Longing for the 1980s: My Childhood Nostalgia List

It's the little moments in childhood that make the biggest memories.

Some say the 1980s was the last great decade. I tend to agree with that, though I would throw the early 90s in there as well.

People were friendlier. Hair styles and fashion were cooler. Soap operas actually had interesting plots. Life was less hectic. Something about it was just special.

Or was it?

Maybe the reason I feel that time was special is because I was a child, and (almost) everyone remembers their childhood as a special time? We didn’t bear the weight of responsibility we bear as adults. No worries about bills, appointments, politics, insurance, etc.

Regardless, this post is not intended to convince you that the 80s was the best decade (it was). I’m simply feeling nostalgic. It seems the older I get, the more I long for the days of my childhood. I wish my own kids could grow up in the world that I grew up in.

Saturday Mornings

Yes, I realize that Saturday mornings still exist. Yet, they’ve lost their excitement. Growing up, Saturday morning was THE time that kids got to watch cartoons (e.g. He-Man, The Smurfs, Transformers, Alvin and the Chipmunks) or kids shows (Pee-wee’s Playhouse).

Nowadays, there isn’t anything that sets Saturday mornings apart, other than a break from school; they aren’t special in the way they were in the 80s. There are half a dozen or more channels that play cartoons 24/7. Kids today will never have the same appreciation for Saturday mornings that us 80s kids had.

**Though this technically wasn’t a “kids show,” I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the magic of watching Bob Ross every Saturday morning. Sure, you can watch reruns of the show today, but it’s not the same.

Video Rental Stores

Inevitably, when people think of video rental stores (or movie stores), they think Blockbuster. And we did have a Blockbuster in my hometown, but not till sometime in the 90s. The video rental stores we had in the 80s were little mom-and-pop shops. And pretty much every town you went to, no matter how small, had a movie store.

Having a sleepover? Rent some movies.

Picking up pizza for dinner on a Saturday night? Throw in a trip to the movie store.

Bored during summer break? Movie store.

I LOVED going to the movie store. I miss browsing the aisles, the excitement of discovering that the movie you want is in stock, and getting a box of candy at the checkout.

Though I have turned into a bit of a hermit in my old age, I still feel nostalgia for this long-lost activity.

The Mall

You can’t argue that the experience of going to a mall today is the same as going to a mall in the 80s.

Malls in the 80s were bustling places, filled with people of all ages, with a large variety of stores. It was nothing to spend 3-4 hours at the mall.

Back then, you could buy anything from an airbrushed t-shirt, to a puppy, to a lawnmower. You want to take family pictures? Go to the mall. There were multiple restaurants to choose from – actual restaurants, not just food courts. The Christmas decorations were on-point. And if you wanted a picture with Santa, you just got in line and waited your turn. And no trip to the mall was complete without throwing a coin in one of the fountains and making a wish.

A visit to the mall today is sad in comparison. It’s not lively. The choice of stores is blah. There are no fountains. You have to schedule an appointment on your phone to take a photo with Santa. I would compare it to visiting a McDonald’s today compared to the 80s. When was the last time you saw a Playland at a McDonald’s?

Roller Skate Rinks

When I was a child, my favorite things to do were: hula hoop, jump rope, and roller skate. Of these, I miss roller skating the most. Admittedly, any time I come across a hula hoop, I have no choice but to put it into action. But the hula hoops today are flimsy, lightweight crap compared to the ones in the 80s.

Back to roller skating. We had a skate rink in town called Roller City (later renamed Skate City). It was THE place to go, at least for me. I never tired of skating – I could go around the rink for hours. I loved the dim lighting, the music, the eclectic mix of people. And, of course, the hokey pokey.

In between trips to the skate rink, I would practice on our carport at home with my adjustable roller skates that were worn over my regular shoes. Yes, I’m THAT old.

I can easily recall the little rush of excitement I’d get after grabbing a pair of skates from the counter, lacing up, then making my way across the carpet to the rink. I keep hoping that skate rinks will have a revival before I’m too old to lace up and get out there.

Ice Cream Chest Freezers

This may seem like an odd thing to miss, but I miss it nonetheless.

Growing up, almost every convenience store you visited had an ice cream chest near the checkout. They would be stocked with a variety of things to please everyone in the family, from ice cream sandwiches to fruity popsicles. The ones I miss the most are the push-pops and screwballs. Especially the screwballs.

I can count on one hand how many times I’ve come across an ice cream chest in the last decade or two. Why are these not a common thing anymore? Why are the 2000s sucking all the joy out of life?

Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back on your childhood everything is different?

There are tons of things from my childhood that I look back on fondly, things that don’t even exist today. Birthday parties at McDonald’s. Showbiz Pizza. Legally riding in the back of a pickup truck. The list goes on and on.

Though I do genuinely miss the things listed above, the things I miss most are specific to my own childhood. My mom cooking french toast on Sunday mornings. I love french toast, but I never make it. Mine will never be as good as my Mom’s. I miss shelling peas on the front porch swing with my Maw Maw. Mostly, I just miss Maw Maw. 

The older I get, the more I recognize a deep sadness in myself. Not depression, but a sadness that comes from grief for lost loves ones that never really goes away; longing for a time that no longer exists.

What I wouldn’t give to go back for one day. Back when life was simple.