12-12 editor's notebook clifty creek waterfall man wearing a hat.jpg

Nature lover Jane Wooten-Mayo of Grayson passed along a fascinating photo provided by conditions after recent rains along Clifty Creek near Grayson Lake. Many observers immediately notice the image of a man wearing a hat, holding a fishing rod, made up of the falling water. The Journal-Times team hopes to resume photographing Carter County waterfalls in the weeks ahead. (Photo by Jane Wooten Mayo)

I was all smiles last week after speaking with Tommy Clay, owner of Clay Music Company in Belle, West Virginia.

Tommy returned my calls asking what had happened to a particular pinball machine which had been in the back room at the new Clark's Pump & Shop at Pleasant Valley.

“It’s actually in our shop,” Clay said, explaining maintenance is “very critical” for such complex and costly games.

The game in question, dedicated to the rock band Iron Maiden, will have the playing field polished and parts which wear will be reversed, he said, explaining the machine could indeed be returned to Olive Hill once the work is done.

Several of us were instantly addicted to the game, although we were often frustrated to find the table was all lit up, but not working. Clay offered the solution before I had even finished explaining the problem.

“All you have to do is turn it off and back on again,” he said.

We stayed on the phone for several minutes talking about our own “Evel Knievel days,” antique pinball tables, old video games and the days of arcades in America.

Pinball, he explained, remains popular with many players today, particularly in truck stops. The problem is that the tables themselves have become so expensive, the owner has a tough time getting their money back.

Clay himself, however, confesses he still loves pinball machines. He even sent a few photos of his own collection from warehouses in Belle, West Virginia, and noted he was fortunate to get more than a half dozen vintage pinball games included in the auction of seized items at Fannin Automotive.

I recalled “Space Invaders” and “Asteroids” were the first video games I ever played (both at the Pizza Hut in Paintsville, Ky.), then asked Clay how crazy the idea of a modern day arcade would be. He sort of sighed, then replied “You would be competing with every kid with a cell phone in their pocket. Kids today don’t appreciate Pac-Man like we do.”

Clay provided actual numbers from his business, although he asked me not to publish them. But, he made it clear the days of making a good living from a small fleet of video games and pinball machines are long behind us. His merchandise is now highly diversified and often dedicated to things like banking, rather than entertainment.

I am sure Clay is correct, and a business space devoted to quarter-consuming games would quickly be bankrupt in 2018 and beyond.

As an aging child of the 1970s and 80s, however, I would love to have such a place to spend a few quarters today.

Chamber awards

There was a friendly atmosphere at Carter Caves State Resort Park last week as Grayson Area Chamber of Commerce members and their guests gathered for the organization’s 41st annual awards dinner.

There was even an outstanding “small world” moment at Table 12, where 2018 Business Person of the Year Jeff Salyer and his family shared the evening.

I immediately noticed there is no “s” at the end of his name and joked that people nearly always say “Salyers” (just like the last name Daniel becomes Daniels).

I almost added, “I bet you’re from Flat Gap in Johnson County,” but figured that was too much of a long shot. When Carol Ann Fraley began reading about Mr. Salyer, however, I was surprised to hear her say he was indeed from the rural community of Flat Gap.

Within a moment of his return to the table, Salyer and I established our hometown credentials (I grew up in Thelma) as well as our love for musician Ray Salyer and his family.

The right tool

I was fooling around with my low-budget component stereo project last weekend when I realized I needed the right tool for the job, but had nothing like that at hand.

I was trying to cut lengths of speaker wire, and strip the ends in order to allow proper connection.

I really was standing there with a pocket knife and a Bic lighter, ready to really be an amateur about it, when a vision hit my little brain – a much used wire cutter and stripper tool on one of the tables in the rear of Man Cave Tools.

I had stopped at the new shop last week to get a few notes for the story you’ll find in this issue, and paid no attention at the time as I didn’t need such a tool at that moment.

I popped back in and there it was, exactly where I had pictured it. I’m pretty sure that will never happen again.

The best part? The tool had a bit of wear and even a touch of rust on the spring, so it was priced at $1.

It worked perfectly.

Tim Preston can be reached at tpreston@journaltimes. com, or by telephone at (606) 474-5101.

This Week's Circulars