pieces), Roto Pool (1958 / 1800 pieces), Silver (1957 / 2100 pieces) and finally Queen of Hearts (1952 / 2200 pieces) and World Champ (1957 / 2300).

William’s manufactured games were Hayburners (1951), Turf Champ (1958), Hong Kong (1952) and Reno (1957). Including slot-machines, the whole collection, mentioned above was entirely owned by a single collector from Rome.

Other games manufactured in the ‘50s were Komet (produced by Treff Automaten and exhibited by Andrea Savini), Kings (1957–Williams / by Dino Merluzzi), Ace High (1957 / 2100 pieces released / by the Romagna Games) and another example of World Champ (exhibited by Novaro Noci).

From the ‘60s and ‘70s are : Play Pool (Gottlieb ’73), Ten Up (Gottlieb ‘73), two examples of Card Trix (Gottlieb ‘70), On Beam (Bally ‘69), Psychedelic (Gottlieb ‘70), Top Hand (Gottlieb ‘73), Hurdy Gurdy (Gottlieb ’66), Cow Poke (Gottlieb ‘65), Subway (Gottlieb ‘66), Race Way (Midway ‘63), Gigi (Gottlieb ’63), Elite Guard (Gottlieb ‘68), Tivoli (Gottlieb ‘68), Sky Dive (Gottlieb ‘74), Lucky Strike (Gottlieb ’75), El Dorado (Gottlieb 75), Jungle Life (Gottlieb ’73), two Rock Stars (Gottlieb ’78), Jackpot (Bem ’76), Crocket (Giorgio Massiero ‘76), Rocket III (Bally ’67), Hi-lo (Gottlieb ‘69), Harmony (Gottlieb ‘67), Fun Fair (Gottlieb ’69) and a Volley (Gottlieb ’76).

Furthermore there was a Buck Rogers (Gottlieb ’79), exhibited by the Ternana Games , renovated by Pascal Janin, a Cocktail Table “Star Trip”, built in 1979 by Game Plan and some other pieces of more recent manufacture.

From the ‘80s were: Special Force, Hard Body, Star Wars, brought by Ternana Games, a Check Point, owned by Daniele Verrocchio and a Cyclone, a Big Guns, a Space Station, a Fire, a Tomcat by Dino Merluzzi.

Finally pinballs from the ’90s were: Party Zone, X-Files and The Addams Family exhibited by Fulbio Fabiani.

As far as juke-boxes are concerned, although most of them were built by Seeburg, it is worth mentioning the legendary Ami, from the TV-series Happy Days.

Finally among video games we can find the first version of Arkanoid, an electromechanical Basket-Ball and a target shooting from the early ‘70s: Shoot-Out.

If the list of our “stars” didn’t meet anyone’s expectations we’d be glad to see even more at the next “Happy Days” show.

Alessio Crisantemi

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