Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Christmas in the mall, 1970s

Last night, on the way to visit my mom who lives in Murray, we drove past Fashion Place Mall. As I looked at it, I noticed the immense facelift it has had in recent years. I wondered, with all the outside facing stores, if there was actually an indoor mall there anymore with the long walking areas, lined with stores and food vendors. The last time I was in the mall, all the food establishments were located in one place. Not so in the 1970s.
I grew up right across the street from a field that would one day be replaced by Fashion Place mall. The field was a great place to play as a kid. Then, when I was about 13, construction began on the mall, and the construction site too was a great place to play. There wasn't a lot of security and I remember prowling through the place with my friends when it was still concrete and steel girders.
Soon, the construction stopped, the stores moved in, and it became another place to hangout. Gone was the field that I had enjoyed as a youngster, and now, here was the mall, a different, but still fun place to hang out.
I remember the year the roof collapsed and many of the stores had to steeply discount their wares because of water damage. I remember the smell of the nuts from the nut place, whose name I can't recall. I remember checking out any number of stores, and buying food and watching people.
It was also a great place to get my first "real" job. Okay, I had been a paper boy. That was real work and a real job, but it wasn't the kind of job you could only get after you turned sixteen. The mall opened up vast opportunities for employment. When I turned 16, I applied and got hired at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurant, and said good-bye to delivering papers.
Farrell's was a great coming of age place to work. Some of fondest memories have to do with Farrell's.
There were races we had around the mall. One time I ran around the mall with a couple of friends and thought I was doing well because I was keeping up with my older friends all the way around the mall. Then, I stopped and they went for another circuit. Sure put me in my place.
Once I started working a the mall, the friends of my youth, though they were still my friends, receded into the background and the ones I spent the most time with were the people I worked with. Farrell's employees spent a lot of time doing things together even when we weren't at work.
I worked there for a couple of years, then moved on. I ended up working at Lafayette Electronics, and later the Cottage Restaurant, both in the mall.
One thing I'll always remember was the hustle and bustle around Christmas time. The mall would fill up with people and the restaurants, including Farrell's, would be packed, even when it wasn't a Friday or Saturday night. Even after I got married in 1980, I used to love to go to the mall during the Christmas season and people watch. I disliked shopping, and would try to be done well before December, but I always liked hanging with the people who were out there trying to find the perfect gift among all those other people trying to do the same thing.
I remember when Farrell's went out of business and Lenscrafter's moved into that slot. I went there to buy some glasses and it was so weird because in my mind I was saying things to myself like, "that's where the kitchen used to be," and "over there was the large room with all the signs," and "there was the player piano," and "right there is where the pay phone used to be that I used to use." Now, even Lenscrafter's is gone from that spot, or so it appeared when I drove past the outside of the mall a few months ago.
I haven't been there in several years. Ann's health pretty much keeps us from doing the mall walking thing, and I haven't gone by myself. I'd like to though. I'd like to take a walk through those immense halls and picture in my mind's eye the things of yesteryear. I'd like to picture what it looked like back then and remember. I recently found this quote from the television series The Wonder Years: "Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."
And indeed, I want to forever keep some of the memories I have.
Perhaps one day, I will walk those hallowed halls of the mall again and those memories will envelope me like a soft, warm blanket. 

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