Saturday, August 19, 2006

Old Towne Mall

Without a doubt, my favorite place to go(Apart from Disneyland) as a kid was the Old Towne Mall. Similar to Old Chicago, Old Towne (The mall part came later) was designed to recreate a time long past. Built in the early 1970's (I don't know the actual date) it began as a place that shunned chain stores and focused on small family businesses. But when I started going there as a kid, in the 1980's, it had changed a bit. I remember a Federated electronics store, Movie theater, Waldenbooks (or maybe it was a B. Dalton), and arcade.

There were still plenty of small unique places though. I really liked a shop that sold plastic cartoon figurines, among other things. I spent so much time looking at the smurf figures there. I remember so many small details of the place, like seeing my first Rubik's cube keychain hanging in a store window, riding the double decker carousel, and going on the Fantasia dark ride. How many malls have a dark ride?! There was a model shop, paint your own ceramics shop, a juice place that had a large display of animatronic type figures milking cows and turning wheels and such, and many other places.

Old Towne, Torrance, California

By the time Old Towne was remodeled into a large strip mall in the early 90's, the place was basically dead. Many of the shops were gone and had temporary walls around them. They renamed the mall Torrance Promenade and the carousel was moved to the south side and stayed there in a new food court next to the now $3.00 second run theater. Eventually, that last part of the mall became a Linens N' Things. Recently they opened a Sam Ash music store and a radio spot announced their grand opening at the Old Towne Mall!

View all my Old Towne Mall posts here.



Anonymous said...

I woke up at about 4 am and for some unknown reason, needed to see pictures and or read something about Old Towne. Most could have weird cravings for breakfast, but this is ridiculous. I grew up in Inglewood in the 70's and 80's and would visit as often as my mom would allow. She, after all, had the keys to the station wagon. I can still smell the carmel corn in the air. My brother and I would lose ourselves for hours in Paul Frieler's model shop...until mom tracked us down threatening to leave us there. Her threats of abandonment at such a place had little affect on me. I would then marvel at the Ludwig Vistalites at the little music store at the south end of the mall. The store owner would remind me that the cymbals were the same used by the Beatles!! I was as impressed as any 3rd grader would be. This was 75 and my memories of the Fab 4 were fresh. In 79 or so, I saw my first movie demo on video there.... Jaws 2. Wow, movies you could watch at home without commercials anytime you wanted...I remember sneaking into the theatre showing Heavy Metal and being first to see Raiders of the Lost altering!!! I was last at Old Towne in 83. The food court was moved to the south end, half the mall was gone and I didn't think too much of it. What did Jonie Mitchell say again?

I'm now a middle aged valley resident,..I've lived in the west valley since 91 or so. I've recently started commuting to the LAX area and am getting reaquainted with the southbay. I recently visited the new Sam Ash at the old Old Towne site and was met with such overwhelming saddness. That quirky place where I and my family would spend occasional weekends now only existed in my memories. No more carmel corn and no friendly store owner to impress me with Beatles trivia. Sad.

thirtyhelens said...

Ahh, Old Towne. One of the strongest most beloved memories of childhood in the South Bay. (I grew up in San Pedro.) So many summer afternoons, slices of pizza in the food court, badgering parents for rides on the carousel. Lots of movies but for some reason, seeing 'Wrath of Khan' and then being bought a pair of Jellies afterward is strongest. I even remember having to stop at Pep Boys on the way home, Dad took forever and Mom and I sat in the car listening to the radio. Toto, to be exact. "Roseanna". Trip out.

Thanks for the memories! Plase post more if you can.

Anonymous said...

WOW...I surely do remember this place from my childhood! I even remember when it opened: Bob Banfield, Stephanie Edwards and the great Ralph Story (from KABC's original "A.M." morning show) were the celebrity grand opening hosts.
What a fun place to spend a childhood Saturday in another time, a different world...

Anonymous said...

WOW...interesting comments, guys....I remember the ELECTRIC feeling in the air on any given Friday night -circa late 70's early 80's--trying to park in the lot to see a movie.

ha...I remember my father taking us there to see CADDYSHACK IN 1980...riding in the back of his green Datsun pickup truck. I was 10.

When did the mall start going downhill? mid 80's? I guess it was because of the LACK of big name Dept stores. Shame.


Anonymous said...

Awesome pictures! Thanks for the memories!

Wasn't there a glass shop that produced blown glass gifts? I remember my dad buying me a little glass dog necklace.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I though I was the only one in the world besides my brother that loved Old Towne Mall Torrance. We went there every chance we could when I was in high school and college. Remember the metal artisan who made the little nut&bolt men flying around old fashioned bikes, giant metal blimp skeletons,and circus carousels. Some of them were motorized and animated. Ever eat at Mama or Papa Pizzano's Pizza?
Our favorite place was Paul Frielers Historical Model Shop. It had every thing you could think of, and some incredible models on display. Remember the WWII jeep driving thru the bombed out diorama with a miniature bra hanging from the antennae? Great stuff. I also remember the large craft and artisan common area they had in the center? of the mall. Like going into a convention hall full of different artists booths. So great! Also, I have memories of Richard Nixon Head Candles in the Candle shop. Post WaterGate negativity of course. "I'm Not A Crook!" Anyway, I wish I could go back in time. That with out a doubt has to have been the best Mall in the History of Malls!!! Miss it soooooooo muchhhhhhhh. Change sucks!!!!

Anonymous said...

No mention of the the two carnival rides they had in there? Yeah, they had the merry go round, but the also had two other rides... one was a haunted house and the other was like a fun house type deal. You sat in seats and they ran along a track, much like disney's haunted house ride.

Namowal (Jennifer Bourne) said...

I remember Old Towne Mall in its glory days (as a kid) and it's sad demise (as an adult. As others have mentioned, it was a unique place with lots of unusual shops.
Some attractions I remember included
*A large shooting gallery (including an automatan who played the piano when you hit his target
*a "Buzzy Bee" ride that worked something like the Dumbo ride at Disneyland.
*Fantasia, a bizarre dark ride aimed at the younger crowd. It wasn't maintained well (puppet figures slumping like they were dead, which made it creepy
*The Castle, a scary dark ride full of monsters and big gorilla who jumped out at you.
By the late 80s Old Towne was a mess. The unique shops were gone, the rides were gone (except the carousel) and most stores were empty and neglected, giving it a creepy ghost town look.

Namowal (Jennifer Bourne) said...

The kiddie dark ride was named "Phantasia," not "Fantasia," as I earlier stated.

Unknown said...

Fantastic! How neat to find your blog. My brother and I grew up right across the street from Old Towne in the early 1970s. The place was still in its hey-day. I remember spending many hours playing Skee-Ball in the arcade there. Thanks for posting this!

Anonymous said...

-i was still pretty young, but i remember being with my sister on some of those rides, and having them scare the hell out of me- (at 3 or so, a lot of things can scare you)

thanks for the pictures, if you have any more please put them up!!!

love it!!!

davarn said...

Just had a "flashback" re" Old Towne Mall. My all time favorite sandwich was "the Godfather".

also worked at the dime toss there.

Wow, so many good memories. Great mall. Remember the Keystone Cops there?

Anonymous said...

We drove from Santa Ana to see this mall and I have distinct memories of the "westernness" of it and a really hip beanbag chair store.

DASman said...

I use to work at the old Town mall back in the 70's. I was a busboy in the red and white stripped shirt. this was my first job which I still have great memories. This was a great place to work and to hangout.

Marana Az

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh. I was telling a coworker who's from Pasadena about the Old Towne Mall of my childhood and Googled it. To my extreme delight, this site came up complete with pictures!

I LOVED that mall, as my grandparents used to take me there in the summers when we would visit them from Fresno. They lived just up the street on Avis and was it Garnet, I think?? My grandfather would wait patiently for me while I went on each ride over and over. They used to have a bumble bee ride and the carousel was really neat with the swings on the second level. And I loved that dark coaster ride.

Somebody else mentioned the ragtime performers in the red and white striped jackets and that brought back so many other memories. I loved the ceramics shop and used to buy little creatures to paint at home. I think I still have a pink hippo figurine somewhere packed away!

I still think of it when I drive by that strip mall now and it feels like a big hole where something special is missing.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane everyone! It made my day.

Unknown said...

