Revisiting Eastland Shopping Plaza

It is very apparent that I need to organize things a bit better at home. Whenever I need to find something that I haven’t seen for a long time, inevitably it turns into a total upheaval of seldom used drawers, boxes that were packed away in the attic or garage, and even containers hidden under the beds.

Such was the case recently as I was searching for family photos, which by the way, I never did find. However I did come across a group of photos that I hadn’t thought about for a long time. In fact, these have been packed away for almost 40 years!

When I turned 18 shortly after I had graduated from Serra High School, I began working at Gimbels in Eastland Shopping Plaza. As a Christmas “extra,” I was moved from department to department throughout the season until I finally was moved to the Camera Department, where I stayed until I resigned after college graduation and headed off to California.

The Camera Department was located on the First Floor and ran alongside the Up Escalator to the Second Floor. Positioned behind the counter, I looked out of the side entrance to the store and could easily see Wander Sales at the end of the mall. If you were facing the camera counter, the Coin and Stamp Department was to the right, and directly behind you was the Stationary and Card Department, immediately adjacent to the “Notions” Department.

Periodically, we would receive new camera models and would be permitted to take some test photographs with them to check out all of the features. I hung on to a few of them and have posted them below. These were taken prior to the mall was enclosed, and a few of them were taken on a snowy day in November that was the day before Thanksgiving. Others were taken later that December and in April.

The parking lot outside of Gimbels front door – Day before Thanksgiving – 1971

I hope you enjoyed seeing these photos. Maybe you knew one of them, maybe you saw one of them and just maybe it was fun to reflect back over 40 years ago when Eastland was young, when Gimbels was thriving and when days were just a bit gentler.

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44 Responses to Revisiting Eastland Shopping Plaza

  1. Marky Billson says:

    I never knew Eastland as anything but a place to be made fun of. You just showed me Eastland as a place to be proud of. I really commend you for that. I always wondered what the place looked like in its heyday. Now I know.

  2. Allen Dinning says:

    I grew up down the road from Eastland. My mother worked at Wanders sales while I was only 7 or 8 she quit working there when my father died. Eventually she worked at the lottery booth until the mall went by way of the dinosaur . I have nothing but great memories of Eastland, I worked at Carl’s car wash back beside Firestone I think and the movie theater. I grew up in that mall between the mall and partying outback with my friends it was a magical time and place. My name is Allen Dinning and my mothers name is Laura . Thanks for the memory my older sisters and brother would love to see this stuff.

  3. Cathy Cardilla-Gallucci says:

    Hi Jim.
    What year did you graduate from Serra? My family all worked there including me at one time or another. My Aunt Rosalie Drago was the cafeteria manager from 1963 to 1970. My husband Sam was the first Maintenance man and his Godfather Jimmy Vitale took over for him. My mother-in-law cooked for the Friars for 35 years. Her name was Josephine Gallucci and I started working with her in 1973 and cooked with her for 7 years before moving over to the High School when Mary Farnin passed away. So I started in the main office as a secretary in 1980. I worked there a total of 35 years retiring at the end of 2008. It’s funny how things and places seem to connect people.

    I remember Eastland very well and if you could’nt find what you wanted anywhere else you could always find it at Gimbels. Thanks for the memories………….Cathy

    • Jim says:

      I graduated in 1969. I remember the name Drago, but she was a classmate of mine at Holy Name School in Duquesne. Her name was Janie Drago. I don’t remember your husband Sam, but I do remember Jimmy Vitale. The only person I remember from the office was Fr. Luke’s secretary, Mrs. Schaler(?) (or something.) I can’t remember her name. I have such fond memories of Gimbels too, what a classy place to work.

      • Cathy Cardilla-Gallucci says:

        Janie Drago is my cousin. She is married and has 3 grown sons. She lives in Cranberry. Our Aunt Rosalie ran the cafeteria when you were at Serra and made everything from scratch. As I remember the food was great. I think the secretary you remember was Mrs. Sheidel. There was another secretary names Mrs. Manley too. I’ll bet you also knew Mike Luft. He graduated in 1968 and was the Principal the last few years I worked at Serra. He started out as a Religion Teacher and was Dean of Students as well. He was a wonderful boss and is still at Serra back teaching Religion. Have you ever gone back to any of the events that they have held?

