09 July 2010

five-dimensional polyhedron, maybe?

Once upon a time, back when radio stations would play "MacArthur Park" because it was actually on the charts, there were three malls that could be traveled to easily from Erin, Ontario. Mall shopping was one of those things that needed to be done when the local Zellers in Georgetown didn't quite have what you wanted.

The closest one was Shopper's World in Brampton. Back then it was a single long corridor with major shops at either end, plus one short corridor marked with a geometric wall mural. We went there for clothes, to pick up cold cuts and rye bread at the German delicatessen, and so my parents could get their drivers' licences renewed, back when the entire driving population of Ontario had to get that done during the same time period, instead of by birthdays.

The second closest mall was Bramalea City Centre. This was a dark rabbit warren, two floors of walkways lit by the illuminated shop signs. We would deliberately stand in front of Japan Camera to read something on a piece of paper because they had the brightest sign. The ceiling was covered in huge, tinfoil-coated tubes held in place by yellow rope. My parents said that this was to reflect the light. It didn't work very well. It was more like someone couldn't decide whether to build a market or a disco until they were almost finished.

The third mall was hollow in the middle, and it was our (the kids, that is) favourite, because there was a playground in the outdoor centre area. This mall had two levels and burnt orange tile flooring like City Centre, plus lots of backless stairs that I was afraid of, because I was always afraid I would fall down the backless part of backless stairs. Somewhere in its bowels was a lower level with a cinema. We once waited over an hour to see the first Superman movie before my mum gave us many admonitions not to talk to any strangers, walked to the front of the queue, and came back to tell us we were going home because the next two shows were already sold out. There was also a very dark food court (again, only lit by the signs from the food vendor stalls) with white chairs that had curlicues on the back. It was always very busy whenever we went.

We would almost always exit the mall by the Woolco. This discount department store had two levels, and you could take your shopping buggy between levels because instead of escalators they had movators on ramps, and special wheels on the shopping buggies that locked when they were on a slope. We often got some broken chocolate bars from the little candy booth on the second floor before heading for the parking lot.

This third mall was possibly even bigger than City Centre, and I had got lost in the smaller Shopper's World when I was three, but my mum pointed out that you couldn't get lost in the third mall because it was a giant two level square. That's why they called it Square One.

If you live in the Greater Toronto area, you probably know what has happened to Square One and the City of Mississauga that surrounds it. First they filled in that outdoor playground area, so the mall was less a square and more a sort of windowpane shape. Then they put in additions, and more additions, and "big box" outbuildings that are still being built and added as I write this. The City of Mississauga has mushroomed into one of the worst cases of suburban sprawl ever seen on the continent, and Square One reflects that. Instead of being the mall you could never get lost in, it now has street-style signage along its many corridors so you can pick your way through and, with some luck, find everything you went there for.

The Woolco is now a Wal-Mart. The old cinema has been replaced by two new ones. Except for The Bay, Sears, and maybe Zellers, I don't know of any shops that have been there from when it opened.

Square One is an odd place. Some of the department stores have hardware departments, but there is not a single dedicated hardware store amongst all those shops, nor a lot of other shops and services you would expect to see in a central shopping zone. Even though the complex is surrounded by high-rise condominium towers, the nearest supermarket is just over three kilometres away. I believe there's at least one pharmacy in it, but as I write this post I can't think of where it is.

What it does have are tons of clothing shops, costume jewelry/trinket shops, music/movie/video game shops. There are also lots of places to get cheap fast food, including what I believe is a reinvented version of that dark food court we used to go to. None of the stalls have the same vendors, and the layout is completely different, but I think it's still the place.

The reason why I think it's the same place, even though it now has a skylight just beyond it and bright artificial lighting within, is that I still sometimes automatically take a shortcut to it. I can't describe where it is, because I always seem to find it by feel, but if you duck past some utility doors, go past the public washrooms (rather hidden now), and go down a flight of stairs past where some of the fast-food joints cache their extra inventory of burger buns, you'll wind up right beside the Dairy Queen.

The floor tiles in that little corridor are still burnt orange. It has to have been there all along.

2 comments:

  1. I have't been to any of those malls! The Pembroke Mall, where I trolled with gal pals through high school, is now unrecognizable. I think the longest lasting store there is Rexall (but it was Boots, then Pharma Plus).

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  2. What a great history of Square One!

    As a true city girl I had never been to Miserysauga until our company in its wisdom chose to move our head office there.

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