11 Fresno Places I Miss From Childhood

Here are some of my favorite spots in Fresno that are no longer around. Basically, the 80s for an NW Fresno kid.

Hopefully, it sparks your own memories, wherever the hell ya grew up.

Blackbeards would be number one on my list except it is somehow still there. Intact. Almost unchanged. Which is awesome and sad at the same time.

MALIBU GRAND PRIX FRESNO

In the same place the Costco parking lot is now, behind the shopping center at the NE corner of Blackstone & Herndon, was Malibu Grand Prix. Letting kids race little Indy-style cars seems like a bad idea, but I never heard of anyone getting seriously hurt at it.

I think I spent more time in the arcade playing Tempest than on the race track. It was always a bit intimidating to me to drive those things … There. I said it. The Malibu cars, made for children, intimidated me. Didn’t know I’d be working out childhood issues today.

“I really could get into this!” is not something I ever said though. For the record.

WOODWARD PARK DRIVE IN

We no longer have a drive-in movie theater in Fresno and it sucks. The last one we had was Woodward, which is now a Home Depot and a Costco – definitely not an upgrade.

I can still remember going to the concession stand in the center, stealing looks at the other movies playing that I was too young to watch, enjoying the perfect Fresno Summer Nights and only half paying attention to the movie we came to see.

Madera still has one in operation, if you want to try and experience that again.

VIDEO GAME CAGE AT BLACKSTONE TOYS R US

This used to be the only place (that I can remember) you could get any game you wanted. Saving up money to get the latest hot game, only to find they were sold out of it, was always a bummer.

Bringing up the paper tag that represented the game, taking it to the cage and having them hand over the actual game, is one of the more satisfying things from childhood I recall. Is that sad?

TOWER RECORDS IN THE KMART SHOPPING CENTER

I got this picture from former Tower Records (OG location) worker, Dale Stewart of Capitol Punishment fame.

Records to the left. Tapes to the right. CDs eventually taking over. Record displays in the center. 45s of the Top Twenty Songs. These are the memories.

FESTIVAL GAME PALACE

It was not easy to try and make a $5 bill last for an afternoon, but I managed somehow. Shout out to Paperboy and the manual hockey game by the snack bar.

Dear God I could watch this all day:

THE GRAPE TRAY

It was next to the original Fresno Cost Plus at the NW corner of Shaw & Fresno. A sandwich shop, deli, and wine store. The reason I remember is it had a unique upstairs eating area unlike any in Fresno. I guess there is something about sitting and looking out over the shop from up high while having a salami & swiss.

The Grape Tray is still around. But it’s now at Palm & Bullard in the Opus One shopping center. And it’s just a wine shop. No cool upstairs or sandwiches. Boring.

I think it’s even in the spot that used to have a tiny record shop I would stop into after school and rarely buy something, much to the owner’s chagrin – wish I could remember the name of it.

FIG GARDEN LIQUOR (Original)

I know it’s still there but when I was a kid, Tom Seaver’s Father-In-Law owned it. He had the best (non-card shop) baseball card selection in town. He would even hand out autographed pictures of Tom Seaver to those of us that seemed like they cared. I got one or two over the years.

ARTHUR’S TOYS ON BLACKSTONE

The place to be even after Toys R Us opened. No other place could I look at custom electric cars to add to my track. It’s now Whitie’s Pets and went in there recently and was able to conjure a tiny bit of the vibe.

This is not me but I had the exact setup. Now I feel like going out and buying one:

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The hobby shop place in Fig Garden Village that sold model airplanes and cars, Bob’s Village Hobby. (Read about owner, Bob Hansen, here). My memories of the place are faint, but it definitely inspired me to hang my model planes from my bedroom ceiling.

The Fig Garden Movie Theater. I so much wish it was still there. If you are too young to remember, it was located roughly where the Deli Delicious and noodle place is, in the back NE corner of Fig Garden Village.

Festival Cinemas. Saw all the important 80s movies there. Empire Strikes Back. Raiders of the Lost Ark. The greats.

I could go on for a while, as I’m sure you could too. Often I wonder what my kid will one day fondly remember about Fresno? It definitely won’t be a Drive-In.

[Arthur’s Toys pic taken from Miguel Diaz’s feed]

Northgate Was Once The Most Important Shopping Center In Fresno


This week on the local Facebooks, all the olds were losing their shiz over this picture, unearthed by Tracy Parker, of the old UA Cinemas sign at Northgate Shopping Center.

Well, I guess I am an oldass Fresnan because I remember this sign too and the UA theater it belongs to.

The first memory that jumps out at me is being embarrassingly ‘carded’ trying to buy tickets to the Stalone flick, Cliffhanger. That’s right. I jumped through hoops to see CLIFFHANGER.

My favorite store in Northgate Shopping Center was Arthur’s Toys. There was a time it would have been Tower Records for sure (dammit I miss that Tower Records), but with some perspective now, Arthur’s Toys.

Looking for new cars that I could afford for my electric race track, that was my number one thing to do.

I may or may not have been old enough to remember some blue light specials at K-Mart, later turning into Circuit City.

There were quite a few meals at DiCicco’s (still there, I know, just saying). The only Italian place that mattered at the time. OKIE Frijole was good too.

THE THEME HERE BEING

Northgate was the go-to shopping center of the 1970s and early 80s. Like, how now you might find yourself at wherever the hell center your Target is at, Northgate was that. Pretty much for everybody in town too. Barstow & Blackstone was the Blackstone & Nees of its day.

It was even the premium spot to park your car, close to Blackstone, on “cruising nights” to hang out and be seen.

In honor of the old Blackstone UA, here is a Cliffhanger to cheese up your day, no ID required:

https://youtu.be/ccC_d1uXw74