I, too, have memories of the Old Towne Mall. I grew up in Gardena and as a kid my mom would pile all three of us boys into her 1985 Plymouth Voyager minivan and take us there. I'm young, so my memories of Old Towne are from the mid- to late '80s (towards the end of the mall's life). I remember my brother loved buying 8-bit Nintendo games from one of electronics stores near the food court. And it was a family ritual on a weekend to dig in to the deep dish pizza served in their food court. I believe it was Perry's Pizza (may've been called something different). We were spoiled, suburban children so I remember my mom wore a belt around her neck to keep us in line[!!!] LOL THE MEMORIESSS.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this. I was trying to describe this to my best friend, who grew up in Riverside and never got to see it. Now I could show her!

My grandparents took me there when I was a kid and yes, it was hokey but I loved it and I miss it so much. There's no individuality or joy in most place we go to now. Old Towne was wonderful.

Thank you again for making this available.

Anonymous said...

I was just asking my mom about the name of this mall and she pointed me to your blog. I have such fond memories of the place-- my mom took me there often until we moved to San Diego when I was 4. I loved the bee ride, carosel and the dark ride... I never saw another mall as cool! Thanks for the memories.

Anonymous said...

The model shop was the best. There was even a mini olde tyme cop with his boxers showing... lol I think the cable car became a photo booth. There was this model railroad that one could put in a quarter and run the trains... and... I remember the artist area when it first opened but entertainment, singing cops and clowns probably were cut when the returns did generate funds to keeping it going. When the shops started to close, it did get a bit creepy.... I could go on, but I also miss Woolworth's, Newberrys, popcorn at Sears, GEMCO, girls I knew or thought I did... But of course I could never share this without computers of today!?! Thanks for the Olde Towne Mall page. Mark Iver

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this. I grew up in the South Bay, and we would go to the Mall as much as we possibly could! I remember the spooky, creepy ride and the merry go round and the food court...mostly, I definitely remember the "feel" of the place: alive and charged with energy. Cheers

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much to everyone for sharing their memories of the mall. I am pretty sure my mother took me the first week it opened, if not when the theater first opened - I think I must have been 5-6 years old. We had black vinyl beanbag chairs from the beanbag store!

This reminded me of so many lovely times with my granddad at Old Towne. There was something for everyone. Todays malls are so boring and impersonal.

My mother and I sometimes went to the KMart that was sort of attached to the mall and had lunch in the cafeteria. The first time I went to an Ikea and they had a cafeteria I was sooo excited! No one has those anymore.

Anonymous said...

In addition to what everyone else describes, I remember they used to have a hi-fi shop with very exotic looking stereo equipment, turntables and speakers. Old Towne was a very cool place the first five or so years it was open.

Anonymous said...

Last night before I fell asleep Old Towne Mall popped in my head and when I woke up looked it up and this was one of the first sites I clicked on. I was a child of the 70's and remember numerous family outing there. Such sweet memories! All the little stores, food places and wasn't there a merry go round?? Makes me sad to hear it's nothing like it use to be. Thank God for our cherished memories!

Anonymous said...

Old Towne was one of the many hangouts my friends used to frequent as teenagers in the 70s growing up in the South Bay area. We'd pile into an old Dodge Dart, drive up Hawthorne Bl to OT to catch such movies as Saturday Night Fever and Warriors, then we would drive down by the beach and cruise the strand, stopping off at Fishermans Wharf or the Fleetwood a teenage rock venue, sometimes we'd hang out at Del Amo Mall and get on the cool racecar ride there, but Old Towne was a neat quirky place with odd stores and te smell of candy popcorn in the air. I remember there was a great model shop with all kinds of neat action figures.

danalucas said...

I was just googling places to go.. from my past. I grew up as an 80's kid in P.V. and I wanted to show my daughter some of my old stomping grounds. The courtyard, and the old town mall... Wasn't Peacock Alley part of that mall? It has been about 20 years so I have forgotten alot! Anyway, sad that it is gone... "paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Anonymous said...

I remember being there as a 7 year old kid in 1980, and my dad taking me to the mall. I would stand and watch the old timers play chess.I also got my first stamp collection album there.

Unknown said...

