I keep getting this feeling that I should go for a walk this week. I haven’t gotten it done by “writing time” for this week’s column.

And if I don’t get it done by the time you are reading this, it’s probably too late. It will never happen.

I feel like I should walk the hallways I have walked a number of times in the past for a number of different reasons, even as the view steadily changed.

I feel like I should take one more walk down the hallways of the Imperial Mall.

If you’ve been following the developments in the news, then it doesn’t come as a shock to you that barring some strange, last minute reprieve, the mall is going to be locked up this weekend. The once thriving collection of retail diversity is now a shell of an empty building and a silent testimonial of days gone by.

My first recollection of the Imperial Mall comes years before I even lived in the area. I was in high school when a couple friends and I came to Hastings for a convention. It was the time that shopping malls were just starting to have a presence in towns like Hastings. We had time on our hands, so — of course — we went to the mall.

What I remember of that trip was Musicland, a store for all things music. As I recall, I bought an eight-track tape of America. The one with “Horse with No Name.” Too bad I don’t still have it, and a player that would work. I could drive my wife nuts any time I want as she hates that song.

Skip ahead about eight years and now I’m living in Hastings and trips to the mall become commonplace. Some new to the area find it hard to believe, but in its glory years, the mall was thriving.

The glory years were in the mid-to-late 1980’s when we were newlyweds living in the neighborhood commonly referred to as “behind the mall.” On a limited budget, we would often head over to the mall just to kill time.

Walking the hallways with every storefront occupied, you would always run into people you knew to visit with.

I was a young sportscaster at the time. It seems every time we went to the mall on a Sunday afternoon, there was an older Catholic, a native of eastern Europe, just hanging out. He would always stop me to make sure I knew the “proper” way to pronounce the names of Czechoslovakian tennis players. I’m not sure I ever accomplished it to his complete satisfaction.

Seemingly every weekend there were special events or vendors set up in the hallway. If you were bored on a weekend, a trip to the mall would always give you something to do.

Through the years, I would buy clothes as recommended by my wife’s cousin at Brandies, I bought a my first mower at Wards, I got my hair cut at the mall, bought Hallmark cards at the mall, had my son’s six-months pictures taken at K-Mart, bought appliances at Sears, art work at 1600 Images, basketball shoes at Olympic Village, wedding presents at Herberger’s, smelly candles at Bath and Body (OK — I’d watch my wife buy them), drinks at Katz Lounge, Sunday breakfast at the Front Porch, pasta at Napoli’s, rented movies at Video Kingdom.

I think you get the idea. We did a lot at the mall. Food courts were crowded at meal time and the place to see and be seen. We even used it as an indoor walking track even at times where it was taking on a ghost town feel.

Slowly, but surely, it all started to go away. All that’s left now are the memories. The last people out of the building are about to turn out the lights. It’s the retail world’s own version of the circle of life. If it’s torn down, I just hope they make good use of the land.

Meanwhile, people will drive by with their kids and grandkids and say, “There were to be a mall right there.”

Thanks for the memories.

I think I’ll go for a walk.


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