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Seminary South Shopping Center


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#1 John T Roberts

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 01:38 PM

In March 1962, on a very snowy day, Seminary South Shopping Center opened. It was the first mall opened by Homart Development Company, the shopping center and mall development arm of Sears. It was built on the site of Katy Lake in South Fort Worth along the newly completed section of I-35W. When it opened, it featured a three level, 240,000 SF Sears store and Stripling's first suburban department store, a two level G.C. Murphy 5 & 10 store, a Buddie's Supermarket, El Chico Restaurant, Wyatt's Cafeteria, Finger Furniture store, bowling alley, and a 7 story office building. Seminary South was a wide open-air mall, with basements under many of the buildings. The basic mall layout was "L" shaped with the east side (natural drainage flow of the creek feeding the lake) of the basements opening to the parking lot. Sears occupied the outside corner of the "L". Stripling's was at the end of the north leg of the "L". A mall entrance was located at the lower level next to Stripling's, but to get to the mall, you had to walk up a multi-level stair/walk with a cascading water feature down the middle. G.C. Murphy Co. was located on the inside corner of the "L", diagonally across from Sears. Buddie's Supermarket and the office building were on the west end of the "L", but the axis was not terminated by either anchor. One of the great features of the mall were the many fountains. There was one on the west end, five on the north end in front of Stripling's, the cacading fountain along the sloped east mall access, and the grand fountain at the intersection of the two wings in front of Sears and Murphy's.

In 1964 or 65, JC Penney opened a store that remodeled and expanded the retail area just to the west of Stripling's. Penney's technically ended the axis of the east entry to the mall, but it also closed off the parking lot access from the west. Penney's also constructed an auto center in the parking lot. A 2 screen movie theater was also built in the far northwest outparcel. The theater was later converted into a 3 screen facility and later into a Bingo parlor. In the late 1970's, the bowling alley building was demolished and a three level Dillard's was constructed just to the east of the office building. In the early 1980's, local department stores Stripling's and Cox's merged and the Stripling's store became Stripling & Cox.

By the mid-1980's, the mall was starting to lose its luster and in 1986, it was announced it would be radically remodeled and converted into an enclosed mall. Stripling & Cox announced they would not be a part of the renovation and closed before the construction work started. In the remodeling, the mall was narrowed, the Murphy building was mostly demolished and converted into a food court. The Finger Furniture building was also partially demolished to add a new movie theater on top. In addition to all of this, most of the mall entrances were relocated and retail constructed in the old locations. All of this time, the mall remained opened. The newly renamed Fort Worth Town Center opened on August 28, 1987. The parking lot facades of the 1962 design remained after the transformation.

Fort Worth Town Center was not very successful. JC Penney closed in 1997 after the opening of their store at The Parks at Arlington. Dillard's and Sears left in 2002. In 2004, the mall was purchased by Jose de Jesus Legaspi and a group of Dallas businessmen. Shortly thereafter, renovation began to have the mall to become more of a Mexican festival marketplace. The exterior has been remodeled to look more like a Mexican Village. The anchors are now outlet type stores. The first new construction at the center in several years was the expansion of the supermarket. The old Buddie's store over the years evolved into a Winn-Dixie and later a Fiesta grocery store. Fiesta built a new store on the far western pad site. The old grocery was then subdivided. The Dillard's space has been converted into El Mercado. Burlington Coat Factory now occupies the basement of the old Sears Store, but the floor was not quite large enough, so they enclosed the old garden center. Recently, Ross Dress For Less opened up in the western portion of the mall level of the Sears store. Before Sears closed, the third floor was converted to office space.

For mall floor plans, you can go to http://www.lagranpla...0lowerlevel.pdf for the Lower Level, and http://www.lagranpla...0upperlevel.pdf for the Main Mall Level.

I found three older photographs of the original shopping center online and you can see them below.

http://www.atomicant...nary-south1.jpg

http://www.atomicant...nary-south2.jpg

http://www.atomicant...nary-south3.jpg

#2 bailey

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 11:03 PM

I remember driving up Seminary when the lake was there and what it looked like after they drained it. There had to be an extensive drainage system put in to prevent flooding. I remember the large fountain in Striplings between the escalators and the 1st and 2nd floor. Everyone threw coins in the fountain. As a kid I always thought about that. I worked at J.C.Penney from 1973-1975. It was a very busy place back then and was one of Mr. Penney's favorite stores and he visited it often or so everyone said. If I remember it was store number 1840.

Seminary South was the first center of its kind in Fort Worth outside downtown and started the decline of retail downtown. Until it was built, downtown was where all the major stores were. The nice thing about Seminary South was it had all the benefits of an open mall yet there was cover all around the stores so you could stay dry when it rained. My favorite store as a kid was Murphy's. They always had neat stuff and I bought all my 8 tracks there.

It's kind of interesting that shopping centers have kind of made the cycle and the malls are now sort of out of favor. New centers are open air and more like Seminary South. It was a pretty neat place to go in its time and something I will not forget.

#3 Saginaw

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 11:29 PM

This was one of my most ABSOLUTE FAVORITE places to go to as a kid back in the Seventies! :D

There was one store I particularly remember, which was across the promenade from the Buddies Supermarket, and that was The Hobby Hub hobby shop. I discovered it about 1974, the same time when I began to construct models, and bought many a kit, paint, and glue from there. I also seem to remember a Barber's Book Store at a corner location walking from the Buddies-The Hobby Hub entrance, toward the central axis of the mall and the main water fountain. There was also a toy store (probably called "The Toy Chest"?) toward the northwestern edge of the mall, and I also remember other stores, too, such as Chess King clothing store and Thom McAn shoe store.

