1984, Pizza Time Saloon and Conshohocken
by Brian Coll
Funny title right. We’re not talking about the book by George Orwell, we’re talking about the year 1984 because that is when Pizza Time Saloon opened in Conshohocken. 1984 is also one of my favorite years in music history, it’s funny when you’re a ten year old kid and find the radio on your own. Of course Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen came out that year. When Doves Cry by Prince dominated the airwaves and of course Say Say Say by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney was still on the charts. Hall and Oates were all over the radio dial and if you watched MTV, yes way back when they actually played music videos…. you might remember the video for I Want a New Drug by Huey Lewis and the News. Some other songs out that year included Footloose by Kenny Loggins, Jump by Van Halen, The Reflex by Duran Duran, one of my favorite videos as a 10 year old was Legs by ZZ Top…. and here’s a title that was both a song and movie back in 1984…. Ghostbusters. The Theme Song was by Ray Parker Jr. and the movie starred one of the greatest American treasures in Mr. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis (RIP) and Ernie Hudson.
What was happening in Conshohocken back in 1984? Well, there was talk of a new bridge. Maybe a mall being built in downtown Conshohocken. We were in the middle of urban redevelopment, and by middle this was the time when a lot of lower Conshohocken was being cleared to make way for buildings. Nothing was promised. There wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel just yet. The Marriot would follow the bridge in West Conshohocken, but we were still a few years off. It was an interesting time to be here. As a kid, I don’t know if any of the big picture stuff mattered. As an adult I’m sure some people were scratching their heads when they heard a new Pizza place opened up at 7th and Maple. If you were opening a business in Conshohocken in 1984 you were taking a big gamble. Opening a business is always a gamble, but a pizza place today opening in Conshohocken would face some stiff competition, but between the offices, all the other restaurants and such, it isn’t as much of a gamble or risk. However back in 1984…. some would even call you crazy.
What did the pizza landscape look like back in 1984? Well you had Tony and Joe’s at 2nd and Fayette and my favorite at the time was Bolero’s between 8th and 9th on Fayette (currently home of Pasta Via). Bolero’s really didn’t have a place to sit, but it was the first pizza I ever had that had steak on it, like a cheesesteak pizza well ahead of their time. You could go out of town to a Pizza Hut, they were rolling out a salad bar around this time. There may have been another pizza place here at the time, I’m not sure what year Ted’s opened.
So, in 1984 when Mike Gambone took a chance to open up Pizza Time Saloon nothing was guaranteed. He and his staff were going to have to work hard. They had a nice seating area, (still do as a matter of fact) soon after they opened a Paper Boy video game showed up and I knew where I was spending my spare change (besides Josie’s candy store). One of the first delivery drivers I remember was Pizza Bob who recently passed away. Mike’s right hand man was a guy named Jack who was always spinning the pizza dough, in more recent years he has a great staff there to help him out. It seems every time I have lunch there a table or two of office workers is splitting a bill, in a normal restaurant this sometimes drives servers crazy, at Pizza Time they step right up to the register, tell them what they had to eat and drink and they are more than happy to ring everyone up separate.
As a person, I am glad I have gotten to know Mike over the years. I was just a kid when he opened. Now….. 35 years later I can say I have to be one of his longest running customers. My sister Jackie and I have had many meals there over the years. Mike has a party room above Pizza Time that is perfect to rent out for a few different kinds of events. Give him a buzz and ask if the room is the perfect fit for your next event.
Mike, thanks for always treating us Conshy kids well over the years, thanks for being a friend all these years later. I’ll write about you in another 15 years when you are celebrating 50 years there.