Saturday, March 24, 2007

Old Towne Mall


Torrance, California - circa 1970s

Esteemed Malls of America reader (as you all are), "Don-O", sent me these nifty photos of Old Towne Mall, in Torrance, CA, along with some youthful memories of the place, which is now redeveloped and called Torrance Promenade. The frist image (above) is a postcard depicting the mall's locally famous Singing Security Guard. The second one below, is a shot of the kiddie play area featuring the "Old Towne Puppet Theater". Thanks for the great submission, and take it away Don!

"My personal story attached to this place is a bit spotty as during the times I lived in the South Bay, I visited the Del Amo Fashion Mall, the old South Bay Center and the beach more than this place.

As you see and might have heard, this place was closely modeled after Main Street in Disneyland and had strolling entertainment and was thoroughly decorated. It wasn't until around 2000 when I discovered that they had a indoor roller coaster, thanks to a then-new roommate who worked as the 'coaster operator. The central attraction was the two-story carousel, which I managed to ride many times.


Old Towne Puppet Theater

My only real attention I gave to the place was the Mann Theatre 6. I saw many late '70s cinema classics like The Jerk, Life of Brian, and, for some dumb-ass reason, Mad Magazine Presents Up The Academy. Even dumber was that I saw Brian & Academy on the same day...both screenings overlapped each other by ten minutes...ten minutes of running back and forth like a desperate idiot. Ah, sweet hell of nostalgia.

The major stores, that I remember, were Federated & K-Mart. In the late '80s began the slow death of this wonderful mall. The detailed street design was slowly being stripped away, the carousel was moved twice until it was finally sold off and so on. Finally, the mall was turned into an outdoor strip mall and the Mann Theatre was turned into a Linen 'n Things store.

Too bad I couldn't spend more time and take more pictures, but it was located between Del Amo and SBC, which, no doubt, lead to it's downfall: location! location! location!

Don-O"

Mall history: 1970s - early '90s (redeveloped)
Current website: n/a
Current aerial view (Torrance Promenade)
Previous entries: 1



45 Comments:

Anonymous didi said...

These are beautiful photos. very creative look.

However, the woman on the piano in the first photo looks like she tunneled out of the sixties with that hairdo and outfit not the seventies which made me question the year that is posted.

And can someone please explain, what the hell is a prommenade and why the hell would anyone prefer that to this?

Sat Mar 24, 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

This mall was part of 4 malls during the 70's in the area (South Bay Galleria to the north, and both the Del Amo Mall and Del Amo Fashion Center to the south). Some time during the early 80's, the Del Amo Mall and Del Amo Fashion Center across the street merged, forming at the time the largest mall in America. This lead to the downfall of Old Town Mall. The Old Town Mall, like Eastland in West Covina, was just gutted and subdivided into big box stores. You can see where they cut into the mall in the picture for more parking.

The Kmart store is still there today. Federated was a highly popular chain of electronics stores.

Sat Mar 24, 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

I just loved Old Towne Mall. The rides, the atmosphere, and the nifty stores all added to the great experience that was Old Towne. I've been blogging about the mall for some time on my site. I'm glad that it finally got some recognition on such a popular site as yours. Old Towne opened in 1972, and was sold in 1988, then redeveloped in 1989. The carousel remained next to the theater until 1994 when it was sold to Eastwood Mall in Niles Ohio. The Mann 6 closed after becoming a three dollar theater. Almost nothing remains of the original mall now, except a tribute inside the Trader Joe's.

Sat Mar 24, 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

Aren't the Trader Joe's stores owned by the Aldi chain? Cause the idea of a tribute to anything existing inside an Aldi store is incredibly funny.

And you're right, didi, the piano lady's dress and hairstyle look more like early 1960s to me, though the people in the background look more 1970s. Perhaps she performed in the same dress with the same hairstyle (or wig?) for 15 years or so?

I'm not a huge fan of the "fake small town street" look, but this mall definitely did it very nicely. Those faux houses are very detailed, including balconies, etc... Kind of sad that they tore this one down, while building similar things (albeit outdoors) all over the US.

Sat Mar 24, 09:07:00 PM  
Anonymous woofpop said...