About the main water fountain, I definitely remember it's inner sides and bottom was lined with small square blue tiles and white grout. I also remember that there were submerged colored lights that came on around dusk, and that their lights would gradually change in sequence, which made for a very memorable sight. On hot summer evenings, many people would sit at it's yellow concrete rim and "mellowed out" with the sound of the water splashing and mist that drifted from the geyser of water.

One of the last times I went there, before it's conversion to the Fort Worth Town Center, was back in the spring/summer of '85, when a club called the "Rox-Z" opened up. It was on the lowest ground level, next to Sears, facing I-35W. I went with some friends to check it out, and it was a very LOUD venue. Looking back on it, it was also dangerous, as the central dance stage was lined with decorative gauze that draped from the surrounding railing to the ceiling, close to the multi-colored lights. There was only a two-door entrance, and had there been a fire, it could've easily become a scene of tragedy.

By the way, in the existing 7-story office building, Seminary South's original crossed-S logo can still be seen. It's in front of the elevators, and hopefully someone will get a picture of it before it's lost. Thanks, John, for this topic!


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#4 Cowtown Mike

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 07:23 AM

It was the place to shope in the sixites and 70's. I remember always going to Sears to purchase appliances. When I got married we bought all of our furniture at Sears. Remember the big slides they had outside ?

#5 Giraffe

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 08:35 AM

Ah, Seminary South. That always takes me back. As a kid, whenever I mentioned that name to out-of-town visitors, they had no idea what I was talking about. I did not know then that "Seminary" meant "a school for preachers," so why go there to shop for clothes? :)

Seminary South had a radio jingle and/or a TV commercial during their peak times, which used the music from the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun." But they changed the lyrics in the chorus to say "Seminary South, do-be-doo-be..." Until I was about 12 years old, I thought the Beatles stole the song from THEM!

This is where my family went shopping until Hulen Mall was built in 1977. I remember that rip-rock facade over one of the big store entrances... was that Penny's or Sears? Didn't remember the fountains, but seeing that picture of all those white bucket planters really made me smile. I know of a driveway here in Wedgwood that has a planter that looks exactly like those, and in my hazy memories there may have been some around the old swimming pool behind Wedgwood Methodist Church.

When I was about 8 years old in 1976 or so, my mother took me to Seminary South to shop for a Cub Scout uniform. I forget now which store carried them, but they also offered the Wolf and Bear handbooks and other Scouting stuff.

I liked the fact that (back then) all of the mall stores had outdoor entrances. (Well, I liked it during the spring and fall, anyway.) I can see that getting old when you're trying to carry all your purchases and open doors when it's freezing cold or brutally hot.

Sears had a candy counter near the escalators. This was the staffed kind of candy counter, in which you could see all the candies stacked up in big glass containers. I always loved candy corn then and my mother usually got me some. It may have been Sears that had some mysterious "GONG" sound go off, and you could hear it no matter where you were inside the store. My mother and I always wondered what that gong meant, or what triggered it. There didn't seem to be any set time for it, and it happened intermittently.

(Anybody here know?)

I've mentioned going to the triple-screen General Cinema theater behind the mall in another posting. I still remember my brother and sister and I going there to see re-releases of Disney's "The Jungle Book."

I still miss Murphy's. They had a wall of aquariums, stocked with goldfish, and all the kids loved to just stand there and watch them. They had one BIG fish they called "Oscar," and he was so big he had a tank all to himself. The outside of that tank warned people not to tap on the glass.

It's nice to hear that the old "S" logo is still visible somewhere. I remember seeing it from the big tower sign by Sears Automotive from the South Freeway for years.

My father absolutely hated Sears because he'd bought a television set from them in another city back in the 1950s and it turned out to be an utter lemon. He never bought anything else from them for many years. (My father's s*** list did not have an eraser.) But in the early '80s he succumbed to financial temptation and purchased an outdoor metal garden shed kit from the Sears at Seminary South, only because he couldn't find a better deal anywhere else. It's still standing, out in the backyard.

As a kid, I liked going to Spencer Gifts. They had all kinds of nifty things on display that a boy on the edges of puberty loved -- such as GREAT pin-up posters. "I swear, you can see EVERYTHING!" (Actually, you couldn't, but you never gave up hoping.) And they had terrific gag gifts, neat-o Lava Lamps, fiber-optic light sculptures, infinity mirrors, oil-and-water lamps, pin-on buttons with slogans, etc. Every mall had a Spencer's, but the one at Seminary South was the only one I was ever thrown out of. And it wasn't because of anything I did, it was because I was too young. One of the clerks told me I was too young to be in there and asked me to leave. This had never happened to me before (I was about 12, I guess, and was in the store by myself). She pointed to a sign hanging from the ceiling (which I hadn't noticed) that said no one younger than 14 was allowed. I had never seen that in any other Spencer Gifts; the ones at other malls nearby were glad to have my business (wink wink, nudge nudge).

I seem to recall my father telling me that there used to be a lake on the Seminary South property, and that it may have been used way back in the day to fill up locomotives with water. My parents used to live close to that area back in the 1950s, before the mall was built. But I never knew there was once a bowling alley in Seminary South.

What sorts of businesses have been in that office building? I've been in it all of once. In 1985/86, while a student at Southwest High School, I was a member of the school's Audio/Visual Club. We took a field trip to a recording studio in that building.

Seminary South lost a lot of foot traffic, I'm sure, after Hulen Mall was built. As it got older we began to hear nasty rumors of crime at S.S. One of my neighbors in the '80s got her hubcaps stolen from the parking lot. But as far back as 1974, three teenage girls disappeared from the Seminary South parking lot and they have never been heard from since.

