The Weirs Sport Center & Tarlson’s Arcade

Tarlson’s Arcade circa 1960. The Weirs Sports Center occupied the top floor of the building. Entrance to the Sports Center was from the rear of the building, via a footbridge from the parking lot. The Weirs Sports Center was the predecessor to Funspot. Robert Lawton, owner of Funspot, opened his arcade on the top floor of the Tarlson building on June 30, 1952. It was not until the early 1970’s that Lawton moved his arcade to its present location on Route 3. (Notice Pinney’s Gift Shop, partly visible on the right of the photo.) Since 2010, the building has been the Tower Hill Tavern, which has expanded into an entertainment complex with several live music stages and bars.

Tarlson’s Arcade, 1983
Tarlson’s Arcade, circa 1955
The Tarlson’s Arcade building opened on June 23, 1950, replacing “Walkden’s Souvenirs” and “Jeff’s Snack Bar”, which had previously occupied this corner at the intersection of Lakeside Avenue and Tower Street, as shown in an earlier tourist map of Weirs Beach.
Previously, in the 1940’s, the businesses located on this corner were the Playland Arcade, an unnamed hat shop, and Cliff’s Taxi, as seen in the following 1946 photos, courtesy of Malerie Wirey, whose parents owned the Playland, and whose grandmother, Stella Rolf, was the cashier in the original Half Moon Arcade. In the first photo, we can see the Methodist Church in the background, which still stands today. Arcade signs entreat customers to “Try Your Skill” and “Win A Prize”; Cliff’s Taxi offers “Sightseeing”; and the hat shop sold Crew Hats, Kerchiefs, and Neckties.
Twenty years earlier, the business located on this corner was Kennon’s restaurant, which burned down in the Great Weirs Beach Fire of 1924. The following remarkable photos of Kennon’s restaurant, taken on July 4, 1917, shows a large crowd, gathered under a huge American flag, observing a parade of men in uniform. Notice the sign in the distance for “Bowling Pool Arcade”.
Note the sign on Kennon’s advertising “Cigars and Cigarettes”. The photo below, by Weirs photographer William H. Parsons, is believed to be of the interior of this Cigar shop.
Prior to construction of the restaurant building, the business on this corner was a small candy shop called the Weirs Candy Kitchen. The shop advertised in the NHVA programs from 1907-1910.
The corner itself was known as “The Busy Corner”. Before being called Kennon’s, the restaurant was called the Cafe Vix. Ad below is from the 1914 NHVA program. The NHVA programs continued to advertise “The Busy Corner” to at least 1921.
In addition to his business interests, George Tarlson Jr. was a fireman (he was captain of the Weirs Hose company); and he was also a successful musician. A March, 1934 Laconia Democrat article noted that “The Weirs has no more popular young man than Mr. Tarlson”… Tarlson was Laconia’s “Paul Whiteman” (a popular musician known as the “King of Jazz”). The article continued, Tarlson was doing business “in big time fashion. He is running three Tarlson’s Tune Toppers bands.” A 1936-1937 calendar appeared on the opposite side of the business card seen below. The Tune Toppers band was a sextet featuring George on drums; his sister Hazel (Tarlson) Bridges on piano; Leo Lamere on trumpet; Harold Robinson on trombone; Philip Richardson on saxophone, and Maurice Aldrich on vocals.

Below, an early 1930s photo of Tarlson’s band, performing outdoors for the grand opening of the I.G.A. (Independent Grocers Alliance) version of the store. A violinist (on the far right) has subbed for the sax player. The store was sold in 1956 to George Casana, who changed the name to the Superette (see photo), which name the store kept through 1984. The building is now the Compass Cafe.

George Tarlson resided in a big house on Lakeside Avenue that is now known as Castle Rest. His sister Hazel gave piano lessons for many years, including to both of the webmaster’s brothers.
A 1915 photo of Tarlson’s General Store. George Tarlson is second from the left.
Tarlson’s father George W. Tarlson had previously owned the other general store in Weirs Beach, which was just a little down Lakeside Avenue, and on the other side of the street. That store went through a variety of ownerships, seen in the photos below. George W. Weeks built the store and sold it to George W. Tarlson in 1895 (the 1st photo). Tarlson later sold it to C.F. Cram (2nd photo), who sold it to Arthur C. Kinsman (3rd photo). After Kinsman, it became part of the vast A&P grocery store chain (bottom photo). The store building burned down in the mid-to-late 1950s.

The building was replaced. In the early 1970’s, the new building housed two businesses side-by-side on the ground floor. On the left side was Charlie’s Luncheonette, and on the right, the Xanadu head shop. Around 1980, both businesses were replaced by Nothin’ Fancy, a Mexican restaurant. Around 2000, the restaurant changed its name to the Crazy Gringo, the current establishment.

Notice the Cafe Vix on the right in the previous postcard. Below, the proprietors of Cafe Vix. The owner writes on July 29, 1915…”I run this Cafe now. The two girls in the window works for us. We close up about the 15th of Sept.”

Below, a scene from circa 1930, when the Tarlson/Cram/Kinsman store was part of the A&P (Atlantic & Pacific) grocery chain.