Walking the Mall and The Memories

One of the places which I used to like to go and take a walk when it’s rainy and bad outside, is the Mt. Berry Square Mall. As a matter of fact, my wife and I went there a couple of times last year before the pandemic, and walked to get our cardio workout. Unfortunately, as my Dad once sang about the old gray mare, “she ain’t what she used to be, many long years ago.”

Mt. Berry Square Mall opened back in 1991. It was brand spanking new back in mine and my wife’s “heydays” of our working careers. It was beautiful. Skylights illuminated the food court and it was full of new stores with new smells, and stocked full of stuff we needed in our lives. Our sons were still living at home with us then. If I remember correctly, they opened it early in 1991….almost a “late” 1990 opening. The first Christmas we shopped there would have been in December of 1991.

As with all other years, 1991 had it’s memorable historical moments. The first Gulf War took place that year. Space shuttles were being launched with regularity. The shuttle Columbia carried another piece of Spacelab into space that year. In December of that year, Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union collapsed. Memorable historical events.

Of course there were the everyday events also occurring in our lives. Paula and I got on the same shift at Crown Crafts where we were working that year, and we rode out and back together to work every day for the next eight years or so. We had a lot of discussions and listened to a lot of music in those years. We went to lunch together practically every day. We were very lucky to have good jobs at a good company.

Then, on a lot of weekends we went to Mt. Berry Square and shopped. Afterwards, we might go to the movies in Rome. A couple of years later, can’t exactly recall when, they opened up a movie theater there at the mall. We made a lot of trips to Rome during the ensuing years. A lot of trips to that mall. Most of them were great trips.

Paula’s Mom and Dad made one of their last “spring visits” to Georgia the year the mall opened and we took them there. Cancer took them both in a few years after that. My dear mother in law died first in 1992. She really enjoyed her first and only trip roaming around that mall. She would always say “Wow” or “Oh my” if she thought something was special. She was a wonderful, caring woman who passed too soon.

There were the Christmas shopping trips, when we would always buy a Christmas ornament from the little old folks from Loganville, who set up in the middle of the mall. They always had some interesting and nicely priced things, and it was a pleasure to look at them and select “just the right thing” Evie played with a set of Russian nesting dolls this year that we bought from those good folks way back then. Good quality to have lasted so long.

We always looked forward to the day that Santa came to the mall, and started letting the kids come sit on his lap and have pictures made. I think we have photos of almost all of our grandchildren sitting in that mall Santa’s lap. A couple of them are hanging on our refrigerator now, held up with assorted animal magnets. I know my children could recall a lot more memories associated with the mall than me. Ted was learning how to drive during those years, and I am sure that old red EXP of his went out and back to Mt. Berry quite a few times.

The stores were jam packed with great merchandise back in those days. You could always find what you were looking for to celebrate a birthday, or any other special day. For years, businesses were on waiting lists to open up a storefront in Mt. Berry Square. It was bustling and full of people on weekends. Not anymore.

As we walked around and around today, there were more empty spaces than spaces with stores. Sears, which had a presence in Rome for over 100 years closed up last year and sits empty. The mall has up ads begging businesses to come move in. It’s a little sad. No, more than that, it’s a lot sad. It’s amazing how quickly things change in the world of business, as well as in our lives. Just as Walmart opened up their stores in many small towns across America and closed up most of the “Mom and Pop” shops in those towns, the Amazon’s and other “online” shopping ventures have begun to cause many malls across America to close up. I suppose that’s progress, but not for a sentimental old guy like me.

I hope that Mt. Berry Square manages to stay open for a while. I go out of my way to go there sometimes just to walk and to remember. There are still sights and smells which invoke the nostalgia of days gone by. Good days, wonderful times, great memories. There are closer places to where I live in which I could walk in the rain, but none of them have those memories contained in their walls. They don’t contain my memories, which are kindled and which burn warmly inside my chest every time I go around one of those familiar corners

I hear a child’s laughter, and for just an instant I’m back to 1991, walking through there with Matt, looking for the newest and greatest transformer for Christmas.

And so, it’s worth the few extra miles drive. Well worth it.

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