Reading this post reminded me that there was also an "Old Towne" mall in Fort Lauderdale Florida in the mid to late '70's. It looked very much like the one in the pictures. Opened in a converted strip that once housed a W.T. Grants store, it featured no anchors, but did have a multiplex theater. I wonder if the two were related...

Sun Mar 25, 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Nicholas M. DiMaio said...

Hey look! A security guard NOT penalizing citizens for cameras!

Sun Mar 25, 08:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in the South bay in the early 80's and visited Old Towne regularily. There was a game store near the north end, and there was always this guy who would play backgammon to all comers. I never took him on, and regret it.

Mon Mar 26, 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger BIGMallrat said...

I went to this mall in error in the late Eighties. We were looking for Del Amo and stumbled upon this mall after being enticed by the “e” in “Towne.” The outside was contemporary and looked like any other strip center, but it was exceptionally long. A trip inside revealed Victorian/old West-type facades for store fronts. Similar to Disneyland’s Main Street, but undeniably cheesy looking. There were no skylights, just a flat ceiling with rectangular florescent lights commonly found in office buildings. The store facades butted up against ceiling, which gave the mall a collapsing feel.
During our visit, there weren’t any entertainment venues and we were befuddled why the mall was even there. It was only twenty years later before I found out what its popularity was before it faded. Nevertheless, we compared it to the Twilight Zone. An indoor climate-controlled city where all the people had disappeared while we were away in a bank vault. I suppose the entertainment novelty wore off. I know the South Bay Galleria had also just remodeled. Plus, Del Amo was now a super-regional center with national chains. Old Town just couldn’t compete. I’d bet their mall security also went from singing to prosecuting children for taking their picture. ;)
Scott

Mon Mar 26, 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger jason said...

My first job was at Old Towne Mall at the Belgian Waffle Cafe. I worked there when the restaurant and many of the shops closed down in, that had to be, 1989. It was a charming place, it had a couple of rides, actually, the 'roller coaster' was more like a slow fantasy ride, but The carousel was two stories, and amazing. That place used to go all out for Christmas, and it was a tradition in a lot of local families to take pictures there. There used to be a store called the Federated Group, its spokesperson on the T.V. commercials was Shadow Stevens, I met him while working there, and also met Homer and JR, charachters in the old Miller's Outpost commercials. It was a specialty place, it never fully 'competed' with Del Amo, but when the South Bay Fahion Center, as it was called, converted into the South Bay Galleria, it killed Old Towne. But it was cool, for a while it was a $3 movie theater - $1 on Tuesdays. I wonder if anyone can remember the old South Bay Center, in Redondo Beach, with Putney Station restaurant, Newberry's, and In the May Co. there was this really trippy restaurant, that looked like it got stuck somewhere in the 40's. I live in Albuqueque, now, it's a trip to read something about Old Towne

Mon Mar 26, 07:36:00 PM  
Anonymous didi said...

"And you're right, didi, the piano lady's dress and hairstyle look more like early 1960s to me, though the people in the background look more 1970s. Perhaps she performed in the same dress with the same hairstyle (or wig?) for 15 years or so?"

LOL! Perhaps she was trapped in a time warp and refused to wear plaid of the 70s.

Mon Mar 26, 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Salazar said...

I loved this place...the rides were incredible (for a mall), although I can't imagine what stores were there originally to draw anyone. All I can remeber is the head shop, arcade, comic books, and shooting gallery. I wonder what the original tenants were.

Also, there was a really cool model train setup inside a glass case...you could pay a quarter to control the trains. It was a really elaborate setup with mountains and a lake and little people and cars.

A real original place.

Thu Mar 29, 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous j said...

Thanks for sharing, Don-O!

Thu Mar 29, 05:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Chaling said...

wow, searched on Old Town Torrance and came across this site.

I remember Old Towne Mall, I used to get models at a hobby store there, and patronized some leather shops and pet stores there as well, often getting an ice-cream while I was there. This was in about 1981-84, I lived in Hermosa Beach and it was quite close. I lived near the power plant between Hermosa and Redondo.

So the mall is no more, wow!
Even took a one-time date with a wonderful Cuban woman I knew there for an ice-cream shop. Now that I think about it. LOL. We worked on the phone together, she was at a different business than me.

