Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm a retired teacher turned writer. Ferradiddledumday (my Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story) and Stuck (my middle grade paranormal novel) are available from Cedar Creek Publishing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Crossroads Mall Memory

Warning—memories of the old days to follow:

Fifty years ago this week, Crossroads Mall became Roanoke Virginia's first shopping mall. It was located in what used to be a dairy farm between the Hershberger Road/Williamson Road intersection and the airport. I can remember seeing Holsteins graze there.

I was no stranger to buying stuff at that intersection, though. Years earlier, my friends and I would ride our bikes to Evan Drug Store where we'd buy a fountain Coke or maybe a comic book. I bought my first lipstick at Evans Drug Store. But Evans was a small store. The mall was big. At least we thought it was big at the time.

I was almost sixteen when Crossroads opened. Prior to its existence, going shopping meant catching the Williamson Road bus and riding downtown, a trip that took about a half-hour. You dressed up to go downtown in those days. In 1961, that meant an actual dress—or at least a skirt and blouse. Some women wore hats, gloves, and heels. Times were different then.

Downtown had the big department stores—Heironimus and Miller & Rhodes; several movie theaters—the American, the Jefferson, the Rialto, the Roanoke; the library; a bunch of dime stores—Kress, McLelland's, Woolworth, etc. Downtown had pretty much everything you'd want. No one had thought of K-Mart or Wal-Mart back then. Going downtown was a full-day event. You could window-shop along Jefferson Street and Campbell Avenue and venture into the stores whose window displays had caught your eye. Then you could grab a bit to eat and take in a movie.

When Crossroads opened, a lot of us ventured out to see what it was like. It was close enough to where I lived that I could walk there in a lot less time than a bus ride took. Inside the mall was an area of fountains and  palm trees and other big plants surrounded by a low wall. There was a cafeteria, a Heironimus (but not like the multi-storied one downtown), a JC Penney, several dress stores, a drug store, and a cafeteria.

Because of all those benches and the cafeteria, a lot of old people hung out there. You'd see gray-haired gangs of them sitting on the wall and watching us. Naturally, no self-respecting young person would be caught inside the mall for very long. A mall was for old codgers! It wasn't long until we hopped back on the bus and headed for downtown Roanoke where the action was.

Alas, the malls killed downtown. A few months after Crossroads opened, Towers Shopping Center opened on the other side of town. Then Roanoke Salem Plaza, then some strip malls. In a few years, few folks—young or old—ventured downtown. Stores closed or moved to a mall. Even movie theaters moved to the mall.

Now I'm the age of those old codgers who used to sit on the Crossroads wall and benches. Do I go to the mall now? Not if I can help it! I hate breathing the stale mall air, and I sometimes have trouble making the long walk from the parking lot.

Besides, nowadays the malls are full of those noisy young whippersnappers.
~

4 Comments:

Blogger Franz X Beisser said...

I would rather hand-split a load of wood than go to a mall. The gandering and slow walking kills my back. I'm with you; I'd rather smell cow roar than the stale air!

8:06 PM  
Blogger Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Funny.

I hate malls. I miss downtowns. I miss getting a BLT and and egg cream at the lunch counter.

11:16 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

Those are good memories. I remember this:
Evans Drugstore, Evans Drugstore!
Good prescription service!
Intersection of Airport and Williamson Road.
Delivery in the city, and in the county too!
For drugs, cosmetics, school supplies, it's Evans Drugstore!

It was a nice little jingle. :-)

10:57 AM  
Blogger Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Great memories! Loved reading about them. I remember when Valley View Mall first opened - I was in 6th grade and have a picture of myself holding a real baby snow leopard that was part of the promotion. It's a Polaroid picture, LOL.

7:00 PM  

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