The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

COLUMN: The mall of yesteryear


March 28, 2018

I don't think it would be an understatement to say that malls are just not what they used to me. In fact, ten years from now I'm pretty sure there won't be many still around.

When I first moved to Montana in 2015 I made a trip to Butte and checked out the mall. I thought I had taken a wrong turn and ended up in Bosnia. I'm sure it was probably once a great mall really enjoyed by residents of Southwest Montana, but it is far from appealing right now. While there are some good things there like Herbergers and the Our Ladies of the Rockies Shop, I'm hoping something can be done to save it or a very similar one in my hometown in Wyoming. Sadly, I think that the days of malls as a social gathering point and integral part of holiday shopping will never return.

Toys R US announced recently they would be shutting down their stores and this is announcement that seems to be happening from major stores several times a year. Anchor stores at malls and big box stores are falling left and right. Because of this younger of today will never get to take part in the mall experience.

As a kid I can vividly remember going to mall to see Santa, the Easter Bunny, Valentines Vick (okay I made that one up), and it was always a day I looked forward to. Every stop at my hometown mall also included a trip to Karmelkorn. We would always leave with a big bag of caramel or cheese popcorn and snack on it until everyone was almost sick. There were also plenty of stops to get an Orange Julius or a corn dog. If I wasn't being a complete moron we would also stop at the toy store and I would carefully try to talk my parents or grandparents into getting a Star Wars figure or something I would probably end up breaking within ten minutes.

There were also different colored tiles and I along with probably every other kid from my hometown would try to navigate the entire mall without stepping on the wrong color. It was a lot like "step on a crack, break your mama's back" if anyone remembers that.

When I became a teenager, the mall started to serve as a social gathering point, especially on the weekends or after school. There were always the "bad" kids that would hang out at the arcade while the "good" kids would just pace around in groups of about five thinking about talking to the same sized group of the opposite sex, but never seeming to do so.

There was always usually one kid in a group "good or bad" that always thought shoplifting was a great idea and it was always funny to watch them run from the security guards that looked like they were straight from the set of a cheesy horror movie.

Malls always seemed to have a theater that was always the great time for the awkward first dates and trying to put an arm around a girl and quickly grabbing popcorn if she wasn't into the sneaky move.

Taking a trip to a mall in the big city at any age was always quite the experience. The residents of the municipality were always a few months ahead on the clothing trends and it was sometimes funny to see what they were wearing, even though the trend would make it to my hometown about a year later. The food court was also fun for everyone because there truly was something for everyone.


As I got older, the mall started to serve as a place I could get my shopping done at once and all at the same location. I wouldn't have to drive around all over the place looking for a special gift. There was a little of everything at the mall.

Now I realize that shopping local is a lot better way to go, but I do miss all the time I spent in the mall, even though 95 percent of the time I probably wasn't buying anything.

Now a lot of shopping is done on the phone or on a computer. It's kind of sad that kids today won't get the full mall experience, but then again how do you find time to do that between eating tide pods and Instagram.

Next time I go home I'm going to try and walk down the mall without breaking my mom's back – that is if it is still there!


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