I was driving around the other day running some errands. Now that is something you do not want to do in December. Be out period! I find I always have to add an extra 15-20 minutes to get from here to there due to the holiday traffic. I passed by a few malls throughout my errands and looked at the parking lots and the barrage of traffic, eagerly, and at times, rudely, heading to the mall to spread holiday cheer and this got me thinking….
It is true that once upon a time I used to actually go shopping for Christmas gifts. I participated in the give the store all your money ritual. I was a kid, I did not know any better. As a young child living in Tucson, I did not have the Tucson Mall or Foothills Mall. Actually back in the day El Con Mall was all that and more. It was a great place to Christmas shop. It was all we needed.
The El Con Mall had it all. For a kid like me with 40 bucks in my pocket and a Christmas-gift list, El Con was where I headed. Montgomery Ward, Skaggs, Woolworth’s, Levy’s, Goldwater’s, J. C. Penney, toys stores, shoe stores, food, and of course Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor. I was set.
I could get my dad a tie at Wards for about three bucks and my mom a nice shirt for about five. My sister would get a poster, probably of Davy Jones, and maybe even yet another pet rock. Albums back then cost about $3.99; I could get my cousin an album, and Skaggs had 99-cent 8-tracks, so I could buy a few of those for my friends as well as pick up a few greeting cards and wrapping paper.
Back in the late 60s and early 70s, El Con Mall was truly the one-stop-shopping place. It wasn’t filled with coffee shops and fashion facades. It had your basic five-and-dime shops, a good, old-fashioned drug store, and a couple of nice department stores. It was all a kid needed.
Today I can not make heads or tails out of the bigger malls. Half the stores sell stuff that I could not imagine wearing. It seems like many of the stores contain an assortment of junk, do-dads, and this-and-that’s. So driving by the Tucson Mall today, and watching people hustle in and out of the parking lots, I felt bad for them; many of them will never know what a real mall was like and how a kid could drop 40 bucks, complete their shopping and sit down and have the world’s greatest ice-cream.