Memories…Like the Corners of a Mall

I love a writing assignment. Based on an off-handed comment on her site, Sista Smiff has suggested that a post on 100 Oaks Mall might be in order. Now that’s a challenge! How do you make something this ugly interesting?

My memories of the mall actually go back to stories from before the mall was built. My parents used to go rabbit hunting together in the oak-filled forest that gave the area its name. They never ate meals together and slept in separate beds as long as I can remember, but when it was time to load 10 beagles in a station wagon and chase Brer Rabbit around the briar patch, they actually had some family togtherness. Dad was away on business most of the time and left Mom to care for the pack of yalping dogs, but Sunday rabbit dinner made it worthwhile, I guess.

The Nashville Knucklehead has already told the story about one of the major reasons that 100 Oaks has been a failure of a mall: the fact that former Mayor Richard Fulton was an investor in Rivergate Mall and blocked interstate access to Powell Rd. But I always say if you got your ass kicked by Rivergate, you were in pretty tough shape to begin with.

For a boy growing up in Westmeade in the 1970’s though, 100 Oaks was the place to go. Outside of short trips to Ben Franklin or the Big K store to by Lik-M-Aid Sticks (in retrospect, a really unfortunate name for a candy), 100 Oaks was the only place to do some serious hangin’ out.

As a budding young hippie, I liked to go to the Sargeant Pepper Store on the bottom level. Only five years old, I wasn’t exactly sure why I wanted to buy incense and black light posters and American flag patches for my bell bottoms, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I always had to share a bedroom with one of my two brothers, so my decorations rotated on a semi-annual basis whenever one of them couldn’t stand living with my precocious little smart ass anymore. They did enjoy being able to use my incense to hide the smell of pot from our ex-Marine drill sargeant father.

We used to buy piles of vinyl at the Port of Call record store across from Sgt. Pepper, and if I remember they had a pretty nice incense selection too. Oddly enough, I gag at the smell of patchouli today. I blame it on Widespread Panic.

Room furnishings came from the House of Bamboo outlet, which also had a store in Hillsboro Village. During kindergarten, neither of my brothers would tolerate me, so I moved a studio couch into our downstairs bathroom and lived there. To me, it was like camping, albeit in a damp cool cave. I divided my “living area” from the toilet with a bamboo curtain purchased with money earned by selling lemonade and homemade weed killer (don’t ask) from a card table at the end of our cul de sac. I spent my nights watching Charlie Chaplin movies on a tiny black and white TV on PBS back when it was still channel 2, and I was blissfully unaware of how strange my living situation was. I still remember that when channel 8 and channel 2 switched places on the dial and Big Bird made the transition from one to the other, it was a pretty earth-saking change in my reality.

The other mother lode for a kid visiting 100 Oaks was the Harvey’s department store. The opportunity to buy a bag of popcorn when you weren’t in the movies seemed so special that it made it ok to have to buy your clothes in the Haggar Husky department.

In these pre-Geranimals days, it was up to me to choose my own outfits. My brother told me of the time I got separated from him at Harvey’s, and he heard the following announcement: “We have a lost young boy wearing a yellow turtleneck and blue and green and yellow and red and purple pants. Please come get him at customer service.” A nearby shopper exclaimed, “They’ve apparently captured a clown,” and he knew it must be me.

As I got older, the out building of 100 Oaks became more important. That’s where the first multiplex theatre in Nashville was located, the Martin Twin. I remember watching all of Kurt Russell’s Disney movies and several Bruce Lee movies there from between my interlaced fingers over my eyes. Cinema South was too far away, the Belcourt and the Lowe’s were still showing porn and the Belle Meade Theatre had “The Sting” and “Paper Moon” held over for most of the 70’s, so the Martin was the place to be.

As I aged even more, I moved to the other half of the same annex. First it was video games in the arcade and then it was sneaking into Flanagan’s to dance on the multicolored Saturday Night Fever dance floor and drink 3 for 1’s on my fake green paper TN driver’s license. I’ll always remember one night watching Adrian Belew of King Crimson set a tiny amp down in the middle of that dance floor and play a solo set of the most amazing feedback for two hours on a Sunday night. I wasn’t on the same hallucinogens or piles of blow like the rest of the crowd, so I imagine my memory is a little sharper than most of the event.

