Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who cared if we poked our eyes out?

Kids from the 70's were tough! When it came to toys, toy manufacturers were in it for the WOW factor. There must have not been much thought or worry about Timmy hurting himself and his parents suing for millions. I had a lot of these dangerous toys myself as a child.

Remember the Lemon Twist? You attached a plastic circle to your ankle that had a plastic lemon on the end of it. You swung your leg around and jumped the little lemon. Talk about a workout! If you were really good you could do it while running. I can't tell you how many times I fell and wiped out when I really got going. Skinned knees galore!

How about the clacker? This was basically two heavy plastic balls on a string that you got going with a flick of your wrist. They made a fantastic clacking noise that drove parents and teachers crazy!! Kids would have huge bruises on their wrists from playing with these toys. The toy became lethal if you tried to throw it at someone!!

Other favorite dangerous toys included:

Baby Alive--The commercial went something like "Baby Alive.....soft and sweet.... she can eat and she can drink....." Of course as a kid we substituted the lyrics she can poop and she can pee for the eat and drink part. I wanted one of these dolls so badly!! I finally got one for Christmas and thought it was great!!! You gave her a bottle and she peed instantly in her diapers. There was some kind of food concoction that you mixed up and fed her (she had moving lips!!!) and it eventually ended up in her diapers as a brown poo-like substance. The only drawback was that she went through diapers like crazy and they were expensive. Eventually they found out that the "food" was molding inside the dolls and kids were getting sick. Once this announcement was made, I am sure that a lot of Baby Alive dolls ended up in the dump. The doll also made a reappearance in the 80's and I recently saw an updated model in a ToysRUs ad.

Chinese Jump rope- Basically a big rubberband that two people wrapped around their legs and a third person stood on the middle and twisted it around their legs and did strange contortions to leap out of the middle. Big opportunities existed to fall and break a limb when trying to get out of it. All the cool girls played this game during recess.

Lawn Darts- This actually proved to be deadly to some people. They were basically jumbo sized darts with metal needle-like tips that you threw at targets outside. Now I don't think that it takes a genius to figure out that kids would throw these at each other.

Plastic Bubble Glue- This was a psychadelic rainbow colored substance that was guaranteed to either get kids high or destroy a few brain cells. It smelled toxic!!! It came in a squeeze tube. You squeezed out a pea sized blop, rolled it into a ball, and stuck it on the end of a little straw. You then blew air in the straw and produced a bright colored rubber ball. You could pinch of the end and play with the ball and bat it around with your hands. Not much to it but I always used to get my mom to buy this for me. I guess kids were too high off the fumes to realize how dumb it was. It was cheap and you could find it in the toy sections at most grocery stores.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Teen Mall Queen

Do kids still hang out in malls like the did in the 80's? I practically lived in malls from about the sixth grade until college. Richardson Square Mall holds a lot of good memories for me. It was built in 1977 and I used to go there a lot with my family when we lived in Garland (it was the closest mall.) Since I no longer live in the area, I just found out that the mall was basically demolished and all that is left is a Super Target and a future Lowe's. Sad!!!!

The mall was located at the intersection of Beltline Road and Plano Road. At it's highpoint, it had four main anchors: Sears, Dillards, Tiches (which became Joske's), and Montgomery Ward. It had all of the usual 80's mall stores as well.

In 1979, we moved to Richardson and ended up right around the corner from the mall. I think the first time I went there by myself was in the 5th grade (1980). Back then, kids rode their bikes everywhere. Today, when I think about how far I used to go on my bike around town, it amazes me that I did not get killed or kidnapped in the process. It was definitely a different time (God I feel old!!!!!!)

I probably went to the mall the most with my friend Elizabeth. We would go to the movies, hang out, eat junk food, and occasionally have enough money to buy stuff. Stuarts and Lerners were big back then as well as Foot Locker, the Limited, and the Gap. Dillards was also popular but I only went there with my mom. That was the place to go for Calvin Klein jeans, Luv It jeans (remember the jeans with the little appliques on the back pockets?), and Esprit.

We also used to hang out in Pier One a lot. Pier One in the 70's-80's was nothing like it is today. It was a super cool store full of stuff from far away places like little wooden shoes from Holland and chopsticks. You could wander around in there for hours, which we did. The store was rows of floor to ceiling shelves and I never could figure out how they prevented shoplifting because they had no cameras and the salespeople were too busy talking on the phone.