Mon Apr 16, 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a big "mall Guy" but love local history. I "Googled" Old Towne Mall and this is what I got. What a trip! This brings me way back. This used to be one of my favorite places as a young kid. I can still remember the smell of the place, Like caramel popcorn. There was an indoor bandstand and seating area that was torn down and replaced with a Marshall's about 25 years ago. We used to sit there and watch the "ragtime" band play in those early 1900's era funny flat hats and red and white striped jackets. The "singing security guard" was not a security guard at all, but was really called "the Old Towne Policeman" and was part of the band/show. I actually got to see him sing once when I was around 4. Every so often he would come up to the bandstand and sing a song with the band. Like the other comments say, the carousel was amasing, truly unforgettable; and part of the bygone era of the late 1800's/early 1900's. I only wish I had a picture of it. Thanks for bringing an old South Bay kid back about 27 years. Butch

Fri Jun 08, 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous SEF said...

There was this kid with no legs. He rode around that mall on a skateboard doing a handstand. I found out later that he was one of the actors inside the E.T. creature.

Mon Sep 24, 08:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow does this bring back memories. We used to go to Old Towne all the time as a kid. I used to walk my "invisible dog" there (the dog leash and collar that made it look like you were walking a dog but weren't). Then I went to work at Waldenbooks in the mall for a couple years until it closed. Used to do breakfast at the Belgian Waffle Place which was across from Waldenbooks. The carousel was right outside of the store and restaurant. Everytime I drive by that area I think about the mall and still miss it.

Fri Oct 05, 09:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Old Towne Mall. WOW! What a trip! Go to Trader Joe's in that same parking lot and look at the painting above the registers.

Later,
M1SK Crew

Sun Dec 02, 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny I found this site. I remember the Old Towne mall vaguely my parents took me there when I was 3 and 4 I remember the carousel and there Was this other ride that looked like a cave. What was that called and all about?

Mon May 05, 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in Manhattan Beach in the 60's and 70's and my mom and I used to bring Lion Cubs to the south Bay Mall to raise awareness for the ELSA foundation. Greta website, brings back many fond memories. Does anyone remember the Scary Ride? GREAT!!

Fri Jun 13, 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

My First job was working at the Ole Town Mall as a busboy back in the last 70's and early 80's. Now I work for Raytheon in tucson

Sat Jun 14, 01:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh. I was telling a coworker who's from Pasadena about the Old Towne Mall of my childhood and Googled it. To my extreme delight, this site came up complete with pictures!

I LOVED that mall, as my grandparents used to take me there in the summers when we would visit them from Fresno. They lived just up the street on Avis and was it Garnet, I think?? My grandfather would wait patiently for me while I went on each ride over and over. They used to have a bumble bee ride and the carousel was really neat with the swings on the second level. And I loved that dark coaster ride.

Somebody else mentioned the ragtime performers in the red and white striped jackets and that brought back so many other memories. I loved the ceramics shop and used to buy little creatures to paint at home. I think I still have a pink hippo figurine somewhere packed away!

I still think of it when I drive by that strip mall now and it feels like a big hole where something special is missing.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane everyone! It made my day.

Tue Sep 16, 05:48:00 PM  
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Tue Dec 09, 01:19:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

back in the day the mall had an eatery in the front of the mall. it had all the different kinds of fool you would find in Today's Mall, but better. Looked like white picket fence wood and had a band inside that played while you ate. They had several "tourist" nic nac shops, Trader Joes, Fed Group (very large) a Sega Center which turned into a Time Out. The cinema was at the other end. They remodeled it and we lost the eatery as they placed it near the cinema. It was loss of the eatery that killed it, as that place was always packed.

Nice to have memories, unfortunately we had film and photos of the place that got destroyed, lucky we still have some shots of the place.

Anyone remember the lady mime?

Thu Jan 29, 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Hi,

I don't remember the lady mime, but I do remember boy mime which his name was Curtis Tingman I believe. Has step brother was Phill Flamingo, which he was a busboy at the time I worked as a sweeper for the maintenance department for the mall. I was there around 77 thru 80

Dave

Thu Jan 29, 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Ric Morton said...

