The New Shopping Center

The apex of the shopping experience in 1962 was the shopping center. Those of us who lived near Route 8 south of Butler were about to realize the ultimate in modern retail as we watched, with great anticipation, the construction of a new shopping center across from the steel mill and beside the sewage plant.

A short bike ride down Lipman Road allowed us to be sidewalk inspectors. We could see the emerging skeleton of what a sign indicted would be a new Kroger. As kids, we had little interest in grocery. We were more interested in the soon-to-be Woolworth’s. A much larger structure claimed to be a Gaylord’s, whatever that was. It was exciting to imagine that we could go and “shop” so close to home.

Shortly after the grand opening, the center fired interest by holding “Bank Night” on Mondays. There was a contest that offered a fifty dollar prize to the winner. It is hard to imagine today how the slim chance of winning such a sum could draw large crowds.   Because the winner had to be present to claim his prize, the event was a magnet that drew customers away from Monday night shopping in Butler where stores stayed open past five only on Monday and Friday. Later, after Bank Night fever had subsided, other “attractions” were offered. I remember the event which offered $200 to “anyone who could stay in the cage with the monkey for two minutes.” The “monkey” was a mean orangutan with physical and emotional assets that made sharing cage for two minutes a pretty bad proposition. My brother and I were upset watching the exploitation of both man and beast. In retrospect I can’t imagine how this could have been considered a draw for the retail stores.

Gaylord’s proved to be a worthwhile destination. They carried sports equipment, LP albums, and books and they didn’t seem to mind a teenaged kid taking his time checking out the merchandise. They once held a contest to guess the size of a gigantic pair of overalls that were hanging on the wall above the front door. On a lark, my brother made a guess of size 50 and placed it in the bowl containing the guesses. A week later, he received a phone call informing him of his victory and instructions to come and pick up his prize. Nothing fires the imagination of possibilities for an eleven year old boy like the joy of taking home – on his bicycle no less – a brand new sugar bowl and creamer set.

2014