In looking for who-knows-what on the internet recently, I stumbled across, from Hudson Valley (NY) radio station 101.5 WPDH and host Andrew Boris, a collection of vintage photos of the Poughkeepsie Galleria:
This was my mall. I so loved going there in the mid-'80s to early '90s, the great heyday of malls. Seeing this collection of photos was like revisiting one of my favorite childhood places - not even visiting what was left of the place last year could rival it. I now have to tell you about the stores in my mall.
- Help-Ur-Self: This was a pick-and-mix place. I recall it had giant clear plastic oblong candy dispensers lined up that extended to the ceiling. A pretty awesome '80s look with all the jellybean colors.
- Just Fun: I mention this out of obligation, since this is a gaming blog, and this was the mandatory mall arcade. I spent some time in here, because, of course, I loved video games, but I didn't really like the arcade environment. Arcades were dark and had a lot of constant digitized screaming and just seemed kind of seedy to me. Furthermore, my main arcade was the independently-owned one in the plaza in New Paltz, where my mom worked, to which my dad would usually take me on the weekends, which was a bit grungier (though more homemade) but with which I had stronger associations. I do remember teaming up with some random kid by chance on either Altered Beast or Golden Axe whose understanding father was standing by, watching gameplay with interest, and eating through all the gentleman's quarters by accident because I didn't understand that my teammate and I were being funded by a common pool, not individually by the coins we had put into the slots on our respective sides. I'm sorry, sir.
- Cinnabon: Cinnabon cinnamon buns were the ultimate mall treat. Despite these stores defining the mall experience in some quarters, they were nowhere to be found in any mall I patronized after the Galleria. After I moved away from the Hudson Valley, I didn't have Cinnabon again until last year, from a gas-station kiosk in Belgrade, Montana. It wasn't nearly the same, of course - and I couldn't expect it to be, but I wanted just a little of the magic there. It's the icing. It's not as smooth, sweet, or generous as it once was. Also, the buns themselves were big, smooth, piping-hot - decadent, as cringeworthy as that word is in relation to desserts. They were just overall well-done. The gas-station incarnation was just four little Pecan Spinwheels minibuns. Just one more sign of our slow societal downfall.
- Lechmere: This was a home electronics store, like a Best Buy. I recall it had a bit more to offer in home decor, though, to store your massive '80s electronics. We got a home entertainment console with a pull-out drawer on the side expressly for storing VHS tapes that I still have in my current home (albeit with nothing in the VHS drawer).
I occasionally got NES games here. I recall one of them being LJN Major League Baseball, at a time where I was allowed just to go and get a random game, rather than asking for a specific title and eventually making a trip expressly to buy it. My mom suggested Defenders of the Crown, probably for the medieval theme, but I had gathered from magazine coverage (and possibly How to Win at Nintendo Games) that it wasn't good. It's weird - nowadays, we're all more or less restricted to our favorite genres, but back then, we all seemed to play a little bit of everything. I liked LJN Baseball quite nicely. I used to play against the Padres all the time, since they were hands down the easiest team to beat on the cart.
- Electronics Boutique: This was before they went to EB. I prefer "Electronics Boutique." It's more cultured. Anyhow, this was the standard console games store. I went here a lot but don't remember the interior much at all. I recall getting Ultima: Quest of the Avatar from the Galleria Boutique and then being told I was going to have to be content with my current video games for a while, since I had gotten another title that I cannot remember from EB a short while previous. Which, fair.
- Taco Bell: OK, you're probably not going to believe this: in these days, in my area - which was, please keep in mind, an overall rather wealthy bedroom community to NYC; it wasn't a sheltered or uncultured region - Taco Bell was rather exotic. Plain tortilla chips with a small plastic tub of nacho cheese were an exotic treat. It was like no other fast food I could get locally. I loved going to that mall Taco Bell whenever I could.
Looking at the photos of the food court, I see there was at one point a Haagen-Dazs in one of the corner locations. That seems like something I would have patronized frequently if it were there when I was, but I have no memories of the place. I seem to recall that slot was populated by a yogurt shop at one point, though my memory might be majorly failing me here. There was a standalone TCBY on the lower level, as there was a massive yogurt craze in the late '80s/early '90s - getting huge waffle cones laden with toppings that seemingly would negate any health benefit. People have come out largely against soft-serve yogurt today because of alleged taste issues, but it was just multi-flavored soft serve to me, and I really wish there were a TCBY around where I currently live.
There was a Nathan's a couple slots away from the Taco Bell, and I also really liked their hot dogs. I don't think I ate from it much, though. Though Nathan's was a premium brand (famously based in Coney Island), my mother absolutely did not want me eating the variety meat nightmares that were hot dogs in the '80s.
