Monday, January 4, 2010

Crossroads Mall and More Memories

Waldenbooks is pulling out of two locations here in Oklahoma City so they've marked everything on sale. I went to the closest one at Crossroads Mall - here's my earlier post about the mall and what it means to me - but going there I knew I was running the risk of a flood of memories coming back. Good memories to be sure but memories made sad because of the demise of the mall.

It was a on overcast, chilly day, with mounds of plowed snow and ice piled up around the parking lot. Even on a sparkling clear day it would have been difficult to fill up the lot, I'm afraid. But you can tell not a lot of people are just flat out uninterested in coming here anymore:

Waldenbooks is one of the few national chain stores still stubbornly hanging on. Not for long, I'm afraid:

I browsed for a few minutes but was summonsed home for a change of plans. Before I left, I took a quick stroll through the mall. I had my iPhone with me so what better chance than now to make some kind of document of the place?

Well, I could take pictures all day long of empty, closed stores in the gloom. If I'm going to do that, I might as well take pictures of places that mean something. Here's the store front of the old Tops and Trousers.

Finding anything on the Internet about that old clothing chain is beyond my Google skills but maybe you'll have better luck. But Tops and Trousers was a hip clothing store of its time, sort of like Buckle but not quite as cutting edge. This is the store where Clara and I met; she was an assistant-manager and I was a post-Christmas, part-time hire having left a several year career in fast food at A&W Drive In. Tops and Trousers had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Clara was helping them wind things down. It wasn't long before we started dating and, well, the rest as they say, is history. Tops and Trousers would fold long before the demise of Crossroads Mall and stores would come and go in this location but sometimes, when we found ourselves in the mall, we'd stroll by and remember how it began for us.

Once Tops and Trousers went out of business, Clara found a reservation position with Hertz and I moved across the mall to the National Shirt Shop store, which was similar but different from Tops and Trousers. It, too, would pull out, before Crossroads started its long slide to obscurity, but this is where it used to be:

The only thing I can find about National Shirt Shop on the 'net is a possible location in Chicago. Again, I was hired as part-time sales help during college but for the summer break I worked full-time as an assistant manager. One evening during my last Fall there, after having bumped back down to part-time sales, I was talking with the new assistant manager hire. Some young, slick guy, full of stories, one of which he was weaving for me when the Oklahoma City Police came in and placed him under arrest. Something about an outstanding warrant for auto theft in another state. They cuffed him and led him out, leaving me on my own, speechless. Well, my assistant-manager skills kicked in and I called the regional manager, Jim Goins, who was a great guy, told him what happened, and agreed to look after things until he could make it to town in the next day or two. (Jean Chronister, the manager, was on a well-deserved vacation.) Jim came in as promised, took over, and we had quite a tale to tell Jean when she got back.

I'd finish out my part-time working career there at National Shirt Shop until I graduated from college and my employment at Crossroads Mall would come to an end. But, like I said in my previous Crossroads post, that wouldn't be the end of our times at the mall.

Rachel was born in January so the mall was a good place to take her for an outing when she was a baby. When she grew to be a toddler, she and I spent a lot of time in the center court waiting while Clara shopped. There was a fountain then and steps that led to a stage-like area, and you could spend a lot of time there amusing a toddler.

Those things are gone now. The flying ramp was dismantled and replaced by an elevator. Probably a good thing but let me tell you, it could be a lot of fun for toddler to run down a long ramp unimpeded. Looks like Crossroads managed to have some sort of a Santa station during the holiday so some childhood memories were still being made this year:

The stage and steps where we played were taken out and replaced by a carousel. No, not our memories but someone else's. Some day someone may reminisce about the thrilling times they rode it. I hope so.

That's about all the time I had for the mall that day and it was enough. It's still full of the phantoms of our prior lives but visible only to me. Our lives have moved on and, sadly, it looks like the rest of the world has moved on from Crossroads as well.

Who knows what's in store for this fine old mall? It's in dire need of a face lift and the work needed may be too extensive to justify; a razing may be in order and, if so, that would be too bad. It's still a great location and though the neighborhood around the mall has decayed, those kinds of things are temporary. Maybe the mall will have a re-birth. And maybe this is the last of it.

Either way, I managed to get a few pictures. The memories were always there.

No comments:

Post a Comment