I had the occasion to return to Metcalf South Mall yesterday, as a local Clothing Manufacturer was using part of the space to house their annual Warehouse sale. It’s a good location: Central to one of the largest cities in Johnson County, the most populous county on the Kansas side of the Missouri state line. That location always made it a strong draw from it’s first days in 1967.
My first experiences at the mall came some time after my birth in 1970. I certainly don’t remember when I first was taken there, too many years have passed. But I do remember in my Elementary school years going there frequently.
This is how I remember trips to the Mall. Bright lights, clean and shiny floors, and many happy people going about their shopping tasks. I remember the smell of popcorn constantly emanating from the Topsy’s Popcorn store on the main level. I remember going with my mother and sister to meet my father, an Overland Park Police Officer to a fast food store – Smack’s to have lunch while he was on duty. I remember looking over the rail in the photo looking all the way down to the bottom floor, two stories below. I remember once in a while asking for, and receiving a coin to toss at the spiral fountain, thinking someday I’d be able to land one in the top bowl.
I also remember as a teenager first begging to go to my favorite hobby shop as I was shuffled past by my Mother on a mission to get school clothes. Then, once I was able to drive, I made many trips to Hobby Haven on my own; enjoying the freedom as well as the excitement of perusing the model kits. Fortunately, when Hobby Haven left Metcalf South, it moved only a mile or so to the south where it remains to this day.
But most of the memories I have of this place include and are intertwined with memories of my Paternal Grandparents. They lived on the Missouri side of the State Line, and made it a priority to involve themselves heavily in the lives of my sister and I. So many times, before the new school year started, my mother, sister, and I would meet my Nanny or both her and my Grandpa at Sears to go school clothes shopping.
And never did one of these trips end without our Grandparents either helping to purchase, or out-right buying the entire wardrobe that had been chosen. Of course I thought it was nice at the time, but now, as a father myself I see the true Love and Generosity they did so with. They wanted to help out our parents and us, because families are expensive… and that’s what Grandparents do.
And there were other trips: Meeting our Grandparents there so Grandpa could help Dad shop for a major appliance; Mom, sister and I meeting Nanny there for an early afternoon movie during the summer. Meeting them there so Dad and I could help load and transport a new Lawnmower in the years before they left their house. And many, many others.
Today, this is how the Mall’s central court looks. Store fronts boarded up and dark. The escalators I loved riding as a child motionless. The spiral fountain long-ago turned off and empty of coins. No muzak over the speakers, no wonderful sound of children laughing. Nothing but silence. Nothing but memories.
Soon, the mall I grew up with is slated to be torn down. The City has approved new plans for the land, as it is prime real-estate on the main North-South artery through the City. With it will go a sight I always looked upon fondly as it remained, even standing cold and silent, a physical touchstone for some of the best memories of two of the most meaningful people in my life: My Grandparents.
I guess in a way, this is a microcosm of life itself: We are born, we grow up, we grow old, we die. Metcalf South was built, matured, enjoyed, grew old, and is now slated to be a thing of the past. It will be sad, the day the wrecking-ball comes. But I will always remember the place in my memory along with the people I was there with.