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Remember the old Trenholm Plaza?

Trenholm Plaza, shown in a photo taken Aug 20, 1979 by Russell Maxey. The sign for the shopping center included a floodlight, at the time considered state of the art technology.
Trenholm Plaza, shown in a photo taken Aug 20, 1979 by Russell Maxey. The sign for the shopping center included a floodlight, at the time considered state of the art technology. COURTESY OF RICHLAND LIBRARY

The recent news that Hooligan’s deli in Trenholm Plaza closed after 30 years of operation made me tie on my thinking cap just a little tighter.

Trenholm Plaza has been around for about as long as I have – um, more than 50 years – and recalling the shopping center’s earliest days was not merely a mental exercise but a sentimental one, too.

Generally speaking, shopping centers are fairly benign places. The grocery store. The cheap-stuff store. The Chinese take-out joint. The tanning/nail parlor and the $8 haircut operation.

But with the news of Hooligan’s passing, I set about to look through the Plaza’s glassy storefronts, past all the fancy goods that today’s stores offer up, and into the origins of the place.

What I discovered was a treasure trove of sweet memories ushered in through the swooshing “Magic Carpet” door at the A&P Supermarket, served up at Rose’s “luncheonette,” and illuminated by the Plaza’s other-worldly outdoor lighting fixture.

Remember that light?

Columbian Sally Huguley does. “It looked like the spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” she said.

And it did. When the skyscraping luminary was erected in the early 1960s, it was considered state-of-the-art stuff. An article in the July 8, 1960, edition of this newspaper noted that development of Trenholm Plaza would include a “large paved parking area equipped with the latest type of floodlighting.”

Another article touted Trenholm Plaza as “the biggest shopping center in Columbia,” which would have an A&P featuring “modern conveniences, including a ‘Magic Carpet’ door, which opens and closes automatically …”

The article also noted that the store’s meat department would be a place where “the housewife can quickly choose what she wants from the many sizes and cuts in the open-faced refrigerated cases.”

Well there you go, housewives!

Located at the corner of Trenholm Road and Forest Drive on 20 acres of property that once was a golf course, 30 or so storefronts initially wrapped around the parking lot with the infamous floodlight showing the way.

The way, I suppose, to some fond memories for many Columbians.

“I remember riding bikes to Rose’s (dime store) and eating at the counter,” said Susan Keenan. “They had balloons you could buy for probably a nickel. Each one had a ‘prize’ in them and the hope was to get one that had the banana split giveaway. I loved that!”

“My dad’s store, Garber’s Shoes, was in the same location as Chico’s is today,” said Rosann Garber Brodie. “On Saturdays and during the summer, Dad would take me to lunch at Rose’s. The luncheonette was on the left side of the store, against the wall. We’d sit in a booth. … I loved a grilled cheese sandwich with potato chips and a Coca-Cola. I also remember my mother buying me a book about Amelia Earhardt at the bookstore. My first ‘adult’ hardcover book.”

Mention of the little bookstore, which was near the now-closed Hooligan’s, brought back several memories of my own. A nice lady ran the place. She kept a grand selection of children’s books and of those, horse books, which I adored.

“The bookstore was owned by Mrs. (June) Chandler,” said John Temple Ligon. “I drove a yellow school bus my junior year in high school, and my neighbors on Springwood Road asked me to park it next to the Piggly Wiggly (where Fresh Market is now) on the weekends. We walked behind the Piggly Wiggly to shoot our 22s along the creek.”

Weekends.

Saturday morning was the time for a lot of young boys to get their hair cut at Humphries Barber Shop, near Mrs. Chandler’s bookstore.

“There was only one style,” said Rick Detwiler. “Buzzed.”

And then, there was Sunday afternoon.

“Mom and Dad used to take us to Edisto Farms Dairy (where Hooligan’s was) on the way home from church at St. Michael’s and All Angels if we got A’s on our report cards,” said Cantey Wright.

The Dairy was an ice cream parlor. I remember how chilly the store was – a delightful place to be in the summertime, especially if your home didn’t have air-conditioning. An impressive array of creamy ice creams were kept in cardboard tubs. If you needed an empty tub for a school project or anything else, the Dairy was happy to give you one.

“I remember birthday parties in the back room of Edisto,” said Robbie Dana Reading.

Yep. Balloons on the ceiling, and if you were lucky, a store-bought cake decorated with fat, sugary roses.

Sweet memories, for sure.

And then a bittersweet one.

It was Christmastime, 1965 or so. I was lusting after a bike with butterfly handlebars and a banana seat. So, I informed Santa Claus of my wish.

Now during the holidays at Trenholm Plaza, sparkling two-wheelers were lined up in the front window of Western Auto. While standing outside the store, straddling my banged-up bike which I had ridden from home (and which, by the way, was no big deal back in the day), I spied a lovely green bike, tilted at a kick-stand angle, in the line-up.

It was perfect. Banana seat. Butterfly handlebars. Maybe Santa Claus would bring me a bike like that, I remember thinking. I looked closer at the emerald beauty, smudging my paw prints all over the storefront glass.

It was then that I saw a red “SOLD” tag and upon closer inspection, a last name written in black ink on the same tag. “McAden.” My last name.

My heart burst. Mom and Dad had gotten me a new bike!

On Christmas morning, fire-ash boot tracks led from the opening of the living room fireplace to the bike which stood unwrapped before the Christmas tree. A gift from Santa Claus.

I stood before the emerald beauty with the butterfly handlebars and the banana seat as one of life’s most bittersweet lessons sunk in.

And to think I thought shopping centers were benign places.

Know of a story that needs telling? Email salley@hartcom.net.

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