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Greaves Amusements Story PT2

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2021 9:15 pm
by steinslots
Some time ago I provided some historical information regarding the Leicester company Greaves Amusements. I've known the Greaves family since I was about 10 years old when they were re-manufacturing Bally bandits (actually they weren't officially endorsed by the Bally Corporation and Bally didn't take too kindly to their name being used on the new revamped artwork and flyers which is why Greaves used the name 'Ballymagic' later on). Greaves still had a number of Mills machines and Jennings Governor console club machines sited at clubs and casino's in the city, plus a few Mills/Sega vest pocket machines. Most of these were replaced with the shiny new Bally's in the late 70's and anything mechanical was considered junk. However I'd always wanted a mechanical bandit but I guess I should have been born earlier! Mark described how they smashed the wooden console cases and took the mechanisms and castings to Frank Berry's scrapyard to weigh-in. Frank was quite shrewd and had realised their potential and hung onto them for years, and he probably made a killing from them! Mark told me whereabouts they had dumped the remainder of the carcasses at Whetstone tip. Most of it was buried under tonnes of land-fill, but I do remember finding remnants of some side panels and some relays there once...

When the demand for Bally's dried they found sub-contract jobs for the big distributors such as electronic AWP/SWP 'conversions' (ie fitting new glass, reels and game roms to re-vamp older games) for Leicester based distributor CTL Leisure. Later on they took on some pinball restoration contracts for Associated Leisure (AL) in Burton on Trent. Basically AL had a huge warehouse full of pinballs which were a couple of years old in various states of repair, but for which they had neither the time or the manpower to restore, and they would off-load a truck full of them to Greave's mansion. Mark already had quite a few pinballs sited around Leicester, but the days of overflowing cashboxes had long since passed and he decided they were too much trouble and he needed the space to house the AL machines for which would earn him a lot more. He was also building /refurbishing small video game cabinets to feed the (dying) demand for JAMMA type games. He sold me his last remaining pinball machines: 'Centaur', 'Elekra', 'Pac-Man', 'Roller-Games', 'Apollo', 'Kings & Queens' and a Jupiter Jukebox. I took on a couple of his old sites for a while. In hindsight (I'm talking 20-25 years later) some of these machines would have been real gems if I'd had the space to keep them all, but at the time they weren't considered 'hip' by the average person like they are now.

Besides the Bally's Greaves also came up with another machine called 'Beat the Dealer'. The first machines were based on recycled Bally cabinets, using a tube/solenoid payout and were purely electromechanical based on a continuously revolving cam-timer. The later production machines were built into slimmer cabinets and called 'Find the Lady', these used TTL based electronics designed by Marks technician/inventor Keith, who also did all the wiring and electronics on the Bally conversions.

I happened to get hold of the original Beat the Dealer prototype. Unfortunately I considered it 'too far gone' to keep in my collection, but I did get it running. I've just found some photos of it!

There are rumours flying around the internet that Mark had sold me a shed full of Bally bandit parts. This is not entirely true and it probably came about after someone had phoned him mistaking the conversation to be about Bally pinball parts, I dunno but I',m sure he'd chucked big piles of them away years ago, along with all the original glasses from the donor machines (as the conversions used perspex). What is true is that he would readily throw stuff away....stuff which would be deemed junk to the dwindling slot industry, but which would be potential treasure to a slot enthusiast like me who likes to make things better. I'm not into finding things to sell on for a profit, but the little treasures you find and want to keep, because no-one else has one, that's how I like it to be.
When he cleared out the storeroom he offered me the remnants of pinball spares, glasses, award cards and such. The roof had been leaking for years and there was that familiar smell of damp chipboard under Formica, which you either love or hate. What was left was a selection of 80's-90's games, mainly video cabinets.
I recall giving George Goby a tip-off, and I think him and Tony cleared out the last of the machines.......

Re: Greaves Amusements Story PT2

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2021 9:44 pm
by moonriver
A very interesting read. I fondly remember attending many of the Associated Leisure clearance sales, especially sorting through machines and looking for bargains within their massive storage arches at Burton.
Also remember the CTL closure auction, and filling a 3.5T wagon to the gunnels..... cheap cheap cheap!

Re: Greaves Amusements Story PT2

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2021 9:56 pm
by steinslots
I seem to recall those AL sales were like "Storage Wars". They were quite modern machines, like a couple of years old but which had failed on site for some minor reason and they just dumped them downstairs and wrapped them in clingfilm.
Sometimes you'd be lucky and get a nearly new game worth £600 for £250 with just a burned solenoid - or you could get one with all the boards and the transformer missing

Talking of CTL... I did some work experience there when I was a wee14 year old!
On day three they asked me to help unload some brand new fruits from the JPM wagon. I remember it was throwin it down AND the tailgate had a bit of a slope. If course my skinny 9st teenage frame was no match for the AWP club machines which were taller than me, and so this machine went flying off the back!
Next moment all I could see on the floor was the JPM polythene protective sheet collapsed and full of reels, chipboard, wires and broken glass! I tried to stay smug throughout the barter from the shopfloor lads, but eventually we heard old man Colin over the tannoy: "Carl could you come to my office". I was absolutely petrified! Colin Taylors office was oak panelled and decorated with leather chairs and antique machines.
First thing he said was "Go and empty my bin"....
So I emptied the bin and put it back in the corner and waited.
He took a long draw on his fat cigar and said
"I heard you dropped a new machine off JPM's truck"
"Erm....sorry it kinda slipped".....
"Slipped? Do you know how much those club machines cost?"
", quite a bit"..
"Nearly a thousand pounds"...
"You're lucky it's insured as damaged in transit..... just DON'T do it again!".

After all that I still managed to blag myself an old Zaccaria 'Hot Wheels' pinball from the junk in the basement!

Mark Eden is still about. He used to have a SWP conversion company near the footy stadium, but now he just concentrates on electronic board repairs, EEproms and Mars coin mechs.

Re: Greaves Amusements Story PT2

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2021 10:35 pm
by badpenny
You're young in that last photo Carl.

It strikes me if people don't write down their experiences, they'll just be lost.
I would never have guessed Carl had history with Greaves & Bally and I've known him 20 years.
Admittedly though I haven't seen him since yesterday.


Re: Greaves Amusements Story PT2

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2021 11:05 pm
by steinslots
That's young Conor as a test pilot! He's 22 now.
I started working in the amusement industry when I was 17, back in 1987 ish. I'm 52 now (so they tell me! :D )
Can you send me that document we talked about matey?
That machine is performing beautifully by the way, I prefer the action on the Gunter Wulff reels better than I do on the old Mills, which now seems clunky in comparison!