Once Aryan Skynet Goes Live It Doesn't Matter Who Pulled The Switch
Demolition is underway on a landmark of my childhood and early adolescence. Indian Springs Shopping Center, which opened in 1971, was one of several malls to be built in the Kansas City metropolitan area, and for more than twenty years was a popular center of commerce and fun for the people of Kansas City, Kansas. Mary Rupert, writing for Wyandotte Daily, gives an idea of the building’s scope and erstwhile importance:
When it opened in 1971, Indian Springs Shopping Center at 47th and State was the first mall in this area and attracted many visitors from the region. It was at the intersection of I-635 and I-70, two highways easily accessible to the visitors from other parts of the metro area. It had about 700,000 square feet on two levels, about 4,000 parking spaces, and lots of fountains in the mall.
Located just a few minutes from the apartment complex where I lived as a kid, Indian Springs boasted major retailers like Montgomery Ward, JCPenney, and Dillard’s, along with movie theaters on two levels, a Waldenbooks, an arcade, an Orange Julius stand, and the sorts of eateries, shoe stores, and other businesses one would expect to find in a typical shopping complex of the period.
Indian Springs is the site of my earliest memory of seeing a movie: the heavy metal horror classic Trick or Treat (1986), starring Marc “Skippy” Price of Family Ties fame. Looming especially large and tempting for me during the Reagan era was the Kay-Bee Toys store where, in the years after my parents’ divorce, my father attempted to win my loyalty by buying me far too many plastic action figures. So many memories, not all pleasant, are bound up in this inelegant building which soon will no longer exist.
Indian Springs is also the site of my mostly unremarkable city’s own little share in the Iran-Contra scandal. During the early-to-middle eighties, the Indian Springs State Bank, located between Wig City and Athlete’s Foot, was directed by a CIA-connected Iranian aviation magnate and gunrunner, Farhad Azima, who still maintains a Kansas City residence valued at nearly $2,000,000. He later achieved notoriety as a high-dollar Democratic Party donor, and Bill Clinton himself led guests in singing “Happy Birthday” to Azima at one local fundraiser. William Lemaster, the president of the Indian Springs State Bank, died in an unusual incident in which his vehicle burst into flames and crashed in 1983, the year before the institution was closed amid hostile scrutiny. One shopper recalls of the failed savings and loan:
At one time you had the Indian Springs Bank, later known as the “mobster’s bank of choice” (I remember them for the big indian statue the bank had along with the chandelier which with the one next door were the biggest ones I had seen as a child at that time…even today only the ones in Union Station top it)
Retail history blog Labelscar blames “a combination of over-malling in the Kansas City area in general, the erosion of the local economy of KCKS, and competition from dominant super-regionals such as Oak Park Mall several miles south in Overland Park” for the once-thriving shopping center’s demise; but commenters under the article recollect another reality.
The mall croaked largely (big surprise!) due to a reputation of crime, which in most cases was probably an unfair accusation. For example, sometime in the early 90s there was a shooting in the movie theater, which was initially reported as if it were a random act of violence– it was actually a domestic dispute. In 1996, during one of my last visits to the mall until 2003, the KCK police kept a squad car parked at each entrance, in an attempt to project an image of security.
I am a lifelong Wyandotte County resident. The reason the mall closed is simple, the customers with money selected “safer” malls than Indian Springs. For far too many years security had little control over the mall. While outright crime may have been exaggerated, the feeling of intimidation existed and went unchecked. High shoplifting rates by “customers” in this entire area caused many businesses to close doors. Venture and K-Mart closed at 4301 State Avenue for similar reasons. There simply exist[s] no base of support willing to shop in this area. When it opened many of us looked forward to going to the mall, but by the late 1970’s Indian Springs already possessed a reputation. It’s a beautiful place to see, but it’s understandable that patrons chose to shop elsewhere.
It was quite busy during the 70’s into the early 80’s, it declined very rapidity during the 1980’s. The shoppers were all white, rarely saw a black shopper during the 70’s. That changed in 80’s along with crime. Whites quit shopping at the mall, and stores starting moving out left and right. That is the true story of what happened to Indian Springs. I watched it happen from beginning to end. The area around the mall also began changing for the worse.
this mall failed because of the VIOLENCE. inner city creeps raping people in the parking lot. I was attacked here and had my jaw smashed for no reason. murders, etc. it was a ZOO.
