My mother once abandoned me at the Tacoma Mall. I believe I was in sixth grade at the time. To be fair, it was different times, and I kind of deserved it. For the past few mall visits, I'd break off from her, typically when we were with my younger brother as he'd distract her so I could just...vanish. Purposely.
Why? So I could go to the local Mall toy store. To be fair (to me) I always wanted to go there. Sometimes I could, sometimes mom would say, No, we don't have time. And I'd be crushed. And bored nearly to tears in having instead to follow her around (watch your brother) and put up with her looking at ladies clothes (or worse, clothes for us).
|Grand entrance Tacoma Mall - 1970s|
Finally in just a few minutes frantically rushing around the clothing department, I found him purposely hiding in one of those circular clothing racks, happy as a clam. But I couldn't help but flashback to that day at the mall in 1967.
|Myself and little brother about the time mentioned here|
So, of course, the very next time we went to the mall...I disappeared again. I got my fill of toys, this time without mom ever showing up to get me. So I wandered around in search of them. I went to where they had been heading, the Bon Marche, most likely. But, they weren't there. So I wandered all over the mall until I was getting tired but, still no mom and little brother.
Finally, I was getting worried, myself. So I went outside to a phone booth and called home to tell someone I couldn't find them. I checked my pockets and found a single dime. I always was supposed to carry one for an emergency phone call.
Of course, mom answered. She didn't really chew me out, just laid out the situation, the past situation, and what this meant to me, today, right then. I promised I wouldn't do it again.
She just said, You said that last time.
I asked, So are you going to come get me?
No, she said. You can take the bus home.
I dug into my pockets. My empty pockets, hoping for a quarter. I told her I had spent my last dime on the phone call. The only dime I'd had.
She just said, Well then, you have two feet, I guess you're walking home.
WALK? Home? I asked dejectedly.
Yes, she responded, all the way.
At that time in my life, I don't think I had walked anywhere alone that far. I was shaken. And I broke. I told her that.
She just said, Then you're walking home. It's not that far. See you when you get here.
And with that...she hung up.
I was stunned. I looked around. Hustle and bustle all around me. Adults, cars, a huge parking lot. I stood there for a while, contemplating. No one was coming. I was alone. I could stay there forever, or I could starting walking and maybe one day, I would arrive back at home. Where the family was. Protection, safety. Food. my toys. But... it's so far! I looked around.
No one I knew was around me. I knew no one inside knew me, or I, them. I was lost. But was I? I knew where I was. I knew how to get home, it was pretty much a straight shot. It seemed so far though. Maybe I should just stay there, live at the mall. That would teach my mom!
But in the end, I walked. Google Maps now shows it's 1.4 miles and a half-hour walk for an adult. Which I wasn't then, so it probably took me about 45 minutes and I'm sure I didn't rush. There's always so much to see.
By the time I got to the 48th street bridge that goes over the I5 freeway (I know I had to stop and watch the traffic rushing below me), it had all turned from a punishment, to an adventure. But then, that was just who I was. Adventure was always all around me and I sought it out at every turn. Much to the consternation and frustration of my mother.
Adventure got me into this mess and adventure was going to get me out.
Eventually, I made it home just fine.
By the time I got there, I was expecting in my best "A Christmas Story" fantasy, a hearty hero's welcome home. But instead, of course, I got home to, Oh, you're back, good, get ready for dinner. No hero's welcome. Just a "Next time, don't wander off."
And I never did again.
Today the Tacoma Mall is 1.4 million square feet of retail space, with approximately 13.5 million annual shopper visits.
|Tacoma Mall 1967 grand opening, me with Kirby Grant, "Sky King" of TV fame|
I've put a green X on the right where Sky King and the ceremony was held. As I remembered it, they were opening it too soon but wanted to and had to and so had this event. But I believe later there was a much larger four-day event as noted in the article. As the Bon Marche moved in a full year before the official opening, I can only assume this was the opening event we went to. And it wasn't all that big of an event, but big enough.
|Go to News Tribune article to expaind|
"The four-day-long grand opening drew 400,000 people — equal to Pierce County’s entire population at that time.
