A while ago, another blogger did an awesome series of posts on 1980’s nostalgia and TV shows she watched as a kid. As another ’80s kid, I loved her posts so much that I decided to do a version of my own.
My family and I lived in Australia in the 1980’s. There was so much good stuff going on back then for us kids. My childhood memories include yummy, green, frog-shaped mint ice creams and home-made popsicles from juice; huge waterslides at Surfer’s Paradise, and smaller, pop-up style waterslides at school.
My 80’s life consisted mostly of school and playing outdoors in what seemed like an endless summer. To this day, the simple act of eating watermelon by the pool while dangling your feet in the water represents a perfect summer day to me. It all has to do with what you grow up with.
My favourite TV shows included:
- Inspector Gadget – I can still remember the theme song – who could forget it?! My hair was similar to Penny’s so I obviously always imagined I was her
- Maxwell Smart
- Murder She Wrote (exciting for a kid, but not quite the same when I saw an episode as a grown-up!)
- Transformers and He-Man (I guess they were meant for boys but I enjoyed them a lot)
- Cartoons like The Jetsons, Astroboy, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo (weren’t those the best!)
- The Muppet Show and Sesame Street
- A game show that was called It’s a Knockout (which seems pretty hilarious when you look at it now but let me tell you, it was entertaining!)
- The Smurfs
- Charmkins (they each had a unique perfume!)
- Cabbage Patch Kids
- Monopoly and Chinese Checkers board games
A few memories that stuck:
We wore school uniforms and I was about 5 1/2 years old when I started school. Most of the time my mum packed my lunch to take with me (pineapple juice was a staple) but when she didn’t, she’d give me money to buy a sandwich from the school cafeteria.
The sandwiches were packed in brown paper bags and the whole buying process was exciting. I always had an egg salad sandwich, which was my favourite. To this day, whenever I go to London, I just have to get one of those! (In Finland, where I now live, you can’t get the right kind of soft bread to do them properly.)
My first book review was of Robinson Crusoe when I was in third grade. Our teacher gathered the class’s carefully crafted homework and without reading any of it, threw all of our book reports in the rubbish bin, while calmly looking us in the eye. I guess he had some kind of a pedagogic plan behind it, but all I remember was how much effort I’d put into that book review! Maybe he was just preparing us for later disappointments in life?
I learned to swim at around the same age as I started school and many afternoons were spent splashing away in my best friend’s swimming pool. At home, we didn’t have a pool of our own, but our Scottish neighbours did. They cut a hole in the fence dividing our properties so that I could go swim in their pool anytime I liked.
As kids, we would spend lots of time outdoors and I was often at my friend’s house after school. They had this orange, fluffy rug in their living room which we’d sit on while we watched Knight Rider, after swimming and snacking had been taken care of. They had an old Apple computer on which we’d play stick figures’ Olympics or a lemonade-selling game, which I can’t quite remember the point of.
Sometimes we created a sort of obstacle course for the huge ants in my friend’s backyard and the ants would return the favour by biting us. My thumbs would be swollen but I deserved it for teasing them.
We would also feed toast to possums. Why toast? I don’t know, other than the fact that it was fun to take a slice of fresh bread to a sunny spot on the balcony in the afternoon and watch it turn into crisp toast by the evening. And when it got dark, a cute cuddly possum with huge eyes would come and eat it, unafraid of us. (By the way, these possums were different than the scary ones I’ve seen in some American blogs! Way cuter!)
There were, of course, occasional breaks in the weather: I also remember thick fogs, golf ball sized hail, and heavy rain causing a flood in our backyard, turning a small stairway into a waterfall. After rain, you’d spot huge toads by the side of the road, tragically squished by traffic.
My friend and I once watched a kangaroo through her second floor bedroom window. It was raining and the kangaroo was trying to cross the backyard but it fell into the swimming pool. Quickly, it got out of the pool by itself and jumped away over the fence across the yard, disappearing into the bush. This was the only time I saw a wild kangaroo.
Whenever my parents picked me up from my friend’s place, we’d drive past a fruit tree of some kind. I can’t remember the fruit but I vividly remember that the tree was always covered in flying foxes hanging upside down. I must’ve kept my nose glued to the car window each time.
Another friend had a cockatoo as a pet, and sitting next to the bird cage, we’d play for hours with play dough. There was also a magical kind of play dough… or maybe it was some kind of sand which changed color when you dropped it in water. It seemed very cool back then. Then there was the type which you could put in the oven and it’d become solid. Do kids these days still play with play dough?
In our backyard, we had all sorts of interesting birds, insects, and plants. There was always lots to explore, it was like a miniature jungle to a kid. We’d play Uno cards outside and listen to the laugh of kookaburras. We’d see parrots fly by. We grew passionfruit vines, banana trees, pineapples (which didn’t produce any fruit), and edible rosebuds. My grandparents had boysenberry bushes.
I learned early on to love papaya (paw paw) and passionfruit, as well as beetroot which we added to pretty much every meal. A yummy breakfast classic was baked beans on toast and scrambled eggs. (I just remembered alphabet soup! Do they still make that?)
Huge caterpillars and lots of ugly critters lived in our garden; I was taught to always check my shoes before I put them on. Spider sightings were not unusual, and my grandparents had seen snake skins in their backyard. I even stepped barefoot on a snake once at school, by accident, but it was too stunned to do anything.
My parents took me and my brother to a windy little island sometimes and all I can remember is that they had hairy Chinese chickens there. I always needed to see the chickens! On the ferry ride over, we’d see swarms of jellyfish endlessly bobbing around. I knew they were stingy and was pleased to look at them safely from aboard.
On Thursdays, there was late night shopping. “Togs” (swimsuits) were entirely appropriate attire for a child to wear whilst accompanying her mother to the local supermarket on a hot day, and in the evenings, you’d see kids in the supermarket in their pajamas. Maybe they still do that over there, but here in Finland it seems a bit exotic – it would never work because of the weather! Speaking of swimsuits, I seem to remember that Gold Coast had a campaign in the 80’s, where young ladies in golden bikinis would drop coins into cars’ parking meters to encourage more Gold Coast visits.
I used to love writing stories as a child. I had a little notebook in which I’d write with a scented, multi-coloured pen. I finished some stories, but most of them were left unfinished, childhood time running out. Sometimes they were just titles and ideas – very similar to my blog, actually. I have tons of unfinished drafts and ideas for blog posts – and I doubt I’ll ever have the time to finish them all.
All this happened before I turned nine – the year we moved to Finland.
Where were you in the eighties?
The photos are from a 6-week vacation to Australia in 1999-2000. I toured the East Coast, visiting Sydney, Brisbane, Byron Bay, the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays, the Daintree Rainforest, Cairns, and other places I can’t remember. I also met up with relatives and my childhood best friend.