In the 70's and 80's, Sears was not just for appliances like it is today. Clothes there were actually cute and well made. My mom used to go there at the beginning of every season when I was in elementary school and buy me loads of stuff. The Sears in Richardson Square Mall was also where I got my ears pierced in the third grade. I chickened out twice before I actually went through with it which I am sure really pissed my mom off since she had driven me all the way there.

Back then Sears also had a huge toy department. This was before WalMart took everything over. The annual wishbook was the highlight of my year. I wanted one of everything and I had a great time wandering the toy aisles while my parents were busy in the rest of the store. I had a bad habit of getting "lost" from my parents and I remember one visit where I was so lost that I went all the way out to the parking lot to see if our car was still there. I was probably 8 or 9 at the time. I was freaking out but I think I eventually found them in the tool department.

In the middle of the store was a large candy department with almost any type of bulk candy you could imagine, as well as fudge, popcorn, and sodas. My favorite thing to get was this candy shaped like little balls that came in a tube with a little seasonal figure (like Santa, a heart, or the Easter bunny on the top.) I also liked to get the string of lollipops that always had white writing on them. They also had a great record department. I probably went there once a week in junior high to pick up a new 45.

Creepy right? I think it is rather sad though. Back then it was a busy and happening place. It was the place to be seen and hang out. They had a great theater that I would go to pretty much every weekend with friends. I am thinking that they probably had 3-4 screens. In the lobby they had this soda dispenser for people who hated to wait in line. You could insert your money and out would pop a little cup, some chipped ice would spew out, and then your soda would pour out. You had to be careful though because sometimes the cup would come out crooked and if you were not paying attention (like my friend Elizabeth) your soda would miss the cup and then you would be SOL. There was also a soup dispenser there which I thought was odd because who the hell eats soup at the movies????
Another thing that we liked to do at the mall was eat. Chik-Fil-A, Orange Julius, the Nut House, GNC (for fruit roll-ups), Sbarros pizza... you name it. There were two places that we used to go to that seem kind of odd to me . One of them was a Mexican restaurant that apparently never had any customers but Elizabeth and I. We used to eat there all the time. I have vivid memories of one of us spilling our drinks and getting yelled at. We also used to eat at Piccadilly cafeteria which I think made us feel older and important. The eating area was like a big maze and we used to go all the way to the back and sit by ourselves.

One other place that I remember was a store near the movie theater that sold t-shirts. You would pick one of the designs that was featured on the walls and they would iron it on for you. You could then have your name put in the back in various choices of styles. You picked out the t-shirt and then you were charged by how much stuff they ironed on it. I used to talk my mom into buying me a new shirt here about once a month. She always used to complain about how expensive the shirt turned out to be by the time they finished ironing everything on it.
Other weird memories about this place:
  1. Elizabeth and I putting headbands (yellow for me and blue for her) on layaway at this kiosk in the mall during the Olivia Newton John "Physical" era. What nerds!!!!
  2. Our fascination with junk food. We would buy tons of crap from the restroom area vending machines, take it home and pig out! What they hell were we thinking????
  3. When the mall first opened, it was closed on Sundays except for the movie theater. One Sunday afternoon I was sitting there with my friends Shin and Yuan waiting for her parents when this gang of older guys starting yelling stuff at us and threatening us. Being the brave kids we were.... we ran.... and they ran after us. I remember hauling ass and outrunning all of them around the outside of the whole mall. I remember being so terrified and somehow I had a sudden burst of speed and just flew past everyone. Eventually they caught up to my friends and it was realized that they thought we were someone else.
  4. Elizabeth and I buying t-shirts at Spencers with pennies. Boy was the cashier pissed off big time!!! Ha!!
  5. Performing a dance routine in the middle of the mall one Christmas. The mall used to have various dance schools come in and perform during the holidays.
  6. I was told at the last minute that I would need a pair of jeans shorts as part of my costume for a gymnastics exhibition I was going to perform in. My mom had to work but my grandma was visiting and she had to take me to find a pair. I remember her getting so frustrated with me because we could not find a pair that fit or that I liked.
  7. Shopping for little "Strawberry Shortcake" tennis shoes for my little sister at Stride Rite.
  8. My mom trying on clothes at Dillards and then walking around with her shirt inside out and backwards all day.