I’ve written about Randhurst several times on this site in the last few years, and there’s not much I can add to that. We started with a historical overview of Randhurst on the eve of its massive redevelopment, looked at the wondrous Randhurst Christmas seasons from the 1960’s, and introduced the Randhurst book - a comprehensive, entertaining and copiously illustrated history of the mall from then to now. As mentioned, I contributed some research and had the honor of writing the foreword to the book. It was a great experience and I learned many things, not the least of which was how to spell “foreword”.
But just look at these photos. Taken right at the time of Randhurst’s opening, they are among the relatively few formal publicity photos (many snapshots and slides exist) of the shopping center ever made.
Of course they show the place in its pristine state, but setting that aside, many of us would still find it hard not to compare the classic Randhurst (and the other great malls of the past) with what we frequently see today. Take the anchor stores’ inside entrances, for example – contrast today’s “one style fits all” signage on whitish or rustish or grayish marble tile backgrounds with the exquisite variety of old. The prominent columns and filigreed second-level openings of Wieboldt’s. The handsome brick and globe lights of The Fair, which remained through much of the Montgomery Ward era. Carson Pirie Scott’s (not pictured here, unfortunately, but viewable on earlier posts) stunning blue tile with antique gold signage.
Then there are the kiosks – no tacky stands, no pushy salespeople hawking vitamin supplements or cell phone covers (granted, there wasn’t a 60’s equivalent for those), or toy airplanes flying into your face. Instead they were quaint, low key and beautifully designed, reflecting architect Victor Gruen’s European sensibilities.
Even the amusements for children are vastly different. Where today outdoor playground or Little Tikes equipment and rubberized floors are the norm, once upon a time we played on cement-sculpted animals. On polished granite bases. On top of a cement floor. Yes, friends, the insurance industry would love that today.
And now, at Randhurst and a number of other malls across the country, the mall “core” itself is disappearing. Outdoor walkways and parking spaces have replaced the seating coves and fountains of the past. One thing that really strikes me about “lifestyle centers” is the acoustical difference. The echoes, the dull rumble of even a small crowd at the good ol’ mall, is disappearing. Now they sound like…parking lots. (For those of you who tend to stay a step ahead of me, I’ll spare you the expected Joni Mitchell paraphrases.)
But forget all of that for now, this is a milestone worth celebrating! And in light of that I’m going to do something completely new here. Yes, friends, we’re having a contest! In observance of the 50th anniversary of Randhurst and the somewhat less important 5th anniversary of Pleasant Family Shopping, I will be giving away, by random drawing, 5 copies of Randhurst: Suburban Chicago’s Grandest Shopping Center, written by Greg Peerbolte of the Mount Prospect Historical Society and published by The History Press. The book contains a free foreword by me, and was voted one of the Ten Best Books Ever*.
What do you have to do? Well, it’s simple! Just leave a (hopefully tasteful as always) comment on this post, with a way for me to identify you on the winners’ list. “A way to identify” means something other than Anonymous (one of my most loyal commenters), and can be your real name, an assumed name, you Army serial number, checking account number and pin, whatever you’re comfortable with!
On Saturday, August 25th, each name will be written on an appropriate piece of paper, placed into an enclosure of some sort, and five names will be drawn at random. I will publish the winners’ names (or whatever you use) on the site that evening, and winners will need to contact me with their address info. It’s that easy! Don’t delay - enter today!
NOTE: No purchase necessary, but of course we always appreciate such things. This offer is void where prohibited, taxed or generally frowned upon. One entry per person, please. Odds of winning are somewhere between 100,000,000 and 10 to 1. Many will enter (I hope), only five will win. This contest is not open to employees of the Mount Prospect Historical Society or their families (like I’m gonna know) or employee (singular) of Pleasant Family Shopping and my family (except my Uncle Louie, who wouldn’t read the #@&$ thing if I paid him, so I’m okay there). E Pluribus Unum, Annuit cœptis, Quid - Me Vexari? and all other conditions apply. Thankyouverymuch, you’re a beautiful audience.
* on the subject of Mount Prospect area shopping malls.