Saturday, December 03, 2022

Buenaventura Mall 1965

I lived in Ventura County (California) for years, but vintage slides from there are as scarce as hen's teeth. So I was happy to find a few showing the Buenaventura Center, circa 1965. This first scan reminds me of another nearby mall that I used to go to a lot, the Janss Mall in Thousand Oaks. But the hand-written label doesn't lie (I hope). The open-air Buenaventura Center was built between 1962 and 1965, with its first store, The Broadway, opening in September 1963. Inline stores, such as Barker Brothers Furniture, Kimo's Polynesian Shop, F.W. Woolworth and a Vons-Shopping Bag Supermarket, opened during 1964. J.C. Penney began business in November 1965.

Here's a vintage postcard of the Buenaventura Center; maybe I'm crazy, but I sort of miss the days of my youth when you could go to  the local mall, catch a movie, peruse the shelves of B. Dalton Books, buy an album or two at Music Plus, enjoy an Orange Julius or Hotdog on a Stick, play a game of Asteroids at "The Tilt", and maybe run into a friend or two. Malls were vital, fun places to go! Times change, but I look back on those days fondly.

The next two images are scans of random malls, but it shows that there was definitely a standard design for the outdoor shopping centers. Hey I need some shoelaces and some pants, let's go into Woolworth's.

Here's another similar mall, location unknown.

Here's a shot (early morning) showing The Broadway (one of the stores that opened in 1963), I wish I could decipher the names of some of the other business. So many of the big department stores in SoCal have gone the way of the dodo (beside The Broadway) - Robinsons, Bullocks, Buffums, the May Company, and I'm sure I'm forgetting others.

The Buenaventural Plaza underwent a massive redo in the '80s, and is now known as the Pacific View Mall.


Nanook said...

It appears as though our young friend in the 1st image wearing the red/white striped shirt might be carrying a skate board. I'm uncertain if 'gramps' is coughing, as he might be holding a cigarette in his right hand. (Smoke 'em if you got 'em).

Thanks, Major.

JB said...

#1) I think it was 1967 or '68 when we got our first mall here in my area. It was yer typical enclosed mall; we don't have SoCal's year-round sunny, warm weather.
I spy a bike with high rise handlebars. Can't tell if it's a Schwinn Stingray though. There were lots of knock-offs around.
The two guys to the right of the bike look like their blue jeans were painted-on. Talk about skinny jeans!

#2) Yes, many of today's malls, if you can call them that, are open concept like the Buenaventura Mall. Even in chilly, soggy climates like we have here. Just some loosely connected shops with outside entrances. Gone are the things you mention, Major. Although, the original mall I talked about above, is still around and has many of those things. I think open concept is a bad idea. The whole purpose of early malls was to be able to walk from shop to shop in comfort, out of the cold and rain (or extreme heat). I don't get it. TRE.

#3) This looks a lot like the open, city-center mall we had here for many years (starting around 1968). The streets were closed to motorized traffic, with fountains, planters, and places to sit. There were parking structures scattered near-by, but I guess they were too inconvenient. Downtown foot traffic slowed to a trickle. Eventually, they removed all the interesting fountains, etc. and re-opened the streets to traffic. But by then, the other malls siphoned off most of the retail business, so the downtown area never really bounced back.

#4) I see that the House of Fabrics is located next door to the Singer sewing store. Somebody knew what they were doing.

#5) What are all the posts in the parking lot? It reminds me of a drive-in theater.

Nanook, I think you're right about the skateboard. Back then they were little more than rollerskates attached to a piece of 1x4.

These photos left me feeling wistful for days-gone-by; a little empty. But such is life. So thanks for the trip to the mall, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Wow, these photos look so much like many of the malls....or shopping centers, from my early childhood. I remember when the trend was to put roofs over this type of outdoor shopping center. It happened to almost all of them. The Buena Park Mall, just one block from Knott's Berry Farm, is one example.

In my hometown, we actually had two of these outdoor shopping centers. (Major, you sent me a vintage photo of one of them, years ago....thanks again, for that!) One of the centers was built in the fifties, the other was built in the sixties. They both had roofs put over them, in the mid to late seventies. Then they were both eventually torn down, and replaced with a sprawling "strip mall." My guess on the reason for that change is, because the owners no longer wanted to pay to heat or air-condition the covered malls. Whatever the reason was, it sucks. And yes, they really do ruin everything!

In that first pic, I'm wondering what the Tomorrowland-ish sculptural thing is in the distance. It's probably just a piece of wonderful mid-century "art." And the most important thing about that picture is, we have positive confirmation that this shopping center had a "Judy's."