  4. John Anderson says:

    Eastland……….It’s a time capsule, it’s a place and time that you either experienced, or you didn’t. I knew no one in the pictures, and yet I felt as if I did. I moved from Park Terrace to Green valley in the summer of 67. I was 8 years old. The first Saturday there, my brother and I went over to the East land Theater and did a matinee with Paul Shannon from WTAE. I loved the old opera version of Hanzel and Gretel in claymation. Many others!
    As the years rolled on, Eastland became as much a part of me, as I of it. The old record mart, McSorley’s, Islay’s, the game room, Gee Bee’s, Woolworth’s banana splits (pop a balloon)……how about Billy Carter’s visit with his Billy beer at Wander’s. All my clothing came out of that place. Mom’s Mother’s Day chocolate covered cherries from down stairs in Gimbels. Lunch with Gram and mom downstairs in Gimbels. Gabe’s for a haircut, the puppet shows, Kreigans Christmas displays. Doe’s anyone remember the prehistoric frozen man in the big chunk of ice in front of Woolworths???
    There’s really not enough room here.

    Man I really miss “the good ole days”
    John Anderson
    610 Lynda Lane-Green Valley

  5. Ralph Dowling says:

    I worked at Kinney Shoes, Woolworth’s and Stirling Drugs between 1965 and 1968. It was so convenient to walk down over the hill from Overhill Drive and go to work evey day. Didn’t have to drive my car until I started hanging out at the A&W to meet girls.

  6. Bonnie Sari says:

    Hi, I am Bonnie Krise Sari I worked at Gimbel’s during Christmas break from college. I was from Buena vista, but had relatives in Duquesne and West Mifflin.

  7. Les Pastor says:

    Those were THE days. Long done.

    Les Pastor
    MSH Class of ’64

  8. Diann M. Topley says:

    I have photos of Duuesne in the 60’s but have no clue how to post them. Will you help me?

    Diann Topley

  9. Kathy Dobransky Hudak says:

    Eastland was the place to go to, and I too remember it well, looking at all the fantastic old pics brings back so many great memories for me and just looking at these hairstyles and clothes, were we all sharp at the time!!!!!! Thanks Jim for the memories.

  10. concertalk says:

    When Eastland opened everyone thought it was the coolest thing. We would beg our older friends with drivers licenses to drive us there just to walk around. There was a clothing store there – I believe it was called 2 Brothers Boutique – that sold hip clothes that the department stores did not carry. Good memories. Thanks for posting.

  11. deb says:

    I remember Eastland so well. I used to buy my ‘school shoes’ at Baker’s. Loved going to the theater there as well. I remember when Eastland was the ‘place to be’. What a sad loss.

  12. Dale Marhefka says:

    My mother worked on the second floor in the infants wear dept. I remember driving her to and from work. We lived in Liberty Boro.

    • My Mother also worked at Gimbels in the Infant and Childrens Dept for Years!!!! Bet Your mom and her were Good Friends! What was Your Moms Name? My Mother was Anne Stalmack. She saw all the Good Sales and My Kids were always dressed to the Nines!!!! I too used to drive her to work so I could have the Car! Plus I loved the employees discounts!!!!!!

      • Dale Marhefka says:

        At that time my mother’s name was Betty (Dorothy) Marhefka. Where did you live at that time. I graduated from McKeesoport HS in ’64. What a memorable time it was…..I miss those days.

  13. Lorie says:

    My husband and I met while selling shoes at Kinney’s in Eastland Mall. Thirty+ years later we are still married. Thank you Eastland Mall!

  14. Packy says:

    I grew up on Overhill Dr and Eastland was my back yard, never thought this would happen.

  15. Dennis Andrison says:

    I worked at the Thom McAn shoe store….a man named Algeri was the store manager, Pat worked the front counter, another guy named Ponzi was the top salesman and my good friend John king worked there as well. There were others, I see thier faces but their names are missing.