In the early 1990s I worked for a while in the Sears Service Center, about 3/4ths of a mile west of the mall, in the TV/VCR repair shop. This was next to the S&H Green Stamp center on Seminary Drive. Even though my father hated Sears with a purple passion, I still used my employee discount to buy a tabletop TV set for my parents' anniversary, and they enjoyed it for many years.

But as we all know, over time the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood changed, and the mall had to change to stay in business. I've sometimes thought about spending a weekend afternoon just walking around there now, just to see what it all looks like. I've had fun at outdoor flea markets where you hear nothing but Spanish, but we all need to buy socks, shoes, and Disney videos. :)


Seminary South.... do be doo beee...

#6 bailey

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 08:56 AM

When I was about 8 years old in 1976 or so, my mother took me to Seminary South to shop for a Cub Scout uniform. I forget now which store carried them, but they also offered the Wolf and Bear handbooks and other Scouting stuff.

Striplings was the store that sold Cub Scout things. Back then only authorized stores could carry it.


It may have been Sears that had some mysterious "GONG" sound go off, and you could hear it no matter where you were inside the store. My mother and I always wondered what that gong meant, or what triggered it. There didn't seem to be any set time for it, and it happened intermittently.
(Anybody here know?)

Several of the stores used it including Striplings and Penney's. It was a code that they used to have certain employees do things like call the operator. Each person had their own code. At Penney's the operator would call code blue when there was a theft in progress. We had to go block the doors. I worked in Customer Pickup and I remember many times shoplifters running out the outside door by my desk with the security guard in hot pursuit.

#7 John T Roberts

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 10:27 AM

I have many memories of Seminary South, also. I grew up not too far away and I'm old enough to barely remember the lake. I do remember the center being under construction and the large spring snow that occurred on opening day. Since I grew up in the 1960's and 70's, I went to the center many times. In 1986 and 87, I also walked through the mall frequently when it was being converted into an indoor center. I spent many hours inside the Hobby Hub and the Toy Chest. The Murphy's store was kind of neat. The store with the rip-rock facade was Sears. The material is actually an exposed aggregate concrete panel and that facade was present on about 1/3 of the south elevation, all of the west side (facing the mall and the central fountain), and the portion of the north elevation that faced the mall. Each leg of the mall has offsets to provide interest and to keep it from being straight. This same concrete panel was also used on the northeast corner of the Sears store where the large rooftop mechanical equipment for the entire center was located. Sears put their large orange serif letters only on the concrete panel portions of the building.

The second photo that I linked to above shows the central fountain, Murphy's, and Sears. It was taken when the center was fairly new, so the trees did not obscure the view to Stripling's. The central fountain had several different colors of lights below the fountain jets that allowed the water to change colors at night. When they enclosed the mall, they should have kept the fountain as a central feature.

Each of these buildings in the center was built with a poured in place concrete lower level and steel structure upper level(s). The exterior walls were brick or other masonry materials with parapets. When they did the renovations, they kept as much of the buildings as possible and the roof level of the mall narrowing is lower than the roof levels of the original buildings. Therefore, all of the exterior parapet walls remain. If you look at aerials of the mall, you can still see the original configuration of the buildings and all of the additions.

The inspiration of this thread was a request to show photos of the mall before it was enclosed, but I'm also glad that we are sharing our memories.

#8 John T Roberts

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 03:08 PM

I have been looking for some of my photos of Fort Worth Town Center and La Gran Plaza. I found a few that were taken before the last renovation and a couple that I took at the end of July.

The first photo is of the Sears building taken in 2004 when they were building the bus transfer center in front of the old Sears store. At that time, the lower two levels were vacant and the upper floor had offices inside.
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The second image is taken from the same location, but shows the remainder of the east side of the center.
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Now, here's the back side of the Sears store before the Burlington Coat Factory expansion enclosed the garden center and before the entire mall had its exterior remodeling. This photo was taken in 2006.
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Finally, I have the last of the old photographs. This shows the east entrance, the theater addition from 1987 and the old Stripling & Cox store, where Levine's and Dollar General were located at the time. This photo was also taken in 2006.
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Finally, I have two shots taken on July 31 of this year showing the conversion of the center into a Mexican Village look. These were taken from the top of the hill on Seminary Drive. Hopefully, this week, I might be able to get back and take additional current photos.
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#9 John T Roberts

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 04:14 PM

Does anyone have any photos taken in the 1970's or 1980's before the mall was enclosed? If you do, please post them.

#10 elpingüino

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 05:22 PM

The Mall Hall of Fame blog has several more photos and a floor plan.

#11 John T Roberts

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 07:23 PM

When Saginaw suggested someone go take a picture of the crossed S logo on the floor of the office building, I remembered another location where the logo was built into the structure. I thought that through all of the previous renovations, they wouldn't have taken the time, effort, and money to cover them up. I drove over there this afternoon and I discovered they were still there. The logos were placed in every other section of the retaining walls on the east side of the mall where the drive transitioned from the mall level down to the basement level. One wall is on the north side of that parking area next to Stripling's and the other is on the south next to Sears. Here's a photo of the logo placed into the retaining wall.

Posted Image

#12 Dismuke

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 08:35 AM

I have never been inside Seminary South and have only driven past down I-35. When I first moved to Fort Worth in the early '90s, a long time resident told me to stay away from the place as it was not safe. Looking back, the advice, while well meaning, was probably somewhat exaggerated. But when you are new to a city you tend to take such advice seriously as you have no real means by which to judge it. I have regretted not checking it out ever since they significantly remodeled the place.