I stopped going there because of the crime, and quite frankly it won’t matter what gets built when the Springs is razed, because that whole part of town is riddled with crime. That’s why Sears at Tower Plaza died, that’s why Venture died, and that’s why developers moved out to the Legends – to get away from the crime.
I grew up in [suburban] Johnson County, and the only person that I have ever known who shopped at Indian Springs was abducted from there, and then raped. It has always been thought that KCK is a very dangerous neighborhood–much more so than Kansas City, Missouri. So, obviously, how could one expect the mall to come back to prominence? It is sad, and reading these former posts makes one feel very disheartened. Yet, it is enlightening, too, as I never knew that anyone ever actually liked Kansas City, Kansas. Who knew?!!
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that I never once felt frightened for my safety at Indian Springs; but my father very understandably wanted to take his business elsewhere after one of the local youths leaned over a balustrade and spit on him from the floor above. “Some people became afraid of going to Indian Springs after some violent incidents there,” Wyandotte Daily’s Rupert concedes, offering no details – but one particular episode stands out as representative. KCUR’s Christina Lieffring applies the expected liberal spin:
Daniel Serda, owner of urban planning and economic firm Insite LLC and lifelong KCK resident, remembers Indian Springs had a maze for children to explore and around Christmas time, a talking Christmas tree.
“You’re walking by the tree and the tree would start talking to you. ‘Hi, how are you? What do you want for Christmas?’” says Serda. “It was kind of creepy.”
Serda spent his childhood and pre-teen years wandering around Indian Springs with and without his parents. But when he got into high school, he noticed a shift: more young African Americans were hanging out at the mall and the security guards had become more aggressive.
“There were any number of times where walking along, right behind you, there’d be these security guards,” says Serda. “I remember once turning around and saying ‘Are you following us?’ Because it seemed that way. And they would get very defensive and say ‘Why? Should I be following you?’ I had never experienced anything like that.”
On a Saturday night in 1989, 18-year-old Patrick Sills hit and broke the screen to the game “The Empire Strikes Back” at the Fun Factory video game arcade in Indian Springs. He was chased by a security guard into the parking lot, where the guard opened fire and killed him. It was on the front page of the Kansas City Star on Monday morning.
“And I remember my dad said ‘You’re not going there again,’ says Serda. “And I said, ‘I don’t want to.’”
Shoppers from other metro areas stopped going to Indian Springs and the local population wasn’t enough to sustain the mall. By the late nineties, proposals were popping up for what could be done with the space, including an aquarium or community center.
The movie theaters where I ate so many Milk Duds and butter-saturated gobs of salty popcorn – where I marveled at the grotesquerie of Eric Stoltz in The Fly II (1989) and laughed at “Ernest” actor Jim Varney’s antics in The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) – finally saw the curtains close sometime around 1995, while the mall itself, as it lost its anchor stores but continued to limp along in its post-prosperity indignity – housing police and other government offices for several years into the present century – eventually came to resemble one of the desolated sets for my favorite movie I ever saw at Indian Springs: Cannon Films’ post-apocalyptic Jean-Claude Van Damme kick-fest Cyborg (1989). The fantastic pizzeria Italian Delight, which held out in its Indian Springs location until 2010, was the last business to leave; and the last time I was inside the mall, maybe around 2013, it was dark, with debris strewn across the floors of the caged and empty storefronts.
Indian Springs seldom crossed my mind throughout the George W. Bush years, most of which I spent in another town; and it is strange to realize that the mall’s doors actually remained open all of that time. The mall had really died during the 1990s, but it took a long spell for everyone to admit it. As the city’s Mexican population swelled, the mall experimented with a short-lived identity as a Hispanic shopping center; and in 2003 the Ravens Youth Organization, a group of urban “police cadets”, reopened one floor of the multiplex as the Ravens Community 6 Theater – still another enterprise doomed to quick oblivion – but I was never present for any of this. A Kansas Citian named Jarius Jones petitioned the mayor to entertain his plan for turning the Indian Springs site into a “state-of-the art aquatic center constructed in the heart of our wonderful community […] so that we can enjoy the outdoor pleasures of summer”, but this idea, too, went nowhere.
