Why I’m Glad I Was An 80s Kid

If you’re a pre-1980s kid who grew up without the abundance of technological advancements we have since the Internet and cell phones came along, perhaps you still hold dear some of the life lessons my “archaic” upbringing instilled upon me.

Why I’m Glad I Was An 80s Kid


1.I Know How To Live Without A Cell Phone

The intern at work, a baby-faced twenty-one year old, recently said to one of the guys, “So you mean to tell me, when you wanted to call a girl, you had to stand there in the same room as your parents to talk to her on the phone, where everyone could hear everything?”

Yes. And I have to say I miss the days when we weren’t threatened with “dick pics”, texting, and Snapchat. Sure those things can all be great, maybe not the “dick pics”, but they sure took away all the mystery and anticipation out of relationships – from family, to friendships, to dating, to hanging up on telemarketers.

Every kid carried quarters in case they ever needed to use a payphone.  If you broke down on the side of the road, you could still trust strangers to give you a lift to the nearest gas station. And probably the best part about having landline phones was that people called during the same hours – after work when they knew you would be home.  Your day wasn’t interrupted by phone calls on the road, at the grocery store, in church, at a funeral, in the movie theater.  There were no angry text messages asking why you hadn’t called them back within two minutes!

2.Toys Were A Rare Treat

(c) Copyright Drea Damara 2016


Back in my day…we only got toys at Christmas and on birthdays and they usually were some group kind of activity because you were going to have to share them with your siblings. The majority of the time, however, it seemed like you never got the chance to play with them because we were ALWAYS outside.  Whether it was because the outdoors spoke of more freedom or because my parents often could be heard saying, “If you want to fight, go outside so you don’t break anything.” (They weren’t talking about bones, they were worried about the furniture.)

I appreciate now that I am older and a writer that I had to use my imagination whenever we wanted to have fun. I remember we had one pair of roller skates that were hand-me-downs from some cousin. My three sisters and I had to share them. We’d eagerly stand by the road and yell, “Okay, take them off! It’s my turn!” It didn’t matter that they did not fit any of our feet well, they were still skates and they were ours! This left the other three to improvise, pulling the skater with a jump rope or prodding them with a stick we found in the yard, which encouraged you to learn how to skate fast and well!

The best 80s improv game from a childhood I ever heard was from a Cuban friend of mine. She lived in Miami and said when the city would open the fire hydrants to vent them, leaving the water to rush out and flood the streets, she and her brothers would have someone peddal on a bicycle “really fast” through the flooded street. They would tie a swimming pool raft/floatie to the back with a jump rope. As many kids as could pile on would get on the raft.  Another group of kids would wait behind them at the end of the street. These kids were the “immigration officers”. They would waite to beat the snot out of the kids who fell off the raft and thus they dubbed the game (because that’s what it was!) – Cubans On A Raft.  Now that, my friends, is 80s playtime ingenuity at its finest.

3.Life Before Cable Television


This bad boy is similar to the infamous fixture that sat in our living room for years. 80s and prior kids, remember how the TV was a family fixture and Dad was likely in charge of whatever program was chosen.  We got seven channels…two of them were the same broadcast network. (Someone had a sick sense of humor.)

Saturday morning was the only time kids ruled the TV because that was when all the cartoons played – the world apparently thought kids didn’t need to watch TV during the week and should be doing something like…oh, I don’t know, homework.  During the week, anything past about 9p.m. was probably not appropriate for children and all kids knew this. My parents nearly had a heart attack when “The Simpsons” first aired because they had never before seen a kid who had such a smart mouth, was lousy at school, or did battle with his “old man” be lauded a child icon.