The very early pictures are interesting in that we have, in some ways, come full circle. Enclosed malls became the rage and the older outdoor malls were either enclosed or closed. But now enclosed malls are in decline. One of the newer "malls" in the area is Firewheel Town Center in Garland which is entirely outdoor with a so-called "new urbanist" design by David Shwartz (of Bass Hall, American Airlines Center, Ballpark at Arlington, etc., fame) reminiscent of an early 20th century downtown.

This brings up another question: Is Seminary South the oldest surviving mall in Texas? There were earlier malls. Gulfgate Mall in Houston was the first in Texas, I believe, opening in 1956. It was originally outdoor before eventually being enclosed. A strip shopping center now occupies the site. Big Town Mall on the Dallas/Mesquite border opened as the first enclosed, air conditioned mall in Texas in 1959. The larger Town East Mall opened down the street in 1973 but Big Town managed to hang in there for surprisingly long, in part because a key tenant, Montgomery Ward, was unable to afford better digs elsewhere. Big Town was demolished in 2006.

So is there any other mall in Texas older than Seminary South? NorthPark in Dallas opened in 1965 and is still going strong with several additions having been added on over the years. But the expansions were built in the exact same architectural style as the original 1965 portion which has manged to hold up through all sorts of changes in fashion remarkably well. It is very rare for any sort of shopping center of that vintage in this part of the country that has managed to survive to not have undergone drastic remodeling over the years. So that is quite an accomplishment on the part of whoever designed NorthPark - a rare sort of timelessness.

There are several shopping centers still in operation in Texas that significantly predate Seminary South - but are there any malls?
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#13 bailey

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 10:05 AM

Meyerland Plaza in Houston opened in October of 1957 I believe and is still in operation.

#14 unknowntbone

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 05:10 PM

Saginaw mentioned earlier the Barber's book store near the Buddies entrance. I seem to remember it being named BOOK NOOK.
And Bill Mack working at KCUL-1540AM. The radio station was right next to the Buddies entrance also. Very discreet--not many people even knew a radio station was there.
And yeah, Murphy's--MONO LP's for $2.66--Stereo for $3.66.

#15 Doohickie

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 08:02 PM

We got to Fort Worth in September of 1987 so it was always a mall to us. Interesting to see the parallels to the shopping plaza of my youth, the Thruway Plaza in Cheektowaga, NY. When it opened in 1956 it was "the largest in the state and second largest in the country". In the 1970s it was converted into a mall. In 1989 another mall opened up just on the other side of the New York State Thruway and the Thruway Mall was eventually torn down, replaced by big box retail like Wal-Mart and Home Depot and the center is again called Thruway Plaza. My dad worked at a men's clothing store (Jacobi Bros.) there when I was little. In fact my parents met when they were working for different branches of that store. My great-great-grandfather is buried in a cemetery adjacent to the plaza.
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#16 John T Roberts

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 08:58 PM

The book store was the Book Nook.

When I was there on Labor Day, it looks like the new owners have turned the place around. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot.

#17 Ghost Writer in Disguise

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 09:21 PM

I remember it as the Book Oasis.

#18 Art Cooler

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 12:50 PM

I always liked the Seminary South logo.

I grew up in North Dallas (forgive me...got to FW as fast as I could :) ). Funny, I never set foot inside either mall, but I distinctly remember both Big Town and Seminary South from my youth. Wish I had seen SS in it's 60's heyday...had a neat mid-century mod vibe going that got lost with later alterations, judging by the photos I've seen here. All I remember about Big Town was seeing a mass of buildings from the freeway. Guess we contributed to BT demise since my parents took us several times to nearby Town East Mall.

Northpark was always classy. Personally I think that was Ray Nasher's doing. We went there often as kids and I loved the indoor fountains and sculptures. Northpark Mall and Glen Lakes Country Club nearby are two standout memories of mine from that part of the Metroplex. GLCC...my dad had a free press membership there and I wiled away many a summer afternoon swimming in their excellent pool. Northpark later on for seeing the very first Star Wars movie...the theater was top notch in those days.

#19 John T Roberts

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 03:50 PM

Art, you are correct in that all of the Mid-Century Modern elements of the mall have been covered up with all of the previous renovations. There are only a handful of spots on the exterior that now have parts of the original elements exposed. Some of the pre-cast concrete panels on the Sears store remain exposed and the office building is more or less intact on the exterior.

#20 Saginaw

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 08:31 PM

This has been a very enjoyable thread to read and participate in (well, next to the drive-in theatre topic! ;)).

John and elpingüino, thank you very much for the links y'all have provided, especially the mall layout, circa 1963. In studying the map, I certainly remember the G.C. Murphy Co. store (or just simply "Murphy's") at the corner of the block that butted up to Leonard's, across from Sears and the main fountain. Someone mentioned Spencer's Gifts, which I seem to remember as being located in the shopping block that was situated next to Sears, several shops toward Stripling's. There was one time when I went to SS with my sister as a kid, and something drew me to Spencer's. Well, my sister quickly pulled me away, saying something about it being a "bad" or "weird" store. Go figure! :rolleyes:

Thanks also to the few of y'all who remember the bookstore. Whatever the name of it was, I still have a couple of books that I got from there. One was a pop-up book about the astronauts and space travel (during the heyday of the NASA space shots), which was bought for me around 1971. The other one was about flying boats of WWII, which I got around early 1976. It's a shame that I lost the dust covers to both of them long ago, otherwise the books themselves are in good condition. About the 7-story office building, the only business I remember from there was a dentist, whom I believe was either on the 4th or 5th floor. I should know, since I was sent to see him (and since I had a fearful aversion to both dentists and heights back then). And I also remember the basement corridor that connected from the Seminary Drive side of the mall to the inner court, and that it passed by the former KCUL radio station (which by the Seventies was called KBUY-AM, a country-western station, according to some sources). I can even remember seeing a DJ in the glass-enclosed cubicle once, and waving to him, and getting a wave back.

