Kind of going along with nosweargamer's post about Sears...a place that brings back fond childhood memories for me is not just closed (it's been closed for a couple of years) but is now on the verge of a judge-ordered demolition: Lincoln Mall in Matteson, IL.
I lived in Bourbonnais, Illinois when I was a little kid. We didn't have a mall back then (there is now one in neighboring Bradley), so my familly -- my parents, my ten-years-older brother, and I -- would take a trip to Lincoln Mall every month. It was about a half-hour drive. That was the nearest place to shop other than the mediocre Meadowview Shopping Center in Kankakee. I'd always be excited to go. Usually on the way there we'd stop at Frank's Nursery & Crafts, a store my mother loved. While she was in there, my dad and my brother and I would often just sit in the car waiting listening to the radio (usually a baseball game, as my dad and brother are both big baseball fans), or my brother would check out Ortigara's Musicville in the same strip. After that we'd go to the mall. Maybe a trip to Venture would sneak in either before or after the mall. (Those of you not in the know, Venture was basically a store along the lines of Target but more rustic, I guess.) My brother would venture off on his own or maybe stick with my dad and me, and my mom would check out clothing stores and such. Usually we'd go to Record Bar, maybe one of three book stores in the mall (as predicatble -- B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, sometimes the much larger Kroch's and Brentano's, and usually my mom would join us for that), basically stuff that wouldn't bore us. I remember there was a weird novelty place called Joker's Wild, which sold a bunch monster masks and had one of those crazy mirror thingies. My dad and I would share a box of popcorn from KarmelKorn. There was no food court at the time - all the food joints were spread apart. My dad and I would usually have lunch at the McDonald's there. Three things I remember about that McDonald's: 1) the burgers were actually pretty good there, unlike at most other McDonald's locations; 2) in the middle of the menu above the counter there was a second-hand one-minute timer with a sign saying that your order would be ready for you by the time the second hand made a full circle -- and damned if we didn't always get our order in under a minute!; and 3) it was the place where the flavor of onion first made me throw up (they forgot to leave off the chopped onion; I always found the flavor of onions disgusting).
And of course there were other common mall stores in that mall -- Stride Rite, Chess King, Wicks'n'Sticks, the Baldwin piano/organ store (and there was always, ALWAYS, a fat guy in a suit demoing one of the organs at full blast; not the same fat guy every time, either!)...oh, but no Orange Julius. Instead there was a competing business called Orange Bowl. Record Bar eventually became a Musicland (a Sam Goody-owned store). The anchor stores in its heyday were Carson Pirie Scott & Company, J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward (closed in the late '90s I think), and Wieboldt's (closed in the late '80s; don't remember what - if anything - replaced it in the mall....maybe a Sears?? I know there was a Sears when the mall closed but I don't know whether it was Wieboldt's replacement.)
Sometimes we'd go into the Montgomery Ward. I remember they had a Commodore VIC-20 out on display with a little sign with a very, uhh...basic BASIC program you could type in. Eventually the Vic-20 was replaced with a C-64. (Wow...I'm a programmer for a living now, and it all started with the Commodore demo models at Montgomery Ward in the early '80s!) If you exited Montgomery Ward on the lower level and turned to the right, there was...well, here's the story.
One time when I was a REALLY little kid...maybe about five years old...we went into this place my brother loved called LeMans Speedway. I don't remember much about it, but I remember it had a lot of pinball machines. Next time I went to that place it was shortly after I first discovered Pac-Man and other video games. LeMans Speedway was now called Bally's Aladdin's Castle. And so began the tradition of my dad giving me a dollar for video games. Man, I was a bratty kid...sometimes I'd cry when my last token was gone. (Once when my dad wasn't looking, when I spent my last token on a Donkey Kong game that didn't last long, I claimed that it ate my token. My dad tracked down a worker, who would open the coin box and trigger a credit for me, so I got a fifth game that day!) Once in a while my dad would claim one of the tokens and we'd play a two-player Ms. Pac-Man. Some of the popular machines had a second monitor attached and placed on top of the cabinets so that others could watch the game in progress. There was a video jukebox. Many remember the bumper cars, but I don't; where the bumper cars were was a room full of primarily cocktail tables, and years later the cocktail tables were gone and replaced with NeoGeo cabinets.
