Consumers attending to their material needs went shopping, and by the 1960s that meant going to shopping centers. Such centers traced their origins to the increased use of automobiles and the growth of suburbs. The first--including such well-known and distinctive ones as the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri--were built in the 1920s and 1930s. Construction accelerated rapidly following World War II, and by the end of the 1960s there were more than 10,000 shopping centers of all sizes and descriptions. Most notable were the new creations of the 1960s, the enclosed shopping malls. Only homes, schools, and jobs claimed more of the American people's time than shopping malls.
Shopping Centers and Malls
The malls developed in the 1960s had features that have since been refined. By today's standards the early malls seem unsophisticated. Although each had distinctive architectural features and each sought to set itself apart from others, a monotonous predictability prevailed. In mall after mall, the climate-controlled interiors with replanted landscapes blurred indoor and outdoor sensations. No sounds of nature were to be heard--only Muzak, music intended to remove silence without requiring listening.
In Disneyesque fashion, malls reproduced images of the small town. Missing, however, as one scholar has noted, were pool halls, bars, second-hand stores, and the kind of people who patronize them.1 From one mall to the next, even the shoppers seemed to look the same: white, middle-class, suburban. So did those who were there just to hang out,