Friday, July 22, 2011
It's not that I have actually been in a Waldenbooks in quite some time. However, when I first got into D&D, Waldenbooks was my primary source. Corpus Christi had a great hobby store in Leisure Time Hobbies, but that was halfway across town for me. Even by bike, it was ridiculously far away. They had a huge selection of RPG and wargaming goodies and I always love to visit, but visits were rare.
Trips to the mall were much more common. It was the ‘80s, and in a very real way the mall became the social hub of the city. At first, we only had one, Padre Staples Mall. It only had one bookstore, narrow, long Waldenbooks with shelves that seemed too narrow even for a skinny kid still in elementary school. But it was at this Waldenbooks that I discovered TSR’s modules and the Sorcery! quartet of Fighting Fantasy books.
When Corpus got a second mall, Sunrise Mall, it also got a B. Dalton store. In spite of the fact that the store was about the size of modern-day mall chain bookstores, it was huge in comparison to the Waldenbooks. A more open layout allowed for a magazine section that was much easier to browse. It was there that I purchased most of my Dragon magazines. It was also the source of other Fighting Fantasy books, TSR's Endless Quest books, and a veritable horde (or should that be hoard?) of science fiction and fantasy novels. My family made regular trips to the mall, where we would dine at the baked potato place or the Greek restaurant, and then spread out to visit our favorite stores. I would invariably head straight for the B. Dalton and would frequently spend the hour or two at that single store.
Eventually, Waldenbooks opened a store in Sunrise Mall as well. It may have been the floor plan or the location, overlooking the mall’s plaza-like center, but it seemed bigger and more open than the B. Dalton. I remember being thrilled to see a standup display for the second Dragonlance novel there, as well as various Infocom and Ultima computer games. It's also where I first got to flip through the second edition players handbook.
It's also the first place where I saw the gaming section both shrink to a tiny corner and then eventually get locked up in a cabinet. That last was painful: not only could I not easily look through the new modules, but it implied very unpleasant things about my hobby of choice.
Hearing about the demise of Waldenbooks is not nearly as shocking as hearing about the demise of TSR, but it is another nail in the coffin of my youth. It's not likely to touch me personally. Borders had already closed the big box bookstore nearest me and I didn't get my gaming stuff there anymore anyway. But I do have to give Waldenbooks some credit as the first place that really made gaming available to me.
UPDATE: I'd forgotten about Mr. Brannan waxing nostalgic himself for his membership in Waldenbooks' Otherworlds club.