Before cable television there weren’t a lot of options. I miss this for the simple fact that it made you not always want to be in front of the television. It made you want to do other things like read books, socialize with your family, go outside, go to the movie theater, go bowling, go…wherever, maybe even talk on that landline phone no matter who could overhear. We didn’t feel like we were missing anything because there was so little to miss. We were alerted to national crises when all six channels interrupted with a message from the President, like when the Challenger shuttle exploded. Television was not mandatory for life to exist and national crises were more important. Your parents told you to hush up at 6p.m. and maybe again at 10 p.m. because that’s when the major news broadcasts for the day were aired. Life was clockwork so it took away all the chaos and the plethora of dizzying choices. It was exciting to plan to go to someone’s house to watch a movie. I can’t remember the last time I made plans to go to someone’s house just to watch a movie. If you told me I had to have a sleepover at someone’s house now, I’d probably try to whine my way out of it. And the damnedest thing is I can’t even tell you why…

4.I Don’t Need GPS


My parents and teachers always made sure I knew the cardinal directions and I still always know them wherever I am – that’s north, east, south, and west to all those who think I’m referring to a little red bird. I don’t mean to sound smug, but I’m a 911 dispatcher and one of the biggest problems when people call to report an accident is that they have no idea which direction is which.

I will ask, “What side of the road is the accident on?”  They will say, “The right,” or “The left.”  Well, that’s great.  My right or your right, I want to ask them.  The next thing I may have to ask is, “Do you know if it’s North of such-and-such highway or south?” and they usually reply, “I don’t know, my GPS isn’t working.” Or hold on, “I’ll check on my phone.” I appreciate technology. I truly do. I get to write smug reminiscent things like this to share with complete strangers across the globe, but I hate how it has taken away our ability to think sometimes. Some of these “little tricks”, like knowing cardinal directions, can actually save our lives and I will forever be grateful that I was forced to learn them.  I know how to read a map and can look at one, write down the highways I need to take, usually on a sticky note, adhere it to my dashboard, and get where I need to go without ever relying on technology.

5.The Etiquette Of Visiting


Perhaps this one may be a little more colloquial, but I recall the golden rule, “never go over to someone’s house empty-handed”. The like was true if company came over to your house. You always had to make sure you had something on-hand to serve to guests, if someone happened to pop by out of the blue for a visit.  And it was fairly common that someone would stop by out of the blue for a visit…and it was a welcome treat.

You didn’t have to call before you came over to someone’s house, as long as it was after the 9 to 5 business hours and before “bed time”. You weren’t interrupting anyone’s cable television programming and you hadn’t texted them all day, so if you wanted to talk to them and not hold up the landline phone, you had to make the effort of a face-to-face visit.  It made you appreciate visting people and being visited.

This brings to mind another golden rule that I learned may have been lost on a younger generation.  My sister who is ten years younger than me, lived with me for a time. She invited someone over without giving me notice and I said, “My God, why did you invite them? You haven’t cleaned the toilet or the kitchen!” After this debacle, I asked my friend who is three years older than me, just to see if I was crazy, “What’s the first thing you do when you know company is coming?” She said, “Make sure the toilet and the kitchen are clean”, like I was a damned fool for asking.

There are two things in any house which should always be clean-your kitchen and your toilet. Why you may ask? Because…in case company comes over, those are the two rooms they will use.

6.I Remember A World Without Plastic


Our reliance on plastic products has become more insane than I think we realize and now we don’t know how to combat all this non-biodegradable stuff we’ve littered all over the world into landfills and the oceans. I don’t even remember it happening, is the strange part. One day glass soda bottles were gone and you could even…I shit you not…buy bottled water!

Why would we need bottled water when you could just take only the amount you needed out of a faucet or put it in a thermos and take with you? Sidewalk salt and concrete came in paper bags, not plastic. Glasses were made  of…glass.  Dishes were ceramic, not plastic, Styrofoam, or paper, for the most part. I have to wonder now, did we really need plastic that much?

I will assume it was the cost of washing glass bottles and the inconvenience of things like returning your empties that shoved things like glass soda bottles out of use in exchange for plastic. If I had to do it all over again, I don’t think I’d mind. I still have to recycle now, but I don’t feel like I get any satisfaction out of it. Most of what I recycle is plastic and will still end up being a burden on a world that is overly flooded with the stuff. It seems like we tried to make life more convenient and in doing so we became the most high-maintenance species on the planet.