Finally, the bloom came off the rose. Neighborhood malls and googleplex cinemas took away any reason to head out Thompson Lane. I will admit that I do still drop by the FuBu section of Burlington Coat Factory before every trip to Vegas to buy some fly threads. RUABelle will let me wear them on the Strip, but more than once she has made me throw shirts away rather than repack them for the trip home. But hey, if you ever need a big sweater with a picture of Rudy from the Cosby Kids on the front and back of it, 100 Oaks is the place to go. Otherwise, not so much.

So what are your recollections?

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17 Responses to Memories…Like the Corners of a Mall

  1. saraclark says:

    nComing to Nashville to buy our new Sunday Shoes at The Family Bootery. We would do anything to get that golden egg with a prize, just like on television. 100 Oaks was the closest mall to us until Hickory Hollow was built. These visits were usually timed with my Mom’s social visits with her college roomate who lived off Blackman and Harding in the same neighborhood as the mall.

  2. canibfrank says:

    I remember 100 Oaks Mall in much the same way as you. Harvey’s was the big draw, but for me it was the chocolate drop cookies you could get from the little bakery section on the street level. And what about the 2-level Woolworth’s opposite Harvey’s? My brother and I used to slide down the aluminum banisters leading downstairs after getting an Icee. (For some reason, I was always a big fan of the two level discount store and still have vivid memories of Kuhn’s Variety in Belle Meade Plaza). I also remember when my parents would drag me to Tarkington Furniture Showroom (across the street where the Home Depot is now) as a punishment if I was really bad. I still have flashbacks of my mom telling me I’d get 15 more minutes in the upholstery section if I didn’t behave.

  3. ceeelcee says:

    Oh I TOTALLY remember pushing the goose’s nose for the golden egg. I never got to be on the Bozo Show, so that was as close as I ever got to punching the clown’s nose and having manna drop from heaven.

    I think my whole family was banned after my brother bloodied a grils nose for cutting him of in the “blowing a cup along the floor with a straw” race.

    And Cherry Icees were my favortite food group. That and chess pies from Harvey’s bakery. I know there was a Harvey’s downtown, but wasn’t there also one in the Belle Meade Plaza next to Kuhn’s?

  4. saraclark says:

    I got to be on the Bozo show in 2nd grade. Our Girl Scout troop went and I told probably the stupidest joke ever to Cousin Littlefoot. I don’t remember it, I just know it was stupid. We were at the Channel 2 Studios at like the crack of dawn. I never knew there was another Bozo in Chicago until years later and I thought he copied ours.

    When they tore down the downtown Harvey’s building in the 1990’s I salvaged one of the “H” doorhandles that were on the front door on Church Street.

  5. Phil says:

    Y’all might be interested in this too.

    100 Oaks at DeadMalls.com

  6. Man, you people are really old.

  7. Busy Mom says:

    I share many of the same memories of the mall (and the Ben Franklin and Kuhn’s)you do. My dad was with Harvey’s all my life and I ran around 100 Oaks mall for years. No Harvey’s in Belle Meade Plaza, though.

    Hey, I was on Bozo, too!

  8. W says:

    I’ve heard that story about Fulton and the interstate before. I don’t really buy it though. Fulton may have had some influence, but there are a couple of other practical reasons why an interchange wouldn’t have been good there. It’s an occasional topic around the office at TDOT.

  9. SistaSmiff says:

    The talking Christmas tree at Harvey’s…the horses waaaay high up on the walls….Pass Pets, where I first ever saw a real shark. Ok, it was tiny, but, this was the height of the “Jaws” craze….Spencers….the little cafe in Penney’s over on the Thompson Lane side that had the waitress…oh gosh..what was her name…a black lady I would know if she walked in my office right now….the Deli up by Penney’s…Woolworth’s had a lunch counter then….I have Santa Claus pictures from the early 70’s I’ll have to dig up.

    Giant Foods…where the movie theater sits now….

