Yesterday I took my last trip to the Palm Beach Mall; not even the whole mall, just the JC Penney store asÂ they are closing outÂ its last merchandise. It was with such reflection that I looked over the chain link fence to theÂ rubble that once was one of the largest malls in the nation.
The Palm Beach Mall opened in 1967 and began that era in American shopping that is coming to an end. There were several shopping centers around the county at that time, but nothing that rivaled the Palm Beach Mall until Town Center in Boca Raton opened in the early 1980s. In those early years, you didn’t need to say “I’m going to the Palm Beach Mall” all you had to say was “I’m going to the mall.” Everyone knew what you meant.
I was four years old on my first visit. I can remember going there with my parents and grandparents, and being allowed to pick outÂ something. For me, it was Gumby and Pokey figurines from Richard’s Department Store, which was on the east end of the mall, in the space where Sears eventually located. Over the years, it became an almost weekly ritual to head to the mall for anything we needed, especially school clothes, shoes, toys, records, anything a teenager could want. It was our Internet for shopping and our Facebook for friendsÂ – we could rendezvous with others, and evenÂ with no cell phones, communication was easy – we just went to the information booth and had them paged! Sometimes the customer service clerk would not be accommodating if you asked too many times.
So as I entered Penney’s yesterday, I had to buy one last item in the mall. The shelves were pretty empty around the store. A display of clocks caught my attention, and I thought that was very fitting – a clock, to signify that the mall was out of time. ItÂ is made of slate with just simple clock hands,Â practical for the patio, where metal clocks always corrode.
So I tookÂ the clockÂ to the check out,Â where a woman who was perhapsÂ 20 years-old
was working. She looked atÂ the clockÂ and was rather puzzled. “The clock does not have any numbers. How will you know what time it is?” I replied “I think I will know.” She said “Well maybe if its 6 o’clock you would know, but I don’t see how you would know other times.” Oh my. A generation that tells time in a different way and shops in a different way. My mall has made way for her new shopping experience.Â But that is progress, I guess. And I can tell the time just fine without numbers.
To learn more about the Mall’s history, see the web page at http://www.africa-usa.com/pbmall/Â
I was just thinking that long before there was a mall, there was a Clematis Street with a Burdines at the corner. I even worked there for a while during school vacations. This was a place to meet and greet, to shop for clothes or whatever. There was also a J.C. Harris where all the guys bought Bass Weejuns, and a Cy’s Men’s Store where Elliot was happy to wait on us. Many times we would walk a few blocks down to Russo’s Sub Shop (when it was further north) and get an Italian sub for lunch. Now those were carefree days!
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