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, in addition to The Broadway, Robinsons, Bullocks, Buffums, and the May Company, which you already mentioned, there was Montgomery Ward, Orbach's and Mervyn's. Although I know Mervyn's didn't go back as far as the other stores, at least not here in So Cal. And now it seems like most of the Sears stores have closed. I just checked their site, and there are only 3 locations remaining, within a 100 mile radius of where I live in Los Angeles County. There used to be literally dozens of them, located within an even smaller radius than that. Sad!

Melissa said...

One of our local malls tries to have it both ways by having a concourse full of skylights and storefronts done up to look like outdoor entrances, but in winter time the skylights are completely covered with snow, which messes up the illusion.

I'm so Gen X I wasn't even supposed to be here today, so it was a huge bummer to find out that the mall I grew up with finally gave up the ghost and kept its appointment with the wrecking ball. It had struggled along for years with just the movie theater and one store staying open.

Lovely pictures today. The first one is particularly sunshiny, welcoming, and cheerful. That bench Grandpa is sitting on wouldn't be out of place in Tomorrowland '67.

Chuck said...

You live in Ventura County? Why - that’s where Oxnard is! You must go there all the time. Do you ever see movie stars?

CAUTION: long, meandering, grumpy old guy story ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

You aren’t crazy, Major. There used to be something magical about going to a mall, particularly at Christmas time. My local mall, St. Clair Square, was a bustling place, particularly on Sundays, when we would get a large influx of shoppers from across the river in Missouri whose local stores were closed due to the “Blue Laws” then in effect.

There were open areas with fountains and pools and benches, and there was an area with an overlook from the second level at one major intersection where I remember playing with the youth branch of the local Philharmonic. The Famous-Barr anchor store had an escalator that opened up into this beautiful, mid-century dome or atrium; riding that escalator up from the ground floor was a “do not miss” experience. The Mall was a special place, and it was always a treat to go with the family or friends.

I went back to do some Christmas shopping in 2019 after a long absence, and it had a totally different vibe. While there was a crowd - it was the weekend before Christmas, after all - the common areas were cluttered with kiosks, the Sears - one of four anchors - was closed, the remaining anchors had a lot of open space between sales displays, and there were more registers than sales clerks.

The Famous-Barr - which has been owned by the same parent as May Company California since 1923 - had been reflagged as a Macy’s, and the grand view from the escalator had been cluttered up with the back of cosmetics displays operated by independent contractors based inside the store. I made some good purchases that made their recipients happy on Christmas morning, but it was overall a disorienting, disconcerting, and disheartening experience.

Speaking of dearly departed department stores…my aunt worked for the May Company at the Montclair Plaza Mall for many years, beginning in the late ‘70s. One of her positions was as a sales clerk in the Cosmetics Department.

One day, she and another clerk were helping an older woman, probably in her 60s, and the conversation rolled around to facial tightening creams (as it often does). The woman said, “Oh, I use Preparation H. It keeps my skin nice and tight and it isn’t very expensive.”

There was a pause in the conversation as they stood there a moment, dumbfounded at what the woman had just told them. Then my aunt spoke up.

“Cream or suppository?”

Melissa said...

The May Company always makes me think of Jack Benny, because he and Mary Livingstone would always talk about how she was working there when they met.

JG said...

Both of the first two pictures could have been taken in downtown Fresno at the same time. The mall designers closed a street to vehicles and put in fountains and planters. A little detail I had forgotten was the little black and white signs hanging down, Fresno had the exact same ones.

In the early 70’s a bigger enclosed mall was built further north and much of the shopping traffic moved there, especially the exclusive expensive shops. Downtown went into decline as in so many other cities and never recovered. I worked downtown in the 80’s and it was a retail ghost town. Today it resembles a scene from Mad Max with shanties everywhere.

I remember those So-Cal shops you have named, but Bakersfield was as far north as those brands reached, except Sears and Penney’s. We had some local department stores, Gottschalks, Coffee’s, and Walter Smith’s for mens clothes. There were branches of these in Visalia and Modesto. I believe all gone now. Patrick James Mens Clothes is still going, with a store in SLO that I visit annually.

Thanks Major, I’m faintly homesick now for that old mall. As you know, Nostalgia is that feeling when you are happy that you’re sad.

Cheers all.


LTL said...

those are awesome awesome slides Love the Southern California outdoor mall!

I think I remember now Vons was sometimes called Shopping Bag... am I crazy??!?

Our Vons on Riverside Drive in Sherman Oaks had a really cool machine that squeezed oranges into fresh orange juice, automatically!! (automagically?)

