Nov 14, 2021

Aladdin's Castle In 1987

Aladdin's Castle
Laurel Mall - Hazleton, PA
This arcade was one of my favorite places in the world when I was a kid.  Every time my grandparents and I went to the Laurel Mall, grandpa would give me a few quarters from the little black change pouch that he carried around everywhere he went, and I'd go in and play some games.  In the early to mid 80's, my favorite games to play there were Jungle Hunt, Discs Of Tron, Pac Man, Crossbow, Bagman, and the Star Wars games, but my all-time favorite was Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom.  I could make a quarter last a pretty long time on that machine.

The Laurel Mall was expanded and remodeled in the 90's, so I can't say for sure if I have this right.  However, I'd say that I'm 90% sure that the Aladdin's Castle location in the mall is now occupied by a Subway restaurant.  It's either that or the hairdresser shop next door, but I'm pretty sure it's the Subway.

There aren't very many photos of the Laurel Mall from the 80's.  The Standard Speaker newspaper has a few images scattered throughout their archive.  Most of the ones I've seen are black and white and not especially clear, and there aren't many of them.  I haven't been able to find any pictures of the old Aladdin's Castle other than the ones that my grandfather took at my birthday party from when I turned 7 in July, 1987.  This party was my Nana's birthday present to me because she knew that I loved to go to the arcade.

I'm sure there were other birthday parties where people took photos, or maybe there are snapshots that were taken by employees at the grand opening or a Christmas party or something that are sitting in a shoebox somewhere in town, but I've never been able to find any evidence of them online.  If you have any, please get in touch with me on Twitter because I'd love to see them.  Otherwise, please enjoy the only photos of the Aladdin's Castle arcade in the Laurel Mall that I know to exist.

The doors you see above are the entrance to the arcade from the inside.  The photo immediately above was pieced together from two separate photos to show both doors.  You can see toward the top of the space between the left and right doors that I didn't do a great job of combining them. but it'll give you a good idea of what the entrance area of the arcade looked like.

That's me in the red and blue striped shirt playing on a Nintendo Playchoice 10 machine, with my grandmother standing behind me and a few friends from the neighborhood playing machines nearby.  To the left of the machine that I'm playing is Galaga and Galaga 3.  There's a crane machine on the right hand side of the Playchoice 10, and a Birdie King machine in the corner by the door.

These photos were taken in the same part of the arcade, but you can see a little bit more of the arcade machines from this angle.  The game that's to the left of Galaga 3 is the Capcom shmup classic, Legendary Wings.  It debuted in arcades in November 1986, so it was less than a year old when this photo was taken.  

This is one of my childhood friends, Sean, eating a piece of Senape's Pitza while playing Trivial Pursuit on a Bally Sente SAC-1 cabinet.  When I first started writing this post, I wasn't able to identify what game he was playing.  I asked on the Atari Age forums earlier today, and someone was able to tell me exactly what it was within an hour (thank you, Atari Scorpio).

In the background, you can just barely make out the Ring King marquee.  It's in the corner of the arcade on the other side of the front doors across from Birdie King.  I'm not sure what the other games are in between Ring King and Trivial Pursuit.  Likewise for the machine on the far right hand side of the photo, but there's enough of the control panel visible that I'll probably be able to figure it out eventually.

There were four pinball machines on the Trivial Pursuit side of the arcade.  They are, from left to right, Gold Wings, Raven, Cybernaut and Comet.  That's my mother in the bottom photo playing the Cybernaut table.

To the left of the row of pinball machines is a Sinistar game.  You can also see the side of the Trivial Pursuit machine to its left, but there's another machine in between the two that's completely hidden from this angle.  There's also a Ms. Pac Man that bookends the pinball machines on the right.

There's 7 year old me playing the 1984 Namco classic: Pac-Land.  This is a game that I don't think gets the recognition that it deserves.  First of all, the Pac Man characters are based on the Saturday morning cartoon series, so the game has the look and feel of playing a cartoon.  Also, it's a mascot-driven side scrolling platformer that pre-dates Super Mario Bros by a year.  However, it's controls take quite a bit of getting used to because, unlike most games of this style, it's not played with a joystick or a control pad.  You control Pac Man with three buttons - forward, backward and jump, but you don't hold the buttons down - you tap them.  If you want him to run, you have to tap either the forward or backward button quickly.  If you want him to slow down or walk, you've got to start tapping it slowly.  Once you figure out how it works, it's a really fun and challenging game.

To the left of Pac-Land is Ms. Pac Man and the row of pinball machines.  To the right is one of my favorite video games ever made, Discs Of Tron.  If you ever get the opportunity to play it, don't pass it by.  This is one of the first games I ever played in the arcade when I was a kid.  My dad told me that when I was about four or five years old, I would stand on the little stool that they had for kids to help them see the screen and play Discs Of Tron for a good 20 minutes to a half hour on a single quarter.  He said that on one occasion, I had a group of kids from Penn State standing around the machine watching me play.  I don't have any memory of this, but it's kind of cool to know that I had a Jimmy Woods moment in the arcade.

