Before the Internet, before the ‘89 quake, before Rocky and Star Wars, there was this: Eastridge Mall — the largest enclosed shopping mall in the West!
Unlike the newer malls like Valley Fair — where parking is nearly impossible and the food court is so-so, or Santana Row — where people arrive in Dolce & Gabbana but still make Town & Country money, Eastridge had it all — parking, mouth-watering food, and real folk.
Yes, the mall was built under the direct flight path of an airport; yes, it has been hit by a few planes; yes, it is home to (mostly) tired stores; and yes, it is no longer radiant. But when it looked like this … It. Was. A. Gem.
It was where I bought nearly all of my school clothes, records, and Halloween costumes. It was also where my mom took my brothers and me to lunch — usually at the diner adjacent to Woolworth’s or the cafe in J.C. Penney’s.
Being at Eastridge wasn’t always pleasant, however. I recall missing my buddy Dow Escalante’s Halloween party because I couldn’t make up my mind on a costume.
One of my favorite memories is buying the 45 RPM of KC & The Sunshine Band’s “That’s The Way (I Like It)” at Penney’s. And who can forget the free samples at See’s Candy?!
For many of us, the mall was either close enough to walk to, or a short .25 ride on the bus (route 71 in my case). I often showed up with a pocket full of quarters to spend at the best arcade in town: Kingdom of Oz! (Skee Ball was my game; Pinball was my brother’s.)
The seats that you see at the far left of the photo is where a tourist took a few pictures of my brother and me while we ate candy apples. I’ve often wondered where that photo is today.
Alas, Valley Fair, Santana Row, and Oakridge (which used to be Eastridge’s bi#@*!), are all better malls today … and often take my money. What they cannot take … are my memories.
How do you like them apples?!by