SLC Celebrates a New Shopping Mall: The City Creek Center

Think upscale.  Think big.  Think trendy.  Think amazing.

This past weekend was the grand opening of the City Creek Center: 90 stores plus condominiums and offices spanning 2 whole city blocks with the City Creek splashing through it and a retractable roof for inclement days.  Under construction for about 5 years, according to TV and newspaper coverage the mall exceeds expectations.  (I haven’t been there yet.)

Aerial view of City Creek Center roof under construction

Probably the only way this all could have come to pass is by being backed and funded by–you guessed it–The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Built by City Creek Reserve, Inc. a for-profit firm owned by the LDS Church, the $2 billion construction project was accomplished without loans or a mortgage.  It was paid for in cash; almost unheard of these days.  The Church, known for its deep pockets, is quick to point out that none of the monies came from church member tithes.  (Note: to remain a member in good standing in the Church and retain your temple recommend card, one must tithe at least 10% of income and time.)  For those unaware, the LDS Church is a multi-billion dollar organization with business and real estate holdings.  It owns much of downtown SLC, not just Temple Square, the 21.000 seat Conference Center and its own 20+ storey office building (and now the mall).  It also owns and operates (for profit) KSL-TV and the Deseret News (a daily newspaper).  It also owns Deseret Books and Seagull (Discount) Bookstores (the LDS versions of a major bookstore with mainly religious literature).

But back to the City Creek Center.  It has attracted Nordstrom’s; Macy’s; Tiffany’s; and the hot European fashion chain, H&M.  Two of the bigger restaurants will serve liquor (how did they get the non-drinking Mormon big-wigs to sign on to this one?), but the whole mall will be closed on Sundays (perhaps that was the trade-off….) so nearby Temple Square will get the pedestrian traffic.

Inside the mall with roof closed

Amenities include the reemergence of City Creek, long forced underground, reengineered to drop a total of 40 feet through rocky waterfalls.

City Creek Center Creek

Oh, and it’s stocked with trout in a pond.  There are plazas scattered throughout replete with fireplaces, metal sculptures, and fountains.  The main fountain having been designed by the same person who did the famous fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.  The retractable glass roofs can close in about 5 minutes and were put to the test yesterday when a really gusty wind and rain storm blew through.  We are told that the only other such roof over a retail space is in Dubai, on the Persian Gulf.  As it spans Main Street, there is a pedestrian aerial walkway to get from one side to the other.  Underground parking for over 5000 cars completes the picture.

If you want an out-of-the-ordinary shopping experience, this is the place to go.  Actually, I can’t wait to visit, but I’m leaving my wallet at home!

Published in: on March 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Bit of This and A Bit of That

This week I thought I’d share a lot of little events, news items, and points of interest that are too short to merit their own blog posting, but are nonetheless noteworthy.  Sometimes little slices of life out here in Utah can be insightful and worth writing about.

First, the downside of this winter, which has been rather on the warm side and fairly snow-free.  The mountains still boast white peaks, but the snow base is very skimpy and because of the type of snowfalls we’ve had, there have been quite a few avalanches and subsequent deaths–more so this year than in recent winters.  It seems skiers and snow mobilers will still head off-trail and into the back country and they run into unstable snow fields. 


On the trails, the ski resorts regularly blast off avalanche cannons in the early mornings to trigger any impending disasters, but there is no capability for that in the vast reaches away from the trails.  It seems there are weekly news reports of yet another deadly accident, despite warnings, skiers’ beacons, and backpack air bags.  There’s been over 10 avalanche deaths this year.  It’s warm today–62 degrees–and our tulips are poking through the garden beds.  But then we’re supposed to get rain and snow this weekend, so we’re bracing for more trouble on the slopes.

As if there weren’t enough problems with the skiers, the Utah legislators are creating amazing issues.  They’ve recently passed a law (ah, but will Gov. Herbert veto it?) to make abstinence-only the sex education the kids get in school.  Nothing like making Utah look more backwater than it is. 

Hiding heads in the sand and relying on good old LDS moral values solely (no sex before marriage–yeah, right) the senators and representatives are letting the state theocracy influence laws.  Ditto for more archaic liquor laws, they’re closing state liquor stores (no money to keep them open), in the hopes fewer folks will drink as it’s harder to buy wine and spirits.  The law nicknamed the Zion curtain has also been upheld.  This is where restaurant and tavern drinks must be poured or mixed out of the sight of patrons and any bottles lined up on shelves behind a bar for display and convenience must NOT contain liquor, in other words, empties. 

