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A “Bazaar” Tale Told By Widener Alums

November 30, 2012

By Autumn Heisler ‘15

When you think of English and engineering majors, you usually don’t picture them together. But class of 1999 alums Patrick Manley, with a degree in English, and Brendan O’ Riordan, with an engineering degree, thought otherwise. This pair of Widener graduates collaborated to make and produce a documentary on a groundbreaking Delaware County mall known as the Bazaar of All Nations.

The Bazaar was one of the first models of today’s modern mall, predating the King of Prussia Mall among others. It opened November 8, 1960, on Baltimore Pike in Clifton Heights with the idea of bringing stores together. A community — one that some considered a family — grew out of the four-city-block-long center. Manley and O’ Riordan, along with cinematographer and director Melissa Whitely, decided to commemorate this “mother of all malls” by creating the documentary that debuted in 2010,  the 50th anniversary of the Bazaar’s opening.

The idea came to Manley about a decade ago when a basic search on Google turned up little information on the Bazaar. “It seemed odd to me, considering there are websites for even the most obscure things, that a place as fondly remembered had no presence on the Internet, or anywhere else for that matter,” Manley said. But it wasn’t until 2006, when Manley met Whitely and proposed the idea of putting together a documentary, that the idea truly blossomed. Manley asked his lifelong friend O’ Riordan to join them in their project.

Through their research, the three-person partnership discovered a lot of Bazaar tales, ranging from contests, to celebrities, to simple acts of kindness. “One woman we interviewed won a pony at a contest in front of the Bazaar when she was about 10 years old,” O’ Riordan said. “She had to call her father to come to the Bazaar and help her bring the pony back to their suburban home. Together they walked the pony across Baltimore Pike and through the neighborhood streets to the confusion of onlookers.”

Manley particularly enjoys the stories he heard about the 1966 Christmas holiday. A sudden snowstorm stranded shoppers on Christmas Eve, but the community of the Bazaar pulled together, handing out free food and offering show furniture as beds to sleep in.

Even political figures stopped by this remarkable landmark during their campaigns. In the documentary, never-before-seen photographs of Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and President Richard Nixon can be seen. When first released, the film sold out its premiere weekend. Recently, the documentary was featured on PBS station WHYY-TV, and continues to gain support through its Facebook group and website where DVDs are available.

The Bazaar of All Nations no longer stands as it once did.  It closed in 1993 and was demolished two years later, but that doesn’t mean it won’t live on in the hearts of its community. “My memories of the Bazaar really fill most of my childhood and adolescence, and I think most people who remember it would tell you the same,” Manley said. “It’s kind of a shared adolescence over a couple of generations, wholly unique to this area. [The documentary] really has been a tremendously rewarding project for all of us.”

9 comments

  1. Autumn, thanks for writing this piece! The film premiered theatrically at Cinema 16:9 in Lansdowne, PA on Black Friday, November 2010. Its television premiere was Sunday, November 11, 2012 on WHYY (PBS). It was so much fun working on this film with my friends Pat and Melissa. We learned a lot while reminiscing with people from our old neighborhood and surrounding area. Hard working folks like Mason Huddell, the Miller family, and Tom Bates (WU MBA!).


  2. I grew up at the Bazaar. I learned how to drive in its parking lot. I hung out at Putt Putt and the Cinema. Got pretzels and funnel cake at the bakery.. LOVED THIS PLACE well done!


  3. Oriordan, Manley, and Whitley are at it again…rumor is, this time its a project about the “Golden Mile” a “strip” of development in the area of the Bazaar which sprung up from the late fifties through the sixties


  4. I went the Bazaar as a teenager with my friends. We thought it had everything! In addition to the pretzels and funnel cake I remember pink cotton candy, a photo booth and a great picture-framing business. My favorite memory of it was years later when I went to the Bazaar with my three-month old son, and was thrilled to see how all the little children noticed him as we strolled by – it was so child friendly and sweet.


    • Do you remember Play Town Park?

      They did not show the teacup ride. That was my favorite


      • Susan,
        We certainly do remember Playtown Park! It’s part of the subject of our next project, “The Golden Mile”.


      • Looking forward to the next article.


  5. My Dad took us there often when I was very young and he got to know a Polish Vendor personally and they spoke Polish each time my Father visited him at the Bazaar.


  6. Ah yea, those were the days. The young guy at the pretzel stand, named Ken Harvey , from Secane ended up buying the business from the original owner. I believe his name was Bernie. The picture frame shop was owned by Al Rose? Anyway, I had a couple friends who worked there over the years, one guy, Bob Bloomingdale ended up opening his own framing business in Delaware. He was a great guy and I’m sorry I have lost touch with him. Another close friend, Pat Brady, worked at the little restruant next to the frame shop and across the aisle from one of the soft pretzel stores where Ken worked. Pat has passed away since, I remember the first time I met Pat, we got some beer and got drunk. I couldn’t remember his name and started calling him Mc Gork. Where I got that name from, I’ll will never know. I remember he had a way with the ladies though, they fell all over him. That didn’t do much for my self image, but I was always happy with any lady left over. There were more friends that worked there that I can’t seem to bring to mind at the moment.
    BUT, I will always remember The Bazaar of All Nations for all the memories, friends I remember, and friends I can’t.

    Who knows, I may hear from long lost friendships from this article.



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