(MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo.) — In downtown Manitou Springs, the sounds of buzzers and bells echo from the decades-old Penny Arcade. This gem is located behind Patsy’s Candy and Royal Tavern, and is usually filled with players of all ages.
Players like Sandy Kraemer, who first stepped foot into the arcade when he was 11 years old, and his pinball passion has stuck with him since.
“I have always been interested in games since I was 11 years old and used to watch people play pinball in Green Mountain Falls and then some pinball machines paid off like slot machines,” Kraemer said. “So, I couldn’t play, so I saved my pennies, nickels, and dimes and quarters and played at the Penny Arcade.”
While the city has grown over the years, Kraemer is glad that the Penny Arcade has remained the same.
“The Penny Arcade here in Manitou must be unique in the United States,” Kraemer said. “And that’s one of the unique features, is that you can come here and visit the past and watch people enjoy it.”
While walking through the arcade, Kraemer pointed out the different pinball machines, and shared how they may look different but operate the same.
“Gaming is a fashion industry and the appearances change, but not the fundamentals,” Kraemer said. “So, whether it’s pinball or other various types of machines and games here in the Penny Arcade, they have a similarity that I enjoy.”
Kraemer graduated from Colorado Springs High School which is now Palmer High School and went on to study engineering at Stanford, but the pinball bug was in his system.
“From the Penny Arcade, I got interested in games,” Kraemer said. “So, I started inventing games and then in California at Stanford and here when I moved back to Colorado Springs… so I’m more into gaming and the Penny Arcade is my anchor.”
Specifically, Kraemer shared the first game he invented was licensed to the Parker Brothers, called ‘On Guard’ which you can still purchase online.
When it comes to the tricks of the trade, the pinball wizard did share some insight.
“The hardest part is also the easiest part, anybody can play,” Kraemer said. “It’s part luck and part skill.”
A love for family, and a love for pinball. Kraemer combines the two in Manitou Springs at the Penny Arcade where he shows his skills to his loved ones.
“I’ve done all the things that I could in my life,” Kraemer said. “I was an engineer. I was a lawyer in Colorado Springs for 54 years. I was chairman of the University of Colorado Board of Regents. I’ve been a rancher. But one of the things that I have always enjoyed is playing games and so I brought my three children and eight grandchildren to the to the Penny Arcade to learn how to play pinball and other games.”
Pop in to the Penny Arcade and you just might catch a glimpse of the man who some call a legend.
Special thanks to the Penny Arcade and the Pikes Peak Bulletin for their contributions in making this story possible.