Apparently seeing the actual liquid or the action of pouring a drink is too alluring and encourages heavier drinking.  Ah, Utah….

Locally, in January the new-elected Syracuse council members were sworn in and one is proving to be a handful.  I won’t name names, but K.L. has her own ideas as to how the town should be run.  First up, hiring a new fire chief.  She suggested the fire department be run by the county police station, to which the acting chief who was interviewing for the job, tossed his equipment at her during a council meeting and stalked out with the mayor cancelling the meeting at once and running after him.  I think K.L. eventually backed down, but the damage was done.


On a lighter note, The Islander has settled in as the new version of the newspaper now that the sale is final.  The new owner has expanded both the circulation and the page number (doubled up to 16 pages) and has added a website.  No, my history columns aren’t presently included on the site, but perhaps in the future.  I have noticed that my byline in the original paper (when they remembered to include it) was just my name.  Then the new ownership listed me as a contributor; now I’m a correspondant.  I feel like I’m reporting from the trenches somewhere!  All that matters is the museum gets promoted; it’s not about me and my name (but it’s still nice…).

The obituaries have been rather ordinary lately, so I haven’t been able to start gathering excerpts for a posting with obit snippets.  Ditto for my series, the Chicken Chronicles.  No peeps recently, but I’m keeping my eyes and ears open.  I recently learned that the issue may raise its head in Syracuse.  The Art Beat is pretty much done, as I am busy with the museum and the articles and it’s really not much fun to go on an art crawl solo.  I have started another News You (Probably) Missed posting, so I only need 3 more odd news articles and I can share that topic again.  These strange news stories seem to come in waves.  Must be full moon related, and since we just had one, it might be another month before people start behaving weirdly.

So that’s it for this week.  You’ll probably see the next history article next week, as my deadline was yesterday for the next issue.  It’s on…..well, I’ll let it be a surprise.

Published in: on March 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Have You Lost Your Marbles?

Blog posting time again, and, as promised last week, here’s the next history article.  I have a lot of cooking to accomplish today, so I’m glad it’s already written and available. 

Before I send it out, I have an update on the sex education bill passed last week and awaiting the governor’s signature or veto.  Amazingly, Gov. Herbert vetoed it!  So the idea of the only curriculum to be taught in junior high and high school classrooms is abstinence until marriage has been denied–at least for the time being.

Now, on to far more urgent matters: marbles!

Have You Lost Your Marbles?

If you think you have, we may have them!  In fact, the Syracuse Museum has lots of marbles!  Displayed in one of the cases with other childhood toys, is a collection of clay and glass marbles that were lovingly played with by J. C. Rentmeister in the early 1930s and later donated to the museum by Don Rentmeister.

Years ago, long before virtual electronic diversions with their joy sticks and touch pads came along, children played with actual toys and games, many of them simple and inexpensive.  Relatively lightweight and easily pocketed, the game of marbles was a favorite with boys and some girls who were tomboys and weren’t interested in dolls.

Although historical evidence suggests some version of marbles has been played in civilizations world-wide for centuries, some experts feel the game may have originated in Pakistan or India and due to its portable nature, spread rapidly via nomads and conquering armies.  Marbles have been found in Egyptian tombs and mentioned in ancient Roman and Greek literature.

Marbles can be made of clay or ceramics, steel, agate, or glass and provided hours of entertainment for kids; all they needed was their treasured bag of marbles and a flat area of ground where they could draw a circle.  A multitude of games like ringer and rolley holey, as well as competitions were invented to help pass idle hours.  You could practice your shooting skills alone or challenge another to “play for all the marbles.”  Usually a child would own a favorite fancy “shooter,” a slightly larger marble used to flick with the thumb and knock the smaller marbles, known as “ducks” off target or out of the circle.  A clever player soon developed a keen eye, sense of speed and direction, and strategy to win.  Flashy marbles could be lost and won back, as well as traded with other kids in the course of a game.  Of course, many other playground terms for all sizes of marbles developed through the years, so if you played marbles as a kid, you may know other name: taw, spinner, troller, kong, and marley, to list a few.  Creativity also kicked in for nicknames of the design and colors in glass marbles.  Some of the more colorfully named marbles are a self-described cat’s eye or swirly is a common type; as is clambroth for a white opaque sphere; an oily is iridescent; an Indian is solid dark brown or red; and toothpaste sports white streaks often with other colors added.  A yellow marble was termed a sulphide and a sulphide marble with two black stripes is a bumblebee.  Color combinations are endless.

