Long before the Internet offered the ease of shopping without worrying about finding a parking space, annoying salespeople or judgment, everyone went to the mall. The mall was a microcosm that contained everything one could want or need, along with a complex strata of citizens (from the mall cops down to the crazy old guys who glue stuff to their hats). To quote Roseanne, "You can live, die, and learn how to play the organ all under one roof."
I spent many a day of my pre-adult life at Eastwood Mall. My earliest memory of the mall (aside from some foggy recollections of sitting on Santa laps) is of going to see "E.T." at the actual theater IN the mall. I also remember having lunch at the McDonald's that used to grace a corner of the main concourse where the Santa / Easter Bunny would go, when I was still young enough for the play area / ball pit. Later, that corner gave way to a Disney Store. From my younger days up until I started working there (I was part of the first staff hired when Hot Topic came to the mall, whee), I saw the mall morph many times over the years, and its changes act as timestamps for growing up in the Mahoning Valley.
For example, the top floor of the mall, when I was younger, was always a mysterious place we never went. I remember before there were even escalators, just stairs, grownups would go up there for reasons unknown. Then, they put in Pocket Change Park, and kids had a reason to go upstairs. PCP gave way to Kahunaville not long before my tenure at Hot Topic began. Kahunaville was the perfect place for anyone who ever wanted to play Whack-A-Mole in the jungle. I did many a karaoke there. Now, the top floor is grown-up land once again. See how things go full circle?
The big concourse area used to house many things, too. Fountains, Santa, Easter Bunny, the beautiful old carousel, a giant gazebo where I tried out for "Survivor," and a bunch of other stuff I can't recall. And speaking of fountains, there used to be several of them, a few lesser examples and one bigger fountain, painted blue and filled with pennies, some larger coinage, and chewed gum. Teens would always jump in them, either when a quarter was spied or just to be goofy. The mall was always a haven for teens, a place they would spend those hours between school and dinner, untethered, being whimsically goofy and carefree and hopefully out of the security office.
In the hallways were many kiosks, which would come and go more often than the more-permanent storefronts. Remember The Mountain? It suited all your tie-dye and incense-buying needs. There was another T-shirt kiosk where I would buy all my angsty band shirts before the aforementioned Hot Topic came to be. And the medieval stand where you could buy a sword and / or leg shackles? I just ran into the guy who used to run it this summer. I let him know I still have my shackles. And the Bavarian Nut, and the Gloria Jean's cart (where my ex-boyfriend used to sling coffee)? Remember when the comic book stand was in the mall over by the airbrushing place and the record store? What's a record store?
For the sake of space, I will now just throw out some random memories of Eastwood Mall past. Hot Sam. Hush Puppy. Merry-Go-Round. Gadzooks (where I bought my first pair of vinyl pants). Woolworth's (where kids bought Christmas presents for their whole family). The Snack Bar. Goldstein's (with its little wooden bridge in the entranceway). Music X (when it closed, I bought one of the murals that hung in the window). NRM (whose going-out-of-business sale netted me hundreds of dollars in CDs for $14). Suncoast. The pet store. The movie theater (which still remains hidden behind the walls, according to mall legend). Cinnabon (where I had my picture taken with Trent Reznor). Kaufmann's. DJz. Demo (where my friend Patrick worked). Waldenbooks. KB Toys. B. Dalton.
As you go down the list, you can see how time has had its way with the mall. Bookstores and record stores are casualties of the Internet. Toy stores and places like Radio Shack are victims of the Big Box Store. Teens will still loiter in the mall, dressed in their goofy teen clothes. Shoppers will still camp out every Black Friday for the big bargains, and retailers will both rejoice and take aspirin. The mall is an institution that seems like it is here to stay. Now if I can just remember which entrance I came in.
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