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Holiday Shopping Memories: Kay-Bee Toys, Toys R Us, Shopping Malls & More


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This time of year always brings back great memories of Holiday Shopping with my family at Kay-Bee, Toys R Us, Sears, Woolworth, and all the great places that always made going to the Mall such an adventure. Here's a look back at some of the sights and memories from an era long past. I hope you'll share some of your holiday shopping memories too!




Kay-Bee Toys




































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Large modern sculptures were often a part of mall scenery





Fairline Mall (1981) outside of Detroit, MI was and is iconic of the Taubman malls





The same view of Fairline Mall today





Fairlane Mall (1981)





The previous picture as it appears today





Other malls that were once cultural epicenters are left in ruins





Fairlane Mall had a monorail providing transportation to a nearby hotel





Neon malls of the '80s





Glamour Shots





Posters of Patrick Swayze

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For decades, Sears was the go-to place for Holiday Shopping adventures





Sears Wish Book (1989)





Checking out Atari, Intellivision, and Odyssey 2 games at the counter (1982)





Service Merchandise




Service Merchandise had everything from silverware to video games

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Woolworth's were general stores. Once part of Main St. USA, by the 1970s Woolworth's were inside malls





At Woolworth's you could grab a hamburger or hotdog while you shop!





'60s style Woolworth's





'70s style Woolworth's





'80s style Woolworth's

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Before Walmart and Target, K-mart was the icon of American consumerism





K-mart was one of the most popular destinations for Atari games!





People spent a lot of time shopping for deals at K-mart





Or was it Zayre? Today Zayre is gone but spun off other retailers like TJ Maxx and BJ's





Hill's was another department store with plenty of toys & games!





Caldor was another good place for bargain hunting





Caldor is often remembered for its Orange and Brown rainbow "C"

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Toys R Us




After all these years Toys R Us is still with us





A girl runs with her shopping cart. Inside is an Atari 800 Computer with Frogger, Pac-Man, and more!





R to L: Atari 5200, Atari 5200 Trak-Ball Controller, Intellivision II, ColecoVision





Board games, Footballs, Dungeons & Dragons, and Atari accessories





Star Wars Millennium Falcon play set and action figures from Kenner





Children's Palace was another toy store where kids' Christmas dreams came true!





This totally rad dude got the most bogus Nintendo games at Toys R Us





Atari, Nintendo, and Sega at Toys R Us





There was no feeling in the universe quite as magical as opening that one present you had dreamed of all year





These are the memories that last a lifetime

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Before there was social media, there were Food Courts at the mall


the above picture is from Belle Promenade Mall - Marrero, LA............ I hung out at Diamond Jim's Arcade all the time!

Brian Matherne - owner/curator of "The MOST comprehensive list of Atari VCS/2600 homebrews ever compiled." http://tiny.cc/Atari2600Homebrew

author of "The Atari 2600 Homebrew Companion" book series available on Amazon! www.amazon.com/author/brianmatherne

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Yes, I really miss going to Kay-bee toys during the holidays or any other time searching for games on sale,etc. And Service Merchandise! God I miss that store, it was always a unique experience with so much different areas and stuff to look at, it's where I bought my first Atari computer, the 130XE. I remember the salesman trying to talk me into getting an 800XL since they were on sale for $50 less than the XE, but I just had to have 128K memory to match my friend with his Apple IIc!


And Montgomery Ward, another missed store. A funny thing about MW though, I thought the company went completely out of business around the turn of the century and I hadn't seen any store in Wisconsin or Texas where I've lived for the last 15 years, but I moved to Oklahoma a few months ago, and to my extreme surprise, I recently got a Montgomery Wards catalog in the mail! Does anyone else still have Montgomery Wards near them? 


And Zayre! Holy cow! I'd completely forgotten about that store until I saw the picture above!


Yeah, I need to get a time machine too!


I had all those Star Wars play sets, as well and the Sand Crawler and Walker cardboard sets! Man, what memories! I had a childhood friend name John Guenther, and he had the Death Star play set and a couple X-wings and a Tie-fighter, and I would bring all my smaller play sets, like the Falcon, Star Destroyer, Hoth base and the others and my "battle damaged" X-wing and Darth Vader Tie-fighter and we would spend the weekend with all of them together set up in his basement and make our own epic Star Wars stories. he had an 8mm B/W camera and we did a bit of stop-motion movie making with the action figures and stuff too, like attaching X-wings and Tie-fighters to string runners and pushing them down the string while filming! We used those fire-cracker snaps and smoke bombs for battle action with the camera too! Such great memories. I sometimes wonder what ever became of John and those old 8mm movies we used to make.

Edited by Bakerman

"Slugs, he created slugs?...Is this not the work of a complete incompetent? I would have started with Lasers, 8 o'clock, day one."-Evil (Time Bandits)

"...burn the land and boil the sea, but you can't take the sky from me..."-theme song (Firefly)

"I try to respect him, I really, really do, but he's just such a Smeg-head."-Lister (about Rimmer, Red Dwarf)

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The loss of American malls as cultural epicenters has to be one of the great social tragedies of our day. And it makes no sense to me why so many have gone into ruin and become giant indoor ghost towns. So many of us still go to Walmarts and whatnot for holiday shopping, so why not the great malls of yesteryear? I would, if they were still around where I live. I hate online shopping. It's just no fun at all compared to malls and window-shopping. Digital pictures online and waiting for the UPS truck suck in comparison and it's no way for the young generations to experience the Christmas season! And the tragedy of political correctness has even gotten rid of the Main street decorations in most towns and cities. It seems lost forever, just like the rest of traditional America. So damned sad and disappointing! We arel left only with Supercenter Walmarts and cruddy strip malls. Why does today's generation prefer strip malls?!? Where's that time machine again?


