Hearing of Dick Van Patten’s passing this week, I was brought back to my childhood and the memories of watching Eight is Enough. It wasn’t surprising that I looked forward to the show each week. It was on ABC, one of the 6 channels we received through our roof top antennae. As an only child living in suburban St. Louis, it seemed so much more exciting to live in California with a house full of siblings.
The last episode of 8 is Enough aired in 1981, when I was still a young child and before my frizzy hair kicked in. Thinking back to simpler times, I couldn’t help but think how much the world has changed. What would my kids, members of Generation Z, think if they were transported back in time?
Here’s your answer.
One summer, my parents thought it would be fun to visit the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, WI. It was the perfect place to have wholesome family fun as bikini clad buxom women waited on you. As our server walked away in stiletto heels, her strategically placed cotton tail reminded me this was not an ordinary resort. What makes this an 80’s only experience is not that Playboy Clubs no longer exist; it’s that none of the servers had a big booty. In the words of Amy Schumer’s, Milk Milk Lemonade, “I used to think my tits were where it’s at. Used to be concerned my booty was too fat. But now I know the truth and that worry has been shot. Big booty’s what they want and big booty’s what they got”.
Let’s put it this way. If Kim Kardashian came to age in the 80’s, she’d still have her original booty.
- Those Awkward Family Photos Weren’t So Awkward
Where do I begin? Everything about this picture screams the only way I am getting married is if I join a convent. What is amazing is that women in the 80’s aspired to look like this. Okay, maybe not the face or the outfit, but my hair definitely fit in. Check out Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing if you don’t believe me.
Today’s Generation Z would drive themselves mad, trying to find smoothing products at the drug store. It simply didn’t exist, at least not shelves full of it. Weird hair styles didn’t stop with frizz-tansic looks either. One of the coolest girls in my High School set her hair with hot rollers and left it that way. I am talking no comb out whatsoever and I thought she was all that. I secretly hope she has since gained a lot of weight and looks much older than me.
- Keeping in Touch Was a lot More Difficult
Talking on the phone in the 80’s was a whole lot different from today. You most likely memorized your friend’s phone numbers and if you didn’t, you referred to your trusty address book. Really awesome kids had their own home line separate from their parents. However, like most kids, I simply stretched the cord across the hallway into my bedroom. If you were driving and broke down, good luck! There were signs you could put in your window asking passerby’s to call police for help. Of course, the Good Samaritan would have to stop at a store to use the phone. What 80’s kid can forget waiting for some special someone to call and wondering if the phone was out of order? A check that the dial tone was still there was a must. I won’t even get into the décor or my outfit but I will blow your mind by saying this room looks the exact same today. I thankfully, do not!
- It was easier to pack, but good luck finding the right hotel.
Although you may see a pilot outside the cockpit during deplaning today, 80’s kids were able to visit the pilot much more frequently. If you were lucky, you’d receive a silver plane shaped pin representing the airlines. When you arrived at your destination, you may have been greeted at the gate. Anyone could walk through the airport and hang out. There were no off-limit areas, you simply went through security (keeping your shoes on) and kept going. If you wanted to walk on the flight with a giant Big Gulp and a box-cutter, no problem. Don’t forget your cigarettes either, a smoking section existed as if smoke knew to suddenly stop at aisle 10. Your stewardess was likely a size four, considering the heaviest she could be (according to at least one airline’s guidelines), was 129 pounds at 5 foot 5. Imagine recruiting for that job today! My left leg might not have made the cut.
The fun didn’t stop with lighting up over Michigan. Even getting your plane ticket and hotel room was an adventure. You probably picked your destination based on a friend’s recommendation or where your travel agent was invited to stay recently. I remember as late as the mid-90’s picking a location based on an ad in the back of Bride’s magazine. In that sense, today is the “good old days”. Sites like tripadvisor.com have revolutionized consumer power. Back then, if you had a bad experience only your immediate circle would know about it. I’d gladly take off my shoes to have this information at my fingertips.
- Getting lost was a whole lot easier.
The idea of GPS goes back to 1957, when scientists at MIT noted that radio signals transmitting from Russia’s small satellite (Sputnik) changed as its distance changed. This discovery sparked the idea of satellites being used to track distances. However, it was not until 15-years ago that the first GPS models were in most American’s reach. We already know traveling was an uncertain proposition. Imagine trying to drive in a strange city to a hotel with a lumpy mattress and view of a parking lot. All you had was whatever information the rental counter told you, which you promptly forgot, and your flimsy map. Even finding where you were on the map wasn’t always easy, especially with your husband screaming that you aren’t helping (not saying this happened to me, okay maybe it did, many times). While GPS still has occasional issues, it’s a whole lot easier to explore than ever before. And, I am pretty sure it’s saved some marriages.
- The daily newspaper was your lifeline to the world
Although this image is from 1922, classified advertisements in the 80s (and even 90s) wasn’t much different. If you wanted to buy a car, find a job, or even find a date you took out a classified ad. My friends who married in the mid-90s met this way, it was the match.com of its time. If you wanted news, you couldn’t go online and get it whenever you wanted. You either had to subscribe to cable, which about 1/3 of Americans didn’t do in 1985, or you turned to traditional mediums like your local paper. Finding a job meant typing your resume and cover letter on a typewriter, which by the way is unforgiving if you make a mistake. You then took your completed masterpiece and carefully folded it into an envelope and hoped it would arrive a few days later. It was nice in some ways, because if you try to apply today many firms require you complete a long online questionnaire. Hello- is that really necessary if you haven’t decided you even want to talk to me? Don’t get me started on that.