7.We Used To Fix Stuff

Sewing tools

When I was young, I remember that it was perfectly acceptable to wear handmade clothes that your mother slaved over, to wear hand-me-downs, and to mend clothing. I remember that when the TV or the stereo broke, there were places you could take them to have them repaired. That ugly, wood encased, monstrosity of a television I showed you previously, we repaired about ten times over the course of my childhood. We didn’t just go out and buy a new one – that was unheard of, unthinkable. I can’t tell you how many television sets I’ve discarded since my twenties. I can’t tell you how many people I have met who seem like lost souls wandering through Hell, inquiring where they can get clothing mended or  televisions and stereos repaired, with this defeated look in their eyes that says they know such places will never again exist. The strangest thing is when someone finds out that I know how to sew and looks at me like they have just discovered the last surviving animal of an endangered species, even if it is for something as simple as replacing a lost button.

I don’t mean to get on an environmental or anti-technology kick, but these are the things that make me appreciate the decade in which I was born and I honestly don’t see why I should feel like I have to apologize for that if people who live differently don’t feel the need to apologize for the way live. That’s fair isn’t it? To each his own. No one wants to hear that their way of life is ruining things and that a previous generation did it better. I’m just saying that, as an adult, I look around me and realize we don’t repair anything anymore. We throw everything away well before its expiration date. I feel forced to “keep up with the Jones” and it makes me feel sad and like a glutton. In short, I don’t need to keep up with the Jones, damn it. I was an 80s kid – those damned Joneses moved in down the street much later. Why did they get to set the precedent?

Let’s end this puppy on a happy note and give the Millennials a point I’m sure they’ll be glad to accept…

8.Not Everything Worked Great


When I was a kid, we had heat. The house, however, was never quite warm enough. Three cheers for technology! Hip hip, hooray!

My sisters and I would loath getting out of bed for the simple fact it meant we had to get ready for school in the icy house. We would go sit on the floor, each of us next to a vent, and press our butts up to the vent while the heater was on, until Mom yelled at us that not another minute could be spared getting warm before we had to get dressed for school. If we were lucky, Mom baked muffins that morning, which meant she would leave the oven door open after she baked because it would help to heat up the kitchen. Now I realize that was the only reason she baked muffins – to create heat. She could have made pancakes, bacon, eggs, etc. (Cereal was as expensive then as it is now and was as rare as getting toys, by the way. We were forbidden from asking for cereal when in the grocery store – the mere mention of requesting cereal got you the death glare or sent to the car, while Mom finished shopping.)

So how could I possibly appreciate that not everything worked as well as it seems to now? In this case, it is because I know just how many ridiculous layers of clothing are required to keep warm during a blizzard and I’m not ashamed to wear them. I keep boots, a blanket, and an extra hat and gloves in my vehicle during the winter. One – because I don’t want to be cold like I remember being as a kid. Two – because I don’t want to look like some morons I’ve seen who are broken down or rush into a gas station in the winter, wearing shorts when there’s “white stuff” on the ground. Promise me, if you’re ever broken down in the snow somewhere and you’re not dressed for it, you won’t look pleadingly to the first person who comes to your rescue and cry, “I’m freezing! It’s too cold!”

It’s not “too cold”.

You are a moron and no one made you a moron, but you. If I never had it bad, then I wouldn’t know how to prepare for it to ever be bad again, so…I’m glad the 80s taught me that.

In the 80s, there were no “bun warmers” in vehicles. There was no auto-start option. You had to get your butt moving, plan ahead of time, go outside and start your vehicle. You had to manually scrape your windows. This taught me timeliness and to appreciate mechanics. It taught me that my vehicle hates the cold as much as I do and its fragile. It didn’t want to get out of bed on a cold day like I did. It wasn’t healthy for it to start immediately and pull out of the driveway. So, yes, things didn’t work quite as great as they do now, but it taught me to be patient, to be independent, and above all, to be resourceful.

Well…what about you? Are you glad you’re an 80s kid or prior? If so, why? What did I miss?

Drea Damara is the author of The Weeping Books Of Blinney Lane and Chasing Vengeance, and occasional blogger of useless information.


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