Ah, memories. ^_^


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#21 John T Roberts

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 08:48 PM

Spencer Gifts used to be located on the east side of the mall between Sears and Stripling's. According to the mall's floor plans, the basement corridor is still there. At the west end of the basement was the Town Hall. This large room was set up for community meetings and gatherings. Town Hall still remains according to the La Gran Plaza mall floor plan. I also remember the radio station. Since this mall was close to home and my mother liked to shop, I spent many days as a kid at the center. When I got older, I would catch the bus, and later drive to the center. As for the last department store addition, I don't ever remember it being a Leonard's. I'm almost sure it opened as a Dillard's. I just did a little research and Dillard's bought Leonard's in 1974. Since the store opened in 1979 or 1980, it obviously was Dillard's.

#22 bailey

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 10:23 PM

You are right John, the Dillard's was built as a Dillard's. It was actually built late in the life of Seminary South. I still have an old sport coat I bought there. There weren't very many restaurants in the original Seminary South. There was an old El Chico's located over by the office building or maybe it was in the ground floor and another restaurant called Bob's Coffee Shop around the corner from Buddies inside the center. It was really just a Kip's but carried a different name. Then there was the cafeteria facing seminary drive. Stripling's also had a sit down restaurant in the basement by their appliance department which was pretty good. Murphy's, Sears, and the drug store had soda fountains.

The old Penney's store sold everything back in those days including washing machines, refrigerators, stoves, TV's, sporting goods, paint, candy, carpets, furniture, lawn mowers, and even window air conditioners. The basement contained the appliance,furniture, carpet, and offices and a large stock room. All the deliveries came up from a freight elevator from this dungeon of a stock room to the Customer Pickup area facing Murphy's. That is why working in the Customer pick up area was such hard work. It wasn't easy loading air conditioners, TV's, etc into cars. Everybody thought they could fit that stuff in their trunk and I remember my frustrations trying to explain it just wouldn't fit. Then they would ask me to take it out of the box and put it in the back seat. That didn't work either so many drove home with their new TV's sitting on their front seat out of the box. The stores today don't keep the merchandise in a stock room like that. It comes to the stores in trucks and goes right to the floor. I wonder what is in that old basement of the Penney's store today. I guess it is still just a big dark dungeon.

Crime was bad in the center when I worked there in 1973-1975. We had a security guard that would walk the employees to their cars after closing. I remember one night a thief hid in the store after we closed and set off the motion alarm. We had cameras that scanned all over the store and one of my jobs was to watch the monitor for shoplifters when I didn't have customers. I never caught one but it was fun watching people. I could control the cameras that rotated around the store and it freaked out kids when the camera would follow them around.

#23 Ghost Writer in Disguise

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 10:37 PM

Crime was bad in the center when I worked there in 1973-1975. We had a security guard that would walk the employees to their cars after closing. I remember one night a thief hid in the store after we closed and set off the motion alarm. We had cameras that scanned all over the store and one of my jobs was to watch the monitor for shoplifters when I didn't have customers. I never caught one but it was fun watching people. I could control the cameras that rotated around the store and it freaked out kids when the camera would follow them around.


Which reminds me: http://www.missingtrio.com/TRIO/

#24 SWRebel

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 07:10 PM

Town Hall still remains according to the La Gran Plaza mall floor plan

There was a theatre group called The Town Hall Players.
Shortly after SS was built, GDRA expanded their clubhouse and it included a theater.
The Town Hall Players became Wing and Mask.
"To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, ‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, & the fruits acquired by it.'"

#25 lyleswk

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 06:21 AM

Meyerland Plaza in Houston opened in October of 1957 I believe and is still in operation.


Yes it is, but like Seminary South, is only a glimmer of it's original self. Portions have been torn down, the interior open air mall has been enclosed, etc, etc. I know this becuase my then girl friend worked at the JC Penneys, or what we called Jacques Penays to make it sound sophicated, during high school and college. Have to drive by next time I go to my mother-in-law;'s house and relive some memories with her.

#26 Brian Luenser

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 07:23 AM

As referenced by Giraffe and Ghost Writer in Disguise above, the disappearance of the three young girls on December 23, 1974 was huge. In fact, my wife used to go there frequently as a kid in the 60s with her parents. Her family stopped going after the kidnapping. A: What a tragedy B: How unfair that a tragic crime that could have been committed anywhere was associated with Seminary South. C: What the heck happened there and how do you kidnap 3 teenage girls and completely get away with it? In my opinion, even with the Cullen Davis crimes and everything, nothing in Fort Worth will equal the disappearance of those girls. Not a trace. Not a suspect. How could the horrible man (or woman) have done it and gotten away with it. I still hope for a death bed confession. Just amazing that this guy did not tell one soul about his deeds. (he just must not have)

As a useless side-note, the day that happened, I was working as a tire-buster/ battery installer, at the JC Penney's at Lancaster Kiest Shopping Center in South Dallas. (My year of work between Desoto High School and the US Navy.) That is a very old mall also. Even older. (the whole "movement to the burbs" sent my JC Penny to the new Redbird Mall in 1975.) And just in the nick of time...

