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Barrel Of Fun Video Arcade, Dutch Square: 1980s   39 comments

Posted at 12:39 am in business,entertainment,historic

Well, the spot doesn't look like much now, but this Dutch Square storefront just outside of White's was once the home of The Barrel O' Fun video arcade, and was a pretty hoppin' place. The 80s were the heyday of the video arcade, and Barrel had all the standard ones like PacMan, Galaga, Defender, BattleZone, Tempest, Gorf, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Joust, Missle Command, Dig-Dug, Galaxian and Phoenix. My memory is very hazy, but I think it had some of the less common ones that I really liked such as Qix, StarCastle and Pengo. That last was a very "cute" but nonetheless creative game where you (as a penguin) would kick ice blocks around the screen to crush the killer Sno-Bees. You could also keep them from hatching if you kicked their ice blocks before they emerged. I think probably a lot of guys were embarassed to play it because of the "cute" factor, otherwise it would have been huge.

Of course you could find the games, even the uncommon ones, elsewhere, so what really made Barrel O' Fun distinctive was it's polished wood entranceway. This was done up as a cross-section of a huge wood plank barrel, was very eye-catching and gave the place a bit of class. Even after the arcade closed, you could see the entrance for a number of years, draped with some sort of plastic. I'm not sure when they totally blanked out the storefront as they have now done, but it wasn't too many years ago. I'm not entirely sure when the place closed. The last time I can specifically remember going there was after I walked out of a movie at Dutch Square Theater in 1987 and killed some time there while my sister and her friend finished the show. Dutch Square itself was clearly in decline by then, as were video arcades, so the two factors together probably finished the place, and I don't think anything else has ever gone into that slot.

UPDATE 24 Aug 2010: I have posted two photos from commenter Trey above. One is of the Barrel Of Fun sign in his workshop, and the other, entitled "Inside Coin Booth", seems to be of the old round entrance to the arcade. Also, given this evidence, I have updated the post title from Barrel O' Fun to Barrel Of Fun

Thanks Trey!

Written by ted on February 7th, 2009

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39 Responses to 'Barrel Of Fun Video Arcade, Dutch Square: 1980s'

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  1. I'm glad you guys finally did an article on Barrel o' Fun.

    During the arcades golden age (1979-84), this, the Land of Oz arcade in Bush River Mall, and the Putt-Putt on St Andrews were he arcades to go to. Barrel of Fun was my favorite, however. They had 2 Pac-Man machines (always being played), 2 Donkey Kongs, and 2 Galaxian machines (that they traded for Galagas, in 1981). And a bunch of machines that would be considered rare, nowadays.

    I also remember when Ms. Pac-Man came out - Barrel o' Fun got 2 machines, stuck them right near the enterance, right next to the Pac-Man machines, and the line waiting to play was stretched out the arcade's narrow opening, and almost into White's. They had to put another monitor on top of both the machines so people waiting could watch other people play. The Pinball machines and older video games were towards the back. Before I moved away, I remember they had a bunch of classics, back there - A sit down Night Driver, a Flash Gordon and Space Invaders Pinball, and I vaguely remember them having the then controversial Death Race. If you bought $5, or more, in tokens, they would give you a little drawstring bag to hold them in.

    And BTW - I still have a token from this Barrel o' Fun! It's been sitting in my knick-knack drawer for almost 3 decades, now!

    Mike M.

    8 Feb 09 at 5:19 pm

  2. Scan it, send me a picture, and I'll post it..

    closings at columbiaclosings dot com

    ted

    8 Feb 09 at 7:26 pm

  3. I am almost positive they had a KISS pinball machine at one time here. Did this store open as a pet store, or was that directly across from Barrel O' Fun? (late 70's?)

    Jonathan

    9 Feb 09 at 10:05 am

  4. That's right. The Barrel O' Fun was originally a pet store. I believe it was a Pet-A-Rama, which also had a location in the original Richland Mall.

    Across the hall was the original location of Radio Shack.

    I think the only three stores in the entire mall that are still open and in their original locations are The Rogue, Hallmark, and Chic-Fil-A.

    It would be an interesting exercise to post a mall layout and have folks recall what was where.

    E.J.

    9 Feb 09 at 8:02 pm

  5. Not sure why I know this, but across from Barrel 'o Fun was Round Robin (wildly overpriced women's clothes).

    Dennis

    9 Feb 09 at 8:06 pm

  6. Wow, I remember this place! Thanks so much for this website. It helps bring back so many memories.

    Bill C.

    10 Feb 09 at 12:11 am

  7. does anybody have any pics of barrel o' fun? particularly the "half barrel" entrance? i'd LOVE to see some old pics, but i can't find them anywhere on the web.

    alex

    25 Feb 09 at 11:15 pm

  8. I don't, but if anyone does, I'll be glad to post them here.

    ted

    26 Feb 09 at 12:06 am

  9. I remember when they had that Hercules pinball machine at the front entrance for awhile. It was some promotional event that Atari was running to display the world's largest pinball machine. It used a actual pool table cue ball for the ball. That game was huge! They also had a Corgar pinball machine in the back. It was the first ever talking piball machine and they hooked up a external speaker to enchance the sound. I remember that heart beat sound on that game.

    jjt

    30 Mar 09 at 8:34 pm

  10. Does anyone remember what this place was originally? It was a Pet Store and next to it was Thom Mcane? Tom Mack-an Shoes.. Dutch Square is poor shadow of it's fomer self from it's heyday back in the very early to mid 70's.

