This was first published in Portland Family Magazine — October 2013
PORTLAND — It’s funny how just missing the bus can change the course of one’s life.
Born and raised in Portland, Bob Slayton was just a senior at Franklin High School when he took a bus to apply for a job at the new Lloyd Center shopping mall.
Opened in August 1960, the open-air mall was the largest shopping center in the country. It featured 100 stores and an ice rink, and was opened by Mayor Terry Shrunk with a flurry of 700 homing pigeons and 5,000 people ready to shop.
Well, Slayton didn’t get the job, and dang it if he didn’t miss his bus back home. So the teenager decided to walk into the mall’s ice rink and hang out for a bit. “The rink manager, Jim Waldo, asked if I knew how to skate — I didn’t — but I got a job there passing out skates,” Slayton said.
Slayton decided he’d better learn to skate quickly. “I’d practice skating at night, because I wasn’t much of a skater,” he said. “I did, however, learn that I could jump barrels pretty well.” Slayton got the bug from Waldo, was a two-time barrel-jumping champion.
Slayton’s first barrel-jumping competition was shown on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” where he tied for third by jumping 14 barrels. He’d only been skating for a year and a half. “I was 19 and it was a great experience,” he said.
In 1963, he placed first in the Pacific Coast Barrel-Jumping Championships, and came in fifth place at the World Barrel-Jumping Championships in New York that same year, ending up just one barrel shy of the world record.
During the 1960s, the Lloyd Center mall was incredibly popular. Slayton said that the mall had the good fortune of having public relations visionary Ron Schmidt in charge of publicity, before he moved on to run Tom McCall’s campaign for governor. “I remember that there was a huge billboard in New York City saying that it’s just 3,200 miles to Lloyd Center,” Slayton said. “I think Ron did that.”
Slayton remembers that people came from all over the country to see the mall. “We had Louis Armstrong perform at our fifth anniversary, and when Nixon ran in 1960, he also spoke here,” he said.
Skating luminaries Peggy Fleming and Ron and Cindy Kauffman performed on the Lloyd Center rink, and Slayton recalls that in the late 1970s and ’80s, notorious Olympian Tonya Harding practiced skating at the mall.
In Lloyd Center’s early years, most of the stores were independent, rather than the national outlets of today. Slayton recalled Morrow’s Nut House, Joe Brown’s Caramel Corn (which is still there), Aden and Josie Men’s Clothing, Mario’s, Meier & Frank, Pancake Corner, Mr. C’s Hippopotamus Hamburger, and Goldberg’s Deli, which he recalled was once as popular with visitors as Voodoo Doughnuts.
Slayton’s Lloyd Center tenure took a detour after five years, when he managed the Valley Mall Ice Arena in Beaverton. But he was coaxed back in 1972, after Waldo left.
The detour was fortuitous. “At the Valley Ice Arena, I asked this young woman if she was 15 or 16, because she’d get a price break,” Slayton said. “She turned out to be 21.”
Soon Franciska VanSchijndel and the barrel jumper were talking, then dating. They married three years later. Today the Slaytons have three grown children and four grandchildren.
Slayton always wanted to get into a business, and attended Portland State University, where he majored in business and psychology.
He pursued different ventures, often with backing from the Lloyd Corp. He owned Bob’s Hole-n-One donut shop from 1975 to 1984 — until Ryan’s Bread Basket came along, offering many of the same foods in a better location.
The opportunity arose to take over the mall’s Orange Julius franchise, and Slayton has operated it ever since. He now has three Orange Julius franchises, in Clackamas, Vancouver and Lloyd Center. He hasn’t even thought about retiring.
“Bob’s long tenure with the mall has been a great asset for us,” said Ann Grimmer, marketing director for Lloyd Center Mall. “He is our unofficial historian, and his positive attitude and commitment to Lloyd Center are appreciated.”