Here is also a fairly recent article written by Mary Rogers from the Fort Worth Star Telegram on the crime.

http://www.star-tele...isappeared.html
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#27 EwingFTW

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 09:49 AM

As referenced by Giraffe and Ghost Writer in Disguise above, the disappearance of the three young girls on December 23, 1974 was huge. In fact, my wife used to go there frequently as a kid in the 60s with her parents. Her family stopped going after the kidnapping. A: What a tragedy B: How unfair that a tragic crime that could have been committed anywhere was associated with Seminary South. C: What the heck happened there and how do you kidnap 3 teenage girls and completely get away with it? In my opinion, even with the Cullen Davis crimes and everything, nothing in Fort Worth will equal the disappearance of those girls. Not a trace. Not a suspect. How could the horrible man (or woman) have done it and gotten away with it. I still hope for a death bed confession. Just amazing that this guy did not tell one soul about his deeds. (he just must not have)

As a useless side-note, the day that happened, I was working as a tire-buster/ battery installer, at the JC Penney's at Lancaster Kiest Shopping Center in South Dallas. (My year of work between Desoto High School and the US Navy.) That is a very old mall also. Even older. (the whole "movement to the burbs" sent my JC Penny to the new Redbird Mall in 1975.) And just in the nick of time...

Here is also a fairly recent article written by Mary Rogers from the Fort Worth Star Telegram on the crime.



The Fort Worth PD has reopened this case several times. In 2000 I helped a very experienced Homicide Detective review the case. He interviewed several people, inmates, etc. that could possibly shed light on the case. He even dug up ground that a search dog alerted on. I looked thru about six big boxes of material related to the case in trying to provide him something that might have been missed in the past. Remember, they didn't have computers in those days. I haven't heard anything lately, but I'm sure someone in Homicide is always thinking about this case.


#28 Phil Phillips

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 12:28 PM

Interesting coincidence, Brian. Summer of 1972 I was busting tires at Leonards Auto, NE Mall and in summer of 1973, busting tires and installing batteries at Sears Auto, Six Flags Mall. Finally got into "real" mechanic work for the next few summers at Hostetters Garage on E. Lancaster, then a couple of places in Austin while finishing college. Best jobs I ever had even though the pay was lousy.

#29 Giraffe

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 06:19 PM

Interesting coincidence, Brian. Summer of 1972 I was busting tires at Leonards Auto, NE Mall and in summer of 1973, busting tires and installing batteries at Sears Auto, Six Flags Mall. Finally got into "real" mechanic work for the next few summers at Hostetters Garage on E. Lancaster, then a couple of places in Austin while finishing college. Best jobs I ever had even though the pay was lousy.



That Sears Auto at Six Flags Mall -- was that located where the American Motorcycle shop is now (on E. Division), or was it what's now the Firestone behind the mall? I got my car's oil changed at the Firestone a couple of weeks ago and the manager told me their building had once been a J. C. Penny's Automotive shop... but Penny's got out of that business and Firestone bought them all.

#30 Brian Luenser

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 06:42 PM

Interesting coincidence, Brian. Summer of 1972 I was busting tires at Leonards Auto, NE Mall and in summer of 1973, busting tires and installing batteries at Sears Auto, Six Flags Mall. Finally got into "real" mechanic work for the next few summers at Hostetters Garage on E. Lancaster, then a couple of places in Austin while finishing college. Best jobs I ever had even though the pay was lousy.



That's great Phil. I might add in 1974 I was going through my JC Penney auto training at NE Mall. Was in the basement of the Penney's Auto Center. Getting to NE Mall was the longest trip I had ever driven from my parent's house in Desoto. (Pre I-20) Thought I was going to have to get a Motel in Grand Prairie it took so long. I had a seat full of maps. And my old Boy Scout compass! Really funny. Just today as my work was overwhelming me I was telling a work Friend that I would love to still be busting tires. I did 2 stints of that. Pre-Navy and Post Navy. Post Navy at Red Bird Mall in South Dallas. (Duncanville) It was a very satisfying job. Car comes in with bald crappy tires, I put on fresh meaty tires and drive it out like it was a new car. I did this for 4 years while going to UTA. Perfect compliment to school and studying. Exercise. Satisfaction of hard work. And not to forget scoring $5.50 and hour. (I literally make that now walking between the front door of my plant and my desk.)

I would bust tires tomorrow morning. Really.
www.fortworthview.com

#31 Saginaw

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 07:02 PM

I definitely remember when those three young girls disappeared in the winter of '74, and how for the next month and a half they were either the first or second news story covered in the paper and on tv. I also remember how this whole city mobilized to try and find them. The youngest victim would be my age now. Hopefully, one day soon, the truth will finally be revealed.

Just a couple of sidebar questions, please. Those seemingly tall pole signs with Seminary South's crossed-S logo (I remember them as an orange logo on warm grey squares, mounted on white poles) - can anyone recall just how tall they were (or even a close estimation), and how many of them were erected? Also, I remember a gift store around 1974-75 that was located between Murphy's and J.C. Penney's. I don't believe it was a Hallmark Cards store, but maybe an American Greetings or Carlton Cards store?

Thanks, everyone.


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#32 Cowtown Mike

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 07:43 PM

Speaking of Northeast Mall:
My oldest brother who is now 68 worked in the J.C. Penney auto when the mall first opened. My other brother and I opened the McDonald's at 1401 West Pipeline in 1969 He was the store manager and I was a 18 year old. I think he and I may have been the first to be asked to leave the mall (not really) but we were passing out free hamburger coupons in the mall. Still remember the Orange Julius store.

#33 John T Roberts

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 08:47 PM

Back to Seminary South: There was only one really tall pole sign that was on the east side of the Sears Auto Center. The sign itself was three sided and all three sides featured the SS logo. The logo was orange and I do believe the background was a dark gray. Fort Worth Town Center reused the sign. It was finally removed a couple of years ago when La Gran Plaza put up a large LED sign on I-35W.

