I Miss My Dinosaurs – Longing For Bygone Memories of The 80s and 90s

This week I was watching an advance copy of NBC’s hit show – This Is Us. (Yes, I love being a TV critic.). In one scene – don’t worry, no spoilers – Jack, Rebecca and the kids were in the video store looking for a movie to rent for the weekend. They didn’t have any of the Karate Kids in stock! Poor Kevin.

Photo by Ron Batzdorff/NBC

This got me thinking. I miss the video store. I don’t mean Blockbuster and the DVDs – I’m talking the little privately-owned video store that was in the ‘center of town’ where I grew up. I remember going with my parents, or grandparents, and heading right for the kid section. We’d scoop up The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Neverending Story or yes – The Karate Kid.

When the movie that we wanted wasn’t there, it was a disappointment, sure. But when the movie WAS there – WOW! It was like finding treasure. It was a kind of high.

Anyone Remember The Apple Dumpling Gang?

In my early teens, when I first started doing musicals in town, as soon as the family who directed would announce the show for the summer, I would BEG my parents to take me to the video store right away. I had to get the ONE copy they were sure to have of the musical, before anyone else auditioning had the chance. I always had to see what funny character part there was that I could shoot for. I loved the high of seeing the video there on the rack and winning that race.

Thanks to Netflix, Streaming and Reddit – that’s gone. The high is gone. Just the whining when the movie I want is streaming on the one app I don’t currently pay for.

When I stopped to think, there we so many more things from childhood that are extinct.

I miss making mix tapes. I miss going to the record store to buy blank tapes (the really cool ones were in the slim cases). You could choose a 45 min, 60 minutes or even 90 minutes cassette. I was working at Pretzel Time in the mall and would cash my paycheck and head over to Tape World.

I’d check out the cassingle wall and buy the newest tracks. River of Dreams, Love and Affection, Lucas with the Lid Off, Voices that Care, and the all-time favorite cassingle, Life if a Highway by Tom Cochrane.

Bring those back home to my double tape deck (yeah, I was fancy like that) and hit the high-speed dub button. Track by track I’d make the ultimate play list. Not unlike what they talk about in High Fidelity, it was an art to the mix tape.

Was it for driving with the windows open? Was it for a party? Was it for a special girl? So many things to think about it. What does this song make you feel? What do these lyrics mean to her? How loud can I crank this before blowing out my Buick’s speakers?

And how did I get those songs BEFORE I had my Pretzel Time bankroll? I’d sit home, on the floor of my bedroom with my boombox and listen to Rick Dees or Casey Kasem’s top 40 countdowns and hit record on the tracks I wanted. It was a dedication – a work of art.

Now we just sign in to iTunes and pay $1.99 per track and put them all on our phone. Where’s the art? Where’s the hunt?

Speaking of the hunt – I miss shopping.

I mean really shopping for something – saving and then hunting to find it. Department Store shopping – Bradlees, Caldor, K-Mart. The biggest item that comes to mind is the original Nintendo.

My brother and I couldn’t wait to get this thing. But we did. We waited and waited. Check the stores every time we went. Nothing. Up and down the stairless escalator at Caldor (made for taking your carriage down with you, but really it was just a speed ramp!) to the electronics department to find that sign “Sorry Sold Out”.

Then the call came in. Dad packed us up in the car and off to Bradlees we went. The “new” Bradlees – not the old one in the next town over that kind of smelled. Waiting with our name on it – Nintendo. Dad even threw in Mike Tyson’s Punchout! It was euphoric. The waiting, the hunting – we finally had our prize! .

Now, we pre-order it on Amazon and with Prime it’s at our house the next day. No searching. No waiting. No visiting the stores with hope. The hunt is gone.

Side note – we got home, my Dad hooked up the Nintendo and my brother and I ran into the room to play. My brother jumps to the ground and lands on his hand… bending his thumb all the way backwards and off to the doctors they go. Do I get to play while he’s out? No. Bald Bull, Glass Joe and Soda Popinski would have to wait even longer. I retired to my room to go through some more baseball cards while I waited.

Yeah, I also really miss collecting baseball cards – for fun.

We would walk to the local ice cream shop and spend our allowance on packs of baseball cards. The classic “need it, need it, got it, got it, got it, need it” moments of our childhood. We’d trade, flip and yes, even put them in our spokes. But only if I had doubles. I had more Ozzie Virgil cards than any young man would ever need. He was always in my spokes.

I had the albums, the special 9-card sleeve sheets to put the cards in. Pages of my favorite players. Pages of players I thought were the best in the game. Entire albums of Don Mattingly.

That was the hunt – Don Mattingly cards. Topps, DonRuss, Upper Deck, Score. Those were it. There were shops in town. Shops in the mall. And the local card shows at the VFW or Knights of Columbus Hall.

We could find the cards we didn’t have. We could buy supplies and a lot of the times, we got to stand in a short line and get an autograph or two of a local sports hero and shoot the breeze with him for a little bit. It was a child’s hobby – then.

Now it’s a business. A HUGE business. I watch the players signing outside or inside the stadium. The kids are there, but pushing their ways to the walls are the old guys. They aren’t doing it for the joy to get Aaron Judge’s autograph to display on their walls, they want one on this special ball, saying this special thing, with this special pen. And they have an entire bag of this specific stuff for whoever they may see. It’s all about the re-sell to them, not the collection.

They’ve taken the fun out of it. If you go to a show, you buy an autograph ticket (for a LOT of money) stand in line and are pushed through without as much as a “nice to meet you” to the player. Where’s the fun? Where’s the connection? It’s apparently not what’s for sale anymore.

Sure, there are a lot of things we have now that I enjoy, but I really do miss how simple life was 30 years ago. I think I’m going to put my smart phone down and go for a walk in the woods. And I’m not going to worry about poison ivy, ticks and lyme disease, getting the perfect Instagram photo, or falling down and suing the land owner. I just want to have some simple fun.


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