July 6th, 2006

Rocket Man!

wayback time

"All Roads Lead to Shopper's World"

All right now, Sherman, we're setting the Wayback Machine to October, 1951. The place, Route 9 in Framingham, Mass... or maybe it's Natick. Sherman, which side of the border are we landing?
Ready for Official Opening of The Shoppers World
Framingham News October 1951

The newest and largest "sales rooms" in the world - Shoppers World - located on the Worcester Turnpike will be opened officially to the public on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 12 noon.

Built on 70 acres of landscaped land, 50 acres of which are reserved for the free parking of 6,000 cars, like a palace from another world, this unique grouping of 44 independent business enterprises is the result of more than eight years of scientific planning by Suburban Centers Trust, Incorporated, Boston.
(That's right, Sherman, Shopper's World was built by science!)
This new concept of using the purchasing habits of families to inspire the building of a super shipping center, and to determine its construction and design is the story of more than a million man-hours of work by skilled laborers and the technical skills of countless consultants and architects.

Designed to house 50 stores, 44 of which are now complete, Shoppers World is a U-shaped 2 level structure which opens on the 100 foot wide central green that is the length of two football fields.

White paint and concrete accentuate the perfect geometrics of the "world." The base of the U is a dome, 227 feet in diameter and 54 feet high. It is the only permanent suspended domed ceiling in the world and is 4 times the size of the State House dome in Boston.

The "arms" of the U have 325,000 square feet of selling space and are fronted by 15-foot covered walkways on both levels. ...
Shopper's World existed until 1994, when it was unceremoniously razed to make way for the giant Big Box complex of warehouse-style stores around a central parking lot (which was, at that time, the brand-new and shiny "scientifically-designed" retail innovation. Snakes eating snakes and all that.) The Shopper's World sign hung around for a few more years, but eventually had to fall in the name of progress.

Shame, really. I miss that awesome dome.

There's a bit more of the 1951 article at this pretty cool site, along with some great candid shots of the old Shopper's World plaza, including this freaking amazing view of the old Cinemas from the roof.

"I saw at least 20 movies that I didn't see"

The site also has a bit on the old Natick Drive-In, including a 1977 article from a local newspaper reporting on the Drive-In's imminent demise. Most interesting is the mention of the "Adventure Car Hop", a Route 9 establishment I'd never heard of but can totally see happening, plus some crazy facts (at its peak, over 100 speakers a week! were stolen or demolished) and a couple of nice black-and-white views of the sign and screen.

You'll also get some handy tips on how to sneak into the Drive-In, from locals who know!
"We would come in over the back fence, pick up stubs at the concession stand, and just for the hell of it line up in one of the parking spaces as if we were in a car. Someone from the drive-in would come up to us and ask what we were doing there. We would show him our ticket stubs and tell him we drove in."
You just can't do that anymore in America, and maybe that's part of the problem.
It's like this Peanut

Spatch's Laws of Public Venues

Given any number of people mulling about in a public space, such as a subway entryway, Common or other such touristy area, the following rules apply:
1. Two or more people hanging around wearing the same type of shirt are up to no good, and
2. People with clipboards have ulterior motives, so consequently
3. People with clipboards who are wearing the same type of shirt are just out to get you.
These are IRREFUTABLE TRUTHS OF LIFE, people. This TRANSCENDS mere cynicism. Believe it!