Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why I Loved Being A 90s Kid

I ran across this article that was posted last weekend ( which mentioned that Saturday morning cartoons, as knew them, are dead. Kaput. Done, finished. The first time since they began. But with Nickelodeon and Disney, and whatever other channels fall in between, what's the point of the 4 hour cartoon block? Especially when there's DVR and cartoons-on-demand, and again, everything else that falls in between. There's no having to decide which cartoon you're going to watch, because you can just record and watch later. Or pull it up on the fancy cable box on demand. Back then it was picking between ABC, CBS, NBC, and the new network in town, FOX.

The cartoon bumpers shown during commercial breaks were often as good as the actual cartoons. Back in the 90's, Nickelodeon was still finding its feet, and Disney was considered a premium channel that you had to pay for. We didn't get Disney as a kid (until it became a free access channel that all cable providers starting airing), so I can't even tell you what (if) any shows where on there. I don't even remember any network showing Disney related movies that weren't partners with the Disney company (which sucked, since many of my favorite movies throughout the 90's fell under the Disney flag). Of course, certain busy bodies got in the way and said that Saturday morning cartoons were some sort of un-educational evil that were designed by the food and toy industry to make kids stay in front of the TV 24/7, eat fatty foods, not learn anything but bad thoughts, and break their parents wallet at Christmas. So began the decline of Saturday morning, and with Nickelodeon and Disney gaining popularity and showing cartoons round the clock (not to mention the offspring networks like Cartoon Network, Boomerang, the Hub, and the channels geared towards the pre-school crown), I guess it was inevitable. Any kid I've seen on Saturday mornings always have it tuned to either Nick or Disney, and it's been that way for years.

When I originally set out to write my series Mekayla & Company, I was going to have it set in the not-too-distant past of the 90's. Many other decades get a lot of love for their time periods, not to mention those set in futuristic centuries we haven't even lived to see yet. Even the 80's are beginning to emerge as a popular setting. But I guess the 90's isn't that too far in the past that we miss it just yet. But being a 90's kid, there's a lot of things I miss: being the last decade without iphones, ipads, itunes (basically anything with "I" in its title), Netflix, DVR, Youtube, and Facebook. Heck, if you were lucky enough to have internet at all it was likely dial up. My first experience with wifi came to us via WebTv, which wasn't a computer but something that resembled a cable box hooking into your TV. And it was dial up, so a lot of arguments ensued when phone calls came in that lasted for what seemed like hours. You had to set a time for your parents to pick you up; there was no texting "I'll be ready in 10 minutes so don't be late!" You had to have change, find a payphone (not entirely hard to do in that decade, since they were as common as the cell phone stores are now), and often wait in line to use it. Or if you were in school, beg the school nurse to use the phone in their office.

Movies seemed to take forever to come out on VHS after they were done playing at the movie theater. Constant rewinding, fast forwarding, and playing of videos tapes often resulted in them having had enough and spitting themselves out of your VCR, now a tangled mess of tape (I ruined more than one copy of 'The Mighty Ducks' that way). Not to mention they seemed super expensive (to my little self) and I often only got my favorite titles for birthdays and holidays. Some good friends of mine were the go to house when movies first were released on VHS, because they always seemed to have the new ones. The video store was the place to be on Friday's (our local place was appropriately titled Pick-A-Flick), and you were often put on a wait list for some of the more popular titles. Blockbuster became king, had its own brief awards show for entertainment, and even seemed like the Wal-Mart of video stores in competing with the little local owned places and putting them out of business. You always had to have batteries for your walkman, and later discman. It became as big a crisis as dial up if your batteries died and you had to either listen to your parents music or talk to the person sitting next to you (so I guess this isn't the first generation that started that). CDs constantly got scratched, and the local electronics stores sold stuff that was supposed to take the scratch right off (it didn't work). Gaming systems didn't come out every year with some new quirk that barely made it different from the current gaming system you had. We were introduced to Mario Kart via Super Nintendo, and Sonic the Hedgehog via Sega. But what did I love most (and miss) about the 90s?

The weekends. Not just because it meant the end of the school week and you'd have 48+ hours to hang out and with your friends, but it meant what we considered the best TV time, nostalgia at its finest:

TGIF on ABC (featuring, among other shows, Family Matters, Dinosaurs, Perfect Strangers, Sister Sister, Step by Step, Full House, and Boy Meets World):

