Friday, July 22, 2011

Farewell to Waldenbooks

Call me slow, but I just realized that Borders going belly-up means all the Waldenbooks are closing too. That hits a little closer to home.

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.


PatrickW said...

It hadn't occurred to me that Waldens was closing as well. Haven't seen one of those in the Houston area in years, but then again, I don't really go to malls anymore.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Back in the day Waldenbooks was my local game store too. Very, very sad to see them go.

Rod said...

Wow, I randomly showed up here following links to old-school gaming stuff, and got a dose of Corpus Christi gaming nostalgia. Makes me wonder if we ever crossed paths. The Games People Play in Sunrise Mall was where I bought almost all my D&D stuff in the early 80s. And they had a Dragon's Lair machine!

James said...

My local Waldenbooks had a great gaming section. It's where I first encountered strange books like "Spell Law" and "The Compleat Alchemist."

BigFella said...

I had my "Other Worlds Club" card back when I was a lad. *sigh*

Only thing constant is change...

trollsmyth said...

Rod: Wow, yeah, I remember that place. Dimly lit with a blue neon sign, and the best place in town to find Top Secret stuff.

I'd be shocked if we ever crossed paths; I really wasn't much into the scene and just played with folks I knew at school or through school. But still, it's great to hear from a fellow CCer. :D

James: Yeah, I can't recall seeing those games there, but I can't say they weren't, either. I do remember they had that big hardback "Fantasy Wargaming" book, plus those for-D&D-but-not-from-TSR books that caused such a fuss back then.

BigFella: I still had mine after graduating from college! I think it was finally destroyed in a freak water park accident.

Rod said...

I forgot all about the Other Worlds Club card! The nostalgia just keeps coming.

trollsmyth said...

I'd forgotten about Mr. Brannan waxing nostalgic himself for his membership in Waldenbooks' Otherworlds club.

GnKC said...

Couldn't have said it any better myself.

Was just doing my once-a-decade cleaning out of my wallet, and was still carrying my old Other Worlds card. Curious, I ran Waldenbooks thru Google, and here I am.

Only the venue is diffeent as my Walden' was at the Independence Center here in Missouri.

In the waning years, always had to have a manager come verify that the card was real. :) / :(

Anyhow, Member 737736 adding a farewell.

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