In our fast paced culture it often feels like something’s changed or vanished in the blink of an eye. There are some really fantastic activities popping up nowadays for kids that leave me wishing they’d been around when I was a kid.
There is no doubt I would have adored a local trampoline park, indoor water parks, or one of the many splash pads suddenly so abundant. Thankfully, as an adult with a small child, I have an excuse to take advantage of these things as much as my increasingly non-resilient limbs can handle.
There are some fantastic options for entertainment these days, but I can’t help but recall some of the wonderful times I had growing up doing things that are less available now, or even, no longer exist. Growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s I didn’t have the internet, YouTube videos, or a tablet where virtually any type of activity can be found. There were other awesome things that I can’t help but wish my kid could have the opportunity to experience.
There used to be arcades pretty much everywhere I went. My parents would stop at a huge one on the way to the beach so my brother and I could pump quarters into games, win prizes, and have a nice break in between the tiresome drive. There were also a lot of small arcades located in the local malls, which seemed to fade away in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Now the local mall has a Panda West where the arcade used to be. There are some arcades, from what I’ve found mostly in the vicinity of casinos, but for the most part, they are few and far between. Nearly every kid has a video game system at home, but nothing beat the excitement of waiting in line for that new game or standing next to a total stranger as you competed loudly for the top scores. The ticket winning and prize counters didn’t hurt the experience either.
When I was a child my parents took me to see Snow White at the local drive-in. I loved going because many of them had a playground so kids were entertained before the movie began. We’d load up the car with snacks, blankets, and pillows so we’d all feel comfy watching the gigantic screen. The beauty of the drive-in, as a child, was that we could walk around and meet and sit with other kids, or perch up on the roof of our parent’s car. The increasing costs of property, the troubles stemming from poor weather conditions, and people finding it easier to stay at home has caused the decline of these theaters. It’s a shame. There really is nothing like watching a movie in a sleeping bag under the stars, like a mini-camping trip where you still get to go home and sleep in your bed at night.
When I was a kid, the roller rink was one of my favorite places. It was the trampoline park of my 90’s childhood. Friends had birthday parties there. It was a fun, safe meet up place for getting together with boys. There was usually a DJ playing the latest hits, blasting over the speakers, as we attempted to skate backwards, spin, and show off our skills. It seems that right around the time roller blades made their entry into popularity, roller skates became "lame,” and “old,” taking those beloved roller rinks with them. Roller blades were new, cool, and better for outdoor use, so kids naturally flocked to purchase them, sending their quad skates to the thrift store. While some roller rinks still exist, they are few and far between. I still think there is something to be said for skating around a smooth rink to blasting music under the disco ball, but I’m guessing it may be one of those things my daughter will never experience.
Yes, there are still some Glamour Shots hidden inside random strip malls here and there, but these left-over shops seem to be the last remnants of what was once a huge 90s phenomenon. I will never forget my mother taking me to the Glamour Shots in our mall for a photo shoot. They made my hair gigantic. Applied makeup expertly to add five years to my mere 11 or 12 years. Then, I was introduced to the amazingness that was the costume room. I had my choice of bedazzled jackets, pearl necklaces, everything! My mother even joined in on the fun. She got her hair and make-up done and posed for images as well. The photos have that weird haze that looks like the room was filled with smoke.Today the pictures are something we laugh over heartily. What fun! Today every phone has a decent camera, digital backgrounds, and apps for instant make-up and editing. Anyone can make their own “expert” photos. It is only a matter of time before the Glamour Shots stores become a thing of the past.
Music and Video Stores
There were once music and video stores everywhere: Music Town, The Wall, Blockbuster Video, and our locally owned shop called The Video House. My dad would bring me to these stores of music and movies where I would spend a ridiculous amount of time listening to songs through headphones, or carefully inspecting VHS covers in order to discover my rental for the evening. Now, the total number of music stores in my mall is zero. Blockbuster is closed, and The Video House is now a laundromat or something. I enjoyed the experience of going out to purchase the latest album, or rushing to be one of the first to grab a newly released film, but alas, those days are gone. I haven’t seen any DVD or Blu-ray stores, though I’m sure, somewhere out there in the world, a few old school shops still survive. Nowadays, people sit at home and order movies off their television, download music from iTunes, or maybe, just maybe, run to the local market to see what Redbox has to offer. Maybe I’m alone in missing the days when going to pick out music and film was an experience all on its own. It’s definitely an experience I won't be sharing with my daughter.
I recently heard that the Ringling Bros Circus is closing. The Big Apple Circus is also closed and is now selling off all its assets. I never thought I’d see the day when the circus ceased to exist. I understand those protesting the circus for the sake of the animals involved, but there are so many other facets to the circus. The aerialists, trapeze performers, clowns, magic, and motorcycle stunt acts are apparently not enough to keep the “Greatest Show on Earth” alive. I have great memories of my parents taking me to the circus. Even though my daughter is only three, I purchased tickets for Ringling Bros final tour (which ends in May 2017) so we can experience the wonder of the circus together before it fades away forever into the past. As someone who’s grown up in P.T. Barnum’s hometown, it saddens me that his legacy is coming to a close. At least we can have this one last moment where the magic of the circus captivates our senses.Children today have no want for a variety of entertainment. Still, it’s hard not to forget some of the old joys found in my childhood. I’m not saying that the things I grew up with were better than what is out there now. They were just different, and special all on their own. Time moves on. When I describe Blockbuster Video and life without the internet my daughter will look at me with wide, disbelieving eyes. Probably similar to the way I looked at my parents when they told me there was no television when they were little. These things may all eventually be permanent fixtures of the past, but to those who experienced them, they provided fun, smiles, and a value worth remembering.