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, if he’s carrying a skateboard, then we know he’s a hoodlum! 1965 seems early for skateboards, he was certainly a trend-setter. Maybe a California beach town is where you would expect to see something like that. My brother had a skateboard a few years later, simple wood, with steel wheels.

JB, I like a good enclosed mall! I took my mom to one yesterday, she wanted some Hallmark Christmas cards and some See’s Candy, and the whole place was bustling with shoppers, it was kind of fun, especially on a rare rainy day in SoCal. Good eye on the bike! The “open roof” malls are OK too, simpler to build for sure. We have one near me that is probably from about the same era as the Buenaventura Mall, and it has definitely seen better days. It’s like a ghost town when I go there, and I can’t help remembering it when it was a central part of high-schoolers lives. Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica is one of those malls where they closed off the streets so that they are “foot traffic only”, the last time I went there we actually managed to get free parking, incredibly. And I don’t know what those posts in the parking lot are for, it’s a mystery!

TokyoMagic!, I think that most of the GDB readers have memories of going to malls. I keep thinking I should share those photos that I sent you so long ago, but they are kind of somber, and they should be posted in November (there’s a hint for you history-minded folks). Strip malls, does anybody like those (besides developers)? I guess they serve a purpose, but they are almost never nice to look at. You might be right about the cost of AC/heat being a factor for the demise of those big buildings. I kind of miss the old Beverly Center in Beverly Hills, they had some fun stores, and a Hard Rock Cafe that my friends and I liked to go to. I think that sculpture might be stylized mission bells?

TokyoMagic!, yes, you mentioned a bunch that I forgot. I miss Mervyn’s, I could get good shoes there! Why did it go away! I thought of it as a nicer “Marshalls”. We’ve talked about Sears before, the last time I went to the one near me, it was so run-down, and didn’t even have plain white t-shirts. “No, I don’t think we sell those”. T-shirts??

Melissa, boy, somebody was not thinking about snow when they put in those skylights. Pretty dumb. Maybe it was designed by a Californian! I always think that there could be other uses for defunct malls, but there is no way developers will let a huge piece of land go unmolested. Or remolested?

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, I don’t live in Ventura County now, but my mom does. The movie stars in Oxnard often go incognito, they look like ordinary schlubs. Reading your “long, meandering, grumpy old guy story” brings up lots of fond memories. Malls at Christmas time! So much fun, in spite of the packed parking lots. “The Oaks” in Thousand Oaks used to have neat special displays, I remember that they had an interactive walk-through thing for Disney’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame”. And yes, there were even live musicians and singers. Seems hard to believe today. The Nordstroms near my grandma always had a pianist performing in the store. The Famous-Barr atrium you describe sounds amazing, I wonder if there are photos of it? Macy’s has eaten up a lot of the old department stores, I guess I should be grateful that we even have Macy’s. I have to wonder how much longer they can survive. We still have a Nordstroms, but man is it expensive. Bloomingdales just closed. Our J.C. Penney is hanging on. Believe it or not, I have heard of Preparation H being used for “skin tightening”. Somehow I never feel the need to tighten my skin. “Cream or suppository”, ha ha!

Melissa, I didn’t know that Jack and Mary met at the May Company! And I used to listen to old broadcasts of The Jack Benny Show often. I especially loved the WWII episodes when they would perform at some local base in front of a VERY enthusiastic crowd of soldiers or sailors.

JG, I think that the basic design seen in that first photo was practically a template for hundreds of other malls all over the country. I’m sorry to hear about the shanties near that bigger enclosed mall, such a bummer. There is a gully near The Oaks where a homeless camp exists, but it is mostly out of sight, so people don’t care so much I guess. Gottschalks! I remember them. I keep thinking, “Don’t young people want a place to hang out, get away from their parents, and just have fun for a few hours?”. I guess the answer is “NO”. You are so right about Nostalgia, it is sweet but painful.

LTL, I have not heard of Vons being called “Shopping Bag”, but you could very well be right! Maybe Wikipedia would tell us. We had a Ralph’s that had one of those orange juice squeezers, but I was lazy and would buy the jugs of already0-squeezed juice, supposedly from that very morning. It was delicious. I must have driven past that Vons on Riverside Drive, is it gone now?

Melissa said...

”Strip malls, does anybody like those (besides developers)?”

I have a friend who’s a real estate lawyer, and he said once that he can always tell a strip mall is about to go under when one of the storefronts gets rented to a church. It makes sense; I guess when the rent gets low enough for a nonprofit to afford it’s probably not bringing in much income for the owners.

