Keep Cool Till After School with Olly Olsen

Flashback – Child Of The Eighties by Maria Hand.

Did Santa ever leave you a Viewmaster under the Christmas tree? If you don’t know what I’m talking about then maybe this story isn’t for you. If you do, then please accompany me on my stroll down memory lane.

Are you an eighties child? Are you a Kiwi child of the eighties? – the days when we’d “keep cool till after school”.

I write this as a loud and proud eighties child. I was born in Timaru in 1978 and though I’m not claiming to be typical of all kiwi kids of my era, I’m betting that a lot of these memories are common from Cape Reinga to the Bluff.

hangingI’ll try to take this in a chronological fashion. My earliest memory is kindy. Picture this, I’m swinging on the tyre swings, probably wearing corduroy knickerbockers, red patent leather shoes and singing “Believe it or not I’m walking on air, I never thought I could feel so fre-e-eeee!”

I’m jumping ahead, hopscotch-like, to primary school. At “Playlunch” we’d play elastics, marbles and have double-Dutch Jump rope for heart days.

And (okay I’m probably speaking mainly for the female half of the population) after school we’d groom our My Little Ponies or plait the hair on our Cabbage Patch kids. Watch Jem and the Holograms on the box, colour in our Rainbow Brite colouring-in book with help from a Crayola crayon carousel.

If we were allowed up late enough we might have watched a bit of Macgyver. Charles was in Charge. We had the Huxtable family to impart family values. We liked to invite aliens into the living room like Alf and ET, and when Fame came on the tele’ we’d dance along in our legwarmers, crop tops and sweatbands.

We’d kick around in our jellies, later our kung-fu shoes. Socks were worn blindingly fluorescent and slouched. Our hair was worn up in a banana clip or a side ponytail. The boys would have ratstails if they were really cool. For special occasions, crimping your hair was the way to go to look elegant.

We’d sing along with the AM radio or RTR countdown with Robbie Rakete. Allow me to indulge in constructing my compilation cassette tape (we didn’t know about CDs and DVDs back in the “good old days”):”Funky town”, “Locomotion”, “Bad”, “Respectable”, “Walk like an Egyptian”, “Pass the Dutchie”, “Melting Pot”.

smurfs2If I was a good girl at school or at the dental nurse I’d get a reward afterwards. Mum would take me to the BP service station, to get another Smurf to add to my collection.

This story screamed out to me to be written. I was in Wild Pair (a shoestore) the other day and couldn’t help but get misty-eyed with memories looking at their array of psychedelic legwarmers. I looked in the paper and saw women’s group, When the Cats Away, are back touring. The radio has been pumping out remakes of 80s classics like “Up-town girl” and “When the going gets tough”.

transformer3Transformers, more than meets the eye

I consulted with a friend about his experience as a boy of the 80s. “Transformers define the 80s for me – and the Dark Crystal,” he said. He openly told me that he was into all those macho bands like Poison and Guns ‘n Roses. “Those guys had huge hair but were considered tough”. Ian would read pick-a-path books, was a member of the Christchurch Star’s Starlets Club. He had a banana seat on his bike but his bike was not adorned with “spokie dokies” as he thought they were “geeky”.

Ian laments that in “the 80s seemed to go on forever and now it’s all downhill”.

Ah yes, those golden days of Telethons, back when we still called KFC “Kentucky Fried Chicken” and I made my television debut as a home viewer on Sale of the Century. (You don’t remember me do you? Well how about Steve Parr and Judith Kirk?)

Milk was cheap and milkmen dressed up as Count Homogenised (at least mine did!). A hot day would boost sales of polar pops and those blurples that made your mouth turn all sorts of vulgar colours your Mum hated.

Children had Supergran and Constable Keith and Sniff as role models and all we had to worry us was things like: Does the man in the yellow hat have a name? What is McGyver’s christian name and does the evil Murdoch have a cat’s share of lives? What does the Muppet Babies’ “nanny” look like beyond her green and purple striped socks?

We didn’t need Kleenex tissue softness, for we had the Care Bears who lived in the clouds. Our models ate trumpets and one was even crowned Miss Universe.

Those days are gone, my friend, but just like Halley’s Comet will make their comeback.


16 Responses to “Keep Cool Till After School with Olly Olsen”

  1. Alex Says:

    I happened to be searching for a reference to “After School” and found your amazingly accurate recollection of all the good shows the 80’s had to offer.

    But yeah I can remember watching After School at my best friend’s house with his two sisters, watching all the good shows and going back to the school the next day to talk about them with my mates.

    All I can say is kids were kids back then, and the kids these days have no idea how awesome NZ really was back then.

    I can also remember if I was good, my Mum or Dad would come home with a Smurf, and I had a pretty decent collection back then too. It would have been worth a fair bit.