I used to do the puppet shows at Old Towne Mall for many years. My experiences at the mall really helped me develop as an entertainer. I not only performed at the sunken puppet theatre (see picture above) I also did a Walking Puppet Theatre and 16 foot tall "Pageant Puppets" which strolled around the mall. I remodeled the puppet theatre from what it looks like in the picture above, adding an improved sound system, more places in the structure that puppets can pop out of, etc. Making this show an attraction. I knew my gig was near an end when the mall management, in there devine wisdom, tore down the puppet theatre and filled in the hole. They then built a portable Puppet Theatre "building"/closet thing that I performd out of at various locations in the mall.
I guess the in ground puppet theatre was conflicting with the movie theatre lines.
I am still performing. Still doing puppet shows, magic shows and science shows see my wed site:
http://www.wonderworldproductions.com

Mon Apr 20, 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to Old Towne just after it opened in '72. Enclosed malls were just getting started then in the South Bay, so that in itself was an attraction of sorts. But Old Towne was one of the few malls to actually try to be something more than the usual cookie-cutter mall. It was a themed mall with an emphasis on entertainment. It had indoor rides, restaurants, artists, interesting shops... It almost felt like an enclosed amusement park at times.

Alas, the mundane won out over the novel. The mall was reduced to an average mall, and then into something even more boring - into an outdoor strip mall.

Mon Sep 21, 04:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, LOVED going to Old Towne Mall. I lived in Glendora at the time. It was one of those special "road trips" we'd take. How sad that all the speciality stores we had back then have all gone out of business. I HATE the big box stores and retail giants now. Old Town Mall leaves a pleasant memory whenever I think about it. I never go there now...too trashy. Who needs another strip mall?

Wed Sep 30, 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved hanging out at Old Towne and Del Amo- in fact the 1st R-rated movie I ever saw was at Del Amo- "Scarface," with Al Pacino. Man, Michelle Pfeiffer was HOT.

Sat Dec 19, 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

My First R rated was "The Driver"with Ryan O'Neil. Great action flick

Sun Dec 20, 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger C. Lewis said...

I'm always amazed to find people who had the same experiences as I did. Grew up in S. Bay (ick), but went to Old Towne all the time with my parents. I saw "Caddyshack" with my brother and mom. Talk about embarassed during the breast shot of Lacey Underall. Hah! I long since moved and forgot it was in Torrance. Also forgot it was so close to Del Amo which would have easily put it under. Didn't they have a Sees Candy store in Old Towne? Will South Bay residents of the late 70's/early 80's have to get together to remember all of our collective history that was torn down in the name of commercial progress?

Anyway, thank you so much for posting. Brings me back.

Fri Jun 18, 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Thank you all for bringing back some good memories. The "Bonanza Shooting Gallery" was my first job in 1980 and I walked around with an apron full of quarters to give to the patrons. Remember the spittoon next to the old time saloon piano player? Awesome place to work for a first job, we had sooo much fun working there. We used to ride on the rides all the time on our breaks. Remember the Buckle Gallery, all they sold was belt buckles and next door was the cotton candy/caramel corn and on the other side was the "Castle Ride", other favs; the water bed shop, the head shop and the arcade. Places to eat; "Fritzenkotters" a deli with sandwiches named after famous people, the Perry Mason sandwich was great, they also had good chili. "Mama & Papa Pizano's" had the best pizza and garlic bread, oh yeah and there was "Hungarian Gulash", I'd get their roast beef sandwich. MMM Oh, the memories..Thank you for the Pics, wish I had some to share.

Sat Sep 11, 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I also remember the great times working for the mall. I worked as a busboy from 78 - 80. I enjoyed the entertainment that the provided, which made a great place to hangout. Too bad we don't have these malls.

Sat Sep 11, 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember a pizza place in the food court area that had a picture of a baby with a bowl of spagetti on his head.

Tue Sep 21, 03:45:00 PM  
Anonymous GrewUpInTorrance said...

Thanks for this post. Seeing the pics and reading through the comments brought back a lot of fond memories.

I remember taking the "Pepsi Challenge" here; the line for that was always dozens deep. (To my dismay, I kept picking Pepsi, despite being a Coke devotee.)

I'll never forget seeing "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for the first time at the Mann Theatre.