LTL said...

i found online quite the discussion of Shopping Bag stores...

Includes really cool (IMHO) info like:

"There was an episode of Adam-12 where you can see a Shopping Bag roadside sign, but I don't recall exactly which episode it was."

LTL said...

Major, I just looked on Google Maps, that Vons is gone now but if you Google "Beauty Collection Sherman Oaks" you can see what replaced it

sadly, the whole classic shopping center is now a strip mall (didn't see any churches on Street View, but I didn't look at every shop)

Nanook said...

"1965 seems early for skateboards, he was certainly a trend-setter". 'Trend-setter' or no, I beg to differ-! HERE's just one example... from 1964.

Nanook said...

@ LTL-
You already answered your own question. Von's acquired Shopping Bag, (in 1960) and HERE was the logo back then.

Chuck said...

Major, not sure if you are joking about there being pictures of Famous-Barr since I linked photos in the article, but maybe you meant vintage photos. You can see how it looked during its “glory days” here.

There were apparently four Famous-Barr stores in the St. Louis Area that were built to a similar (but not identical) architectural design, located at South County Center, St. Louis, MO (1963); Northwest Plaza, St Ann, MO (1965; closed 2010 and converted to mixed-use commercial space); West County Center, Deperes, MO (1969; mall demolished 2001 and replaced by a new mall with the same name); and St. Clair Square, Fairview Heights, IL (1974).

Your mention of special Christmas displays reminded me that, like many downtown department stores across the country, the four main department stores in downtown Toledo (Lasalle’s, Tiedtke’s, Lamson’s, and the Lion Store) all used to set up elaborate mechanical displays at Christmas time (a la Higbee’s in A Christmas Story). Unlike the fate of many downtown department store displays, these were salvaged and became the nucleus of the annual Children’s Wonderland display in the Toledo area. This year’s event even features holiday-themed Mold-O-Matic (a.k.a. “Mold-A-Rama”) machines! I can almost smell the hot plastic now…

Chuck said...

I believe skateboards were invented in California in 1955.

Anonymous said...

These kind of malls were invented by Victor Gruen. His book ‘The Heart of our Cities: The Urban Crisis. Diagnosis and Cure’ was an obsession with one Mr. Walter Disney who kept a copy on his desk until he died. It was the basis for the new city of EPCOT (actually a recycled design from a World’s Fair for Washington DC that, also, failed to materialize).


Nanook said...

@ MS-
Thank you for mentioning Victor Gruen, his book, and a certain 'theme park builder'. I was going to do so, but laziness got the best of me.

DBenson said...

My grouse is that modern malls have precious little to tempt me, aside from certain food court and confectionary items. I miss bookstores, record shops, camera dealers with racks of 8mm cartoons, stationery / cards / office supply, classier toy stores with those pricy Corgi cars, menswear for the once-mandatory suits and ties, etc. Sears really DID have everything -- not the complete catalog selection, but in the ballpark.

In my childhood the exciting eating option was Manning's Cafeteria. Later Fresh Choice was a favorite (my salad days). Now I might nosh on a pretzel or something, but if I'm in that mood I'm more likely to hit a fast foodery on the way home.

There was a late golden age: Suncoast Motion Pictures, the Disney Store when it pandered to us boomers, the Warner Brothers Studio Store, Sharper Image, Brookstone, Banana Republic when decor featured giraffes and jeeps, Restoration Hardware, and other chains dedicated to nature, museums, science, sports (participatory), sports (fans), pre-computer games, novelties for the immature, and so on.

Much of what those vanished stores sold can still be found in big box stores or online, but the thrill is gone. To my eyes, the modern mall is primarily fashion and decor with ritzier food chains, targeting those with more discretionary income than discretion. Target can be a plausible substitute for Sears, and See's Candies is a blast from the past, but when you can go through a whole mall without finding books or even CDs ...

LTL said...

Nanook, thank for link to old Vons logo (as a matchbook!)

besides the OJ machine, I of course remember as a kid the Van de Kamp bakery little windmill attached outside, with the fascinating rotating blades

Melissa said...

I'm pretty confident most GDB readers have already read Foxxfurr's excellent article The Mall as Disney: Disney as the Mall over at Passport to Dreams Old and New, but I'd have felt remiss in not linking it anyway.

Maybe it's because I saw Logan's Run at such a young age, but I always felt like the mall was a safe, happy, futuristic place (yes, as an adult I get all the dark subtext of the first half of the movie that went over my head as a kid, so sue me), and EPCOT Center's design just reinforced that.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Now I'm feeling really old...I have seen every kind of mall come and go. Strip malls, enclosed malls, outdoor malls, downtown city malls with fountains placed where the streets were closed off.

