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.
I’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”.
If 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”.
Transformers, 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.