February 20, 2012

Let's go to "The Plaza."

A Melrose Park landmark, Winston Plaza stood at the intersection of Ninth Avenue and North Avenue. "The Plaza," as we called it, was across the street from Amling's Flowerland.

The Plaza was a hub of many activities, but at its heart, it was a shopping center. Most Melrose Parkers did all of their shopping at The Plaza. Two grocery stores—Dominick's (originally a Kroger) and Jewel—anchored the mall. Moms usually shopped at either Dominick's or Jewel, but never at both. We were a "Jewel family." (I leave discussions of "Foodtown" and "Bonnie Bee" for later posts.)

The Plaza had a Walgreen's and a number of other stores that attracted preteens and teens. There was, for example, a record shop, a Lerner Shop, and a discount store, Newberry's. Newberry's had wooden floors similar to those one usually found in a Woolworth's. 

The higher-end, department-style, store was Madigan's. My Mom bought shoes and underwear there occasionally. Madigan's had a small book department—toward the back, near the bathrooms. After my Parents took me to see Mary Poppins at the movie theater, they bought the official Walt Disney Mary Poppins book for me when we visited Madigan's one evening. I remember feeling very special that day.

One of the undercover security guards at Madigan's was a patient of my Mom's. We'd see her walking around the women's department, looking cosmically bored, spinning the dress carousels as she feigned interest in the merchandise.

My childhood home was less than one mile from The Plaza. I was not allowed to go there alone, or with my Best Friend, until I reached the Seventh Grade. After I got my big-girl bicycle, however, my Best Friend and I sometimes snuck away to The Plaza and illicitly bought things like lip gloss, Fritos, and Creedance Clearwater Revival records.

When I was much smaller, my Dad sometimes walked with me to The Plaza. One year, The Plaza featured an "attraction" for kids: an "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" structure.

Suburban Chicago, February 1964. There's still snow on the ground, but Dad decides it's warm enough to make the 0.84-mile walk to Winston Plaza. "The Swan" stands in our open garage.

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Suburban Chicago, February 1964. We walk near Silver Creek as we make our way down Andy Drive, and across Fifth Avenue.

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Suburban Chicago, February 1964. We're getting close! There's the baptist church on the corner of Andy Drive and Ninth Avenue.

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Suburban Chicago, February 1964. We've reached the "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" attraction.

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Suburban Chicago, February 1964. It's a lame, walk-through lure of nothingness.

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Verona, Wisconsin, February 2012. But cheer up! I still can go home and read Mary Poppins.


Leslie said...

Oooops, now the cat's out of the bag. I never once admitted out loud to sneaking away to The Plaza with my best friend. Ahhh good times ;-)

Irene said...

Do you remember when we "super snuck" even beyond The Plaza: we went to Tom Naples's stand to check out all of the Halloween goodies.

Kris said...

The Plaza was a favorite destination for my Dad and me, usually on Friday evenings. We would head out to the Plaza from our house on 21st Avenue, past Bulger Park, stopping to watch the Italian men playing bocce. Lorraine's Records and Books (that was the name, right?) was usually our first stop, then we headed to Walgreen's to buy some Van Houten chocolate bars, 3 for 27 cents (on sale) and lastly to Madigans to see what was new. Great memories.

Irene said...

Yes, a place of great memories. Kris, do you remember when you and I walked to Walgreen's and bought Cubs basebaell caps? What was I thinking--me, the sports fan? There's a vacation photo of me a few years down the line, fishing in Canada, and wearing that Cubs cap.

Lorraine's Records was the correct name. I think the Record Shop in the fourth photo here was under previous ownership because there are "For Sale" signs in the windows.

Dad took the photos from this walk on a Sunday. I made that determination after I saw that the baptist church parking lot was full. Another fact identifying this as a Sunday shoot: the stores are closed. Walgreen's used to be the only store open on Sundays, and I recall it only was open until noon. Like Yamo's.

Oh--Leslie and Kris, you know each other!

Karen said...

Great memories. I used to go there every Saturday with Dolores & Cindy. However, I think it was Neisner's that had the wooden floors. Newberry's was a cheaper version of JC Penny's (in my opinion). Oh, the hours I spent at Lorraine's looking at the albums and getting my WLS & WCFL top 40 survey cards. I had a box full of them and my mom decided one day that they were taking up too much space and pitched them. I was so mad at her for doing that (like 40 years ago!). Still mad about it!

Irene said...

Karen, I don't remember Neisner's at all. Wow.

I know how you feel about the survey cards. My Mom threatened once to throw all of my toys away if I didn't clean up the Rec Room, and she carried out the promise!

Irene said...

Oh look! Amber Reunion has more than two comments on one thread. Woot!

Kris said...

Yup, Karen's right: JJ Newberry was a low-end department store closer to Lorraine's.
Neisner's was a five and dime (my god, I'm old!)and was at the same end of the Plaza as Madigans. They had a Woolworth-style lunch counter. I used to eat there occasionally when I worked at Madigans during summer vacation.

Cindy said...

Oh my gosh Irene! Thank you for the great memories. Going to the Plaza on Saturdays was the highlight of my week. Life was so simple then, no fancy pricey video games, just walking, talking, and laughing with friends and looking at the windows of stores dreaming about getting things in the stores.

I remember finding $10 on the sidewalk walking to school one day and my mom let me go to Madigans and get pants, white bell bottoms with red and blue pinstripes! Funny the things we remember!

Irene said...

I am so glad this post triggered happy memories for everyone.

Now. Did anyone ever get a haircut at the salon in the back, next to the Chow Mein place.


Kris said...

rMom used to take me to Pink 'n Pine, a beauty shop across the street from Tom's Steak House on Broadway (19th) and North. She had a beautician named Janine who also cut my hair; I really liked her.

Where was the chow mein place? I don't remember it, probably because my dad wasn't much for chow mein. I loved it, but mom only made it once in a while.

Irene said...

The Chow Mein place was in the back of The Plaza, behind Lorraine's, near the travel agency and hair salon.

Mr. Irene and I had one of our first dates at Tom's Steakhouse. Ha ha!

Sharon from Grant St. said...

Well fellow plaza frequenters, I still have occasion to stop by the plaza. Just bought burgers at Five Guys and while waiting for those juicy burgers "walked" down memory lane. Glad to see that the plaza is experiencing a rebirth, but sorely miss the "face" of the sixties, both the plaza's and mine.

Irene said...

Hi Sharon, welcome!

I miss my "sixties face," too.