Eastland Shopping Center

Hello there Shoppers! I LOVE this slide! Leaning on their 1956 Buick, daddy sports his cool sunglasses and junior sports a sailor hat.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of going to The Eastland Shopping Center in West Covina. I fondly remember as a four-year old taking the trip from home in Ontario sitting on the fold-down armrest in the backseat of my grandparents pink ‘58 Cadillac Sedan de Ville. I loved that car -of course- it had big tailfins. Eastland was amazing. When we were there I thought we were rich. Our first stop was always the May Company where it seems my grandma always bought a girdle. That was embarrassing.

Then we would have lunch at the ultramodern Clifton’s Cafeteria. I don’t remember what I ate but I do recall washing it down with the reddest fruit punch ever, while being serenaded by a live organist playing the pop standards of the day.

Built in 1957, bordering a newly completed stretch of the San Bernardino Freeway, Eastland was the first shopping center in Southern California to be freeway friendly. The spectacular stained-glass sign tower was visible from miles away. Like the Lakewood Center, there were no loading docks for any of the stores at ground level. A half-mile-long tunnel connected the basements of the stores to keep delivery trucks out of sight –how civilized is that? Speaking of civil these tunnels were also marked Civil Defense fallout shelters. They each had enough room to hold thousands in the event of a nuclear attack.

Shopping Centers came of age in the 1950s. Deluxe retail developments such as Lakewood Center, Fashion Square in Santa Ana and Eastland in West Covina had the designer touch. Specialty stores lined stylish outdoor promenades and courtyards, separated from the vast parking lots. These shopping havens were landscaped with tropical greenery in raised planters with built-in seating areas. Fountains, modern garden art and piped in Muzak, completed the utopian effect. These new suburban shopping centers quickly replaced Southern California’s vintage Main Street shopping districts and reinvented retail merchandising.

The Eastland Shopping Center still stands. None of the original stores remain. In the early 90’s the facade was completely redone in a brightly colored post modern look – if you can call it that, and the May Company was demolished and replaced by Target.