    A+ my boy on your assignment!! Fantastic!

  10. Joe Powell says:

    My family would drive neary 100 miles to go to 100 Oaks way back when, coming from Monterey. Dad thought that was a heckuva family outing.

    If memory serves, the shop you referred to as a Sgt Pepper shop, wasn’t there also another, called John Simon i think. Had a big daisy on the outside and lots of patchouli inside. And peace symbol jeans.

    I remember that switch for channels 8 and 2. Wasn’t Morgan Freeman, aka Easy Reader, there with Big Bird when the switch occurrred?

    And yep, I was on Bozo. Some days it’s like i still am.

  11. Ah, memories. 🙂 My brother got his car stolen there. :::beams::::

  12. Winston says:

    I got here thru SistaSmiff. I remember after I moved away and then came back to visit my folks in West Tenn, probably shortly after 100 Oaks opened, they insisted on bringing me to Nashville to see it. Being small town hicks, they had never seen anything like it. Of course by then I was real sophisticated, having been in school at what we called Big UT up in Knoxville. I mean, I had seen the IceCapades and UT-Alabama football games, and we all know it don’t get no better than that. Yeah, I was impressed with 100 Oaks, but I wouldn’t dare let my folks know that!

  13. newscoma says:

    They always had a weird, gaudy Christmas thing in the middle of the mall as you went up the escalators before they went outlet crazy.
    I also used to go to Port of Call. I got my first Sex Pistols album there.
    Sweet.

  14. SistaSmiff says:

    How many of us had our ears pierced at The Jewelry Jungle?

    Bought shoes at Bakers and later, Butlers, when we got to be teens?

    Remember the steps, kinda in the middle of the mall and the brown things next to them? Every little kid had to jump up and run along them and then jump off at the end.

    The preppy girls got their clothes at the Cotton Patch.

  15. grandefille says:

    Oh my word. Oh my WORD.

    Pass Pets. We used to have to SWEAR not to fight in the car on the way up or we couldn’t go to Pass Pets, which was right next door to Tall Gals, where my mom got her clothes. One of the ladies who worked there was so elegant and kind; she wore her hair in a bun and wore pearl earrings and always said, “oh, goodness, it’s so good to see you girls again” when we came in. I’m sure she was lying, because we were such hellions, but she was classy.

    My parents didn’t allow us to browse alone — “all those people just walking by, they could snatch you and run out,” they’d say, way back in the innocent ’70s — so we really didn’t get to go in any of the other stores, and they SURE wouldn’t let us look in Sergeant Pepper’s, although we peered at it all the way up the escalator. I remember the one and only time I got to go in Port of Call, by myself, to buy a record. It was James Taylor. I was SOOOO proud.

    We had a Cotton Patch in Murfreesboro, so that wasn’t very interesting to us. We were old enough to buy their purses and hair stuff, but not the clothes. Oh, the clothing store right at the top of the escalator on the right as you went up … what was that place’s name? Oooooh, we wanted to be old enough to buy our clothes there. Oh, Casual Corner! Yeah.

    And after my mom had found her suit, or pants, or dress, or whatever, and we’d gotten to pet the bunnies and the puppies (and then washed our hands in the bathroom), we went to Shoney’s by the underpass for a Big Boy. (The irony of Weight Watchers being there now.) Or maybe over to Jerry’s at Thompson Lane and Murfreesboro Road, where O’Charley’s is now.

    Did y’all ever go to Zayre’s, across from Genesco? I always used it as a landmark when we were driving in, but I only think we went inside a couple of times. My mom made a face if anybody suggested stopping there. Instead, we went to Sears and then to Castner’s and Cain-Sloan downtown on Church Street. Every Christmas and Easter I miss those places.

    Thanks, man. What fun.

  16. SistaSmiff says:

    Bunny Land?!?!?!?!?!?

    I told CeeeLCeeee we need to have a blogger meet up at all the “legendary” Nashville haunts.

    At that Sears on Thompson Lane…there was a man who worked there who was missing a hand. Had a hole where a hand should be.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Harvey’s bakery was inside Kuhns !

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