Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Carolina Circle Mall: A View from Billy Coore

I thought I'd entertain everyone tonight with my story about how I became a Circle Lover.

My first ever trip to Carolina Circle Mall probably happened sometime around 1990. Unfortunately, I obviously missed the ice rink era, but I was around for the just as wonderful carousel era.

I was about 1 year old the first time I rode the carousel. That was probably around the same time Carolina Circle Mall became my favorite place. That proves it. I've been a fan of Carolina Circle Mall since I was in diapers!

As I matured, I started liking other aspects of the mall. One of my earliest memories of the mall dates back to 1992 or 1993. I remember going to a toy store across from the food court. I think that was what was called K&K Toys. But that was very early in my life, and it closed before I could have fonder memories.

An old home video of me at age 3 from February 27, 1993 shows my parents asking me where I wanted to go. I respond with "Carolina Circle". Nowadays, whenever I show that video to someone, I tell them it was a lost commercial for Carolina Circle from 1993.

1994 & 1995 are my two favorite years of Carolina Circle. I was old enough to soak in most of what the mall had to offer, yet young enough to just be a kid. Also, 1994 & 1995 were two of the greatest years for the mall in the carousel era. It still had its luster, business, the carousel was doing great, etc. My best years of my Carolina Circle life happened then. I'd eat at Carolina Deli (Became Subs & Spuds sometime in 1995), and then ride the carousel. I'd ocossionally get some ice cream from Monk's. Then, a ride on the carousel.

On August 23, 1995, I began kindergarten. Unfortunately, that sort of cut down on my trips to Carolina Circle. However, I'd go and check out the Toys 'R' Us across the street from the mall everyday after school. And on weekends, we'd usually head out to the mall and enjoy ourselves.

Around 1996 was when I started noticing that the mall wasn't doing so well. It was around that time that the carousel was removed. On the day of my first trip to the mall without the carousel, I locked myself in the bathroom at home to keep myself from going there. I eventually gave in. We got to the mall and descended the escalator outside of Belk. Man, that food court looked weird without a carousel. I recovered and Carolina Circle soon became my favorite mall again.

Trips to the mall became much less frequent in the late '90s. In fact, I don't remember going to the mall between 1998 and 2001 except for frequent Montgomery Ward trips.

In 3rd grade (1998-1999), I met a girl who soon became a friend of mine. One of the things we had in common was that we both were fans of Carolina Circle. She told me that one day she went there to cash in her tickets from the food court arcade, but the arcade was gone.

Here's what happened on my very last trip through the mall corridor. It was on a Saturday in March of 2001. We went to Montgomery Ward and decided to check out what else was open at the mall. The mall was definately in its death bed at that point. Only Montgomery Ward and some other store was open. I thought surely that my beloved Subs & Spuds would still be open. But, it wasn't. Most of the mall was abandoned. There was only one other family walking through there. I overheard the mom say that there really wasn't much in there. She was dead right. That was one of the days when I really wished I had a camera phone. But they hadn't been invented yet.

Soon after that, the mall corridor was shut down leaving Montgomery Ward as the only part of the mall available for shopping. I never went through the corridor ever again.

Around the same time, Montgomery Ward decided they were going to call it quits nationwide. We bought all kinds of goodies during their going out of business sale.

My very last trip to the mall happened in very early 2002. Montgomery Ward had shut down the first floor and had everything smushed together in the furniture section on the second floor. I remember seeing a circa 1980's Montgomery Ward Color TV for sale. Now I wish I bought it for some nostalgia.

The mall then closed. Several months after that, the Carolina Flea Market opened on the second floor of Belk. The only reason I went there was to look through the old mall entrance and see the corridor in all its lime green glory. Once again, I wish I had a camera. I quit going when they covered it up with a big black tarp.

After that, my interest in the mall sort of wanned. It was still my favorite mall, but I didn't care much for it. I spent most of my time with my growing interest in roads.

On February 21, 2005, I decided to head out to the defunct mall and take some pictures. That was the trip when my younger self inside of me kicked in. We pulled the car up to the old main entrance. The huge lime green arch had been removed a couple of years before. From the passenger seat of the car, I was able to see the inside of the dead mall. The railings were there, the lime green wallpaper was there, and much more.

The next day at Pendle Hill Christian School, my teacher turned the radio onto 99.5 WMAG. They started playing Two Hearts by Phil Collins, the song they always played at Carolina Circle. At that moment during language arts class, a revelation hit me. It hurt too. I know, bad joke. Anyway, a voice inside my head told me that there was an old mall out there full of my memories. At that moment, I became a die hard fan of Carolina Circle Mall.

That same night, I got on the Internet and did a search on Carolina Circle Mall. I came across some recent interior pictures via the now defunct Post Apocalyptic Mall of Doom website. That was the first time I had gotten a good look at the mall's interior in several years.

I found an awesome picture of the carousel taken in the early '90s on the Internet on March 17, 2005. That is still my number one picture of the mall.

Several events transpired after that including dealing with the demolition of the mall. I predicted that I would be sent into a deep depression. Fortunately, I actually took it rather well.

In September of 2005, I started this blog Carolina Circle City. That resulted in being interviewed with the paper a month later. Many other people who grew up at that mall had the same revelation as me. People who skated the ice rink, rode the carousel, saw many a movie at the Circle 6 Theatres, and bought great things at the mall have been sending me emails ever since then with their memories.

So you see folks, a nice hunk of my childhood took place at Carolina Circle Mall. Particularly the carousel. Ever since I was a baby, I've been a die hard fan of Carolina Circle Mall. If you are a Circle Lover like me, I urge you to think back to the good old days of the mall. Back when the ice rink was king or when the carousel was king. I'm sure you'll find as many great memories as I have.

I salute you, Carolina Circle Mall!

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