08 August 2011

Well Curated Authentic Heritage Americana

For me, the long winded phrase that titles this post has little to do with expensive work wear boutiques in Manhattan. It has everything to do with spending a Summer day at a place like Salem Willows. Along with my other favorite spot, Castle Island, the Willows is as good a reason as any to be on the Massachusetts coast in Summer. Honest, unpretentious, well worn and relatively cheap. Six hours go by in a snap at places like these, and we're lucky to still have a few left.
At a glance, Salem Willows would appear to be little more than a relatively trashy arcade, a one-sided strip of rickety old buildings brimming with the things that we once considered mindless diversions, a relic from a time before we all carried an expensive mindless diversion around in our pocket to use between the time we spent seated in front of another expensive mindless diversion at home. I love it.

Willows Casino is a noisy place full of flashing lights. Inside, no end of quaint coin operated machines will dispense tickets to the lucky winner who may then cash them in for all manner of junk at the desk. The prizes aren't even worth taking, but it is fun to play the silly machines. If you're really old school, and you like your Heritage Americana really Well Curated, they have skee ball.

Personally, I prefer the arcade next door. It's chock full of video games, with plenty of old 1980s stand up units (Galaga or Pac Man, anyone?) But the best part is the random collection of very old, and fully operational, arcade machines.
This pair of Mutoscopes have got to be about 100 years old. For a penny, small children will still stand in front of them on a stool and watch a minute and a half of footage so archaic as to leave them slack jawed.
For a dime, the Musical Monkeys will play a distinctly 1940s style Hawaiian tune.
and your kids, the same ones who know better how to operate a laptop than you, will still delight in this. What kid doesn't love monkeys doing human things?
All that walking around will tire the older folks. Good thing they have this doctor recommended contraption. Simply insert a quarter, grab the handles...
and step on the foot plate while the mechanism rattles you so badly that you'll break a knee and throw your back out. Excellent.
Can't say much for the Rotary Merchandiser. I just thought this one was funny. Could be a case of English by way of Japan getting lost in translation...or not.
Ever wondered what kind of lover you are? A Flat Tire?  Violent? An Iceberg? Or just plain Lovable?
Drop in a dime and place your right hand here, that's all it takes. No significant other could possibly refute the science. And the woodwork and paint job on this thing are stunning. Well Curated Authentic Heritage Americana...with Patina on the side!

The public telephone may be long gone, but I bet that sign stays up till they tear down the building.
There's plenty of sustenance to be had. If hot dogs,  French fries, chicken fingers or pizza aren't your thing, don't worry. You can also get fried clams, lobster roll, or cheeseburgers. I'd stay away from the Chinese, though. I have high standards, you see.
It's not all brain melting fun, though. There also happens to be a lovely and sizable park, with winding paths and tree shaded benches in abundance. 

I bet it's fun to see a band play under this Well Curated Authentic Heritage band stand, but it's fun enough just to appreciate it for the mini monument of white washed cast concrete mid-century architecture that it is.

It's on little Beverly Harbor, full of sail boats...so East Coast preppy, right?
There's even a beach.

If you're young, this place is a great, relatively cheap date. Especially if you bring a couple sticks of grass and a bottle concealed in a brown paper bag.

If you've got kids, this place is paradise.

If you're old, they have ice cream and park benches.

In any case, it's well worth a half hour car ride from the Boston area. Remember, the most Well Curated Authentic Heritage Americana is found where nobody knows what the hell you're talking about when you utter such a silly phrase in the first place.


Stu said...

Thanks for sharing, on my list of places to visit!

WSTKS-FM Worldwide said...

Ah, fried clams. Looks and sounds fabulous! Reminds me very much of some small places on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia where we spent a couple of weeks for a few summers when I was a young teenager in the early 80s. Haven't thought of SkeeBall in eons.

Best Regards,


David M. said...

I've never heard of this place. I guess it's overshadowed by all the witch stuff in Salem. This place reminds me of Weir's Beach in NH, which is also good times to be had.

Renee said...

How could you forget the infamous American Chop Suey Sandwiches? My grandmother is rolling over in her grave!

Emily said...

Thanks for sharing! This place looks great. It was entertaining to read! If I'm ever up that way I'll have to check it out.

NCJack said...

Embrace and cherish places like this. Here in the Carolinas the old beach towns can't get high-rised and condoed fast enough: in Myrtle Beach, you can't see the ocean from Ocean Blvd.

ADG said...

All that stuff should be in a museum.

Young Fogey said...

NCJack said...
in Myrtle Beach, you can't see the ocean from Ocean Blvd.
There are places in Hong Kong that were on the waterfront (like some of the settings for The World of Suzie Wong) that are now several hundred feet inland. Similarly, what was once Stonecutter's Island is now a peninsula.

But both of those are due to land reclamation, of course.

Back at the ranch, thanks for sharing. I recently went to the beach where my family went when I was growing up, and it was great to see some things have changed very little. I wish we had more old-timey stuff like that near where I live, but sad to say, there's even less than there used to be. Unfortunately, the local skating rink just went belly up :-(

With any luck, the bar will keep the local bowling alley open.

BillB said...

Thanks for the armchair vacation! I grew up in a NC summer resort, and it is good to see someone who appreciates all the thngs that contribute to a complete and memorable experience.