People take their marbles seriously; many collectors have extensive collections and often pay top dollar for a rare marble at auctions or with dealers.  And, yes, children and adults still play.  At the higher levels of marble competition are the British and World Marbles Championships, which have been held at Tinsley Green, West Sussex, England every year since 1932.

Of course, marbles have not been ignored by digital gamers.  There are I-Pad and smart phone applications that allow you to play electronic versions of marbles.  However, I’m not convinced that a battery-powered edition of marbles can ever take the place of scribing a large ring in dirt and rolling those cool, jewel-like spheres around in the palm of your hand getting them ready for play.  There’s something about dusty knees and the sound of the dull clink of glass balls hitting each other that is unique to the old-fashioned game of marbles.

Stop by and have a look at our marbles and other vintage toys at the  Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center.  The museum’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.



Published in: on March 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Stuck Keys and Inky Fingers: The Joy of Old Typewriters

It’s that blog deadline again, so being a busy day (transporting Ethan to swim lessons, British Club Luncheon at 1:00, and the volunteer afternoon at the museum) I’m going to “cheat” and default to what I sent to the Islander last week for tomorrow’s paper.  It had been an idea for a long time and I finally got the chance to write it.  For those of you who use a computer and are older, this should bring back some memories.

Stuck Keys and Inky Fingers: The Joy of Old Typewriters

When families or school groups walk into the Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center, usually, once spotted, the first object the younger set gravitates to is the museum’s Underwood typewriter.  This generation, who grew up with computer keyboards, I-Pad touch screens, and phone texting is totally fascinated with this dinosaur of a writing machine!  The noise.  The firmness of the keys.  The idea of seeing words appear on a real piece of paper.  What is old is all quite new to the children.

It is thought that some form of a typing machine design was “invented” by various developers around the world upwards of about 50-55 times, but it would be many decades before a realistic, reliable design would be ready for the market.

As early as about 1715, and Englishman, Henry Hill, applied for a patent that could be considered an early typewriter.  There is evidence that his design was built at some point.   Not quite a century later, an Italian, Pellegrino Turri, not only produced his version of the typewriter, but also carbon paper.  Anticipating the future, it was hoped that machines like Turri’s could help the blind to write.

By the mid-1800s, the pace of business demanded that secretaries be able to keep up with deadline expectations.  A writer using a pen could only manage about 30 words per minute (the 1853 speed record!).  Stenographers, using the Gregg Shorthand System and telegraphers using Morse Code could manage upwards of 130 words per minute.  A faster, reliable typing machine was needed, and quickly.  Alas, none of the myriad of machine designs that were patented in America or Europe between 1830 and 1870 ever saw commercial production.

Around 1865 in Denmark, the Rev. Malling-Hanson developed the Hansen Writing Ball.  It boasted an unusual round keyboard and was commercially produced and still in use in London, England offices in 1910. 

This design, created for maximum typing speed with one hand appeared 10 years after the country of Brazil had claimed the first useable typewriter invention by another clergyman, Father Francisco João de Azevedo.

It took until 1910 for the “manual” typewriter design that we still recognize today to become standardized.  Additional improvements were a shift key that moved from lower case to upper case keys for easier capitalization, a smoother carriage return to reposition the paper for the next line of type, and two-tone black and red ink ribbons to allow for bookkeeping entries to show negative amounts in red.

Eventually, typewriters became smaller and came with cases, ushering in the dawn of portable typewriters–every college-bound student’s wish in the 1940 to the 1960s.  By the 196os electric typewriters were the office equipment of choice and went a long way to reduce the noise associated with these machines.  They, too got smaller and joined the portable equipment ranks.  Then computers came along and, well, you know the rest of the story.

With the advent of the PC and its newer, smaller progeny, the boxy, heavy typewriter–once necessary for journalists and authors–have been relegated to museums and trash dumps.  Unwanted and difficult to maintain (where do you find typewriter ribbons and someone to keep them repaired?), they remind us of the day when fountain pens became obsolete.  But take heart, there is a small, but enthusiastic crowd who are rediscovering the joys of these out-dated relics of a bygone era.  So if you have one collecting dust, it may be wanted by a new generation of people who love to pound away on a keyboard.

Come try out our Underwood typewriter and see the other interesting artifacts from long ago at the  Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center.  The museum’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.

Published in: on March 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm  Leave a Comment