Monday, October 10, 2011

Stuck in the 'Burbs

Show of hands - how many of you reading live in the suburbs?  How many live in the city?  How many live in the country?

I grew up in the 'burbs.  I spent my entire childhood/young adulthood in the same apartment building on Morris Avenue in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, a brand-new (at the time) suburb of Green Bay.  My parents moved there in the summer of 1970, when I was almost two, and we stayed there until the summer of 1988, when I was nearly 20.  They chose Ashwaubenon because of the top-notch school district, of which my Grammie was one of the grade school music teachers.

As a really young kid, we'd still have to go "into town" to do any shopping or visit the library, which is probably my mom's favorite place on earth (besides book stores).  Our library branch wasn't built until 1976, when I was 8.

We didn't really have any shopping centers, either; the closest were about two miles to the north on Military Avenue, which was the west side's 1960s version of "downtown" (i.e., low-slung brick buildings with three or four different service businesses, like dry cleaners, restaurants or sew-vac centers).  Ashwaubenon welcomed its first mall in the fall of 1980, Bay Park Square, which is still thriving.  My first trip there was for my sister's 11th birthday shopping spree on November 10 of that year.

Because we were "west-siders", we rarely took trips downtown, which was seven miles away, after we got our own mall.  And herein lies the story of nearly every downtown in the United States.

Back in the Sixties, though, the suburbs held such promise!   One-stop shopping!  Ample (FREE) parking!  No "unpleasant" people!

I LOVE these Lawndale Shopping Center mock-ups.  LOVE THEM.  I may need some help from my friend Dave over at Pleasant Family Shopping to tell me what the are, exactly, but my thought is that they were different design ideas for new shopping centers (which ultimately because the ubiquitous "strip mall") - they're illustrations but they're printed on Kodak paper, like a photo.  I purchased these with the idea that I would someday create a collage with the sign and design my own "shopping center" out of paper.  But these beauts are slowly becoming "untouchable", one of those rare items that I'll collect rather than use.

I'm a major proponent of reviving our historic downtowns.  There's so much to offer and they hold so much history.  Only time will tell what will happen, but I hope we can bring them back.  Twenty years from now, there will probably be similar projects to revive the oldest of the shopping centers, which are already falling into disrepair.

1 comment:

  1. I've lived in the city of Milwaukee for all but two of my years on earth. I used to wander through Capitol Court before it was an enclosed mall. I was able to "shop" while my mother was having her hair done on Saturdays. Now the entire mall is gone. Mayfair mall was also open air shopping when I was a teenager.