Have You Seen My Childhood?

A few weeks ago my mom sent me an article from The Plain Dealer announcing that today, June 12th, would be the day that Randall Park Mall officially closes minus Sears, Burlington Coat Factory, a sports complex of some sort and the movie theater.  Reading the article, I grew nostalgic for the place that I spent many Saturdays during my adolescence.

 

I grew up in North Randall which is a tiny village outside of Cleveland, Ohio.  North Randall neighbors Warrensville Heights and I lived up the street from the Brown Derby (long gone), Dunkin Donuts (gone), Bob Evans (still in business), Baker’s Square (gone), Denny’s (gone), Best (fare thee well), the Holiday Inn (resting in useless peace), Thistledown, and Randall Park Mall (dying a slow death).

 

Farther down the street away from the mall used to be the Miles Drive In, a place we went as a family when I was a kid and later a place to go on a date as a teenager.  That too has closed.  So much good, so many possibilities, and a whole lot of memories are now gone like dust in the wind.

 

The grand opening of Randall Park Mall was 1976, when I was a toddler to be, and was the mall that many in Cuyahoga County flocked to that year and for many years. 

 

But like time, things change.

 

I no longer live in the area, but every time I go home, I see that something else has disappeared.  When I learned that Geauga Lake, the amusement park closest to my home, easiest and most affordable to go to, and the site of Grad Night in 1993, closed in 2007, I was crushed.  How could a park that opened in 1888 just close?  So many people worked there during high school and college.  Couples and friends used to go there dressed alike and stand in line with their hands in each other’s back pockets, lol.  The home of the Double Loop, the first roller coaster that I ever rode in 1986, Geauga Lake was a fun place for me as a kid and a teen.  Plus I loved to get the cotton candy, salt water taffy, and funnel cake sold there.

 

Next door to Randall Park Mall used to be Children’s Palace which later closed and then reopened as Circuit City which is also now closed.  Before I knew about Toys’R’Us and KB Toys, there was Children’s Palace for all of my toy shopping needs.   For my 8th birthday, I got a Ms. Pac Man handheld game that was the center of my world until my brother ruined the game in his quest to make the joystick move faster.  He used to pour water on the joysticks not realizing that he was destroying my game.

If someone had told me in the 90s that one day this popular mall would one day resemble a ghost town, I would have laughed in their faces.  But I was young and dumb and didn’t realize that changes do come. 

                                                       

In this day and age of high gas prices, high unemployment, what used to thrill us, doesn’t anymore.  The spaces that used to be occupied by May Company (later Kaufmann’s and then Macy’s), Higbee’s (later Dillards), and JC Penney’s (later Burlington Coat Factory) would one day stand empty or hold less appealing merchandise.

 

On the Saturdays I was at the mall, I entered through Sears, where my first stop was Petrie’s, the place where I purchased many cute outfits, including my Sweet Sixteen party outfit.  I used to buy my music at Camelot.  Back then I purchased tapes or cassette singles like Guy’s debut LP with one of my favorite songs, “Piece of My Love.”

 

I guess even in the 90s, the mall was declining, but in my eyes it was just fine.  I remember seeing Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Lean on Me, Candy Man and a plethora of other movies there in the theater that used to be on the second floor, long before the Magic Johnson theater arrived on the scene.

 

Now with Randall Park Mall closing, I cannot imagine what they are going to put in its place.  I have ideas of what needs to be done to revitalize, rejuvenate the area, but I am not in a position to make my ideas known beyond phone calls with my family and this here blog so here goes.

 

The area needs economy, but it also needs a place for the residents of Warrensville Heights, North Randall, and Cleveland to go.  There used to be a Ponderosa and all sorts of restaurants there in the area that no longer exists.

 

Recently another company, United Church Builders, purchased Randall to save it from its pending close.  While the 2 million square foot mall is in desperate need of something being done to it, becoming a church or a group of churches is not the answer.  The last thing that area needs is a place of worship.  There are enough churches in Cuyahoga County that the corner of Miles and Northfield does not need to join the crowd.

 

The area needs places for people to have a job, a bookstore, a gym, and more shopping choices.  There was recently a Super Wal Mart built about 5 – 7 miles from where the mall is now so they can scratch that off the list of possibilities.  But a Borders, Joseph Beth, Barnes and Noble along side an affordable gym (meaning less than $20/month membership fees) with a few stores would be a great addition.  Allow the people in the area the opportunity to work and shop in their communities.

 

Living in Columbus, Ohio and Charlotte, North Carolina has caused me to grow accustomed to having many choices of food and shopping near by.  There are so many stores that Cleveland doesn’t have or only has one located thirty miles or more away from where you live.

 

Put some sort of gaming complex there like Dave n Busters, Jillians, or a skating rink in the area.  Increase the attractiveness and the appeal of what is now a huge eyesore.

 

 

So much could be done to revitalize the area, but churches are not the answer.  North Randall mayor promises that the area will not become a church, but in my non-mayoral opinion, the name United Church Builders seems to suggest otherwise.

 

I know I can’t bring back all of the stores and places from my childhood nor am I trying to do that.  I just want a place that has the possibilities to regain its potential.  In 2004, I was devastated to read that my hometown was ranked as the #1 Poorest City in the United States.  Building more churches won’t help improve that classification.

 

I love my hometown and want to see it rise out of the miry clay.

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