In 1966, a brand new mall opened less than a mile from my house. The mall was named, Villa Italia, and it heralded a new age of indoor retail for the fast growing suburb where my family resided—at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The developer of the mall, or “The Villa,“ as my family called it, used the Galleria in Milan for inspiration. I've been to the Galleria Vittorio in Milan, and believe me, Villa Italia was not anything like that shopping mall. The Villa had faux terrazzo and cobble stone floors, a variety of columns, lots of arches, and statues of Roman figures sprinkled throughout the development. For a kid, the grand scale of the mall combined with the old school Caesars Palace styling seemed very glamorous. When it was snowing in December, my mom would take me to visit Santa.
Above: A press photo from the opening day of Villa Italia, 1966. There's a Roman statue stuck on top of a Corinthian column in the background.
On hot summer days my mom would let me walk by myself to The Villa (aerial view at right), and it always seemed so far, because you had to walk up and down a large hill—but was actually just blocks from our house. Nowadays, I don’t think parents would let their kids at that age walk to a mall by themselves, but it seemed very safe at that time in the quiet suburbs of Colorado. I would frequently go by myself, but sometimes I would meet friends and hang out. I would spend hours at Bauble Mart (the bead shop), Land & Sea (seashells and rocks), and The Villa pet shop (looking at fish and parakeets). The day usually included a pit-stop at Taco House (I think it was $1.25 for three cheese enchiladas), and if I had any money leftover—a refreshing Orange Julius drink.
Above: A few vintage photos of Orange Julius shops—but not at Villa Italia.
The Orange Julius at The Villa was like a small snack bar you would find on a 1960’s Southern California beach, with large bins of fresh oranges. It didn’t seem like a huge corporate chain to me as a child. Our local newspaper, had a weekly insert for children called, The Mini-Page, which had news articles, games, puzzles and recipes. I was so excited when they ran a recipe for an “Orange Julius Frappe” that you could make in a blender with frozen orange juice. I still make it sometimes, when the weather is super hot and in the 90’s—like the past couple days.
I haven’t been to an Orange Julius since then, but I’m sure it wouldn’t taste the same as it did during my childhood. I think the original Orange Julius beverage had an egg or egg white in it to make it extra creamy and frothy. Here’s my simplified version of an Orange Julius drink.
Mr. Peacock’s Easy Orange Frappe
Makes 2 servings
This ridiculously easy recipe can be very satisfying when the temperature is hot.
1 1/2 cups of milk (I used low fat milk)
1/2 cup of cold water
¼ cup of frozen orange/pineapple juice concentrate—do not dilute
pinch of salt (important, it intensifies the flavor)
A few ice cubes
Optional: scoop of ice cream, a spoon of protein powder, a spoon of sugar—if you like it really sweet
Place all ingredients in the blender. Blend on the highest speed for about 3-5 minutes, until it is super frothy. Pour into glasses and serve immediately. Enjoy!
As a child and teenager, I had so much fun at The Villa. Many of my friends (and myself) worked at various shops at this “Roman” themed mall, at some point during our teenage years. Villa Italia mall thrived for over thirty years, but was demolished in 2002. A new faux urban village, with commercial and residential spaces, was built in its place—and used as a model for other faux urban villages in the USA. I wonder if teenagers hang out at this “urban village,” or stay home on their computers. Where did you hang out as a teenager?