Random Things From My Childhood
1. Dixie Cups
I don't know what kids in other schools got for their random holiday and you've-been-good treats, but at my school, we usually got these. Search Google for "Dixie Cups," and you'll probably just see the boring paper cups people place near the bathroom sink or take on picnics. But I'm talking about the little cups of vanilla & orange ice cream with the wooden spoon thing.
Some friends of ours had a set or two of Pipeworks, and I remember spending hours in their garage building things when I was about 12 or 13. I'd take the pipes and the connectors and build any manner of functional objects -- chairs, tables, wagons, cars, even jungle gyms that could support the weight of a 50-pound child. The annoying part was separating the pipes from the connectors (they were really sturdy, and hard to get apart), but despite this drawback, Pipeworks unleashed my inner-mini-engineer, and gave me hours of creative fun.
3. Now You're Cooking
Even as a kid, I enjoyed cooking -- but I rarely got to do it. My mom liked to have the kitchen to herself, and I was usually shooed to the basement playroom, where I had plastic dishes and food and would "pretend eat" the mutant strawberries and mushy lettuce.
Then along came Now You're Cooking, which were plastic dishes with a twist -- you could really cook with them (in the microwave) or serve meals in them. Not only that, but some of the dishes were multi-functional! There were tall spoons that were hollow and could function as straws. Trays could be flipped upside down and be used both ways. And the commercials were oh-so-catchy...
But then I actually got a few sets, and learned about their downside...
"Different than Mom's."
Oh, sure -- the dishes were certainly more colorful than my mother's Correlle. More plastic-y. But you still had to wash them after using them! UGH, CHORES. Who wants to play with something you have to clean after each use? LAME. Go into a box -- into my closet. My future grandchildren can deal with you.
4. Bouncy Balls
We used to have non-carpeted steps leading down to a tiled laundry room in the basement. I don't remember when the game was first invented, but it was pretty simple: one person would sit at the top of the steps with a bouncy ball, and fling it down the stairs as hard as possible. It would, with any luck, ricochet off the laundry room walls. With every launch, it would do something different, land in a different place. Once it came to rest, the person at the bottom of the stairs (assuming they hadn't received a rough blow to the head) would retrieve the ball and give it back to the person at the top of the stairs. After several launches, the two players would switch places.
We found the game highly amusing -- and our parents didn't seem to mind, except for, perhaps, the noise we made. The same can not be said for the time we thought it would be fun to throw tennis balls from the front yard to the back yard. You know, across the roof of the house.
5. Fisher-Price Crib Activity Center
I am amused by how things have changed since I was a wee lass. Nowadays, babies have to be kept in a crib with minimally-spaced bars, no blankets, no stuffed animals, and no bumpers or else -- DOOM AND DESTRUCTION. Plus we now have baby monitors (with sound if you're good a good parent, video if you're a better one). Now they even make little monitors that attach to the baby's diaper that send off a signal if the baby goes for X amount of time without moving.
But in the 80s, we were still in the era of "put a bunch of shiny stuff in the crib and see how long you can leave the baby to its own devices." And that era was awesome.
You'll find several versions of this "activity center" out there, but the one pictured is the one I grew up on. Our church had about four of them, and I could sit there playing with it for ages. To an adult, it may not look like much, but to a toddler, there are like 200 things to do on that toy.
6. Sleepover Friends
About a year before I got into the Baby-Sitters Club, I saw two Sleepover Friends books in the Scholastic catalog and my parents bought me them. I read them, loved them, and wanted more. I soon discovered they had more of them at our library, and I spent fourth grade simultaneously loving the crap out of the SF's, while ignoring the BSC-gushing the other girls were doing.
Lauren, Patti, Stephanie & Kate > Kristy, Stacey, Claudia & Mary Anne... or so I thought at the time.
The Sleepover Friends were in fifth grade, and every Friday night they would gather for a slumber party at one of their homes. They would gorge themselves on snacks -- chips and dip, Dr. Pepper, whatever -- and watch movies, talk about boys, call in requests to the local radio station, and do random girly things. When they weren't partying, the girls were pwning everyone else at school (especially that horrible brat Jenny and her "sidekick" Angela), hanging out at the mall (usually at the pizza joint) or riding their bikes around town (helmetless and parentless.)
In my adult years, I have picked up most of the books in the series at thrift stores, since it seems nobody else besides me is ever looking for them. The earlier SF books, especially, are still enjoyable, innocent, and make me want to go order a pizza, guzzle some Dr. pepper, and prank-call a boy.
6. Sweet Roses Barbie Furniture
Behold the shoulder pads!
Let it be known that I, a 9-year-old Barbie enthusiast, was not content to just play with the dolls. Those dolls needed furniture. And around the time I got into Barbies, the Sweet Roses furniture was among the must-haves.
My cousin had the Sweet Roses bed, and I was so envious of its silky pillows and reversible bedspread and ruffles.
My Barbie "beds" consisted of a hardcover book underneath a doll's blanket, and a beanbag for a pillow.
One year, I did receive the Sweet Roses kitchen, and when my cousin (the one who had The Bed) and I got all our Barbie stuff together, we were able to set up a small Barbie condo. (A camping cooler stood in for the fridge, and the dolls did their bathroom business, you know, in the woods or something.)
7. Temporary Backyard Swimming Pools
You know the ones. The ones your parents bought, set up, maintained, and then sold within a year because they were just too much work.
We'll always cherish the memories of that freezing water!
8. Giant Metal Slides
These are becoming more & more rare, but they're not extinct yet. Here's to burning the undersides of your legs on a warm day! (Second only to the big plastic slides, from which you'd receive a static shock.)
9. Somewhere Out There
It was part of one of the most angst-filled children's films of my youth, yet it was an extremely popular song with kids. Somewhere Out There was the Let It Go of 1986.
10. Capri Sun
I could talk about the fact that the straws were nearly impossible to get in without bending them (or destroying your patience) but instead I really think I need to talk about Walmart.
Stick with me.
In the early 90s, before we even had a Walmart in my region, they played commercials for it on TV, and there was this one that featured an elderly Walmart greeter. He was so freaking cheerful. At one point in the commercial, he would start to clap and sing "Down the Walmart way!" Nooo idea what that meant. Still don't. But it was hilarious.
So this one time, my cousin and I were drinking Capri Sun and doing that thing everybody did where you suck in all the juice and make the pouch flat. Then you, um, put the juice back in the bag, along with air, and make the pouch fat again. Oh yes, the grossness. But anyway. So as the story goes, I had just sucked out a bunch of juice and the bag had flattened, and all of a sudden, my cousin started to sing: ''Down the Walmart way!"
I'm not sure exactly what happened after that. I think I was in the middle of doing a spit-take when I realized I should not spit juice everywhere, so I tried to keep my mouth closed, but then I choked, and... yeah.