    Kudos on such a great review on NZ in the 80’s though. Good to see people like you keeping these memories alive. I know I’ve got my memories of the 80s and no-one will ever take those away.

  2. Liz Says:

    Wow!! What an accurate account of my life 20 years ago! I too was born in 78 and I share every one of those memories! How cool to see the actual Smurf figurines. I remember Georgie Pie and loved it! And they had the 1/4 pack at Kentucky Fried Chicken which was pretty awesome. Alot of things I had forgot over the years, especially moving from NZ to OZ in 89, but reading this nostalgic piece really brought everything about the 80’s in NZ roaring back.
    Thank you! xoxox

  3. Sybil Says:

    You are SO RIGHT!!!!!!! Pure brilliance. I am reading this from my cousin’s house in Miami FL, who is also a child of the 80s in NZ – I’m going to get him to read this!

  4. Natasha Says:

    I too, was a child of this era, born in 1975. Does anyone remember the “Butterfly Song” Olly used to sing? Its been stuck in my head for years, but only the Maori version, I can never remember the English one. Purerehu is the title, meaning Butterfly, and i apologise to anyone offended by my spelling, I can only spell Maori phonetically based on my Primmer one maori lessons. Thats another thing I miss from those days, the Primmer’s, Intermediate and Secondary schooling levels. Nowadays, someone telling me they are in Grade Seven means nothing to me unless I stop to work it out.
    When reflecting back on theose times. and pop quizzing friends on tv shows just for a laugh, I always use the question: The bad guy in The Smurfs was Gargamel, but what was his cat’s name? Is usually a stumper, and amuses me to watch them flounder back through their memories to try and come up with the answer.

    Great blog by the way, keep up the good work.

    Be good, be kind in whatever you say and do, and Keep Cool Till After School!

    (It’s Azriel by the way)

  5. Kelly Says:

    Oh my God. I looked up Olly Olsen because I remember meeting him as a kid. I was also born near Timaru in 1978 and our childhood memories are almost identical. So great to read this 😀 Thanks!!

  6. Dan Says:

    Thanks for making me smile, bored at work in London where I have lived around around 12 years, and for some reason I decided to look up Olly Olsen and found your site. Pretty much sums up being a youth in NZ, and i wouldn’t change it for what they have now. We were always out in the garden playing back yard cricket, or kicking a rugby ball and the only thing to worry about was being home for dinner. Last time i was home i was sad to go to a park on a sunny sat and it was empty, you just knew all the kids were playing xbox. No wonder there are so many fat kids now. You missed some programs, like the A-team, knight rider, who’s the boss, 3-2-1 contact, jason gunn and thingy and of course sat mornings watching what now

  7. Tim Brown Says:

    So many memories – and I think I can add something as well. I was born in 1973 and moved to Timaru in 1978.

    Our next-door neighbouron Mountainview Road? Olly Olsen and family.

    After they moved to Christchurch we kept in contact, and a fours later, at the tender age of 9, I made my television debut on Olly’s show, where I performed two magic tricks. I still remember travelling to Christchurch, and eating lunch in the TVNZ cafeteria. At a table not far away, Selwyn Toogood and his “beautys” from Beauty and the Beast.

    I learned a lot about how TV worked that day. Did you know that Olly made an entire week’s worth of shows in one day? All he did was change his shirt between takes… 🙂

    Unfortunately it wasn’t the start of a career in television, but it was an amazing experience, which I remember fondly.

    BTW, if any of you went to Mountainview High, you’ll probably remember the teacher “BJ”. That’s my dad. 🙂

  8. Titanium Earrings : Says:

    the best kids shoes are those that are made of natural leather but they are a bit more expensive compared to synthetics “

  9. Shimmi Usher Says:

    Fraggle Rock on a Saturday morning with Frank Flash from What Now?

  10. Michael Says:

    I found out the other day MacGyver’s first name was revealed at the end of the series… it’s Angus.

  11. Nikki Says:

    I was born in 1976 in Australia but lived in NZ until I was 10. My dad went to Teaching College with Ollie Olsen. I googled him and came up with this. Thanks heaps for the walk down memory lane. It was so accurate, loved boys point of view too.

  12. Dale Says:

    A few more Kiwi 80’s memories – Commando M’s and Nomads, worn until your socks came out the hole at the front. Riding to school six-abreast, no helmets. Marbles – until they got banned. Taking your own piece of cardboard to school to break dance on! Those yellowy/brown canvas school bags covered with graffiti. Four square (can’t get out on a serve and no returns!) and bullrush at lunchtimes. From the school canteen, Pie – 70¢, Popsicle – 10¢, Jellytip – 25¢. Towards the end of school, cruising in anything from a Morris Minor with the flip out indicators to a Charger, painted like the General Lee! Good times!

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