    Del

    12 Apr 09 at 6:16 pm

  11. It was originally a Pet-A-Rama.

    E.J.

    12 Apr 09 at 7:01 pm

  12. Wow! I haven't lived in Columbia since 1986 and was just (moments ago) talking about this place with friends. To my (pleasant but slightly dismayed) surprise, I came across your site. That for sharing information about this icon of my youth. I was quite surprised to see it operated so long, though it was always a barrel'o fun in my heyday.

    Hopek

    1 Oct 09 at 8:03 pm

  13. Barrel of Fun was the best Arcade, but the smallest one that was crowded if you had more than 6 people in there was The Land of Oz Arcade... didnt like it as much and it was a pain to get in and out of into the Mall. There used to be an Arcade at Columbiana Centre in the food court, but I dont remember the name of it. Does anyone remember the name of the Hobby store that was located in the hallway leading to Woolco? It was right next to somekind of Cigar store..that you used to have to walk right by to get to it.. anyone??

    Del

    1 Oct 09 at 9:43 pm

  14. Del,

    I know there was a Dutch Door Hobby Shop, but it might have been in Boozer. The cigar store was Jerry Webber's, and had two entrances along w/ Waldenbooks. One on the main corridor and one by Tapp's.

    Jonathan

    2 Oct 09 at 8:16 am

  15. The Dutch Door Hobby shop was in Boozer.. but I cant for the life of me remember the name of the one in Dutch Square. I do remember the two entrances at Waldens though. I remember that Sharp's and a electronics store on the same side that sold Curtis Mathis TV's..which was the big name brand at the time, and then there was a cloth/material shop along the same side..but I dont remember the name of that. I thought too that a good Hobby/Toy Store was "Leisure Time" at Columbia Mall on the upper leval near that Pet Store that used to be there. I wish someone had pics. of what Dutch Square used to look like on the inside. Columbia Mall isnt what it used to be either. Wasnt Brittons at Dutch Square also? or just Columbia Mall?

    Del

    2 Oct 09 at 11:30 am

  16. Brittons did have a location at Dutch Square. There was also a Flagg Brothers shoe store there, which was THE place to go for platform-sole and high heeled shoes for men. I'm glad there are no photos of me in any of those shoes.

    Lou B

    2 Oct 09 at 1:38 pm

  17. There was a Leisure Time in Dutch Square, so maybe that is what you are referring to. Brittons was between Cromer's and Whites, close to Tom McAnn. There was also a Louries there at some point, as well as Todd & Moore. John B. Lee Magnavox was the electronics store you are referring to.

    Jonathan

    5 Oct 09 at 4:11 pm

  18. Wow, did I waste a lot of time and money in this arcade!
    Here's a brain-teaser for everyone. Does anyone remember the two-story toy store in Dutch Square where the art gallery is now (I believe it was a Round Robin store for a time). I remember it as a rustic store with a staircase, and it would have been open around 1977. I know there was a Leisure Time in the corridor between Chick-Fil-A and the old Woolco, but I think these toy shops were open concurrently, or one closed and the other opened shortly thereafter. Anyone else recall it and the name?

    59 Ford Wheelman

    15 Oct 09 at 7:13 pm

  19. I thought that pet store was right across the hall from BOF... I seem to remember them in business at the same time, and always goingo into Barrel while my sister went in the pet store. I seem to remember the front window having an aquarium.

    And I seem to remember Cromers being close by. I just found out a few months ago my neighbors at the time owned that Dutch Square store. I guess that always explained the big bag of carmel corn we got every Christmas, until we moved away.

    Mike M.

    26 Nov 09 at 2:11 am

  20. Here's a recent layout of the mall if anyone's interested: http://www.phillipsedison.com/_ClientData/PE/Properties/45/leaseplan.pdf

    I'm not from the area, but I know 121 was a Baskin Robbins and 140/150 the old Eckerd's.

    Bobby P.

    1 Jan 10 at 1:34 am

  21. Ahhh, now I can finally get some bearing on Dutch Square. Thanks Bobby P.! I've been following the various entries on this blog that relate to the mall, but it's been right around 20 years since I was last there. Mostly I have been at a complete loss when trying to follow what everyone is talking about.

    It was mentioned elsewhere that the Chik-Fil-A at the mall has just closed, which means the occupancy diagram must be very up to date, because I don't see it listed as an occupant. However, it still has D'avino's Pizzeria as being an occupant; go figure.

    Please tell me that space #270 was the Chik-Fil-A. If that wasn't the space, well, let's just say growing old ain't fun.

