If you’re like me, you get a kick out of mesmerizing the younger generation with your mystical past – or, as they view it, ancient history. And when it comes to trends, there were indeed strange times. Whether you’re 30 or 80, here are some things young’ uns need to appreciate to understand life.
- Madonna was not the refined, mature woman you now see in interviews. She was the “Material Girl.” Think Lady Gaga but more shocking. (If you are met with the question, “Who’s Madonna?” just walk away. Walk. Away.)
- “Text” meant words printed on paper. Boomers and many Gen Xers prefer text to be grammatically correct unless it is shorthand, which used to be a valuable job skill.
- 1980s cartoon creators may have been smoking something. Rainbow Brite was an interstellar girl who rocked striped sleeves and leggings. He-Man was the ultimate hero, but he slid when he walked due to his wonky animation. He also rode a big kitty and battled a guy with a skull face. Inspector Gadget was an unmarried cyborg lunatic with a genius niece, Penny, who was always there to get him out of trouble and solve crimes for him. The list of crazy (albeit much loved!) cartoons goes on and on.
- Videos were on tape. Blockbuster rented them and charged you if you didn’t rewind them. Stores sold them. You could even make your own with a camcorder. If you didn’t want to miss an episode of ALF, Growing Pains, or The Golden Girls, you could record it on your VCR using a video cassette tape. Then you’d rewind to watch it and fast-forward through the commercials. You could use the same tape and schedule it to re-record the next time you would be out of the house. This was high-tech stuff. Many wedding and birthday party videos were lost to careless VCR use. We found out too late about the little tab on the tape that could be popped out to prevent overwriting. Oops.
- Perms. At one time, both women and men could rock a permanent wave in which hair was chemically treated to stay curly wash after wash. Done glossy, this was also known as a Jheri curl. But buyer beware; few styles looked worse than a grown-out perm.
- Velcro was not always a thing. We had actual tennis shoes that tied. And kicks are not new. Those sweet-looking Converse All-Stars were invented by your great grandpa’s generation back in 1917. Google it.
- It used to be a treat to have something cooked (or heated) in a microwave, and that’s if you had one. They didn’t become popular until the 1980s. Before that, even reheating leftovers (which are those morsels saved after a previous meal) took 20-30 minutes in a real oven.
- Fax machines and dial-up Internet. In the 1990s, AOL became the coolest thing ever. Your computer dialed a number that allowed it to connect its modem to access the web. It made a weird, high-pitched scritchy whistle sound with a few “bongs” added for variety. Similarly, a fax machine connected via a landline sent a copy of paperwork to someone at the other end. It made a weird, high-pitched scritchy whistle sound, and then the fax at the other end either picked up, and your papers were sucked through the tray, or you heard a busy signal: the sound that let you know your one phone line is in use and cannot handle anything else right now.
- There were no apps. We used quarters at an arcade or went to a friend’s house to play Atari or Nintendo. “App” was an abbreviation for “appetizer,” most of which contained mayonnaise or Miracle Whip or toothpicks.
- Cordless phones were NOT wireless phones. You had to stay within 15 feet of the “base” or lose your call. Sometimes you could go outside to keep your mom from hearing your call, but then she could just pick up the wall phone in the kitchen and ruin it, especially if you started hearing “beep bop boop” because she didn’t check for a dial tone before pressing buttons.
Aahhh, memories. I am sure these are only the beginning. The funny thing is that the children who have no idea what you’re talking about if you tell them about these moments in history will have their own list when they grow up to regale the young people in their futures. Can you imagine someone 50 years from now asking, “Was TikTok fun, Grandma?” or “Did people really have to wear masks in stores and schools back then?” And, I hope they will be able to say, ”Yes, kids, those were strange times.”