I worked at Old Towne Mall part time back in 1973-1974. Down at the south end they had bumper cars and I would operate them on Sundays. The folks that owned the bumper cars also owned an arcade in a strip mall at the corner of Sepulveda and Hawthorne.
My favorite restaurant in the mall was "Fritzenkotters" across from the bumper cars. All of their sandwiches were named after celebrities. There was also a high end audio/stereo store there (not a chain) that I bought things from in later years. I have good memories of families and kids riding the bumper cars on Sunday afternoon.

Kathy said...

Just took a quiz on facebook about Torrance and sure enough there was a question about Old Town Mall. I went to High School at Torrance High and remember many trips to Old Town for fun, food, laughs, and movies...I remember the last time I went there was when my nephew was six and he had his pic taken with Santa. It was pretty much closing down my then..few shops were open. He's now 23. I miss those good ol' days at Old Town. Good Memories!!

Anonymous said...

They would turn up the bumper cars to high speed at night. You could hear them ramming into each other all the way at the other end of the mall...BOOM, BOOM, BAM

Sharon, Sandy, Stoney, Bill, Mike, Pat, Tina, and Terri are the names I remember.

Yeah, sing with me,
sing for the year
Sing for the laugh,
sing for the tear
Sing with me,
if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow,
the good Lord will take you away

Dream On Dream On Dream On
Dream until your dream comes true

Ron said...

Dear Moderator:

I was hoping that you would replace my anonymous 5:11 am post with the following-

The Cable Car use to be in the middle of the south entrance, parallel to the bumper cars. I get and Orange Julius and a hamburger from the food court next to the the double-decker Carousel and the Buzzy Bee. There was an arcade was in the north end and the K-Mart was the north end anchor. The South end anchor was a movie theatre where I saw 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', 'Gone in 60 Seconds', and 'The Gumball Rally'.

I worked for the Old Town Carousel Company in 1976 as a ride operator on the bumper cars. Did any of you ever ride them when they were turned up to high (level 5) speed? If your car got hit by another traveling at full spped, there would be a LOUD crash that could be heard all the way down at the north end of the mall. I've never seen anything like it before or since. They played music over the P.A. on what I guess was an 8 track tape. The three songs that I remember hearing over and over again were: Jim Croce, 'I've Got a Name', Peter Frampton, 'Show Me the Way', and The Allman Bros' Ramblin Man

Do any of you remember any of these names? They worked there too -

Bob Morgan, Pat McHargue and his wife Kim, Bill Burns, Sharon Lee Cook, Sandra Cook, Tina and her sister Terri. Some other friends were Ted Theissen and George Murphy. I haven't seen or heard from any of them in 34 years. My God, 34 years.....

And of course it seemed that every where we went there was a radio playing Aerosmith; either 'Walk This Way' or 'Dream On' There's no way I could have known what the lyrics to 'Dream On' would mean to me 34 years later....

Every time I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn
Isn't that the way
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay....

..Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me now, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good lord will come down and take you away

Dream On, Dream On, DREAM ON
Dream until your dream comes true

Unknown said...

Wow, what a blast from the past! I also grew up in Torrance in the mid 70's and as an only child, my mom and I would go shopping on Saturdays and usually hit Del Amo and Old Town. I loved the model shop and can still remember those BMW models with the cool paint jobs in the glass cases.I also remember eating at Luv's just down the street with my parents and then catching a movie at either South Bay, Del Amo or Old Town. My family moved to New Mexico in 1980 and I returned to California about 8 years later to go to school in Pasadena. When I came back to visit Old Town, my heart was broken seeing the place as it was, I couldn't even stop,so I just drove by... but I will always have great memories growing up in this area. Seeing that sign really brought back a feeling I forgot I had about this time in my life. Thanks for your wonderful post!

bobpiano said...

OK, you all.
I was one of the first entertainers hired at Old Towne Mall in 1972--as a pianist/singer who worked with the Keystone cop singers (Lenny and Bruce). I was a graduate student at USC, and played at the mall on weekends or weekdays when I didn't have school. I got to know so many of the store owners, and it was great to be there on a Saturday or Sunday when I'd have a pretty, young banjo player sitting on top of the piano as we played some ragtime numbers.

Anonymous said...

