Salem Willows

This is an edited trip report. The original version with 14 photos is here.

Salem Willows
Salem, Massachusetts

While in heavy 128 North traffic, at about 6:30 pm, I called the Salem Willows arcade and asked when they planned on closing. A very nice older woman told me that there’s no guaranty, but since it’s a Friday night, they weren’t expecting to close before 9. I told her that’s perfect.

Misha and I arrived in the lot and I put 2 quarters in the meter for two hours of time. First, we went into the arcade and had a look around. There were mostly redemption games and kids’ games. When Misha asked for the bathroom, she was told it was a couple doors down. That brought us to the real deal with a great selection on pinball, classic arcade, and relatively modern coin operated games.

The pinball selection was great–all of them solid state games. Here they are.

The Sopranos (2005), Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (2004), FunHouse (1990), Theatre of Magic (2005), Monopoly (2001), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1992), South Park (1999), Twilight Zone (1993),
No Good Gofers (1997), Scared Stiff (1996), The Simpsons Pinball Party (2001), Addams Family (1992), Cyclone (1988), Playboy (1978), and…

At first, I was most excited to see the two Pinball 2000 games, Revenge From Mars and Star Wars Episode I, two innovative games released in 1999 designed as an all-or-nothing last attempt to save the Bally/Midway/Williams pinball divisions. The Pinball 2000 platform uses a mirror to display extra video graphics near the top of the screen. I had heard a lot about Pinball 2000, but had never seen one in person. The platform is not available for emulation either.

I played Revenge From Mars, Funhouse, Scared Stiff, The Simpsons Pinball Party, Addams Family, and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, earning a free game (through high score) on the latter. On Ripley’s, I played longer on one ball than I’ve ever played any pinball game. It was loads of fun. Maybe it’s an easy game.

All the games that I played were in excellent condition. I only noticed one dead bumper on Simpsons but otherwise, perfect gameplay on everything. A bit before 9:30, someone came around and politely told me they’d be closing in 15 minutes. On my way out, I complimented that same person for the pinball selection and the great state of repair the games were in. He appreciated the compliment and introduced himself as the owner, Eric. He said he and another guy do all the work on the games. When one game needs work, they bring it to the back and fix it. He was proud of the 1978 Playboy machine and the old baseball machine. He even bought Misha a free game of basketball while I was in the bathroom.

On my way out, I said thank you to the senior citizen who was operating the coin booth. She seemed really nice. Great experience here, and I look forward to going back.

I did my research on the specialties at Salem Willows. One of them is the Chop Suey sandwich at one of the two Chinese restaurants. I chose to get the sandwiches at Genghis, the original establishment. A few tiny pieces of chicken, but mostly this is just a cheap, fairly unsatisfying sandwich. Although it only costs $1.50.

Earlier that night, I had bought a small popcorn and a large chocolate flavored popcorn bar from E. W. Hobbs. They cook their cork in an original, 100 year old machine and it was really good.

While in the Chinese restaurant and after I had finished my sandwich, I realized I should run back to E. W. Hobbs to try to get some homemade ice cream before they closed. It was a drizzly, chilly night and there weren’t many patrons, so I imagined everything would be closing early. I went back to the window but it looked like they were closing up. A guy in a pickup truck told me to go to the side door. So I went around and they were still serving ice cream. I got a small frozen pudding cone and a small cookie dough cone. Really nice staff. I brought the cones back to the Chinese restaurant and Misha and I ate them there. The owner or manager of the restaurant came out and talked to us, and after I explained it was my first time there and I wanted to sample all the best stuff, he told me about all the businesses at the Willows. He spoke highly of every neighboring business and told me about peak summer operation. A very nice guy.

Misha and I really enjoyed our trip. I felt like it was one of those nights bordering on magical. I was so appreciate of the opportunity to come to an old-time place like this where I could play some beautifully maintained pinball games and talk to some really nice new people. We definitely plan to go back.

One Reply to “Salem Willows”

  1. Glad you had fun at SW. Having grown up in Salem I have been many times and never grow tired of the place. It is like you said almost magical.

    Thanks for the good read.
    Eric

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