In its day, and my days with it in the late 1960s and ’70s, the American Mall was the place to be.
Mom did much of her shopping at Pangles, which put her groceries in a plastic tub on a conveyer that took them out to the parking lot, where a clerk loaded them in her car’s trunk.
Wells anchored one end of the mall and was a source for many of my Peanuts and BC books (and later those daring Alistair MacClean spy thrillers), as well as my pet white mice.
At the other end of the mall was Montgomery “Monkey” Wards, which felt to be a little below the Sears and Penney’s at the upscale Lima Mall, but always seemed to have what we needed. And the acoustic guitar Mom and Dad bought there almost 40 years ago still sounds great.
The mall seemed to wear its reputation as a working class mall proudly.
In between were the Readmore bookstore, Musicland (kids, can you imagine a room filled with new vinyl priced so low I can’t bear to tell you?), SuperX and the Hot Sam pretzel stand.
And, fresh in its day, the mall movie theater. Two screens way smaller than the majestic Ohio Theater downtown, but way easier to talk Mom into dropping us off for an afternoon showing.
Bill or Nile or Dave or Nancy and I would soak up James Bond, Indiana Jones or just about any movie that was playing we were old enough to get into. Even the mall’s smaller screens were enormous compared to anything we could imagine in our homes, and although we had a videotape recorder at school, no one had that kind of high technology at home.
Mark, who was pretty cool anyway, worked at the theater for a while, and had great stories of the R-rated movies he sneaked peeks at, or the people who watched them.
After college I didn’t spend much time in Lima, and only passed through long enough on a drive from point A to point B to tell the kids, “… and that’s the house I grew up in. Grandpa had a flower bed and flagpole where that garage is now.” The trees were way bigger than I remembered, too.
It’s odd to read web pages like http://j.mp/19WCUjZ, which talk about an American Mall I never walked with Value City and Burlington Coat Factory. We all have our own nostalgia, a past that’s colored by the memories that linger in our own minds.
Things change. Downtowns rise and fall, and if they’re fortunate rise again. The American Mall served its purpose in its day, and then its day passed. I don’t know the details, but I’m guessing its fate started with the rise of the big box stores and the lure of new shopping centers that drew the stores and customers away.
This newspaper has reported that “a mixed use plan of retail, professional and office space” is imagined for the land that mall once occupied.
That may fulfill the definition of “rising again,” but chances are it will never occupy the same community space that the American Mall did so well for us at its prime.
Gary Presley graduated from Shawnee High School in 1977 and now lives in suburban Cincinnati. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.