Centre is knocked, but the memories remain
AH, the Saturday afternoons I spent circling the balcony around Dundalk Shopping Centre as a teenager, with the security guards moving me and the hordes of other spotty teenagers along.
This week, as the bulldozers move in to start demolition work at the old shopping centre ahead of Tesco's redevelopment work, the town has been swept by a wave of nostaglia over the centre which opened its doors in 1974.
Then the shopping centre was the first covered shopping centre outside of Dublin and proved to be a major attraction both to locals and those from surrounding towns and villages, with people coming from Drogheda, Monaghan and Newry to the centre, which included anchor tenants Penneys and Quinnsworth.
How I loved going into Carroll's newsagents with my pocket money to buy Roy of the Rovers or Shoot magazine every week or climbing the stairs to the first-floor bookshop and the wonder when all the Christmas annuals would be stacked at the top of the steps.
A few years later and Fridays after school or Saturday afternoons were spent flicking through the albums in Slipped Disc, trying to catch a glimpse of the latest girl to catch your eye. You knew every album in the racks and couldn't wait to get home to play a new single or album on the 3-in-1 stereo which was the latest in mod cons with a five-way graphic equaliser. Teenagers today with iPods, iPhones and iTunes don't know what they are missing.
The start to the schoolboys league season meant a visit to either Richie Blackmore Sports upstairs in the centre or Emerald Sports in Earl Street for new boots, but Richie Blackmore played in goal for Dundalk and his was the coolest shop for that alone.
I'm too young to remember, but I'm assured the best bands in the land played in the Ashley Arms at the back of the centre, but I am old enough to remember queuing to watch Star Wars at the cinema. I think my last visit to the cinema before it closed was to see U2's Rattle and Hum, and the same friend who joined me for that overhyped film introduced me to his future wife when we met at his brother's 21st upstairs in Pa's.
Whenever you were selling flags for a football club or school, you wanted the front door of the shopping centre or the front of Dunnes Stores in Park Street as your pitch. Plenty of potential customers and craic for an hour or so. Time would fly by. Now both are no more.
Connolly's Delicatessen used to sell crossiants long before there was a Cuisine de France in every local store and for a time during secondary school the mother would buy a few every Saturday morning.
When you read back on the names of the shops in Dundalk Shopping Centre, it is little wonder that the centre it was such a bustling spot, Penneys, Macys, Top Drawer, Twiggs, Slipped Disc, Ashley Arms, Pa's, Centre Travel, Pulse Pacemaker, Connolly Shoes, Dowd Menswear, Market Fresh, Peter Mark, Carroll's Bookshop, Richie Blackmore Sports, Coffee House, Mary Grehan's surgery, Radio Carousel, Smack Dry Cleaners, Clarks, Casino cinemas, Super Crazy Prices, Quinnsworth, Grafton Shoes, Tara Gifts, Edward Fashion Fabrics, Murphy Jewellers, Gerry Shoes, O'Donoghue's Leather Goods and stop the lights.
The centre had well known structural problems and had lost its appeal as more and more units were bought out by Tesco, with only Traynor's Meats and Hickey's Chemists remaining, but they will move to prefabricated buildings after Christmas to accommodate the complete demolition of the centre for a new super Tesco.
It might be progress, but it consigns to history a building with fond memories for many.