#34 Saginaw

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 09:18 PM

Thank you for remembering the details of the sign, John. I was wondering if it was either three- or four-sided, and also where it was exactly located. Believe me, if I had an art program like Paint Shop Pro or Corel, I'd attempt to do a rendering of the sign using the photo you took of the logo in the retaining wall the other day, and display it on this topic.


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"If I only had a time machine..."

#35 John T Roberts

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Posted 11 September 2010 - 11:18 AM

The design of the mall featured white brick buildings with canopies that ran along their perimeters. The canopies were dark wood with dark chocolate colored brick columns and were about half as tall as the mall itself. The dark brick was used as an accent and the Buddie's Super Market and Stripling's mall entry was constructed out of this brick. As discussed previously, the Sears store used exposed aggregate pre-cast concrete for its mall facade. Signage in the mall allowed the anchors to have illuminated signs. Sears and Penney's used backlit letters and I do remember that Murphy's signs were also illuminated. Stripling's had non-illuminated letters with floodlights shining on the signs. That's how most of the center's signs were illuminated. Periodically spaced on top of the canopies, were banks of floodlights that illuminated the walls on top of the canopies. Stores put their non-illuminated signs and logos along the walls above the canopies that allowed someone on the other side of the mall to see what was located there. Below the canopies, a flourescent fixture that hung down below the canopy had the stores names and logos placed on them at their entrances. Someone walking along the storefront could then see what store was there and what stores were ahead of them. When Dillard's opened, they placed internally illuminated signs on their building.

#36 cincyvid

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Posted 11 September 2010 - 08:55 PM

WOW, John! Thanks so much for posting those shots. I pretty much grew up at SS. My mom, dad, aunt and uncle had a gift and card shop there. Actually, I can see it in that first shot. That shopping center was my stomping ground from 6th thru 8th grade. I first heard the Beatles in the GC Murphy record dept. (That store always smelled like roasted nuts when you alked in, because the candy dept was right in the center of the first floor)

An earlier poster said that the radio station was next to Buddies. Actually, KCUL was downstairs, and just past the center's main offices. There was a community room where I met Ted Williams on a promotional tour and got his autograph. There was always something going on..even Icky Twerp brought Yogi and Cindy Bear to the Sears Fountain one spring day. I saw Jimmy Gilmer on the lower level of Striplings when Sugar Shack was a big hit. There was a hobby store across the breezeway from Buddies and they sold the latest plastic models, Duncan YoYos, and later installed a slot car track where you could race for about 50 cents an hour.

At that time, a man named Bill Benge was the Promotions Manager of the center. His wife, Sharon, was and still is very active in the arts, and taught an adolescent theatre class at Casa Manana that I was a part of.

There's just a ton more memories, but thank you for sparking a few of them.

#37 Ghost Writer in Disguise

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 03:43 PM

I'm back from a little time-travelling at the library. The book store was indeed the Book Oasis.

#38 John T Roberts

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 05:26 PM

Thanks for the update and confirmation. After you mentioned the Book Oasis, I thought to myself that it also sounded right. Although I spent many hours at the mall in the 1960's and 1970's, names of some of the original stores are starting to escape me.

#39 Jim444

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 05:33 PM

About the Book Oasis, if it's the book store that was down on the left as you neared the business tower, I have a memory. My brother went in during the early 70s and overheard this conversation. A somewhat snooty customer was looking for a book by famous French writer Honore de Balzac. He asked the obviously overworked young lady (it was Christmas) behind the counter: "Pardon me, but do you have anything by Balzac?" Right away she replied, "No sir." He was aghast and said, "What!? Why, a book store is not a book store without Balzac!" She shot right back, "Oh, I'm sick and tired of people telling me a bookstore's not a bookstore without this or that!" He huffed and walked right out. I still smile when I think of this. Good for her! :swg:

#40 Ghost Writer in Disguise

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 10:57 PM

It was where Saginaw described it being and was the only bookstore there at the time. By 1977 or so there was a Waldenbooks along the east side. I believe the Book Oasis had closed by then.

Who remembers Cullem & Boren? By the time they turned up at SS I was old enough to buy firearms but never bought any there, though I did often go in for a look.

#41 Jim444

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 01:15 AM

It was where Saginaw described it being and was the only bookstore there at the time. By 1977 or so there was a Waldenbooks along the east side. I believe the Book Oasis had closed by then.

Who remembers Cullem & Boren? By the time they turned up at SS I was old enough to buy firearms but never bought any there, though I did often go in for a look.


Well, I totally glossed over where Saginaw described the location. My bad. Thanks for "schooling" me.

#42 Dismuke

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 11:21 AM

Who remembers Cullem & Boren? By the time they turned up at SS I was old enough to buy firearms but never bought any there, though I did often go in for a look.



You just answered something I was recently trying to remember and just couldn't: what was the name of the chain that Oshman's bought out in the area years ago? That's it - Cullem & Boren.

I remember them having a major presence in the area. But I cannot recall if I was ever actually in one of their stores. I was too young to shop there myself and my parents have never really shopped at sporting goods stores. They had a location in Town East Mall which my parents would occasionally visit - so it is possible that I was in that location.

A quick google search indicates that the company went way back. I am not sure how far back it goes - but I came across an advertisement from 1912. I also found several references to their big main store in downtown Dallas which was apparently quite impressive in its day. And it turns out that Oshman's was a Houston company that dated back to 1919 - and now that name is gone as well having been swallowed up by Sports Authority. Kind of a parallel to what happened to Sanger-Harris. Before their merger, Sanger Brothers dated back to the 1860s and A Harris dated back to the 1880s. All the stores were rebranded as Foley's, an old Houston department store - and that has now been swallowed up by Macy's.

