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Walkin’ the Mall

On average Hilo gets 126.72 inches of rain annually. It’s not all hard rain, but I’m a ‘fair-weather’ walker. I don’t even like drizzles.

So for me when it rains, Liliuokalani Park isn’t an attractive place to walk. Unless of course, I’m already there when the skies open up. Once I’m wet, I’m wet. But, if it’s damp and drizzly when I leave the house, I head for Prince Kuhio Mall and accept what has become a national identification. That’s right. I become a Mall Walker.


When it looks like this outside the mall, the view inside is dry and climate controlled.


Oddly enough, though it wasn’t called mall walking at the time, perambulatory activity is very much in keeping with the original vision of the shopping mall. Victor Gruen, an architect credited with starting the shopping mall experience, saw more than stores. He envisioned opportunities for social life and recreation within a protected pedestrian environment.

The first shopping mall opened in 1956 as a secure shopping environment for suburban women. But when the Stockade mall opened in Minnesota that year, local doctors advised their cardiac patients to exercise at the mall during bad weather. Of which I’ve heard there’s a lot in Minnesota.


Malls do have a lot to offer an observant walker, like these children’s rides. And sometimes there’s even a train. Though usually the train is under wraps before the shops open due to a lack of riders. I’ve seen stroller moms and grandparents feeding coins for a ride so their toddler can recreate while they take a break.


There are “rides” for adult walkers also. Toyota displays cars at Prince Kuhio Mall. Perhaps the walkers notice them, or maybe they’re just a mile marker.


And then there’s window shopping. For a few steps I really need a new set of rattan outdoor furniture perfectly accompanied by new place settings. It would go along with my perfect garden. Good thing the store’s not open yet.

This week I overheard an older couple peering into a clothing store window.
She gesturing towards a mannequin: What d’you think of that?
He: Huh.
She: Well, I mean with an overblouse which is how I would wear it.

All in all, Mall Walking is a great boon for people who can’t easily exercise outside and removes all perceived obstacles to fitness. Malls have:
• Climate control.
• Amenities – Clean rest rooms, benches, water fountains.
• Level surfaces.
• Security.
• Good lighting.
• Social interaction.
And Mall Walking, so far, is free, though some malls offer special programs for people who pay an optional annual fee.


Malls don’t provide the same experience as an outdoor walk. But that’s the point, And, if the real plants look a bit sad, the artificial ones are perfect.



Featured Photo: Liliuokalani Park, Hilo HI.

Photos by Author.

Belza B, Allen P, Brown DR, Farren L, Janicek S, Jones DL, King DK, Marquez DX, Miyawaki CE, Rosenberg D. Mall walking: A program resource guide. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center; 2015

Jessica Firger.” Could Walking Programs Save America’s Malls?” Newsweek. June 7, 2015.

Dorene Internicola.” These Malls are Made for Walking.” Reuters. Jan. 25, 2010.

Georgia Perry. “Mall Walkers: The Suburban Exercises Keeping America Wholesome.” The Atlantic. Sept. 21, 2015.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.

2 thoughts on “WALKIN’ THE MALL

  1. Hi Sandra,
    Fun reading as always and I applaud your suggestions to other like-minded walkers about where to go in Hilo’s inclement weather when the charms of Liliou are dampened.
    A couple of reminiscences: I believe the first completely enclosed mall (thus distinguishing it from earlier, open-air versions) in the US was/is named Southdale Center, in Edina (just outside Minneapolis) Minnesota. I am not aware that it was ever a ‘Stockade Mall’ or built on an old stockade. It opened in 1956 and I suspect that I was there on opening day given that we lived about 10 minutes away. I do not recall specifically being on hand for the grand opening but I do recall going there numerous times before we moved away in late 1959. What sticks in my mind was the large central atrium that seemed populated with tropical plants. I suppose any green plant probably seemed ‘tropical’ coming in from a frigid Minnesota winter. Also, the water tower with ‘Southdale’ painted on it–still there–has an iconic, space-agey, shape, and the parking lots were marked with animal names and graphics so that patrons could find their cars. I do not recall if I had a favorite animal.
    This not unlike the system at ‘Mall of America’ (not that far away) where state names are used in their parking structures. When you blog about that, I have a few more ‘down memory lane’ reminiscences.
    As far as Minnesota doctors and their pioneering treatment of heart patients. Much of that is probably due to C. Walton Lillehei, a heart surgeon at U of Minn, and Ancel Keyes, a nutrition scientist there.The BIG influence nationally, was Paul Dudley White (little or no connections to Minnesota) getting Dwight D. Eisenhower up and about after they finally correctly diagnosed his first heart attack in 1955. White’s advice seemed very counter-intuitive, but turns out to have been very good and is still recommended (under Dr’s care) today.
    Daily movement, from small to large, is still the best medicine, and as long as one can, a sprightly walk can be a major mood-lifting start to one’s day. But, even if one can’t walk, chair exercises, water exercises, and so on, elevate the mood and the physiology.
    I mean to comment on more of your informative and fun blogs, but sometimes all I can do is say: “Gee, I’m going for a walk and I guess the spring cleaning may have to get pushed back to the fall…which fall? I don’t know.”

  2. Hi David —
    Thanks for taking the time to comment with the ‘insider’ scoop on Minnesota malls. What I called Stockade may have been due to an auto-correct, in which case poor editing on my part. Southdale sounds more like a ‘proper’ mall name. Keep going for those walks.


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