I remember my parents and grand parents always talking about how much better things were in their day, but I think we are the generation effected most by social change. We can tell our children how great America once was, and is no more, and it will be more true than any previous generations. Our parents and grand parents lived in simpler, friendlier, safer times, but we lived in a nation of greatness, if not so simple and safe, but now it seems all that is lost too.

Edited by Bakerman

"Slugs, he created slugs?...Is this not the work of a complete incompetent? I would have started with Lasers, 8 o'clock, day one."-Evil (Time Bandits)

"...burn the land and boil the sea, but you can't take the sky from me..."-theme song (Firefly)

"I try to respect him, I really, really do, but he's just such a Smeg-head."-Lister (about Rimmer, Red Dwarf)

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I really didn't like Kay-Bee toys, but let me explain why:

When I was younger, we had a WONDERFUL toy store called Toys By Roy.  (It was a Southern Mall small franchise thing)   It was a beautiful, old school toy store.  Glass display cases up front a'la the Christmas Story with elaborate displays.   Glass cases inside as well with amazing die cast toy cars, modeling gear, model rockets, Dungeons & Dragons stuff, and all the electronic games, gizmos, and video games.    As a kid, THAT was the toy store...and Kay-Bee bought them out.   Kay-Bee wasn't really bad, it was just more modern commercialization that reminded me of a smaller Toys R Us.  They had more kids toys for sure, but it wasn't as magical ever again.   Gone forever was that type of toy store.

This is the only image I can find of Toys By Roy:
David%20Game%20Store%20Retailer%20001.jpLook at that guy.  He had the best job in the world. 

"For you - Rowsdower from the 70 - have been appointed Omnivisioner of the Game Grid."  ~ Atari Adventure Square

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I would probably agree with you if I had a toy store like that near me. Actually, by the time I was in junior high, the only "toys" (besides model rockets and RPG games Gamma world and D & D) I cared for were video games, and luckily (Dan Iacavelli can attest to this too) we had a fantastic small Atari dealer near us called Mars Merchandising. He had everything Atari from consoles to computers, and, IIRC, Commodore and others too, but the specialty was Atari. And they took trade-ins as well, so I could go there and trade in my old games and consoles (and computer books I hardly used) for the newest ones. I was in heaven every time I wandered through that store! Atari from floor to ceiling and in just about every isle, not to mention the systems and computers hooked up so you could try before you buy, the latest games and systems. Sort of like that game store in the movie Cloak and Dagger, if anyone remembers that classic (the kid from E.T.).

Edited by Bakerman

"Slugs, he created slugs?...Is this not the work of a complete incompetent? I would have started with Lasers, 8 o'clock, day one."-Evil (Time Bandits)

"...burn the land and boil the sea, but you can't take the sky from me..."-theme song (Firefly)

"I try to respect him, I really, really do, but he's just such a Smeg-head."-Lister (about Rimmer, Red Dwarf)

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Very similar to Rowsdower's story:  we had a toy store like that at our local mall here.  It was really awesome -- they had bins up front for little toys for 10 cents or a quarter.  Things like slide whistles, rubber balls, army men, etc.  That made it easy to always come home with something good.  Plus, the mall was outdoors/not-covered...probably the most fantastical place to shop when it snowed during Christmas time. 




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In my hometown, Monroe, Louisiana, there was once a Service Merchandise, long gone.


Our twin city, West Monroe, had a K-Mart... No more.


Our first of two malls, the long defunct Twin City Mall, had a Montgomery Wards.


And way back in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, we had a Woolworth's downtown, along with a great multi-story department store called The Palace Department Store. It went belly up in the '80s, before my time.


Also downtown, about a half mile away, was a local store called Howard Griffin's, which every Christmas devoted an entire showroom to the "Howard Griffin Land of Toys."

They aired commercials on tv, with the jingle, "Howard Griffin Land of Toys! Loads of fun for girls and boys! Land of Toys is the place to buy, toy trains, airplanes, dolls that cry! Bring the kids and look around, The Greatest Toy Deal in the town!"

Sadly, Howard Griffin went under in the late '80s, and then, the final indignity, the long shuttered store was accidentally burned down by a homeless person in 2011. Here is a vid of the fire: https://youtu.be/b3wMQGGjsBQ .


Our other mall, the still open Pecanland Mall, likewise once had a Kay Bee Toys, but it closed several years ago after the entire Kay Bee company sadly went bankrupt.

Edited by LeeJ07

"I'd buy that for a dollar!" -Smash T.V.

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Here's a video of a store "Meier & Frank" in downtown Portland that used to have a Santa Land on the 10th floor each year.  In addition to a visit with Santa, they had this awesome hanging monorail.  Well, the store was bought out by Macy's, and the 10th floor is now part of a hotel...so no more Santa Land, sadly.  I'm happy to say my kids got the chance to ride the monorail each year until it closed. 



Meier & Frank had a giant old-school department store downtown that was built in 1908.  A picture of the building:




Here's what it looks like today:




There's a local story that before he was a star, Clark Gable sold neckties in this store in the 20's. 

Edited by RickR
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growing up in chicago area was the best, we had castle of toys (right next store was kiddie kingdom, an amusemnt park owned by the the people who ran the toy store) and in my old neighborhood of melrose park was kiddieland amusement park.we also had service merchandise as well, and Zayers  home of great balloon drop and midnight madness sales.

AVC Online:atari-video.club

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