Fred Abdullah worked hard starting in his teen years, served his country in wartime, raised a family, treated everyone with kindness and along the way made thousands and thousands of people happy.
What could be better than that?
Abdullah, who died Saturday at 87, was the proprietor of Joe’s Playland at Salisbury Beach. For generations of beachgoers, Joe’s has been a summertime mecca for skeeball, pinball, pokereno and other arcade “skill” games, as well as more modern electronic and video games. Joe’s annually updates its lineup of games.
The skill games reward players with tickets that can be exchanged at Joe’s Prize Redemption Center for treasures like plastic jewelry, whoopee cushions, plush toys and Lava Lites.
Of course, the memories of carefree summers and the kids’ laughs and smiles are the things that last and that make the kids who played skeeball back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s return with their own kids and grandkids.
Abdullah, who lived in North Andover and Salisbury with his wife Julia, began working at Joe’s when he was a kid himself and Joe’s was run by his uncle — the original Joe — and aunt.
Joseph and Jenny Haballa started the business in 1916 as Joe’s Popcorn Stand, a portable concession stand on the beach. Their hard work allowed them to move to a permanent building in 1920.
Abdullah entered in the Army in 1944 and served with the storied 8th Armored Division during the Battle of the Bulge.
Back home after the war, he worked in the family market in Lawrence, opened an ice cream stand with his wife and later a bakery with his brothers.
By the 1960s, he and his wife, who survives him, owned Joe’s, but the hard work didn’t stop.
“He was there every day, seven days a week,” Salisbury Selectman Ed Hunt said. “I remember we kids looked up to him; he was friendly to us. He was an easy-going guy.”
His sons eventually took over the operation, but Abdullah remained a presence at Joe’s almost until the end of his life, greeting patrons with a smile. A lot of people knew him as “Joe.”
“He was just a wonderful man”, Salisbury Chamber of Commerce head Maria Miles said. “I don’t ever remember him getting angry at anyone over anything.”
What a wonderful life.
A funeral Mass is at 10 this morning, so Joe’s will open a little later than usual in summer “out of respect for Fred’s passing and the Joe’s Playland Family.”
But when the doors open at 1 p.m., another generation of kids will tumble in to play the old games and the new ones. We’re sure that’s just what Fred Abdullah would want.