"The sparkling new mall brought enclosed shopping to Tacoma with 71 stores, 1,500 jobs, 900,000 square feet of sales space and parking for 7,200 cars. Fireworks, singers and dancers provided entertainment during the grand opening.
"Today, the mall has grown to 1.4 million square feet and employs 2,500 to 3,000 people in 150 stores. While malls have faltered and closed across the country, the Tacoma Mall still functions as it did 50 years ago — but with a few role changes.
"Of the original 1965 mall stores, J.C. Penney, Hallmark, Motherhood Maternity, Zales Jewelers and Weisfield’s Jewelers are the last survivors.
"Interstate 5 had opened the month before, and J.C. Penney, among other stores, was preparing for its opening at the mall. Eventually downtown retailer Sears moved. The Bon Marche (now Macy’s) moved from downtown to the mall site in 1964 — a full year before the rest of the mall opened."
As I remember it there was a soft opening and I was there the day it officially opened when there was only one store open and running. I believe there was only the large Bon Marche, and by our opening day even, JC Penny's. Sky King was there, the actor who played that role on TV, Kirby Grant, was famous among many TV-watching kids at that time. Kirby was born in Butte, Montana. My older sister was also born in Montana.
|Tacoma Mall 1967 grand opening, my younger brother with Kirby Grant|
As a kid, I loved the Tacoma Mall. At some point, my step-father, my late little brother's dad, worked at Nalley's during the day. In the afternoon after his warehouse job, he would take a nap, be miserably grumpy if you got in his way, then put on a suit and went to work at the Auto-View Drive-in Theater where he was Assistant Manager. Homer was the manager and his friend. I liked Homer and his kids.
Back in the 40-50s after the war where he was in a military band or something, and I think some kind of clerk, my step-dad had his own orchestra in Philidelphia. Our mother met him after that I believe. I never found out why he stopped leading a band.
I saw a photo once of them. Each member of the 20 or so member band had his own little stand before him with my step-dad's initials on it and him standing proudly before them looking at the photographer with a big smile on his face and holding a conducting baton. It had to be one of his greatest moments.
|Yeah, this might have been a FEW years before I first went there|
We were there every Friday, rain or shine, seeing whatever there was. I think the only film we missed seeing there was "I Am Curious, Yellow" because of the hype and marketing about it indicating it was inappropriate for kids.
Wikipedia: "The film includes numerous and frank scenes of nudity and staged sexual intercourse. One particularly controversial scene features Lena kissing her lover's flaccid penis." I saw it as an adult and I can say, it was tamer than many of the films I saw as a kid before the film ratings came into being, with the exception of that one scene or perhaps just one shot.
|Tacoma Mall Cinerama|
|Lincoln High School, Tacoma, WA|
Then in 10th grade moving up and into the snack bar and eventually taking over the managing of it. The drive-in by then was run mostly by kids from Lincoln High School.
|Tacoma Mall Cinerama lobby|
|Tacoma Mall Cinerama thearer|
The Cinerama had opened with high expectations. But never showed a Cinerama release. I was with our family at one of the many grand openings of the Seattle Cinerama, ours being for the regional area theater managers and their families. We saw, "Krakatoa, East of Java" which I thought for the time had rather silly SFX. The Seattle Cinerama had a license that was exclusive of a 50-mile radius and since Tacoma is only some 30 miles from it, our Cinerama couldn't get a license.
But the year the Tacoma Cinerama opened my stepfather was offered to manage it. We talked about it as a family. It supposedly had an apartment where we could move into as some theaters, even drive-in theaters, have. The thought of actually living IN a theater was intoxicating to me and my younger brother. But he had just started on his long terminal road through liver cancer and the doctor bills were just starting to pile up.
