essays

mall escalatorBaby Boomer Hangout

Fer sure, fer sure
She’s a Valley Girl
In a clothing store
Like, OH MY GOD! (Valley Girl)
Like – TOTALLY (Valley Girl)
Encino is like SO BITCHIN'
(Valley Girl)
There’s like the Galleria
(Valley Girl)
And like all these like really great shoe stores
I love going into like clothing stores and stuff
I like buy the neatest mini-skirts and stuff
It’s like so BITCHIN' cuz like everybody’s like
Super-super nice
It’s like so BITCHIN'

From the 1982 hit song Valley Girls

Where did cool young baby boomers hang out before shopping malls? The malt shop. The roller rink. Department stores.

Those places still existed twenty years later, but had lost their hip luster. It was like, get real. That’s all so…yesterday.

In the 1950s, suburbia mushroomed around big cities. But where to shop? Drive into a congested downtown, search for a parking spot, and tromp from store to store with cranky kids? By the mid-1960s, there was an explosion of “shopping centers,” some simple outdoor “strip” malls but others fully enclosed little communities. They were fast becoming the centers of pop culture. Like, it’s totally the place.

Soon the baby boomer “fad” was expanded to include everything imaginable: upscale restaurants and popular fast foods, exclusive fashion designer shops, bars, movie houses, video game rooms, post-offices, banks, playgrounds, even libraries and meeting rooms. Why go anywhere else?mall fountain

Malls were built to fit the character of the area. They became “neighborhoods,” friendly and comfortable. Everyone there looked just like you. Spend the day. Baby boomers did. So did their parents.

Malls multiplied. In the 1980s, over 16,000 new centers were  built, some in “gentrified” urban areas. Mega-malls appeared. Recently, traditional downtowns have been revitalized, but kids still flock to malls to hang out. There’s something magical about them. It’s home.

 

Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.

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