Monday, August 19, 2013

Save the Carousel!

I moved to NJ from NYC when I was two and a half years old. I'm now almost forty. My mom told me I wanted grass so she wanted me to have it. We moved to mid-Bergen County and I got my grass. And malls. Closest to us was Paramus Park. It was just the place you went for everything. I had my fifth or sixth birthday party at Farrell's, where McDonald's had been residing for years and years. In middle school, my friends and I spent all our babysitting money at G&G and some store, the name escapes me, where you could get chatchke stuff personalized for gifts. (Someone help me out with this one). In high school I'm pretty sure I spent most Friday or Saturday nights there smoking cigarettes with Jerry & Mike, and sometimes with the boys who worked at KB Toys- Tom, Jay and Tom's friend who wore giant furry boots. Most of our time was trying to meet boys from other towns. When I was fifteen, I lied about my age to work in CVS. You had to be sixteen to work there. But Ann & I wanted to work in Paramus Park & that seemed like the best bet to be hired with no real retail experience. She had Burger King on her resume and I had a deli. CVS eventually left or got kicked out and is also now something else. They broke it up into two spaces and one of the spaces became some kind of gaming store- not sure what it is now. I spent my first CVS check at Littman Jewelers on a birthstone ring. I put it on layaway and paid a little every month until I quit five months later. My mom paid the rest as a holiday gift surprise.

I got lost in there as a kid. Somehow I made it to the mall office by myself. They called for my mom over a loud speaker. It just so happened my father was in there on business- Macy's was a client. It was just one of those things you don't want to hear over a loud speaker at a mall- that you child who is supposed to be with your wife is at the lost & found. As something "lost". I feel like I lived in that mall. I can close my eyes and picture the guys in Sid's Pants. I remember thinking the guy with the long black hair in Just Shirts was the cutest I'd ever seen, who I coincidentally became friends with later on working together somewhere else. There was the girl with really long eyelashes and huge black permed hair that worked in Sgarlato's pizza. Where the pizza was always so hot (but delicious) that you burned your mouth. I think before Express existed, Canadians was in Express's old-old spot and that was where you got STEEL jeans and those polyester faux-layered outfits. Like, where it looked like a button down white shirt with a vest over it. But wait! It was actually just one piece- a vest with shirt arms & neck sewn together! Novel!

Today: 8-19-13
Some things stick out the most though. Real nostalgia. There was the ginormous waterfall everyone threw their change in to make wishes, that was next to the escalator.  It seems huge in my mind but it probably was a lot smaller in real life. Then there was gigantic metal statue thing. I feel like it was a bird with a guy on it but I have no idea. It was just always there- a  landmark of the mall. Some years ago, they moved it to another part of the mall but it's still there. And last, but definitely not least, was the carousel. It plays totally bizarre songs like "Found a Peanut" which, for all intents and purposes, is about dying from eating an old rotten peanut. But it makes me laugh every time I walk by and hear it. I will never forget going on that carousel with my grandparents when they were in from Florida or begging my mom for just one ride. That was also when The Children's Place had that big slide that looked like an old TV set. I'm sure that was one more casualty of insurance and litigious parents. We'd go on the slide, get our clothes for a new school year, and get in a ride on that carousel where what color horse you were able to get on was of the utmost importance. They were the prettiest of carousel horses too. Blue, pink, purple, airbrushed. It's small, doesn't go fast, but it was the perfect kind for a first ride.

I didn't live in Bergen for about ten years. And I didn't have a child until 2009. But at one point, for about a year, we were going to Paramus Park EVERY SINGLE SATURDAY NIGHT. Why? We would eat at Bensi, which had a liquor license. They had a TV in the back room they'd turn to Nick Jr for me and the other parents back there. We'd get a glass of sangria each and have a nice dinner with our kid. Then, we'd let him run his energy out to the now-small fountain, as the waterfall had been taken away years ago, throw his pennies in, and then run to the carousel. We'd let him go on one or two times, run back through the mall, I'd pick up a thing or two in Gymboree, BabyGap, and/or The Children's Place (minus the slide). That was just our Saturday night routine. Then Paramus Park management dropped the hammer on Bensi and we stopped going to that mall altogether as our routine. But every now and again I'd get over there with my son. I'd be going to run an errand, like pick up a gift for a child's party, but I'd really be choosing THERE because of the carousel. And I liked that weird store that is also now gone- the one that was part hair salon, part Spencer's, part beauty supply.

Now they are taking away the carousel. YUP. THAT'S WHAT I SAID. Taking it away. Why? I've heard it's because the management wants more money from the carousel company. I don't know if that's the case or not. So this isn't "hard news"- just word of mouth. My guess is that they think they are going to do a major overhaul of the mall and they want bigger, better, cooler, etc. But no one wants that. We just want to keep some of the charm we have all loved over the years. If we want bigger and faster, we'll go to Garden State Plaza. But that's not what the people who frequent Paramus Park want.

I get needing to make it a more viable mall as a whole. I understand that Paramus Park has to compete with Garden State Plaza, and now, Bergen Town Center. But it can compete without losing all that made it what people like about it. They like that it feels like home. A movie theater can be added and rocking chairs and whatever else that has been done to improve and upgrade. But leave us our damn carousel! Please! There are so few simple joys in life and that carousel just happens to be one of them. It's not Six Flags Great Adventure. It's not some kind of crazy thing that gets a story in the news. But it's something that gives a smile to all the little kids that come through there daily. It's been a smile, a bribe, a treat, a reward, and quality time spent together as family.

Today is supposed to be the last day the carousel will be giving rides. So if you want to go over there and take a photo and/or stop in the mall office and complain, this is your shot. The mall office is up by the food court. My friend says you have to look for it, it's between stores but it's there. Or you can email the GM- or the management phone number is 201-261-8000 x4. She might as well get a flood of angry mommy emails and/or calls. At least you can feel like you have a voice! As for me, I need to go to Claire's or something like it for a new earring for my son. So I guess I'll be taking a ride over myself later today...


  1. Everyone should call or stop in regarding the carousel. Maybe they will actually listen! That said, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and my favorite part was the part about you getting lost when your father was there for a meeting. You can't make that stuff up!

  2. Hello -- My name is William Lamb -- I'm an editor at The Record. We're doing a story tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 20) about the carousel and would love to talk to you! Please call me ASAP at 973-569-7122! Thank you!