South Bay Plaza

   It was another trip down memory lane today as I went in search of a Walmart closer to me than El Cajon. On the city’s bus trip planner, a Walmart was indicated in the Chula Vista area, but from the instructions given it seemed like quite a hassle to get there. For a few weeks I had put off going to this particular one just because of the difficulty. Well, today I looked for it again on the trip planner, but then decided to find my own route to it. I have to laugh because what I found was so simple and convenient,  I can’t for the life of me understand why the city’s trip planner website didn’t know. The bus that goes right in front of the shelter I’m staying at goes right in front of the Walmart I was looking for.

The Walmart is on Highland Avenue, a main road running north and south. Back in the day it was the main road with most of the shopping centers, restaurants, etc. My mother’s high school is on this road, as well as the Dairy where my grandfather worked the last years of his life. And during those years my grandparents lived in a cottage on the Dairy property.

When I found the Walmart, I also discovered that across the street is the South Bay Plaza. When I was a child, the South Bay Plaza was the place to shop (when visiting Grammy). There isn’t much recognizable about the Plaza now, except for the general layout of the buildings – twin shop strips running parallel to each other with a common area between. Back when my grandmother worked as a secretary at the public school, she used to dress up on Washington’s Birthday as Martha Washington, (long before Washington’s and Lincoln’s day’s were combined for “President’s Day”), and she walked around the Plaza with “George”, talking to the shoppers. I never really knew the cause of her dressing up for the occasion. I am assuming she did this as an educational project of the school.   

I remember going to the South Bay Plaza to watch Santa Claus “fly” in. Such promoters, thinking they’ve come up with a creative idea, really don’t understand how disappointing it is for true “Claus” believers to watch as Santa flies in on a helicopter (helicopter = not impressed when expecting reindeer. People always seem to under estimate the importance of Rudolph to the whole Christmas mystique. It was perhaps just a year or two later, at the same shopping center that I wised up to the whole thing. I wasn’t disappointed or saddened, as some kids are. Actually I was quite proud of myself for figuring out that Santa wasn’t real. That was about 45 years ago. Now, like most aging shopping centers, half the stores sit dark and empty, and most of the stores that do exist are low rate discount types.

To me, South Bay Plaza was more than just a shopping center, it possessed qualities I just didn’t find at other shopping centers – perhaps just the quality of memories, but that was certainly enough. I’m sure it won’t be long before the whole thing is torn down and something better replaces it. That’s how things go, nothing remains the same.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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