Indian Springs, though special to those who remember having fun times with friends and family there during its 70s-80s heyday, does not have a unique story to tell. Black St. Louis blogger Byron Crawford, in a 2007 post titled “The Mall Where White People Used to Shop”, reveals:
I don’t live too far from the Galleria, which was once considered the top mall in St. Louis. […]
I don’t visit the Galleria too often because a) traffic over there is always so fucked up, and b) it’s not like I’m about to buy shit anyway. I do pass by it sometimes on the way to Borders, and in the past six months or so, I couldn’t help but notice packs of young black kids with backpacks crossing Brentwood, the street out in front of the Galleria. […]
Here’s the thing: they recently built an extension to Metro Link – the train system that connects some of the shittier parts of St. Louis to downtown – that stops right out in front of the Galleria. So obviously all of these kids are taking the train from the ghetto to the Galleria after school. I don’t know if they’re out there boosting, or looking for young girls to impregnate, but suffice it to say it’s not like they’re looking for shoes for a job interview.
In November and then again this month, there were huge gang fights that had to be broken up by the police. They were covered extensively by the local media, and I think more or less signaled to people that the Galleria had become yet another mall where white people used to shop. Obviously something would have to be done, but Galleria management would have to tread lightly, because, like I said, the Galleria is chock full of the kind of expensive, name brand shit favored by ignorant-ass black people. […]
It’ll be interesting to see whether or not black people try to turn this into a race issue. I mean, on the one hand, kids have been going to the mall at least since the days of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, if not since the beginning of time, and yet it only became an issue when black kids started going there. But on the other hand, you never hear about all of these gang fights and shit until the black kids start showing up. Personally, I’d be lying if I said that barring a buncha ghetto high school kids would hinder my enjoyment of the Galleria. But you guys know I’m a hater like that…
The same problems arise wherever masses of blacks congregate. The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher, reflecting on a two-hundred-strong riot at Baton Rouge’s Mall of Louisiana and nearby Perkins Rowe in 2013, writes:
What is not reported in the media, but what’s hitting Baton Rouge comments boards and social media, is that both mobs were all black. Turns out a friend of mine was there in the Mall of Louisiana with his family when all this went down. Scared his kids to death. I asked him if all the stuff on social media about this being a black thing was true. He said yes, that’s what he saw. Later, another friend at Perkins Rowe saw the same thing there. Black kids, guys with their pants falling down, causing trouble.
This is going to be what everybody around here talks about for the next few days. Since I’ve been back in the area for the past year, lots of people have told us to avoid going to Cortana Mall, a shopping center in the north central part of Baton Rouge. This was the mall they opened when I was a kid, and that everybody went to. I haven’t been there since I left Baton Rouge in the early 1990s, but over the years, violent crime in the mall area became a big deal. Seems like everybody knew someone who was robbed in the parking lot. Last year, I was on a flight out of Baton Rouge, sitting next to a man who owns or manages a store there. He was very down about the business atmosphere at the mall, because of the crime and the raffishness there.
Don’t go to Cortana Mall, people tell me. Too many black people there. Too much potential for crime and chaos.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Valley Girl (1983), along with Chopping Mall (1986) and other movies shot at the legendary Sherman Oaks Galleria, capture something of the special place that malls held in the hearts of a now aging generation. By the late seventies, when George A. Romero made his immortal Dawn of the Dead (1978) at the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, the shopping mall had become a beloved institution in the national life – as well as a symbol of its empty-headed consumerism. Romero’s classic depicts a horde of the walking dead converging on an indoor shopping center from some conditioned and unconscious impulse because, as one of the movie’s protagonists surmises, the mall must have been an important place in the zombies’ former lives.
There is nothing particularly noble about the culture of the mall – arguably more of a Jewish creation than a true expression of European culture – but the mall was our home away from home; it was where we lived. Unfortunately, it was also where so many of us were zombified; but white mall culture, for better or worse, helped shape who we were and are, and its passing warrants, if not actual grief, then at least a modest degree of mourning. The name itself, “Indian Springs”, is eloquent of an already distant time and culture, innocent in its pristine political incorrectness – an innocence now lost, alas. For those of us who grew up in the age of the mall’s iron grip on the American weekend, it is still hard to understand how an institution so omnipresent could crumple up and fall into the dustbin of history practically overnight. Slowing economies, internet commerce, and the dispossession of the American worker all surely had a part to play; but all of us know this is not the whole story.
And here, mainly for my own amusement, but hopefully for yours as well, are the trailers of some of the goofy movies I remember seeing at Indian Springs in its period of decline: