Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Midway Mall Reflections – Part 2

To Michael, it’s not that surprising that the downtowns were unprepared to compete with Midway Mall.
“We lived in Grafton from 1962 to 1978,” he noted. “I remember the Elyria downtown chain stores were dingy and old with wooden floors and bad ventilation.  Going there involved parallel parking and parking meters.
“The Mall was like an Apollo rocket. The original cinema had a 60’ screen with a working silent curtain. Not only was the mall heated in the winter, but in that era most homes were not air-conditioned in the summer.”
Michael also remembers – like everyone else who shopped there in the 1960s and 70s – the dripping vertical columns at the Mall that were so interesting to watch. 
An article that Michael sent me explains that it was called the WonderFall. 

So why does Michael have such a keen interest in Midway Mall?  
“My mother was secretary to the Mall manager so it overtook our family life,” he explained. “As a teenager I worked for the Mall management in the early 1970s,” he added.
He has a theory about how the new anchor stores at the Mall basically came in under the radar, playing down what would eventually happen to their outlets in the downtowns.
Cleveland Press photo of Midway Mall Sears
circa Sept. 1970 (currently on Ebay)
“I suspect Sears was coy about the downtown stores because they needed the building permits,” he noted, “and deferential local officials bedazzled by money coming into build the mall probably didn’t press it.  
“We have to remember how much more rural and remote Lorain County was in that era. For Higbees of Downtown Cleveland to open in Lorain County was a major wow!  The mid-1960s were the peak years of the 20th century manufacturing economy. Lorain County was at the center of it.
“I don’t know about you, but nearly everything we bought for our household from toys to clothing came from Sears!”
I would tend to agree with Michael on that. We picked our clothes out of the Sears catalog, as well as our Christmas presents.  
Michael has a few more memories about Lorain County.
“As a Graftonian, Lorain was a distant place,” he admitted. “I don’t think I ever made it to downtown Lorain until I was at LCCC in the late 1970s. I had a part-time job at new bank (TransOhio) at Oberlin and Tower.  
“I do remember a small beach and marina where my uncle had a boat, but I also remember the dead perch littering the beach.”  
Michael left Lorain County for Ohio State in 1979. After that he worked in the Ohio House of Representatives, and then in Washington DC, before his present post at Barrick Gold USA.
“Now I am bicoastal between Washington DC and Nevada. I have seen the same boom and bust in Las Vegas in the last decade.”
He did not forget his Lorain County roots though.  
“I was back for a high school reunion and I took the Saturday to walk into every place I once worked, no matter what is there today, and introduced myself!”


Lisa said...

Fascinating article. As a kid I was mesmerized by the "WonderFall" at the new Mall. But I also have fond memories of shopping mainly at the Downtown Elyria stores such as Penney's, (don't remember a J.C. as part of it), Paradise, a sort of soda shop that sold candy -- loved the ribbon candy! And of course, Neisners and C.H. Merthe Co. which had its own elevator, complete with human operator, and tubes for your cash register transactions that seemed to shoot from the first to second floors. Memory lane!

Mark said...

So many memories. Thanks for sharing!