Mom finally said just shut us down and said, No, we can't afford it.
We all wanted to move (not my sister). But Mom made the final decision as she always did about bills and finances. And she was right as the doctor bills only got bigger and bigger, finally wiping out her inheritance from my grandfather, and then receiving unbelievable help from the American Cancer Society, according to her.
|That window by the peak was home for a year after the military|
Thanks to my older brother letting me stay there and get my act together.
Though I had some great times there. Sometimes friends would stop by a 2am or so and we'd have a little party and they'd leave and I'd crash and be up in time for nothing, or whatever. Eventually that whatever became college. All I had to do was cut wood for heat for both my brother's house and my loft, that he'd bring home from his construction jobs.
Mostly trees they had to cut down and I'd chainsaw and split wood for my rent. It was an arrangement that worked for us both. Plus, his wife at the time was pregnant with twins I helped out after they were born. And they needed the help! I wasn't the only one. They always seem to have friends over and it was quite an experience.
One day he talked me into going to college as I had Vietnam war VA benefits and so, I did. In 1980 I started working at Tower Posters off 38th street and attending Ft. Steilacoom Community College (now, Pierce College).
One day I discovered a field on the other side of I5 from the Mall had a special kind of mushroom that made my days very entertaining over the course of that year or so. How did I find that out? I'd been an amateur mycologist for years. They called to me.
That leads into some very interesting stories including one about my girlfriend and I the night we saw the film that I think was playing for the first time (Superman) at the Tacoma Mall Cinerama and well, I've detailed that adventure in a blog article elsewhen.
Eventually a year later some construction going on and it seemed to upset the environment as construction tends to do, and the shroom extravaganza sadly died off.
When I think back about the Tacoma Mall, a wealth of memories and situations floods into my mind. Some very good times. We met Dick Balch the notorious crazed (but very nice) car dealer there. Eating lunch and giant Crab or Shrimp Louies at Johnny's Dock at the Mall. Lunch at the Bon Marche restaurant. Visiting Nordstrom's with my sister when I was in jr high and being around many attractive young women who all had more money than we did.
I went back recently. I had worked after I got out of the service, and later after college, at Tower Posters on 38th st, the original location, and Tower Records, and Tower Video (then moved to Tower Video in Seattle on Mercer).
We still see one another from time to time, those Tower employees. I'm still friends with some of them. One, two really, part of a little group in my Tacoma Records supervisor in tapes, and later Video manager and eventual Seattle video manager and roommate, and our other friend.
Here's a photo from one of our reunion days I took on Instagram. You can visit my account on there to see these, the shots below I took of the Tacoma Mall that day and of other local places, and if you head toward the today on my Instagram account, you'll see production stills from the short horror film I'm making. "Gumdrop, a short horror", is a prequel, based upon a short story I published years ago (Gumdrop City, a fiction horror story based on a true crime).
|Tacoma Mall Red Robin Tacoma Tower employees reunion 2018|
|Today's Tacoma Mall grand entrance|
|Tacoma Mall Food Court intersection|
|Rolland from Steelzilla|
|Tower Tacoma March 31, 2019 Red Robin Reunion|
|Terrifying, I know, but I had a blast|
|From our first reunion|
And yes, we're a motley lot. Always were. I myself for one look much different than I did my first days working at Tower Posters in Tacoma. I've gone through some changes in my looks, to be sure.
Thanks so much, Time and... Life.
|Myself at Tower Posters Tacoma 1980|
|WWU 1982, hey, my girlfriend staged this one|
|Auditions headshot 1989|
And yes, my looks changed a bit. So has the Tacoma Mall's looks through its never-ending series of contractions and expansions and evolutions and facelifts.
So to sum this all up, yes...the Tacoma Mall and I, have had a vastly deep and long-lasting relationship. Our looks have changed. Our friends have changed. And life continues on.
And that my friends, is really about all I can say about it...thanks for sharing this journey into my past and that of Tacoma's famous Mall.