- Galveston's: Though highly opposed to hot dogs, my mother loved Tex-Mex. Instead of the joys of food court nacho cheese, she preferred going to the mall's sit-down Tex-Mex place, Galveston's - which was eventually, by the time of the above photo, taken over in an inferior-to-my-mind incarnation named "Fresno's." (This might be solely because I found "Fresno" to be a less-appealing name than "Galveston.")
I had a birthday there! My father bought me a giant boombox with the I'm Your Baby Tonight CD. (Whitney Houston was my favorite singer.) My dad played it loud all throughout the meal at our table in the middle of the restaurant, which I thought was very inconsiderate but didn't get us any guff. Boomboxes made the '80s (well, 1990) have different rules regarding making a public ruckus, I guess.
- World of Science: Oh, man, World of Science. There weren't any photos of it, and there aren't any stores like it today. It sold kid-focused fun-but-functional science toys and projects: mineral specimens and assemble-yourself dino skeletons and chemistry sets. Just an awesome idea. Never saw another one.
- ETA: Maison du Popcorn: Similarly: oh, man. Maison du Popcorn. Neon sign on the lower level, a backsplash of pastel tiles, glass cases in the front with bins of popcorn glazed in all sorts of neon flavors. Like Help-Ur-Self, it made sweets into a triumph of '80s aesthetics - and the popcorn tasted great, too. It deserved to be memorialized, and yet I can't find any photos of it - or, indeed, any evidence that it even existed. Strange to say, but the complete memory-holing of the place is one of the most potent personal illustrations how time erases stuff: the fact that these distinct places that were constants in a good portion of your life can completely vanish without a trace.
On yet another depressing note, I was going to mention that the neon-glazed fruit-flavored popcorn itself lives on through the Coastal Maine Popcorn Co., but only a very limited spectrum from their full rainbow of flavors is available online.
(ETA to ETA: I discovered this summer that The Popcorn Shop in York, Maine stocks neon watermelon popcorn, which I now recall was the Maison du Popcorn's signature flavor to my child mind. They have the color down stone-cold, though the glaze seems a bit different - more candy-apple brittle-sugar than I remember, and less buttery/savory. Still worth checking out.)
- The newsstand: I don't recall its name and doubt I ever knew it. This was just an on-the-street newsstand with an upscale finish - yet in a mall, positioned right near the food court. Not viable in today's digital age, but cool. I used to get Archie comics from there all the time.
On a similarly-unnamed note:
- The elevator: In the middle of the mall. You could ride near the glass and watch the whole mall and everyone else rise and fall. A theme-park ride in itself when I was a kid.
- Jordan Marsh, G. Fox: These were the big apparel-focused department stores. Both chains are gone now. I remember G. Fox being the slightly more upscale one and my mother's go-to, where she would buy these massive leather pocketbooks that would cost a couple hundred in 1980s money. (My mother had horrible financial priorities, which unfortunately were not limited to pocketbook choices.)
- Yves Rocher: An outlet for a French beauty company that sold botanically-derived natural makeup, which a very atypical-for-the-West focus on skin care. My mother favored the brand. There are no photos, but the store was all wood paneling and natural-seeming light. I didn't wear makeup as a kid and I don't now, but it was neat looking at the various obscure flower and plant ingredients that the packages spotlights but of which I had never heard before ("arnica"). It made cosmetics seem friendly & wholesome, as opposed to the typical glamour with which they're sold (which isn't wrong; I'm just saying that that Yves Rocher store took a wholly different approach to showcasing makeup from anything I saw before or since).
- The movie theater: To kid me, this was the Hudson Valley's best movie theater. As shown above, there was a big separate airy entrance for it on the side near the food court. My clearest memories of the place include seeing *batteries not included near Christmas and the theater's prominent and curiously extended display of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark posters.
The restrooms: I'm not joking: one of the most remarkable thing about the Galleria was the approach to the restrooms. A very, very long, spacious arcade (in the architectural sense) lined with a periodically-cycled gallery of art, with a stylish, modern waiting room right before the restrooms themselves with upholstered chairs and sofas. Even upon my visit last year, which found most of the stores gone, the mall still kept up this art gallery and the lavish bathroom antechamber, which was soothing, in a way.
- ETA: The three bookstores: I'm adding this in because I loved books as a kid and now and the Galleria's three bookstores were a big part of my mall experience, but I omitted it originally because my memory can't distinguish between two of them in certain aspects. My favorite, I remember, was the Waldenbooks, and that's what's in the photo above, but I have no memory of my actual time in there or the layout of the store. Unlike every other store mentioned here, my time in Waldenbooks is a complete blank. I vaguely recall there might have been some sort of kids' club loyalty program with your very own membership card and everything, but I don't remember the benefits at all. During the period of time I lived in the Hudson Valley, up to age 12/end of grade 8, I would have been buying primarily Nancy Drew paperbacks, but I seem to recall getting most of them from the shelves of B. Dalton, which I had always considered the most mundane and least exciting of my three book shopping choices.
