Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas at Chris-Town, 1962

Eight-foot tall toy soldiers guard the facade of one of America’s most fondly-remembered malls, Phoenix’s Chris-Town, in this 1962 photo. The soldiers (and the candles, also eight feet tall) represent a type of decor element that is seen less and less today. Both the soldiers and the candles were manufactured by General Plastics Corporation, a Marion, Indiana-based firm that supplied Christmas decorations for malls, department stores, office buildings and city streetlights everywhere for decades.

The mall itself, which opened on August 24, 1961, was a superb example of interior design. It featured three gorgeous public areas - the Court of Fountains, the Court of Flowers and the Court of Birds, all delights for local shoppers, especially the latter. The mall’s anchors were J.C. Penney (one of the very last “yellow-letter sign” Penney stores), Montgomery Ward and the first and only branch of the 66-year old downtown Phoenix department store, Korrick’s. In 1966, Korrick’s sold out to Broadway-Hale Stores Inc., and the store was remodeled and rechristened with The Broadway nameplate.

To learn more about Chris-Town, of which now just a remnant exists, let me recommend this wonderful website, which is entirely dedicated to its history. It features many excellent photos, including some great night shots from the following Christmas, 1963.

All these scenes need now is a little snow, right? Oh yes, this is Phoenix we’re talking about. Then how ‘bout some white-colored pebbles?


  1. Snow or no snow, that is a heartwarming holiday scene. Many of today's decorations look more conventionally beautiful, but you have to give those plastics guys credit for making the season their own. I know we had the home versions of this stuff growing up.

  2. My Christmas wishlist this year will feature me wanting a mall like this to pop up in the Chi. What do you think the chances of that are, Dave?

  3. As a Phoenix native I can tell you that Chris-Town was THE mall in Arizona. And at Christmas time, oh boy! Santa arrived by helicopter; that's right, helicopter. A nice bubble-canopy helicopter decorated in red, white, and green. SC was pretty hip in the 1960's.

  4. Wow, that's a Walgreens I see on the home page of that site! Amazing how little their trademark sign has changed. It's remarkable.

  5. That was a great website about Chris-Town! Would have loved to have actually gone there.

  6. Whoa...there's a mall I haven't thought about in a while. Really, in the "Phoenix Spectrum" form, it wasn't a particularly great mall, but it had original ceilings and floorings (at least vintage).

    The latest remodel tore out a lot of the old mall, shortened it considerably, and changed the floor tiles. And despite the mall corridor ending with a new JCPenney, the mall is doing a bit worse.

    Sad sad sad.

    At least they got Costco and Wal-Mart Supercenter in the same roof.

  7. I love the architecture of the early 60's, it didn't seem to stay popular for very long but it was so simple and classy. Thanks for the info and link about a mall I had never heard of before!

  8. Steve – You definitely have to give them credit. Hokey is some of it was (is), it sure brings the season home and a smile to your face. I did some checking and best I can tell, General Plastics is no longer around.

    Didi – Less likely than a 2 foot snow fall in Phoenix, I’m afraid! ;)

    Capt. Tomorrow - I’ll bet it was something else – thanks for sharing that! The fact that Chris-Town received such a loving, well-done web tribute speaks volumes.

    And it’s funny how helicopters used to be so frequently used in shopping center/mall events back then – it’s so hard to imagine that sort of thing happening today.

    Nightdragon – The Walgreens logo goes back nearly 60 years – a real classic. The one change they’ve made in the last few years was to make the “W” a little taller than the rest of the name, which actually strikes me as a retro touch, a nice little tweak that doesn’t detract at all.

    David – You and me both!

    Pseudo3D – I’d love to have seen this in its original state, but even the “spectrum” version would have been interesting.

    David – Simple and classy are the perfect words to describe the original Chris-Town, and the era in general for that matter. Glad you liked the link – it’s a well done site and deserves to be seen.