January 25, 2006
By JOANIE BAKER Index-Journal staff writer

Twenty-five-year-old Seth Mundy works on dilapidated pinball machines as a hobby. Though the small building next to his house used to be a beauty parlor, Seth Mundy does not tinker with straightening the curls out of women's hair.Instead, the 25-year-old spends about two hours every other day curling and re-splitting the 28 miles of wire inside the inoperable pinball machines he works on as a hobby.When the former seventh-grade math teacher was working in Myrtle Beach, he passed by a yard sale and saw his first machine sitting on someone's manicured lawn. Mundy said he realized right away that he couldn't pass up a pinball machine for $20. Since he was 10 years old, he was fascinated by the machines because they are "more real than a video game because you're actually controlling the flippers." The only problem was, it didn't work, and Mundy had never attempted any mechanical work in his life."I drove everybody around me crazy for months asking them if they knew anybody who knew how to work on these things," said the classically sentimental Mundy, who also collects rock albums and sells original Nintendo games on eBay. "I finally found this old guy who had worked for an amusement company for the boulevard on the beach. I got his name from this guy who owned a skating rink. He had been working on those machines for years."And, like the Karate Kid's Mr. Miyagi and Daniel Laruso, Mundy and Van Owens, of Conway, started working together. Owens said his father had worked on pinball machines and he has been working on machines since he could get a wrench in his pocket at age 12 until recently at age 64 because of disabilities. Under the name "Pinball Wizard," from The Who's rock opera, "Tommy," Owens said he enjoys "playing with people" in chatrooms, but not as much as working on the classic machines."I love to work on them. It's a part of my life," Owens said. "I would be out there if I could work. You better believe I'd be out there busting my rear end fixing them."But teaching and helping Mundy repair the machines was just the right medicine for Owens to stay active in his passion and to pass on his knowledge."Seth is crazy like I am. He ain't got no sense. He's crazy," Owens said in a joking uncle-like tone. "I enjoy it because someone can learn it and carry it on. I don't mind showing nobody nothing." Owens claims that since he was struck by lightning at a young age, it "scared the electricity out of (his) body." Since then, Owens said he can tinker around in pinball machines without getting shocked. Mundy said Owens' "abilities" never ceased to amaze him."He could stick his fingers in a lightbulb socket and would say 'now don't you touch this,'" Mundy said. "You need a Popsicle stick to touch all these things inside and he'd just be grabbing them like it was nothing."Since Mundy moved back home to Greenwood, he said he has worked on and restored about 10 machines, making every effort to restore them instead of taking parts from different machines to make one good one. He said he usually buys machines for about $100 and has sold a few for as much as $1,000."I've never really bought a machine that just works," he said, "which would be really nice for me because I would love to have one I can just play."Mundy said a lot of people from the baby-boom generation seem to enjoy pinball machines for romantic reasons, bringing back childhood memories. But he said he was more surprised when his friends and people who had never mentioned liking them before started playing the machines whenever they came over."None of my friends or people I knew mentioned anything about wanting to play," he said. "But when I had four to five working, that's all they wanted to do was sit out there and play."

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