This Aladdin's Castle was a magical place for a kid like me. What I remember most is the smell of burning circuits. I only encountered that aroma in two places: there, and YesterCades of Red Bank. I also remember the oddly-shaped tokens. It was at this Aladdin's Castle where I first saw Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man & Chomp-Chomp (dead serious about that, too), Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man, Professor Suck-Man, and Pac-Land. Man, what a great place. My dollar, sadly, never lasted too long, and my dad wouldn't give in to my pleading for even just one more quarter, but if I saw a stray token on the floor or if my brother had any extras he didn't want to use, I was allowed to use 'em.
Lincoln Mall was also where I met The Lone Ranger. Thanks to some Google searching and finding a blog post complete with a photograph from the event, I now know that it was in August 1979, just a couple of months shy of my fifth birthday. We took our monthly trip to Lincoln Mall, planned around the fact that The Lone Ranger would be there. Well...I had zero freakin' clue who this "Lone Ranger" guy was, but my parents made a huge deal about how I have to meet him. So anyhoo...my mother wandered off to the stores she usually checked out, while my dad and I got in line to meet The Lone Ranger. Right before we get to his table, my dad bent over and told me, "Be sure you tell him, 'I see you on TV!'" Now, inside my mind, I'm thinking, "Wait, this guy is on TV?? Huh. Well, whatever you say, dad!" But when we got to his table, I did exactly what my dad told me and said, "I see you on TV." The Lone Ranger responded; I don't remember what he said, but I'm certain it was very friendly. And he gave me an autographed picture. And that was that.
Years later -- I think I was in college -- I was cleaning out a junk drawer in my dresser, and I found a couple of autographed pictures. One was from this guy named Eric Jackson, a Michael Jackson impersonator who appeared at The Carriage Lane Mall in Kankakee some time around 1984, 1985-ish. I have no idea why I stood in line for his autograph, so I tossed the autograph. The other was the Lone Ranger pic. I remember thinking, "Ahh, yes, I remember that day when I stood in line to meet the guy in the Lone Ranger getup." The picture was signed "The Lone Ranger." No other information there. No contact info for his agency of record or anything, so of course, there's no way this was the real Clayton Moore. So the picture went in the garbage. Ahh....except...remember that blog post? Well...that blog post told me what an idiot I am, basically: I threw out a genuine Clayton Moore-autographed picture of Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger, whom I met in August 1979 at the Lincoln Mall. D'OH!!!! (To this day I haven't told my parents that I threw it out.) And now I live practically next door to Nicholas Senn High School -- where Clayton Moore was educated. So every time I take my dog out to poop, there's that constant reminder of what a boob I was!
Had some good times at Lincoln Mall. I remember some time in the '90s a couple of friends wanted me to join them there just to hang out, so after work I headed over there. In the space that once was Bally's Aladdin's Castle was now just an unnamed space, much smaller than Aladdin's Castle was in its heyday, that had a row of games on the left, and a row of games on the right; all modern stuff, no classics. It was sad seeing what it had become.
My wife is from New Jersey, so I told her about the mall closing and of course stories of my adventures there. We traded stories of our childhood malls being closed. Yeah, I'm a big supporter of stores going back to the downtowns, but man, this is still sad. I lived in New Jersey from late 1998 until spring of 2006, when I moved to Chicago. Shortly after that move I took a drive over to Lincoln Mall...I got there too late -- it had closed for the day -- but I could tell it was a tragic shell of what it once was.
Chris Rock once said that everywhere you go, there are two malls: the mall white people go to, and the mall white people *used to* go to. The former mall was Orland Square in not-too-far-away Orland Park. It always was a more attractive mall, but it had no arcade. And, sure enough, Orland Square is still going strong to this day, but sadly, it's no different from any other mall: a few anchor stores, and clothing stores for teenagers who want to be hip.
I'm sure everything I typed is a common story with people my age. (Except maybe the Clayton Moore story...but let's face it: Jay Thomas has a MUCH better Clayton Moore story!) But still...just wanted to get this out.
Edited by dauber, 08 May 2017 - 04:23 PM.