    Michael Taylor

    1 Jan 10 at 2:31 am

  22. The Barrel of Fun was a company otrigionaly based out of Atlanta, GA. It was eventually purchased by Atari and then later by Namco. It also merged with Aladdin's Castle at one point. The company Namco is based in Bensenville, Il. While I don't know if anyone there would take the time to find pictures for you, this would be the best source I can think of that might have pictures. The website is namcoarcade.com

    Glenn

    18 Mar 10 at 8:14 am

  23. The barrel door is still there behind that white wooden wall. I was selling tix to Belk's charity sale at that entrance last fall and they had left the door open on the cover of the space and the barrel is still there. My friend and I joked about him buying it to use as the door for his insurance agency to pull in all the 80's kids' business.

    Paul H.

    10 Jun 10 at 11:56 am

  24. What strikes me as I spend hours here is that we all lament not having pictures of the way it was. It is repeated," I don't know why I didn't just take a picture when I was there." Well, imagine the look on a current establishment's owner's face if you were taking pictures of a place, and they asked what the pix were for, and you said,"columbiaclosings.com." Kinda' like our family joke that you don't want to be vacationing on the beach and see Jim Cantore of TWC right beside you.

    JBL

    1 Jul 10 at 10:49 pm

  25. I have the sign. I like to sent pic,don't know how.

    Trey

    16 Aug 10 at 8:48 pm

  26. Trey:

    closings at columbiaclosings dot c o m

    ted

    17 Aug 10 at 9:29 am

  27. Folks,

    I have finally updated the Barrel of Fun post with commenter Trey's photos!

    ted

    24 Aug 10 at 10:04 pm

  28. How did Trey end up with the Barrel of Fun sign? Uh, just wondering.

    George

    25 Aug 10 at 3:12 pm

  29. I bleed Columbia, and this site literally brings tears to my eyes. I'm 29 so most of the stores here are pretty familiar (i.e. Joyful Alternative, Applegate's Landing, Aladdin's Castle, Bum's).

    Barrel of Fun was still open in 1994/95 because I remember going there and being in high school and playing Mortal Kombat 3. My brother, who's 10 years older than I am, frequented the place a lot more in its heyday. We also used to roam Decker Mall and spend time in the Land of Oz while mom was shopping in Four Seasons.

    This site is basically the online version of what I point out to my non-Columbia native husband when I'm in town. Thanks for this, and I will definitely keep coming here for the memories.:)

    Lyndsey

    13 Dec 10 at 6:20 pm

  30. Since you haven't profiled the former Maxway that used to be at Dutch Square I figured I'd post it at this building that is two slots down from from this. I saw a tarp today indicating that Planet Fitness will be opening at #124 (which you could easily profile as a former Maxway at some point) and #122 is a former Dollar Tree (according to the lease map I've linked from Phillips Edison, who owns/leases the mall). The Dollar Tree/Maxway closed sometime in the 2006-08 timeframe...

    Andrew

    5 Feb 11 at 2:42 pm

  31. I remember the Dollar Tree, but had totally forgotten Maxway..

    ted

    5 Feb 11 at 2:58 pm

  32. the beauty of a community like this is that people remind each other of things they may have forgotten about and I'm afraid that Ted doesn't miss out on that benefit...

    Andrew

    5 Feb 11 at 4:02 pm

  33. ok the changeover has begun for the Dutch Square Belk to the new logo..the old logo has been removed and a temporary tarp with the new logo has been put in place and hopefully a new logo will actually be installed sometime shortly at all 4 of the area Belks and not just a tarp

    Andrew

    8 Feb 11 at 5:14 pm

  34. The name of the arcade in Columbiana Centre's food court was CHALLENGES.

    Andy S.

    13 Feb 11 at 12:44 pm

  35. I was on another site and someone started a thread about pictures of arcade entrances at malls and I immediately thought of the Barrel-o-Fun.

    http://forums.arcade-museum.com/showthread.php
    t=191770

    If anyone finds pics that show the complete entrance please post them.

    Thanks!

    William B.

    18 Jul 11 at 9:31 am

  36. I worked at the Barrel of Fun/ namco for 13 years. Was the Manager at the Dutch Square store for 2 years from 1990-1992 then went to run the Aiken store. I have tons of pictures. Let me know how to post them, I will scan some and send.

    Chris S

    13 Nov 12 at 10:56 pm

  37. @Chris, you can send them to "closings at columbiaclosings dot cmo" and I will be glad to post them.

    ted

    13 Nov 12 at 11:52 pm

  38. With that descripton and the name Chris S. you can only be one person. This is Glenn E. We opened Haywood in Greenville together, and I think Jacksonville, TN.

    Glenn

    24 Dec 12 at 12:22 am

  39. I worked at the Chick-Fil-A at the Dutch Square mall around 1991-92. I spent many lunch breaks blowing my hard-earned pay in the Barrel of Fun! I remember one of the arcade managers would always stop by to chat, so I bet I spoke with Glenn or Chris at some point.

    B.W.

    15 Mar 13 at 10:41 am

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