Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mall Nostalgia: Recalling Christmas at Ye Olde Shopping Mall

In what’s shaping up to be a bleak Christmas, thoughts may naturally turn to better days gone by. Holidays often look happier in memory anyway, and since Christmas is so associated with childhood (your own or your children’s or grandchildren’s), the season inspires recollections of magical lights and displays, exciting street scenes and parades, and those first visits to Santa.

But one difference over the years has become: many of those fond memories took place in a shopping mall. Routinely berated as cold, indistinguishable and soulless madhouses of over-consumption, these enclosed behemoths have increasingly become the locations of happy, wistful—and important—memories.

Right now on the Internet, sites such as and Malls of celebrate days of malls gone by, while others, such as keep current with fan-like devotion to detail. That so many malls have failed in recent years (catalogued on such sites as dead, or were otherwise transformed in the course of time, has added impetus to this mall nostalgia.

So people are online sharing their memories of Christmases past that might include toddling past the huge mall Christmas tree to tell Santa your secret desires in the Walker-Scott department store in the Escondido Village Mall, or staring at Santa amidst the splendor of a Colonial Christmas with trees decorated by students of local schools at Montclair Plaza, or dashing through the shaved-ice snow at Fallbrook Mall in West Hills, California.

Or riding the Christmas carousel at South Park in North Carolina, being dazzled by the red and green lights in the fountain at Jefferson Mall in Louisville, or standing uncertainly in front of the Talking Christmas Tree at Midway Mall in Elyria, Ohio.

Real old timers may recall Santa arriving at the Tacoma Mall by helicopter in 1965, or in a tank from the local military base (a traumatic event for one online commenter) at the Edgewater Plaza Mall in Biloxi, Mississippi; or snowballs dropping from Santa’s plane over Northland Plaza in Lima, Ohio in 1967.

There is at least one mall that is primarily associated with Christmas experiences, and it happens to be the mall I wrote about extensively in my book, The Malling of America. A website hosted by Dead called Greengate Mall Memories includes over a hundred comments in its “Guest Book,” most of them with recollections sited in the mall, and many of them mentioning Christmas.

These memories are so strong partly for two reasons: because Christmas really was a very big deal at Greengate Mall, and because Greengate Mall is no more.

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1 comment:

Gary said...

Hi, I'm Gary Nelson, webmaster for Greengate Mall Revisited. I was reading your blog and was in awe by the pics that you've posted of the mall. Likewise, I've always been impressed with your historical analysis of Greengate and other malls. I would love to use your pics on my site with permission; they would be a perfect addition. Moreover, I'm considering replacing the forums with a blog on my website, and I think you would be an excellent choice to add some content to it. Feel free to contact me at if you're interested.

Gary Nelson