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?