For one who spent a considerable portion of his awkward adolescent phase hanging out at Southroads Mall, this article and the accompanying photo gallery recall the tag line from The Twilight Zone.

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I haven’t spent a significant amount of time in Tulsa since I last lived there in 1984. My parents moved south in 1997; since then my only trips back have been for high school class reunions and funerals. From those trips I see Tulsa going through a recognizable corporate homogenization: a Walgreen’s on every major corner that isn’t already occupied by a McDonald’s or a Starbuck’s. Enclosed malls are definitely passé.

When my family moved to Tulsa from Pumpkin Center, KS (h/t Kenny Koch) in 1966, Woolco had just opened. It was the anchor tenant on the west end of what was to become Southroads Mall. (If you’ve never been to a Woolco, think “low-rent K-mart”.) Giant store , everything cheap, always with stale, well-trodden popcorn on the floor. My family had a daily trek to Woolco to buy brooms, cleaning supplies, etc., every day for the first month in Tulsa. (In the olden days, there were no Wal-Marts or Family Dollar stores.)

When I was older but too young for a summer job, I spent most of two summers hanging out at Southroads/Southland with Peter Robertson, Clint Hughes, and Dean Harms. Southroads was preferred because it was enclosed and AIR CONDITIONED. We were preoccupied with girls, fashion, records, and girls. If a movie were to be based of our adventures, it would be “Stand By Me” meets “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, with me playing the part of the awkward chubby kid with glasses. I will leave the other casting choices to Clint, a/k/a “Clifford DeHaven“.

I never did much actual shopping at Southroads; it was a little upscale for my family’s budget. Never bought a thing at Orbach’s. Only bought shoes at Renberg’s because Bostonians ran wide. Looboyle’s, on the lower level, was the best spot in town for Zebco reels and tackle. Saved a journey to Oertle’s, which was on the edge of civilization.

Those names are gone now, or so I assume. Many of the friends from those days are gone too, and we the survivors are rapidly turning sixty. There are supposed to be benefits that go with grey hair and a middle-aged paunch. I’m not convinced. After all, my awkward adolescent years failed to end on schedule; some say they lasted until sometime during President Clinton’s second term.

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