Summertime June 1978. About 2pm CST. My friend LA, her next door neighbor NM and I went shopping for Father’s Day gifts at McCreless mall. My mom dropped us off, LA’s mom was to pick us up. We had 2 hours to roam the mall.
And roam we did. Down to Monkey Wards to ride the escalators. A quick Orange Julius. Into Neisners, then Hallmark. Back to the other end to Mr Dunderbachs for free samples. We watched the ladies decorating cakes through the window of Cox’s bakery. Our last stop was Woolworth for Old Spice Father’s Day gift sets.
As we walk around the store, LA pulls me down an aisle around a corner and goes “Take this!” As she shoves an Orange Crush t-shirt into my bag. I’m grabbing my bag, twisting away from her. “Stop!” She won’t. “Sssshhh” is all she says.
I panic and run out of the store. I started to leave the mall but her mom was my ride home. I’m scared and felt sick. I sit on a bench in the middle of the mall looking at LA still in the store. Standing at the opening, she keeps motioning to me, mouthing “Jill! Come back in here” waving her hands to “come here!”
Nope! I sit there in a state of shock. She eventually disappears back into the store. Time goes by until we go meet her mom at the entrance of the mall.
I slink into the backseat. I’m sure her mom knows. I say nothing. None of us speak. The ride home was the longest ever! I’m dropped off with a quick “thank you for the ride, bye”.
I race into my room and hide the T-shirt in the bottom of my pajama drawer underneath everything. Praying no one sees me. Whew! I’m safe. I know I can’t wear the shirt. Too bad. I like Orange Crush. But my mom would ask where I got it.
Around 7 pm, the phone rings. All I hear is “they did what? We’ll be right over”. Then “Jill! Get in here”.
I remember the scene like it was yesterday. LA, NM and I with our backs to each other, sitting on an ottoman in the middle of LA’s living room. NM’s mom repeating that she listened on the extension as NM told her friend G everything about us shoplifting. My thought bubble is “I didn’t take anything! LA shoved a shirt in my bag. Not my fault.”
LA’s mom was devastated. “Why would you do that LAB? You had $17 in your wallet. Instead of paying, you were going to give your dad hot Old Spice? Don’t you think he deserves better than that?”
I didn’t realize while I was sitting on the bench that the two continued to “collect” items. The next morning right at 10 when the store opened, we were taken back to return everything. NM and I are crying. I said “I’m sorry, I will never do this again” as I handed the store manager the T-shirt. LA is not even sorry. “Here” as she hands back the Old Spice.
I’ll never forget the store manager. He was nice but firm. “You girls are brave to come in here and talk to me. It helps that you returned everything. I hope you learned your lesson. But no matter what, you are banned from the store!” “Wait! why? For how long?” Answer “Forever”
Not exactly the case though. When I worked in the mall later on, I went to Woolworth’s all the time. And I’d just sit there enjoying a milkshake and an order of french fries. I felt so grown up sitting at that counter. I have to admit though, I always felt a little uncomfortable.
I’ll always be friends with LA. She and I got into lots of hijinks together. Our parents encouraged us to be friends. Her parents liked me. I was the quiet studious one that was LA’s tutor. And my parents were glad that she brought me out of my shell. I’d like to say we each complemented each other. But in actuality I followed her. I might even have a few other confessions were she is involved. Lol! My dear sweet friend LA. Miss you girl.
As always, more to come.