Last week I got a little nostalgic on you, and since I have no qualms about running an idea into the ground, here are 8 more things I miss about the 80’s.
- Mom And Pop Video Stores
Before Blockbuster took over, every neighborhood had at least one or two small family owned video rental places. I can recall about four or five of them in my area of Florissant alone. This was where you found the weird stuff. Most of these stores could only afford a few copies of the big hits, but if you were willing to look around a bit you could always find something to watch. I found many a goofy comedy, trippy science fiction, or grimy little horror movie while roaming the aisles at these stores. Sure, nowadays you have hundreds of titles at your fingertips from your very own couch, and you can discover all kinds of movies and shows, but it’s just not the same as going to the store, staring at the artwork of the box for the VHS, and going home with that unknown treasure in your hands.
- Cassette Tapes
Cassette were the first time that most of us were able to truly be in charge of our music. Sure, there had been portable record players for years, and there was the highly problematic 8 track tape that was the forerunner to our tapes, but the cassette represented true freedom. Not only could you buy pre recorded tapes, but you could make your own mix for the first time. Actually some 8 tracks did this too, but the track skips were not conducive to continuous listening. The cassette was smaller, much more portable, and could be played on a variety of systems-from Walkman headsets to boom boxes, car radios (it’s got a tape player!), and home audio systems. These tapes were inexpensive and often re-recordable. Also what better way to show your crush how you felt than with a mixtape that had a cover personally decorated and a mix of songs carefully curated to melt the heart of the recipient? Okay, so the tapes kinda sounded like crap, but it’s all we had. CDs and digital downloads arguably have better sound, but not the magic of the good ol’ tape.
- Character Glasses
Everybody had them in their house. You would get them from McDonalds, Burger King, Arby’s, pretty much every fast food joint had some limited edition glasses to offer. When I say glasses, I mean actual drinking glasses with characters ranging from Looney Tunes to the McDonaldland gang, E.T., B.C., and Charlie Brown to name but a few. I still have some of these and still use them because I think they’re fun.
- Television Shows With Actual Themes
I know, this wasn’t exclusive to the ’80s, but I think that the ’80s were the golden age of T.V. themes. “Diff’rent Strokes”, “The Facts Of Life”, “Cheers”, “WKRP”, “Growing Pains”, “Family Ties”, the list goes on. Most network shows dropped their opening themes years ago, and we are all the worse for it as a society.
- Saturday Morning Cartoons
Never mind that most of ’em stunk. Saturday mornings were the best time to be a kid. Back before cable, kids programming was mostly limited to 7am-11am on Saturdays, with a few programs here and there through syndication on your local UHF stations, and an hour or two on PBS Monday-Friday. But the network cartoons were where it was at. Not only did they have the best characters with new adventures each week, but you also got the scoop on all the latest toys through commercials. Some of the toys were even the stars of the shows! They also used to stick in little educational blurbs once every half an hour where they taught us kids how a bill becomes a law, what a conjunction is, and how to handle things when you were hankerin’ for a hunk of cheese. These days kids have entire channels devoted to them but when I was a kid that simply didn’t exist. Saturday mornings were the one time when kids ruled the airwaves (or at least we thought we did). It was our time, it was sacrosanct, and it was the best!
- Music Television
I know, MTV still exists, but they have long forgotten what the M stands for. Apart from actually seeing your favorite musicians in their newest video, MTV showed live concerts, their own documentaries, had call in shows, and an attitude that was irresistible back in the day. Even if you didn’t like the music being showcased at the time, things moved fast enough that something would come along to entertain you in a little bit. Even their ads were awesome. Sure, times change, and they did kind of invent reality television so I can give them a pass on going in that direction to a point. But the fact is that most artists still make music videos, and there’s no reason why MTV can’t make music the focus of their network in different ways. Maybe I’m just too big a music fan to let it go, or maybe I’m just old and grumpy now, but I want my MTV…back.
- Rax Restaurants
Remember Rax? Waaaaay better than Arby’s and Lion’s Choice combined. They were slightly more high end in presentation, but still fast food. I remember they kind of lost their way in the later years by trying to expand the menu too much, and they ran some commercials featuring one of the worst spokes-characters of all time in Mr. Delicious (look it up on YouTube to see this wonder for yourself. I actually like it in retrospect but the audience was not there for this type of marketing back then). There may be a few that survived, most chains that go under keep one or two open through franchisees, even if in name only. But I still have the “I’d rather Rax-wouldn’t you?” jingle in my head all these years later. And yes, I would.
- Late Night TV
Now that everything is available 24 hours a day, late night TV has lost most of its meaning. Sure, you still get the late night talk shows, but they have largely grown commonplace and mundane. There are some networks with special late night programming, but again, it’s routine now and the shows are usually highly advertised so you’re not really discovering or stumbling into anything new. It’s just not the same at all. With streaming, you can watch any kind of crazy crap you want any time of day, but back in the day late night tv was special.
After Carson and later Letterman, tv became a no man’s land of weirdness. Fringe talk shows often aired during the week, everything from Tom Syder’s “Tomorrow” show to the early days of Jerry Springer, Morton Downey Jr, and yes, even Rush Limbaugh happened well after bedtime for most. But the weekends? Apart from Saturday Night Live you had SCTV (genius show), Uncle Floyd, Fridays, Night Flight, wrestling, British comedy on PBS, Friday Night Videos and any number of horror/science fiction movie shows to satisfy your need to see something a little out of the ordinary. Also, this is St. Louis specific, but on Saturday nights at midnight our local UHF station Channel 11 would show The Three Stooges for two hours straight, with poorly produced local commercials in between. This was before they were packaged with new intros ad trivia, it was just the shorts and everyone I knew watched until they crashed out. If I am awake at home that late on a Saturday night to this day I still want to see some Stooges!
Okay, that’s enough of my reminiscing. This was fun though. I hope this brought back some good memories for you too. Back next week!