Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Salem Mall" By Abraham Lincoln

The Salem Mall doesn’t exist anymore. It was torn down and hauled away as landfill. Getting rid of it does not diminish the fact that the Salem Mall was like a new wedding dress when it opened. It ended up closed and that new wedding dress was in the ragbag being hauled away to the dump.

I remember the parking lot at the Salem Mall was huge. And on many different occasions I have seen it filled with cars. It was not uncommon to spend a considerable length of time patrolling the lot hoping to spot somebody on their way out.

Thousands of people came from all around. They came to see the Salem Mall. It was one of the first malls in this area and everything in it was new to us. We had no idea how such thin pieces of steak could be fried on a flat iron grill in milliseconds, but they did and long lines waited for them to fry more steak sandwiches.

Back home, in a short period of time, local businesses began to see a decline in customer traffic on Market Street. Bill Hubler’s tiny hardware store behind the Brookville National Bank was still doing well and Bill was thinking about building a new building on Arlington Road besides McMaken’s new grocery store. He said there was nothing else like his store in the area; so he built the new one. I think his saving grace was that he did sell some actual hardware and Sears was about the only store at the Salem Mall that competed with him.

Suddenly, Brookville was on its way to becoming a bedroom community—people lived and slept here but worked somewhere else and bought their goods and services out of town. Reboulet’s store was where lines formed and people waited to buy school clothes: blue jeans and shoes, was now going under. Andy Anders fitted my kids for shoes at Reboulets but he soon left as sales continued to skid, and we saw him fitting shoes at the new Sears in the new Salem Mall.

Yes, Andy Anders who had walked to work for years, was now driving to work. He got his driver’s license and was a good shoe salesman for Sears. We began buying shoes from Sears and Andy continued to fit new shoes to our feet.

Our Brookville changed. Dean Jenkins, who was in our carpool sold his house and moved to Miamisburg. The Hageman’s—Nate Hageman ran Reboulet’s store for years, moved to Michigan. Bob Pelky moved back to Pennsylvania and our car pool to and from the National Cash Register Company was now only a memory.

You might not think that building a mall, like Salem Mall, would change the surrounding community that much but it sure did.
What about now, 2012—the land where the Salem Mall was is now vacant, but a new Home Depot built there and Sears kept the same building but everything else is gone. Brookville and many other small towns never got back to where they were—I wonder if they ever will?

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