What do you do for fun? Virtual reality? Netflix and chill? On-line shopping? Those all sound like really fun things, but none of them existed in the 1980s. We had video games, movies, and malls. We had no idea that 40 years later, everything we wanted or needed would be at our fingertips. So, what did we do for fun back then? Glad you asked!
Roller Skating: Yes, roller skating still exists, and it’s still so fun and exciting. But in junior high and high school, it was life. Our parents would drop us off at the rink, where we would meet up with our friends. We would lace on our rental skates and hit the floor. Then we would “party on down” to the music. My favorites were what is now considered classic heavy metal. “Round and Round” by Ratt was the ideal. What better to describe our actions in the rink? “Rainbow in the Dark” by Rio, the Scorpions “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The list goes on and on. And there was the break for “couples skate.” Most of us left the floor and watched the pairs in envy. We looked forward to the announcement of “all skate!” There were the disco skaters in the middle in their snazzy outfits, and the showoffs, skating backward in circles. I remember wearing my stirrup pants with slouch socks under my skates, with cotton ramie sweaters from the Gap. Oh, the Gap in the 1980s!
Mall Rats: I admit it, I was a mall rat. I got a job at a cookie counter when I was 16, and before and after work, I would trawl around the mall for cute boys and fancy new clothes. All the most popular kids were there in groups, walking around or just standing and looking cool. There were tough kids, too. They became my friends and protectors. We didn’t have food courts back then, just Orange Julius, coffee shacks, and cookies. There was that pay-by-the-ounce salad bar near the department store, and one diner-like restaurant where all the entrepreneurial teenage girls were working hard for tips. Poster stores, record stores, Spencer Gift. Photo developing shops. Giant fountains where small children threw pennies in the water. I went back to my hometown over the summer. The mall I worked at, first dealing cookies, then jeans at the Gap, and then baby clothes at Filene’s, had been razed. Now a street runs through the space, and hip new 2022 hotels, shops, and restaurants have popped up near the bus station. It was surreal, like my teen years had been knocked to rubble by a wrecking ball. I thought maybe I was in the wrong place. But malls don’t seem to be much of a thing anymore. Storefronts are closing, everything is on-line. Instant gratification. I think this generation is missing out on so much. Mall ratting was cool.
Hanging Out: Maybe people still hang out, but not like we did in the 80s. We hung out at the BK Lounge, in the parking lot. It just seemed to be a place to go. It was better than cruising up and down Main Street. It was a place to meet up and scrape your change together for a small soda to sip on while you watched all the “cool” guys peal out of the parking lot in their old Camaros or Monte Carlo SS’s. We would applaud and rate their performance on a scale of 1-10. It was always hot, even at night. The girls were in miniskirts, the boys in tee shirts or polos. What else could you do in the city if you were under 21? Burger King. Now I’m a vegetarian. It seems kind of ironic.
Oh, there are so many other things that we did. Tanning in the sun, with sun-tan lotion. Spraying Sun-In in our hair. Going to the theater to see a movie, and not waiting the one week until you can get it on the internet. Going to an aerobics class. Drinking Tab and feeling like you instantly lost weight by that action. Watching Charlie’s Angels. It was all so wholesome. I miss it all. But not the feathered hair.
Writing my series, “McKinney High Class of 1986” really helped me to revisit my teen years. I imagined myself with my group of seven fictional high schoolers, getting dressed in the clothes I wore, listening to the music I listened to, watching the tv shows I watched, and having the fun I had. It’s hard to believe that my characters would be my age now. If they were here with me tonight, we would be reminiscing about the good old days. It would be wicked awesome.