So long, SouthwyckWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When I read that Southwyck was being torn down, it initially registered as the finalization of just another local commercial casualty. However, it didn’t take long for memories of the once-thriving mall to surface and make me realize that I’m really going to miss the place.
When I was a child, Southwyck meant a great deal to me and my family. My grandma was a regular there for many years. She didn’t spend much money on merchandise, but she instead became somewhat of a living fixture – a part of the mall itself. Many of her days were spent riding the TARTA bus from her little apartment to her second home at Southwyck to spend a long day of coffee drinking and chain smoking in the corner coffee shop.
It was always a thrill when I would have the opportunity to tag along with her on the big bus and take part in her daily meanderings. The TARTA bus ride was a treat in itself. How exciting it was to be the one to drop the dimes into the coin slot and hear that familiar clinking sound as each one landed. How fascinating it was to see the hustle and bustle of downtown on the days we would detour our trip just for the fun of it. How lucky I was to be taken along for the ride.
No matter where else we decided to wander to in Toledo, Southwyck always remained our number one destination. I can still remember the feeling of running up and down the carpeted steps, tossing a coin in the fountain, taking a spin on the carousel and sucking down an Orange Julius. And then there was Olde Towne. If I could transport myself to a place that no longer physically exists, it would perhaps be there. As an adult I likely would see it as just another part of the mall, but as a child the tunnel-like entrance and vintage theming were enough to convince me that we had discovered a hidden piece of kid heaven from yesteryear.
It is amazing to realize the little things that children must observe in their every day and tuck away as memories. I can remember seemingly obscure details from my days exploring the halls of Southwyck, things I would never consider my own children taking note of during excursions to our own current stomping grounds.
There was something almost magical about the carousel of pay phones that took center stage near the entrance. Extra special were the days that we had occasion to use one or that we found a quarter someone else had forgotten. Such subtleties of my Southwyck days still fill the seldom-visited corners of my mind: the golden lions guarding Lion Store, the pudding cups with whipped cream and a cherry on top at the Forum Cafeteria, a wooden donation box on the counter of Frisch’s Big Boy marked “Little Sisters of the Poor.” Individually such things seem insignificant now, but the memories of them combine to give that period in my life importance.
Those days spent with my grandma on the TARTA bus and at Southwyck Mall were important. They not only left me with fond memories but also offered me a few life lessons along the way. We didn’t just sit on a bus or in a coffee shop wasting the day away. We watched people, talked to people and talked to one another. No one was ever too good, too bad or too different to strike up a conversation with. Nothing was ever too dull to chat about. My grandma was spending the day taking care of me and I was spending it taking care of her.
When my Grandma Purdy died in 1988, part of me wanted to somehow memorialize her at Southwyck. I thought that we could just hang a little sign somewhere within its walls to let the world know that that was the corner of the world where she had left her essence. It’s odd to think that such a sign would now be gone too.
At first it feels impossible that someone or something of enduring significance could ever be physically gone forever, but that is the reality we are forced to accept over and over throughout life. I am quite certain that there was something that preceded Southwyck that someone else just hated to see go in order to build an over sized place to shop. There will be something after Southwyck and another something after that.
Each generation needs to take the good times and life lessons away from its own places of significance. We also need to accept when the rest of the world is ready to take us in a new direction.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband Michael are raising two children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.