I do recall the third option, Brentano's, which distinguished itself with a clean-cut yet darker interior of forest green walls and vaguely-Victorian lampposts - a visual break from the well-lit beige and glass of the other two. I liked Brentano's as a kid, but my child mind compartmentalized it somewhat as a classy, "adult" bookstore that didn't carry much of my stock-in-trade.
While I'm talking about mall bookstores, I might as well mention the Barnes & Noble that lived in a little corner cubbyhole in the small mall section of the sprawling plaza up the road from the Galleria that housed the Toys 'R' Us. This was before Barnes & Noble was a megachain, back in the days when it used these distinctive beige plastic bags featuring a young medieval scribe. It was a good association for this particular store, which was a cozy little '80s mall nook with shelves up to near the ceiling, the store packed treasures in the corners. This is where I got Sega Genesis Secrets, with its exploratory Phantasy Star II chapter, and the surreal, disturbing visual-poem puzzle Maze. Forget the Galleria - this was my favorite bookstore.
- Wicks 'n' Sticks: Ohh-kay. Wicks 'n' Sticks was one of those gift stores that put considerable stock in mystic home tchotchkes like knives and pewter miniatures of wizards, except with, as its name suggests, a significant candle-based bent. It was far more oriented to gifts and home decor for a general '80s audience, but it did have significant stock in the pewter-wizard trade. Wicks 'n' Sticks was actually not in the Galleria; it was in the directly-next-door South Hills Mall, which was the region's major mall until the Galleria was built.
The reason why I'm bringing up Wicks 'n' Sticks is because it had one of the most time-and-place attractions I can recount: a serve-yourself walk-up kiosk (just a monitor with the printing equipment below) for printing your own greeting cards. The greeting cards were in black-and-white, adorned with chunky dot-matrix clip art you chose yourself, printed on tractor-feed paper that you then had fold into a greeting card yourself. If it wasn't powered by The Print Shop, it should have been.
This sounds ridiculous, but in the '80s, it was amazing. There was a keyboard and the cards printed right there and they had art you chose and messages you typed in. Home publishing (even if it wasn't at home) was an innovation.
...Oh, man; I started looking this up after I typed the paragraph above, and it was powered by The Print Shop. These were the cards:
Also the dawn of: getting paid with exposure.The overly-snarky author of that article (did they forget their SO's birthday one year or something?) is incorrect, by the way: The Print Shop's wares were a big hit outside the kid market. Again: this was the beginning of do-it-yourself publishing. Besides being useful, it was a huge novelty. Speaking of novelties:
- OfficeMax: Another South Hills joint, at the very, very dawn of big-box stores, which didn't truly take off until a decade or so later. I recall how strange everyone thought it was to have a huge, huge store dedicated to all sorts of office supplies. It was a big curiosity among my father and his colleagues. They went there like it was a theme park. Not to buy anything; just to gawk at the strangeness of it all.
- Aeropostale: This is still around, of course, but its major claim to fame in the '80s, at least from my perspective, was its photo T-shirts of locations around the world, which were well-designed and rather rare by '80s printing standards. I had one of the Taj Mahal I loved. Whenever I go by an Aeropostale today, I still go in to see if they have anything similar, but their images nowadays seem limited to NYC and L.A. My mother preferred Banana Republic, in between hitting up the eyewear place for tinted contacts.
I should try tinted contacts.
- Levi's: My biggest complaint about the current revival of '80s fashion trends is that while you can, finally, get acid-wash and stonewash jeans again now, you can't get neon acid-wash jeans. I mean like the ones showcased by Brad's character at the start of the Generation Zero Quick Look. I had those jeans. I got them from this store. They also had them in light blue and light green and purple, and it is a crying shame I cannot get them again. The only listing I've seen has been for skinny jeans in one shade of chartreuse and a single size. This beauty needs to be available to the masses again.
- Fluf 'n Stuf: I actually didn't remember this at all until paging through this album. But I do recall a store - probably one of many stores, given the era - that dispensed fluffy teddy bears and big circular stickers on giant rolls that you tore off along the perforated lines one at a time. This was probably it. It was the '80s. You needed stickers. They were one of the basic food groups.
Take a closer look at that Valentine's Day display. Makes me happy.
...Oh, man: Help-Ur-Self is in the background! I was right about the dispensers! Doesn't it look awesome!? Also, there's a tiny corner of a Mrs. Fields kiosk on the other side there. They were a real mall staple. You can still find some - there's one in the Portland, ME mall - but I think the quality's gone downhill. They seem to replicate the "fresh-baked" quality by not full baking the cookies.
Finally, one store I don't remember but should:
S T A G E . F R I G H T. Probably audio equipment. That sign belongs in a museum.