The Glory Days of Hanging Out At The Mall As A Teen [Pics]
The mall. For people of a certain age who grew up in cities, towns, and suburbs that had them, it was the place to be. Especially when you wanted to escape from your parents, be with your friends, and congregate. As an 80s teenager, and perhaps for those teens in the 90s too, the mall was just the perfect place to gather and kill some time.
It was a different time then. As teenagers, our schedules were somewhat less structured. We had more time to do whatever we wanted. Parents tended to worry less about it. Or maybe they worried, but not so much to keep tabs on us.
Fashion wasn’t so much found online. It was found in magazines and in stores like Contempo Casuals, Afterthoughts, Merry Go Round, Deb, Chess King, The Gap, and I could go on. For much of the mall’s heyday, you couldn’t go online to find fashion, the internet didn’t exist. Or if it did it was some far-off concept like the Jetson’s video phone.
You didn’t pop open your phone if you heard a song you really liked and add it to a playlist you paid some service $12.99 a month to access. You sat there with your cassette deck and recorded it off the radio. If you really liked it, you headed to one of the mall record stores ln the mall like Musicland, Record Town, Peaches, Coconuts, Record Bar, Sam Goody, Cassette World, or later FYE. You’d either buy the 45 or maybe take a chance on buying the album. You might also buy a new poster for your room while you’re there.
A lot of time at the mall though was spent just wandering around looking at stuff. Seeing if you and your friends might run into some of your other friends doing the same thing. It was killing time, hanging out, goofing around. Trying to be cool.
It was gossiping while enjoying an Auntie Anne pretzel. Or a slice from Sbarro. Or a Hot Dog on a Stick. Or a cup of fries from Great Steak and Potato. It was lighting up a cigarette and looking cool. Yeah, you could smoke in the mall then, at lest through the early 90s. It was arguing over what movie you’d go see at the mall theaters. Or heading into Aladdin’s Castle, or whatever the arcade at your mall was called, to pump quarters into video games like Pole Position, Punch Out, Galaga, or Frogger.
It's a different time today. Teenagers engage in many more structured activities than we did. They are much more likely to hang out by texting or posting TikTok videos than by going to the mall. Some who go to the mall seem to go to cause trouble, making teens, not really welcome, mall managers worried they’ll scare off the families and adults popping into Bath and Body Works, Torrid, or Barnes & Noble.
I’ve put together a gallery I call Scenes from a Mall. These are stills taken from CBS News Correspondent Charles Kuralt’s look at shopping malls and their impacts on communities. The piece was filmed mostly in Overland Park, at Oak Park Mall. Enjoy this day at the mall in 1982.