Vintage Malls

Remembering Vintage Malls

I’m sure we can all attest that there are a select number of places that will elicit the excitement of a 6-year-old with a mere entering through the door: a popcorn-scented movie theater lobby, a busy airport brimming with excitement and anticipation, the frostily air-conditioned Baskin Robbins. Which is a personal favorite of mine. And of course, everyone’s favorite destination on a rainy day – or in my case, any day – the mall!

I don’t believe I can even count how many times I’ve promised my Mom and Grandma “I’m just going in to look” but return home with some treasured finds!  There’s just something indescribable that draws us there when we have something to buy… or have nothing to buy,lol, and any department store or outdoor strip mall just can’t capture that magic.  After sprinting through the anchor stores to get to the actual mall interior shopping area (never spent too much time at Lord ‘N Taylor or Macy’s), one is met with many sensory stimulants:  the aroma of cinnamon from the pretzel stand, the sound of arcade penny rides flashing and bouncing on the promenade, and the bubbling smell of chlorine from the fountain (where you just have to throw in a coin and make a wish :)

I’ve noticed recently that my love of malls has crossed into my fondness for films, as I take mental notes of any movies that feature good “mall scenes,” particularly those reminiscent of the retro feel of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.  Of course Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Valley Girl, and Clueless all fit into this category, but I’ve also found great mall footage in ones such as Walk Like A Man with Howie Mandel, and the recent Kickin’ It Old School with Jamie Kennedy.

Perhaps I take special note of these films because the malls feature prominently those characteristics that we know and love: the sunken lounge section (which in the malls by me, featured modern art-like sculptures designed for kids to play on), the main common area where fashions shows take place and Santa and the Easter Bunny will visit, and the oh-so-popular glass elevators with sparkling lights on the exterior (a much glitzier alternative to the escalator).

Googling and YouTubing has proven that I am apparently not alone in my mall infatuation. There are oodles of photos and videos, I excitedly came across that feature some pretty nifty-looking malls in all of their retro glory :)  Some have the best names (Cinderella City) and prompt me to wish I could jump right into the picture and browse immediately. A little jarring though, are the shaky-cam tours of some vacant establishments featured on YouTube and the website deadmalls.com. I enjoy the idea of patrons exchanging fond mall memories, but the pics can be a bit disheartening – kind of like the drop you feel in your stomach while looking at an empty swimming pool. Still however, the love for the retro days of the shopping mall in all of these websites and videos is evident :)

I am also happy to report that I’ve visited a handful of the malls near me featured in Vintage Malls, and they all look relatively the same!  Of course, I went to Hollister instead of Chess King, but I could still buy my Orange Julius :)

Vintage Malls

Penn Cann Mall

Randall Park Mall in the 70’s

Cinderella City Mall at Christmastime

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6 thoughts on “Remembering Vintage Malls

  1. My childhood mall no longer exists, it was completely demolished a few years ago (except for the kmart store at the one end. That must have been “fun”, trying to knock down everything else without damaging the attached kmart store). I do still have many fond memories of it though.

  2. I like to go to “booger malls” – malls that have not kept up with the times and are within a few years of being razed. The tacky interiors, one of a kind mom and pop stores where the Disney Store, Radio Shack and Victoria’s Secret were once located. Just can’t get enough…

  3. I grew up near a very large cluster of malls, all of the bigs ones are still standing, but they redid them all in the last decade or so. I went to one of them in the mid-1990s and took photos before they gutted it. Not the highest quality pics, but some good memories.

  4. CA Darlaw says:

    LOL – yeah the stores in the video make me want to get an airbrushed sweatshirt with a unicorn on it and then get my caricature cartoon done ;) I also love to visit the malls with the still retro interiors! Where you can still see the original signs :D

  5. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Thanks you so much for this article, Darlaw!

    Grew up in a giants mall, went home in the evening for supper, comic books and sleep.
    Then mom would pack me up and we’d head back out again (well, often enough).

    It was like going to the circus.
    It was before arcades and Toy World was the best thing in the world.
    Got Colorform scratchies every time (about a dime a pop) and drooled over the small aisles of Fisher Price and this new hero called Big Jim.

    There was a cinema that would lure us with popcorn and Disney.
    The stores have all changed, but most of the statues remain.
    I’m still looking for old pics of that mall.

    Just watching the oodles of pics and the video nostalgia takes me back.

    And lastly – I want a RoboButler.
    If only to knock the kids off my lawn.

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