I saw Tron there in "82". I can remember AC/DC and Journey were huge and everybody in the southbay listened to KMET 94.7 before it turned into the wave. I remember a Dumbo like ride with bumble bees instead of elephants. Also there were automated miniature train sets complete with scenery you could operate for a quarter placed sporatically throughout the mall where stands and kiosks would be in a modern mall. I remember that awesome darkride complete with spinning tunnel that you'd go through. The carousel was also a favorite. I think they had a Zody's there too! Aahh the candied cinnamon popcorn!!!! mmmmmmh!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the trip down Memory Lane! My grandparents used to take me to Old Towne a lot when I was young... would have been 1979-1983, I think. We liked to eat at the Belgian waffle house. I remember the Castle ride was scary, like a haunted house, and I didn't like going on it. The other ride (Phantasia?) was I think a slow moving suspended swing through a dark forest with scenes from nursery rhymes - I distinctly remember the Little Miss Muffet scene being one of them. It was actually a little frightening too, though. I especially remember the 2-story carousel. I remember the upper story had swings on it. However, I always rode in the spinning teacup on the bottom level - that was the best thing about it! Does anyone else remember the spinning teacup on it? It was an awesome carousel! Does anyone have a picture of it?

Anonymous said...

A lot of barbershop quartet singing (sweeet adelaiid) and a roaring 20's feel to the decor and such. Candy-stripey stuff interspersed with the kinda weird art and craft-work popular at the time. One little shop sold these plastic faces you'd hang on the wall. The faces looked old and wrinkled and when you pulled a string, the chin and tongue would wag and there would be this laughing and cackling. Sounded just like the laughter at the end of Black Sabbath's "Am I going insane".

Anonymous said...

kara . I was just remembering the good old days 1979 when i was 15 and i would hag out at the mall. it was so much fun !!! i remember some kids ran through the mall setting off fire crackers and smoke bombs. the mall security tried to catch them . back then it was so funny and silly. they would have music in the gazebo. later when i got married and had my son i use to take him there to ride the merry go round.

Linda Schmidt said...

I grew up on Darien street across from Ol Town Mall, way before it was even though of. I got my very first job working at Old Town Leather for Robert LoPresti, Tony LoTempeo and Butch DeForest at the age of 15 and that was 1972. I lived at that mall and new all the shop owners, heres some name from the past. My boyfriend was Bobbie Morgan his friend was Pat McCargue they worked at the bumper cars.My dear friend Mike Pusich owned the acades and bummpers cars ect., we are still friends and in contact to this day. Mary Wimer worked at the hawaiian shop next to me and we still have cantact. And does anyone remember "Rudy" the black fellow who shinned shoe in front of our shop? One of my best friends Mom has the craft shop in artisins way, Dianna Bradley's Mom. Jodie's Dad owned the stereo shop, where we met John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin in 1972, he was sleeping on her Dad;s couch!
How about the Belgium Waffle house, I had to smell that every day, I sure do miss the beauty of the innocence of that time, met alot of celebraties who didn't have poporatzzi any where near them. And the key stone cops, Blue bear, and all the other beautiful essences of that mall will be in my heart forever! I love all the friends I made and that are still in my life 40 years later. Thank you for this site, lots of memories.
Linda Schmidt

Scott said...

Near the original location of the Sega center (arcade) there was a miniature gold course, it was the size of a very small shop. They had a small pet store or at least a place you could buy fish stuff and Sea Monkeys. They had a comic book shop too. As I went to high school I met the daughter of the owners of the juice shop. The only remnants of the mall is the original Old Towne Lock and Key (owned by the same family today). The bumper cars were replaced I believe originally by TIME Magazine or at least they had a large TIME sign. At the time of the "Pepsi Challenge" they would set up tables near the carousel and you could take the Pepsi challenge, it was very close to the Federated Group. The two places with neat posters and paraphernalia were Leland's and the Scorpio Shop. Not that long ago I saw the Scorpio Shop on Hermosa Ave in Hermosa Beach. At the northern most end one of the last food shops served Italian food. It had a black and white picture of a baby with a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs on top of his head. The sauce and spaghetti were dripping down his face as he was crying and the caption read "Mama said there would be days like this". At that time the hot dog on a stick was down at that end before it relocated closer to the theaters. There was a t-shirt place where you could choose from an assorted selection of prints. As I remember more stuff, I'll post it.