Dec 9, 2007

They Paved Paradise to Put Up a Parking Lot

Of course, a mall isn't exactly paradise, I suppose, and a corporate headquarters isn't exactly a parking lot either, for that matter.

But what "paradise" is, of course, depends on the person defining it. To a kid from East Nowhere in Upstate, NY, paradise was Midtown Plaza in Rochester.

Midtown was the nation's first enclosed shopping mall and was completed in 1962. It had a couple of office buildings and department stores attached and/or linked by skyway. My dad worked for Lincoln Rochester Trust/Lincoln Alliance/Lincoln First Bank/Chase Lincoln First in the Plaza and related office buildings for 29 years, I worked a couple of college summers as a bank teller in the Midtown branch and a summer in the leasing department in the Seneca building, my mom and my sister also worked for the Bank in the attached buildings. In fact, in this video (Midtown Plaza in 1963), you can actually see my dad. In the scene where there are people looking through little windows at the construction, he's the third man from the left (the big guy with no hat).

But, when I was little, Midtown wasn't a place to work. Oh sure, people worked there - my dad did, of course - but, no, for a five year old, it was a fantastical kingdom, a place where Santa was real and lived on a glistening mountain that a monorail went through. After gingerly visiting Santa, we'd cross the skywalk to Sibley's department store and walk through their holiday dioramas to a little shopping area they'd set up just for kids.

From the glittering palace that was B. Forman (another department store) to the high-ceilinged dining room at Sibley's with its two-story, drapery clad windows where they served your milkshake still in the metal mixing cup so that you could have seconds, from McCurdy's (also a department store) with it's wonderfully helpful staff, a "lunchroom" that was nicer than most restaurants today, and a bakery filled with innumerable treats, even the long shiny escalators that went from the underground parking garage and the clock - that magical clock that featured hourly music and dancing marionettes from countries around the world - it was a place of unparalleled elegance to a kid from a cowtown that never saw much more than pastures and orchards.

Now, it's 85% vacant and scheduled to be demolished next year to make way for the corporate headquarters of a telecom company. I understand, oh I do understand, but it makes me so sorrowful to lose a place that was symbolic to me of all that was to be yearned for as a child.

You see, homesick isn't about geography; homesick is about a state of mind, a state of being and, try as we might, we truly cannot go home again and recapture what was in the same way we experienced it the first time. I know this. But I did so hope to bring my daughter there one day and see her delight in the monorail that run a circuit around the center court and through Magic Mountain where Santa sat in stately array waiting for good little boys and girls to present their fervent pleas for their heart's delight.

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Blogger Jade said...

I know what you mean about homesick. There are so many things back home that have been ripped apart, rebuilt, and refurbished. The movie theater I went to on my first date ever was torn down to put up a Target. I even shopped there, but every time I walked through the doors I couldn't help but sigh at the memory. (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - and we snuck cans of Jolt into the theater)

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Gina said...

I feel the same way when I feel homesick. I think I started scrapbooking when I was 12 because I wanted to preserve all of my memories and photos and stuff that made me happy in my life as I knew it. I have the ticket stubb from the first concert I went to, my prom corsage holder, journals of my first kiss in the stock room of Sears et cetera...Ah, the stuff of dreams!

11:28 AM  

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