Saturday was the 4 hour cartoon block in the morning (some of my personal favorites were Garfield and Friends, Muppet Babies, Beetlejuice, Bump in the Night, Fudge, Beethoven (based on the movie), The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show):
Followed by SNICK from 8-10 on Nickelodeon Saturday nights (which introduced us to the world of Tommy Pickles in Rugrats, Hey Dude!, Salute Your Shorts, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Clarissa Explains It All, The Journey of Allen Strange, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, All That, Kenan & Kel, the lesser known but my favorite Space Cases, and of course, Are You Afraid of the Dark-and I'm not ashamed to admit that show can still creep me out):
And finally, capping the weekend off, the lesser talked about Ghostwriter on Sunday nights on PBS (not everyone remembers Ghostwriter, but it was truly one of a kind). A detective show for kids that, in reality, was officially one of the first TV show mini series out there. It aired in 4 half hour installments that made up the episode, with each episode ending on a cliffhanger until the last one that solved the case).
What else did I love about the 90's? Goosebumps, Fear Street, The Baby-Sitters Club/BSC Little Sister series (which started in the late 80s so we shared some of the popularity of that one), The Mighty Ducks trilogy (I hear a sequel/reboot may be in the works), The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Home Improvement, BOP, Tiger Beat, Teen Beat (I think that was one, it was easy to get confused), YM, TEEN (and all those quizzes), Seventeen, when MTV was still showing music videos but beginning to shy into TV shows and gave us one of our first reality shows in 'The Real World', when Married with Children and The Simpsons were considered scandalous and offensive and had calls to boycott the shows, In Living Color, the soaps that still dominated daytime TV, the arrival of Jerry Springer and trash talk television (I can remember it seeming like such a shock when it came out his show was I look back and wonder why that was ever a question), Maury Povich before he became all about cheating lovers and paternity tests, No Doubt, the boy bands (I remember thinking that The Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync were one in the same when they both came out), the Spice Girls, the Saturday Night Movie of the Week on ABC, Sunday Night at the Movies on NBC, Magical World of Disney on ABC, Nickjr before it was its own channel, the weekly mini series on CBS that often brought true crime and non fiction to the small screen, the holiday (and non-holiday) specials of Garfield, Charlie Brown, and Bugs Bunny, Danielle Steel and V.C. Andrews, NBC Must See Thursday (when no one could even compete against their comedy block), before everything went viral, we still had Polaroid cameras (and needed film more than we needed batteries for the regular cameras, and had to wait days or weeks for the film to be used up and developed before you even saw if the pictures came out), the Happy Meal toys at McDonald's, rollerskating parties at the elementary school, and long before childhood obesity was something that was bombarded throughout the media. We could take cupcakes to school, have our Fruit Roll-Ups for snack, and could fast food without feeling the guilt of what exactly was going into our bodies. Getting take out was a treat for my family, which was another reason to look forward to Friday. We were the first generation introduced to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Plus, the 90's introduced me to my obsession with 'I Love Lucy' and Lucille Ball.

From my own childhood growing up in sleepy old Dresden, I remember Arrowhead Beach where we took swimming lessons, had rec, and spent all day at the beach until it closed, then had our parents take us back down after dinner. Where we went sledding at the neighbors house, and behind my gramma's house (her sledding hill was sort of off limits since it was kind of dangerous, but when you're 8 that makes it all the more exciting), swimming at the creek (which was something else we weren't supposed to do, but again, but something off limits to kids is going to make them want to do it more and try to get away with it), water balloon fights, the corner where we hung around a concrete block that had the bars on it, the playground and tennis courts that were finally built when I was around 9, playing on friends trampolines and hammocks, the fire whistle blowing at both noon and 6 pm, so you knew when it was time to go home for lunch and dinner, pizza night at the firehouse, the upper street vs lower street, the duck lake and the mouth where everyone went fishing, playing hide and go seek after dark, Dead Man's Cave, riding our bikes around town (I still can't fix a chain to save my life when it comes off), rollerblading (The Mighty Ducks made it look so cool), playing kickball and softball in backyards and at the softball diamond, making up games, and mainly just having freedom in a small town where everyone knows everyone. Your parents always knew you'd be safe, and they knew who you'd be with. We always stayed out after dark, sometimes just walking around town, other times sitting in someone's front yard until you were finally given that last warning to come in for the night. So TV was a part of 90's nostalgia, but being outside and moving was a lot more of it.

Many of my memories are being incorporated into my series about Mekayla. When people ask what kind of book it is, besides telling them the genre, I can't really sum it up any better than saying it's the misadventures of a small town girl and her friends. A small town girl wanting to be an astronaut and who isn't afraid to take chances because she knows she'll be living among the stars someday. She figures if she can survive being 9 and going for everything, then she'll do fine as a space captain. One thing I've learned about writing is that ask yourself if the time frame you're writing in really makes a difference to the story or not. If it doesn't add anything other than you just wanting it set there for nostalgia/knowing it best, then it's probably better to set it in the present. We'll see how long it takes me to get Mekayla's stories out there. And of course, not setting her story in the 90s gives me the opportunity to do so for another one down the road.

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