As a kid, I used to make the long trek by bike from southern Torrance just to go spend my hard-earned dollars at the hobby/model shop there.

Warm, nostalgic memories…

Wed Dec 22, 09:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave W. said...

My parents took me there on sundays all through the 70s.It was the highlight of my week as a child.We would go to perrys pizza and they had a gazeebo in the middle of the food court and barbershop quartets singing or old time piano.There was a bumblebee ride just like the dumbo ride at disneyland and the best shooting gallery.My dad bought me my first comic book at the Dc comics shop there.Good times..

Tue Mar 01, 12:59:00 AM  
Blogger Erika's Chiquis said...

I was happy to see the photos of this mall.My parents would take us (brother too)there as it was a special treat and go on all the rides. My favorite was the 2 story carousel. I also liked the cave ride(it had figurines and moving animation of fairy tales). I loved the shooting gallery and I remember the bumble bee ride also. I used to watch the puppet shows. I always wondered what happened to the carousel. It is so sad that this went all away. I thought it was the coolest mall ever and I hate malls.

Sat Oct 15, 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger DASman said...

I do remember the comic vendor, which I still have some of the comics that bought back in the 70’s…I had great time there….lots of good memories.

Sat Oct 15, 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved Old Towne mall. I grew up in L.A. Taking the 25 minute drive to the mall was a treat. It felt like we'd driven to a different town and era. I'd ride all the rides with my younger sister. Then we'd visit most of the shops with my mom. I too am sad that this super charming place lost its appeal. What a shame.

Sun Jul 29, 09:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Swen said...

Wow, I love the pictures. I remember going here when I was a kid in the 70's. One thing I remember was the chandelier in the arcade. Of course as a kid, you always had to go to the model shop next door. Yes I remember spending a few weekends at the Old Towne Mall.

Tue Jul 31, 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Tami Goodson (robarge) said...

OMG This was a wonderful treat to see the old pics, and see what others remember. My aunt and uncle used to own the Rose Garden inside this mall and my mother (and other family members) worked there. I feel as though i was almost raised in this mall. However I had forgotten so many things until reading the other posts. For example Ric Morton.. omg I used to love your shows, and I very much remember you. The mime Curtis Tingman was a good friend of one of my uncles (Glenn). I used to help my friend Melanie start the carousel ( i was about 8 then) "the carousel is now in motion, please stand behind the yellow line...etc" boy do I miss those days when life was simple. I used to help clean up the movie theatre in between shows and they would let me watch for free! Oh and does anyone remember the glass stand. Where they would blow all the great things with glass. Wow so many memories are rushing back right now. I am so thankful for this page...

Tue Sep 11, 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Judy Rodriguez said...

Tami,
The mimi's name is Curtis Zimmerman, he is a motovational speaker now. I am good friends with his brother Phillip. I remember the glass blower ... had bought some tiems from him, was cool to watch the item being made. I worked on the Carousel from 1977 - 1981.

Mon Jan 14, 09:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The old two story carousel? You be the judge.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llunTwI1HEo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Thu Apr 18, 06:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Copy and paste to see it!. The carousel is identical!

Thu Apr 18, 06:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVED THIS MALL. I USE TO SHOP AT A STORE CALLED THE SHADY LADY.. EARLY 1970'S I THINK. I LOVED THAT IT WAS "THEMED". SUPER FUN INTERIOR.TOO BAD IT FADED AWAY. I ALSO WORKED AT "THE ORIGINAL COOKIE COMPANY" THERE.

Sat May 18, 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger bobpiano said...

The mall was owned by Lincoln Properties, and the entertainment director was a guy named "Boots" (I couldn't make that up). I responded to an ad (Variety? H'wood Reporter?) looking for entertainers. I became one of the first pianists there, accompanying Bruce (the singing cop with the red beard) and Lenny (who later was put in charge of entertainment). At Christmas the first year (1972), the mall hired some "little people" from Billy Barty to be elves to Bruce's Santa. Bruce was stoned a good portion of the time, but that made him all that more loveable. The best banjo player I worked with was a cute 17-year-old who'd sit on top of the upright piano and play--always an attraction. 40 years later, I'm still playing music.

Mon Feb 03, 09:15:00 PM  

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