  16. John (Jack) Berta says:

    Liked your story about Eastland. Courious about a couple of your photo subjects. #1: Candi Berta and I share the same last name but I know we are not closely related. Was she of the Bertas from Glassport? #2: Nancy Rita Ritter, could she possibly be from the Trafford area? #3: Bonnie Krise,
    maybe from Duquesne or West Mifflin? Also, the zombie movie was partly filmed at the Monroeville Mall. They meet there on anniversaries.

  17. Karen Smith says:

    Imagine my surprise seeing my picture. I worked there from 1966-1976. I have so many fond memories of Gimbels,and of Eastland.Thanks so much–I love your blog.My late husband and most of my father’s family were from the Duquesne/West Mifflin area. Thanks again.

    Karen Schumacher Smith

  18. Alice says:

    Don’t know where my comment went. Posting again.
    My Aunt is Iola. She is up in age now, but still going 🙂 She lives new Harrisburg with her Daughter.
    I knew Denise O’Donovan, too, and others I have not seen in a long time.

    • Jim says:

      Alice, please tell your Aunt Iola that Jim Volk said hello! She and I had lots of fun working together. She worked in the Stamp & Coin Department along with a lady by the name of Helen Groves. Wow… over 40 years ago! Give her a hug for me too!

      • Alice says:

        Hi Jim,
        I passed the photo and your message on to her daughter who will see she sees it.
        Thank you.

        I thought I recognized your name, though not sure I ever knew you. But the Barrets and others Serra boys used to coax us girls to the Serra dances so there were girls there for the boys to dance with

        Denise O’Donovan lived near me. After I went to college and married right after, I lost track of a lot of people I knew then.

        Thanks again 🙂

      • Alice says:

        My Aunt Iola didn’t even recognize herself that was so long ago ..LOL
        Thanks for the photo. She and her Daughter really enjoyed it :))
        Hugs back, too ((*))

  19. Joanne says:

    Oh, yea, that was the place. My mother worked at McSorley’s in the bottom part of the mall. And remember Eastland Theater? My husband and I started dating in 1986 and the Eastland theater was still there. We would go there and the theater would be empty. One time we really were the only two there. the only time I saw it crowded was when Fatal Attraction was playing

  20. Terry Chodock Taubman says:

    J.C.Penney’s had a junior board of high school students that they picked to sell in the junior clothing departments.Those were many years of vacation and summer employment for me. I remember being so excited when my boyfriend, Michael Caplan, would pick me up after work and we’d go do something. Those were the mid 60’s.The mall in it’s day was pretty cool!

    • Debbie Gavlik says:

      In 1970 & 71 I was chosen to be on the ‘Teen Board’ at J.C. Penney’s at Eastland Mall representing DHS. Me and seven other girls from local high schools modeled clothes in the store and at ladies clubs and church fashion shows. We also got to work there, so I spent much of my Senior year at the Mall. It was so much fun and I loved the discount!

  21. Dee Clark says:

    I rememberr Immel’s

  22. Tiy Becker says:

    Wasnt the zombie movie taped there?? My Mom and Dad and all my Aunts and Uncles tried out for the Extras…

    • Kathleen DiPetta says:

      I believe that was filmed in Monroeville Mall. I think there was another part or another movie that was shot at Century 3 Mall too.


  23. Mary Ann (Beam) Markle says:

    I knew Denise O’Donnavan when she worked at Equibank, about 5 years after this photo was taken in 1971. If anyone knows where she is now, I’d love to re-connect.
    I used to shop at Eastland both before and after it was enclosed. It was a big loss when business declined there and it was so sad the last few years when everything inside was crumbling and leaking, dirty and smelling like mold.

    • Dennis says:

      Mary Ann, My sister Denise has always lived in the McKeesport area, now actually in White Oak. I don’t even remember her working at Eastland then, maybe because I was living down in the MD/DC area. I’ll let her know you were asking about her!
      Dennis O’Donovan

      • Alice says:

        *Dennis O’Donovan*
        Blast from the past name

      • Mary Ann (Beam) Markle says:

        Dennis, I just returned to this page and had forgotten you said you’d let Denise know that I asked about her. I’m on FB, if she’d like to reconnect. I still stay in contact with several Equibank people and we even have a mini-reunion every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

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