Grad Designs and Builds Amusement Park Games
By Guest Alumni Writer: Bob Callender ’73, If you’re interested in sharing an alumni story, contact Caity Paynich in the Office of Marketing and Communication at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Jack Mendes ’73 arrived at Findlay College in the fall of 1969 he had already done preliminary drawings for a new amusement game concept. It was at his desk in Fox Hall that he refined the design for the new concept and in his dorm room that he assembled the wiring harness for the first game. On spring break of his freshman year he loaded up the schematic and wiring harness and headed to Daytona Beach, Florida to begin assembling the first unit of the new game concept.
The two summers before arriving at Findlay, Mendes had worked for Bob Cassata, who operated game concessions at fairs around Garfield, New Jersey and nearby in New York. Cassata had an idea for a group race game and wanted to put it into a large trailer that could be easily moved and set up at each location. Mendes had the skills in design and electronics to bring Cassata’s concept to life.
The success of that first trailerized group game became Bob’s Space Racer Inc. (BSR), the world’s largest group game manufacturer. In addition to trailerized games for fairs, BSR soon began installing games at amusement parks. BSR group games are found in major amusement parks throughout the world. Examples in the United States include Six Flags Parks, Cedar Point, Kings Island, Universal Studios Parks, Walt Disney Parks and many more. The best known of the BSR games is Whac-A-Mole.
Throughout his years at Findlay Mendes would assemble wiring harnesses, often with the help of other guys in the dorm. On each break he would travel to Daytona Beach, Florida where Bob Cassata had opened a small manufacturing facility There, Mendes would install the wiring and electronics. BSR was growing rapidly. After graduation, Mendes became the shop foreman, later general manager and in 1991 company president.
Mendes had arrived at Findlay with an exceptional and somewhat unusual set of skills. In high school he had taken all the college preparatory classes, but in place of study hall he took shop classes. He was skilled in drafting, woodworking, metalwork, welding and more. He had worked weekends and two summers as an electrician’s apprentice. Additionally his father was very hands-on around the house and from an early age Mendes and his brothers helped to do all of the home repairs. Later, they built a sailboat and a vacation home in Vermont.
In seventh grade Mendes got involved with the school’s theatre department. Throughout his years of junior high and high school he regularly worked in all areas of technical production. His devotion and skills earned him a summer scholarship in theatre tech at Montclair State University in New Jersey, between his freshman and sophomore years of high school.
During his years at Findlay he was the student assistant in theatre to Professor Sharninghouse. Mendes taught the classes in theatre tech and supervised the construction of all the sets and lighting for plays and musicals.
For one theatre production Mendes built, from scratch, a set of French doors and a casement style bay window for the set. The French doors and bay window were used in plays for many years after Mendes had graduated.
He also provided lighting and sound for guest artists such as silent movie star Lillian Gish, Shakespearian actor Leslie French and Geoffrey Holder, best known for the 7Up commercials and “James Bond, Live and Let Die.”
Professionally, Mendes has been active in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attraction, the industry association. He served on committees for two decades and in later years on the board of directors and executive committee.
Mendes is now semi-retired, and he and his wife Sandy live in Ormond Beach, Florida. They have two children and five grandchildren. Mendes’ hobby has long been flying. He has been a pilot for 33 years and has earned the ATP Pilot rating and is a Certified Instrument Flight instructor.