Friday Flashback #12

A recent “06880” story about Leopold and Frankie Godowsky’s Easton Road home — he helped develop Kodachrome; she was George and Ira Gershwin’s younger sister — moved commenters to note that in later years, that same house was owned by Arnie Kaye.

A larger-than-life figure — and he was pretty large to begin with — Arnie was known for many things. He killed an intruder on his property. He paid his taxes in pennies. He owned a delicatessen and ice cream parlor.

He was best known, however, for his Arnie’s Place video arcade. Located where Balducci’s Anthropologie is now, and one of the first of its kind in an American suburb like Westport, it became a home-away-from-home for countless kids in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Despite plenty of opposition at the start — lots of adults thought a video arcade heralded The End of the World — he ran an operation that parents soon happily dumped their kids at. Arnie looked out for them, providing a safe place to play (and spend mom and dad’s money).

Pretty soon, every child in Westport had his birthday party at Arnie’s.

Las Vegas? Foxwoods? Nope -- Arnie's Place.

Las Vegas? Foxwoods? Nope — Arnie’s Place.

Most of our Friday Flashbacks flash back many decades. This one will be remembered fondly by folks who wish their own children today — the same age they were then — could have their own video arcade to go to, with other kids.

Instead of playing those damn games all alone, on a stupid cellphone.

18 responses to “Friday Flashback #12

  1. I still find the tokens around the house from time to time!

  2. Did he own THE Ice Cream Parlor of my long ago youth ??

  3. And it was a great great deli

  4. Can’t flashback to Arnie’s Place without visiting the virtual arcade online.

    Long time readers know that you did a story on this quite some time ago:

  5. Melinda Hemson Dubowsky

    I remember being in junior high at Long Lots when the arcade opened and parents were really upset about it opening so close to the school. They were afraid kids would skip out and walk over to Arnie’s Place so Arnie agreed to open around the time the schools let out.
    I also remember being there one day and at 6pm, the staff put out a jar of dimes (pay phones were only a dime back then) and an announcement was made that kids should call home and check in. Another staff member walked around and asked all the kids if they needed to call home.
    People said a lot of things about Arnie Kay but he did try to be a good businessman during that period.

  6. “stupid cellphone” -> stupid phone -> stupidphone -> smartphone

  7. I used to rule one game. After posting a high score, I was punching in my initials and the kids waiting go next said ” you’re BMF! Wow! We wanted to see who was the Bad mother f’er “… I said No those are really my initials.

  8. Did Arnie also own “The Gem” next to old movie theatre? My parents hated me going but I still went with a few bucks in quarters!

  9. Joyce Barnhart

    We would have a family dinner across the street at Rocco’s, and at the end of the meal we’d get the kids across the Post Road safely so they could entertain themselves at Arnie’s while we lingered over coffee. And I was one of those worried adults, but Arnie did good job creating a place that parents could feel comfortable letting their kids play.

  10. Even before Arnie’s Place, there was an arcade called .”The Hangout” on the Post Road just west of where Long Lots intersects.

  11. We certainly can’t match the size or variety of the legendary Arnie’s Place, but there’s an arcade corner at Toquet Hall to keep some of that spirit alive. We currently have: A 60-in-1 cabinet w/ Pacman (+Ms, Jr, & Super), Donkey Kong (& Jr), Galaga, Dig Dug, Centipede, and a lot of the classics; A 19-in-1 w/ Mario Bros, Joust, Ghosts & Goblins, and some less popular classics (we’re looking at you “Bubbles”);Tekken Tag; 4 Player X-Men; and a fairly generous Skill Crane.

    There’s definitely still an appeal for the classic games and we’ll often have kids playing after school, during study breaks, or at events. Playing on the cabinets offers a fun throwback experience vs. playing on cell phones or home consoles.

  12. The landmark Ice Cream Parlor was owned by Sonny and Phillis Harrison. It had moved during its evolution, from where Tavern on Main is currently, to the east end of the Compo Shopping Center to its last and best know location on Post Road East.

    • x Tony Giunta

      & who can forget the mod boutique beneath the last location of The Ice Cream Parlor: The Rage. (Very early 70s)

  13. I can remember Arnie well – he provided a real service to the community for parents who had kids unable to find much to do in this over-managed town. He was a rebel, and Westport could use a few more like him today.

  14. I remember Arnie befriended a very troubled young man (his name escapes me) who was involved in 2 or 3 deaths. I don’t think the young man was every charged with homicide, but it was a disturbing coincidence.