Malls were the most exciting when we were younger and had a dollar or two, to spend. In the early 70's, with one dollar you could purchase the latest 45-rpm record and an ice cream bar. Then you went home and listened to your recent purchase over and over and over. If your friends went with you to the store, together you'd have more than one record to listen to over and over and over. I still have a few of those records.

Thanks, Major and everyone.

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, yes, when a church moves into a strip mall, you know it’s all over. Meanwhile, is there anything sadder than a beautiful old movie theater turned into a church?

LTL, so funny, my brother loves to watch Adam-12, Dragnet, and other old shows, and he loves the glimpses of L.A. in the 70s.

LTL, I was thinking that I did not know of a Vons on Riverside Drive. I assume it was supplanted by the Vons/Pavilions on Ventura Blvd.

Nanook, I didn’t mean to suggest that 1965 was the first year for skateboards, but it was still pretty early! I lived in Huntington Beach in 1970 and I don’t remember seeing skateboarders around.

Nanook, love it! I guess I need to start sharing photos of my matchbook collection (yes, another collection).

Chuck, I apologize, somehow I blanked out on the fact that you actually provided a link. I blame junk food and cartoons. That really is a beautiful building! Thank you for the “glory days” links! If I can find them, I have some vintage Christmas mall photos (mid-1960s I believe) that are pretty fun. I think it’s a mall that was in Illinois, but I could be mistaken. I’m so glad that all of those mechanical Christmas displays from Toledo were saved and used for the Children’s Wonderland display! I’ll have to look for photos of that. And YES, Mold-A-Rama machines were the best, I was so sad when I went to the L.A. Zoo and found that they’d removed their Mold-A-Ramas.

Chuck, they were probably invented by Walt Disney.

MS, Somehow I know the name Victor Gruen, his name has probably popped up in my research for other blog posts (or what I call research, anyway). His book definitely sounds like something that Walt would have read. I know that EPCOT might have been a very flawed concept, but hey, I feel like at least Walt wanted to try something.

Nanook, I’m telling you, it’s all those cartoons and all of that junk food! It makes us not want to do stuff!

DBenson, I can’t argue with you - it really does seem like old malls had much more variety. Even my list of stores for Buenaventura included a Polynesian shop! I hope that wasn’t just clothing, though it probably was. Yes, I miss old stationery stores too!! “Maybe I need a new Rapidograph pen!”. “My old address book is getting pretty ratty…”/ And camera stores, and record stores, and stores that sold posters and toys… so wonderful. I loved Disney Stores in the early days, before they primarily carried merchandise for little boys and girls. And remember the Warner Bros. stores? Those were great too. What can I say, I feel your pain.

LTL, oh yeah Van de Kamp bakery, nice. In Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, Brad Pitt is driving, and you see the reflection of a Van de Kamp’s neon windmill on his windshield.

Melissa, yes, I have read all of Foxxfurr’s articles, but I would like to read the one you linked to again. Thanks! Maybe I am just from that generation, but I have always liked malls, while others are very snarky and critical of them.

Dean Finder, I’m sure that the economics of why malls close or manage to hang on are complex, but I’m sure you are right about the high-end stores being more likely to stick around. At one local mall, a bathing suit store had been there for almost 30 years, and I was sad to observe that it had finally closed. Not that I ever went inside, it was just nice to see, like an old friend.

Lou and Sue, yes, I think of all the times I went to Walden’s bookstore, or Sam Goody, or B. Dalton; I definitely remember buy 45 rpm singles of my favorite radio hits to take home to play on my little portable record player! Funny how one gets nostalgic for things like that. I could make a digital playlist with 100 songs, and they would sound good, but somehow a little of the magic would be gone.

Nanook said...

In 1970 Huntington Beach, the kids were doing the real thing: Surfing-!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, there were lots of surfers! I still remember the vans parked near the beach, lined with shag carpet, surf boards leaning against them. I also remember a girl in a chartreuse bikini - I was about seven years old and I NOTICED her.

JG said...

Major and MS, the Fresno open air mall was designed by Victor Gruen.

Really enjoying these comments.


Anonymous said...

These remind me a lot of the original Eastland Mall in Harper Woods, Michigan - at which my family did a lot of shopping throughout my childhood. That mall was finally enclosed in the mid-70s but unfortunately has been demolished entirely within the last year or two. You can find videos of that mall, both before and after the enclosure, by searching YouTube for Eastland Mall Harper Woods.