[The Ghost of Malls Past...] We talk a great deal about crime around here, but I guess for good reason. It ruins everything. It takes away our favorite places and forces us to give a long hard look at the 'times they are a changin'. I'm missing so many things lately, I hate to kick a dead horse, but as I was feeling melancholy over memories, I paused bittersweet over my old 'stomping ground', now demolished,
The Mall of Memphis.
Just like most Saturdays during the late 80s/early 90s, we put all of our energy into intricate preparation for our favorite weekend event--spending the day at the Mall. In particular, we fancied the Mall of Memphis most. I'm not sure why, it was just the one we had grown most fond of, maybe because it was the first one that we'd ventured to on our own as "grown-ups". I made myself ready, and then drove over to Shiree's house where I had no choice but to wait for her to finish her bathing rituals, and then her fine attention to detail on her eyelash curling, make-up and hair spraying. Once she was finally ready, we headed out the door and on a mission to find something to eat, and then to that magical Mall we loved so much.
Saturdays were always the best... we still had the whole weekend ahead of us, and if we met-up with some cute guys (and we always hoped we would), then our weekend was deemed a success and we'd still have time to hit up a movie or something along those lines with our new-found "Mr. Right Now". In those days, Memphis was a temporary home to many marines and navy guys, and somehow the Mall of Memphis was their gravitational weekend destination as well, much to our delight.
(Memphis, Spring 1990) Full of promise, I was catapulting head-first towards my dream, to become a great Graphic Artist. I worked hard at it (sometimes)… the problem was, I had a bad habit—the habit of having a little too much fun. There was time… I had plenty of time… I had forever if I needed it (so I thought). We met at the Mall of Memphis in the food court (Dairy Queen to be exact). He was a bright, shiny Marine with big, puppy-dog eyes and hair of the finest spun gold (oh so ‘high-n-tight’ as the hairstyle boasts). He and his buddy invited themselves to sit with us, and we eventually invited them down to check out our small-town paradise. He had a girlfriend back home, but she was history. We’d been dating only a weekend, drowning in the void of careless youth. He said he knew it was sudden but that he knew he wanted to marry me. I told him I felt the same and that I would marry him and follow him anywhere. He was going to send me to art school whenever we got to the place we were going. No thoughts entered my head of my family, and when or where would I see them again. I was in love with a capital “L”, and time was on my side. I had even broken it off with the rough and raunchy “Mr. Right Now” whom I’d previously been wasting time with.
About a month and a half later, the dream ended as I awoke to a crash-course in Reality… my first real dose of it. His girlfriend back home (who was supposed to be history) had come forward with her pregnancy. He said he had no choice… he said he would never forget me. I said “Please don’t go…” I spent a week in my mother’s lap, crying. And while I definitely had some trouble letting go, and there were those incidents in between, I held up fine and eventually I moved on (To bigger and better things of course).
We had many more Mall adventures, as well as others growing up, I even had a potential "serial killer type" approach me once when shopping with my college roomate and neice, but in all I remember that place so very fondly... Parking near my favorite exit which came in right next to the Ice-Skating rink (Chalet) hearing all the popular songs bellowing through the place, and watching the skaters dancing 'round on the ice, feeling the cool waft of air as you passed by it and 'The Gold Mine', which was a big arcade, always packed full. It's hard to remember how we could pittle away an entire day there, but we did. Darkness would fall before we knew it and it was time to begin the journey of finding where we'd parked the car. I guess we thought it would never end.
But Time is a cruel vixen and she made her mark on us, this city, everything we held close to our hearts. Our lovable favorite 'hang-out' became a dangerous location, where we heard more than our share of tales of shootings and violence. Eventually, it was nicknamed the "Mall of Murder", more and more businesses closed and others opened in attempts to stay alive, "renovate" the fine establishment that was once "hopping" with trends and friends and faces. The once-proud hub of entertainment that opened in October 1981, lost the battle and closed its doors on December 24, 2003.
Now all we have left is a few photos, some of which I managed to scrape up, and a head full of misty memories. Visions come rushing, visions of laughter, frigid breeze coming off the ice chalet, tantalizing smells from the food court as we walked, shopped and "people watched"... endlessly dreaming our day away at that Mall. Yes, times they are a'changin and people are too... never again will there be a mall, or an era for that matter, quite like The Mall of Memphis... the way it was then.
For more information, please visit 'Remembering the Mall of Memphis'
Also of interest is 'Remembering the Mall of Memphis' article on Mall-Related Crime in Memphis