These games are on the opposite wall across from the pinball, Pac-Land and Discs Of Tron machines.  First of all, the game with the big round black thing sitting on the control panel is Crossbow.  It's my favorite shooting game of all time, and I could go on for several paragraphs talking about it.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to play it on my birthday because it was out-of-order.  That big round black thing that I mentioned earlier is the base for a large crossbow controller that you use to shoot at the screen.  As was often the case back in the day, the crossbow was missing, so you couldn't play the game.  I'm not sure if it was easily broken or hard to calibrate, but I'd estimate that the game was only playable about 50% of the time that I ever saw it.  It's a shame, because it's a really great game!

To the left of Crossbow is the Taito arcade classic, Elevator Action.  This is the game that I'm playing in the top photo, but you can't really see much of the cabinet in that picture.  It's more visible in the bottom photo.  The game to the left of Elevator Action is the mid-80's answer to Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II - the 1984 Data East game Karate Champ.  It's has bizarre controls that are the opposite of what you see in Pac-Land.  Instead of a game that has no joystick and all buttons, this one has two joysticks and no buttons at all.  The left joystick moves the character, and the right joystick is used to punch and kick.  This was the one and only arcade machine I owned in my life.  My Uncle Sarge knew a guy who had one that he wanted to get rid of, and I traded a used Sega Genesis console for it.  The arcade unit was in really rough shape with a power cord that was held together with electrical tape, but it played.  I had it in the living room of my first apartment that I lived in on my own in Beaver Meadows.  My friend Margie and I used to spend hours playing it back in those days.  It's really not a very good game, but playing it will always be a very happy memory from a very difficult period of time in my life.

I can't tell what game is being played in the bottom photo, and I don't remember much about the kid.  I think his name is Timmy and he lived down the street from me.  In the background, you can see the Aladdin's Castle Summer Specials sign that has a caddy with flyers.  If memory serves me correct, the token machine was against the wall near that sign.  I think you can see the corner of it directly to the left of the words "Summer Specials" on the sign.

The Summer Specials sign in the background of the previous photo is in the foreground on the left hand side of this photo.  Here, you can see the little caddy that has pamphlets for whatever promotions they're running, and to get prices for a birthday party.

That sign is up against the side of a Rush 'N Attack machine, with a Rampage game directly to the right of that.  I know I've played Rush 'N Attack on the NES quite a bit when I was a kid, but I don't remember if I ever tried the arcade game.  However, I can tell you for a fact that I played a heck of a lot of Rampage in the arcades over the years.  In fact, they still have a working machine at the Timeline Arcade and the arcade in Knoebels that I've played over the past few years.

The far left and right corner of Aladdin's Castle had sit-down cabinets for racing games.  I'm not sure which game was on the left hand side of the arcade and which was on the right, but the top photo is my mother and the literal girl next door, Dina, playing Pole Position.  The photo on the bottom was my friend from school, Tommy, playing Sega Turbo.  You've got to dig that wood paneling.  If I ever manage to remodel the basement or the garage to have my very own home arcade, I've got to remember the wood paneling.

This fold-out table was only set up for birthday parties so that families would have a place to put food and drinks and whatnot.  It was in the center of the room at the back of the arcade near the office.  You can see the door to the employee office in the background of the top photo.

It looks like I'm reading my birthday card in the bottom photo.  I'm pretty sure that's a stand-up Spy Hunter machine over my shoulder.  The color and the speaker placement of the machine next to it makes me think it's probably a Donkey Kong Junior machine, but I not positive about that one.

Last, but not least, here are some closeup photos of one of the signs and the office at the Aladdin's Castle in the Laurel Mall.  They were having a special for Independence Day weekend where you could get 15 tokens (normally .25 cents each) for $1.75 with a coupon that was probably in the newspaper.  That's a pretty good deal.  Ordinarily, you'd only be able to get 7 tokens for that price, so you're getting them on a buy-one, get-one-free arrangement, plus one extra free token thrown in for good measure.  Back in those days, every game at the Laurel Mall location only cost a single token, so you'd get to play 15 video games for less than two bucks.  Pretty sweet deal!

The office looked to be pretty small.  You can see that they had a time clock and a vacuum cleaner in there, and this is probably where the folding table was kept when they didn't have a birthday party going on.  The door to the office had a poster for missing children, but I don't know if these were local kids or if this was a poster that was sent to every arcade in the chain with kids from around the country.  I'm thinking it was probably the latter.

Finally, the wall to the left of the office door had a poster board with numbers hand-written on it.  If I had to guess, I'd say that this was where they kept a record of the top scores on some of their games, but the print is too small and blurry for me to make it out, so I could be wrong.

One of these days, I'm going to get some graph paper and try to map out the floor plan of the arcade with each game listed in their correct location.  Until then, I hope you enjoyed these photos of my 7th birthday party and a small glimpse at what a mall arcade in a small town looked like back in 1987.