Anyhow, thanks for jogging my memory about the name.
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#43 Birdland in Handley

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 03:03 AM

Perhap it's 'cause we have been brooding about Heritage Park. We're hoping someone can post about the water feature that ran from the back of Striplings' to the big basin that was the parkiing lot. As i recall it was not a big deal, just a nice stairsteps with a waterfall next to it.

#44 Art Cooler

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 07:47 AM

I swung by Seminary South a few Saturdays ago and got this pic of the logo on the wall:

Posted Image

#45 JPO

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 05:00 PM

For some strange reason, my grandparents LOVED to go to Wyatt's Cafeteria at Seminary South after church on Sundays, perhaps because is was sort-of halfway between their house in Kennedale and ours in Wedgwood. Or maybe it was their liver and onions, my grandmother's perpetual choice at a cafeteria. This would have been in the late 70's, before Hulen Mall and Luby's Cafeteria took over our routine.

I vaguely remember Wyatt's being on the west side of the center, near the office building. I very clearly remember the t-shirt shop in the covered walkway nearby - not so much the shop itself, but the very distinctive smell of the sparkly heat-applied decals. You could choose the design (for me it was always Star Wars related) and have it put on the shirt color of your choice. Alas, they never lasted very long in the washing machine - what I wouldn't give to have that electric yellow shirt with Darth Vader's glittery head on it again.

One of our family's favorite stories is when my older brother and I (maybe 5 and 7 years old) were running around the rim of the round fountain while my mother was shopping for Christmas... Of course, I fell into the water and she had to buy me a head-to-toe new outfit at Stripling's.

And though I can't remember exactly what it looked like, just the mention of that stepped fountain entrance brought back a flood of memories!

#46 John T Roberts

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 07:43 PM

The Wyatt's Cafeteria was located across the southwest mall entrance from the old Buddie's store, so it was on the west side and fairly close to the office building.

The stairs between Finger Furniture and Stripling's had two walkways. The one that ran along the north side of the furniture store was covered and I think the one on the Stripling's side of the stepped fountain was not covered. The fountain stepped down between the two sets of stairs. Every so often, there was a cross walk that connected the two. At the top of the stairs was a larger pool with a single fountain jet and at the bottom was another larger pool with a multi-jet spray that radiated out from the center. The large fountain in front of Stripling's featured a center pool with a double ring of jets. The center shot the water higher than the outer ring. In separate pools on the four corners of the court were smaller fan fountains. In this thread is a photo of the center fountain in front of Sears, so it doesn't need much description. At the west end, near the office building, was a mulitple pedestal fountain.

#47 Cowtown Mike

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 08:42 PM

John,

Finger furniture reminds me of when my wife I got married in 1976 and rented a whole apartment of furniture for $37.80 per month. Also bought my sons first pair of baby shoes at one of the shoe stores at SS. If you remember the white leather shoes that kids could kick your brains out with.

#48 lyleswk

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 07:49 AM

Wyatt's Cafeteria. That brings back some very fond memories of my Grandmother. When my family visited my Grandmoter, Sunday after church, we would all pile in the 65 Ford Wagon and go to Wyatt's. Not the one at Seminary, but one that was in College Station. My Grandmother was always the one that insisted on going to Wyatt's and I thought I was in heaven. All those choices...

Thanks for memory jar.

#49 waywr

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Posted 20 November 2010 - 08:16 PM

Great memories everyone.
I practically grew up at Seminary South. Or at least close to it, lived on Cole Street off Seminary Drive about 3 miles away.

The bookstore was Book Oasis as far as I recall. Think it closed around 75 or 76 and Waldenbooks opened (in a different spot) not long after.

The toy store, over by the office building, had an entrance built like a little gingerbread or fairy tale house. Toy Chest might be right, but pretty sure it was called Toy Fair.

My brothers used to talk about the bowling alley, which I don't remember as I was born in '63.
I always figured it was downstairs where the radio station and barber shop were. Speaking of which, anyone else ever slide down the stair railing leading down there?

I can't remember what (what type music) the radio station was originally, but recall it was a Spanish station from the mid 70s on.
The barber shop used to be huge (or seemed that way when I was little), had two rows of chairs, always full when my parents took me in for haircuts. Later it became a smaller shop called, I think, The Razor's Edge.

And Giraffe, thanks for mentioning the Here Comes The Sun theme song. I knew I remembered hearing that when I was about 6, but when I've asked people about it, no one remembers.

Anyone remember the Christmas lights they used to have? Big white lights put up on the side of Sears and other outside parts of the mall that showed the Nativity, Three Wise Men, Santa and the star the Wise Men followed.
I always looked forward to that every year and felt sad when they quit putting them up, which was around 1977 I think. Used to get a kick out of those and the decorations downtown.

About the three missing girls. I work for the Cleburne Times-Review newspaper, and cover police among other things. A detective with the Cleburne Police Department, who's been on the job since 1964, loves to talk old/cold cases. Several times he's had me look up articles from the 60s and 70s regarding cases he's still working.
Even though he's CPD, he worked some on the Seminary South case. Last year, he was looking through some old files and told me a guy in jail, picked up on something unrelated, might have a connection to the case.
He couldn't give too many details, so I don't know if the guy confessed, said he knew something about it, or what. He did say the guy was the right age to have been around at the time.
But, the detective later told me it turned out to be nothing. So the guy was just telling tales, or had nothing useful to offer.
Shame. Would have been nice to have some closure in that case.

On a happier note, I also remember Oscar the fish in Murphys. The store threw a big to do for his birthday once, probably around 1974 or so.

#50 John T Roberts

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 10:39 PM

The bowling alley was under the building just to the west of Murphy's. It was demolished in the late 1970's to build the Dillard's Store.




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