Back in MY Day…

Back in my day, 80s and 90s nostalgia

Every generation goes through it. Every generation looks at the one behind them and tells tales that start with “Back in MY day.” My parents filled me with tales of the shortest mini skirts, not being able to wear jeans (or even pants for my mom) to school, driving in cars without seat belts, and typing college papers on typewriters.

Maybe it’s because I’m on the cusp of being a narcissistic millennial but I believe my generation is seeing the biggest gap between generations. 


1985. Bowl cuts and mickey mouse sweats were all the rage.

Being born in 1983, my generation is the last to remember a childhood free of the internet. This equated to more time outside, more imaginary play, more creativity,  less pressure, less pop culture and sexual awareness, less over saturation,  and in general more innocence. 

back in my day 1980's beach

Summers at the shore. 1989.

Back in my day, messages weren’t conveyed via texts but by handwritten notes. Usually multiple ones a day and even better if they were written on Sanrio or Lisa Frank stationary. Keroppi was the best.  keroppi Instead of collecting followers and likes on social media I collected stickers, pencils, erasers, pogs, and little plastic animals.  In the summer I lived outside.


1990, at my favorite place, the pool!

I spent my days at the pool, either swimming around and playing pool games like Sharks and Minnows or Run the Bases or playing My Little Ponies or Barbies in the grass while eating ice cream that cost 25 cents. In the evening I’d be running around with the other neighborhood kids playing kick the can or capture the flag.

Rainy days were spent inside playing the skateboarder pizza delivery game on Atari or Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo. If my brother was doing his own thing I’d transform my entire bedroom into a Barbie house or set up an imaginary school or store. If we were really bored we’d torture our dog, Missy. 

missy in shopping cart 1989

1987, pushing MIssy around in the shopping cart. Check out those shorts!

I know the way to hit my brother and get away with it was to slap him with my slap bracelet. Other accessories included stick on earrings, snap together beads, jelly bracelets, and a plethora of scrunchies.

My most treasured toy was my Samantha American Girl doll. 

We had awesome sleepover parties where we’d play Light As A Feather Stiff As A Board and apply heavy blue eyeshadow on each other and then have fashion shows in our nightgowns and crimped out hair. 

My summertime wardrobe consisted of Umbros and a baggy t-shirts (bonus points if they featured sun flowers) on top of my one piece Speedo or my SUPER cool floral bikini.I wore huge plastic glasses for most of my childhood because that was the only glasses option. At least they were pink! I was unaware of dressing trendy or cute.


1988, playing My Little Pony with my brother at the beach house.

When I got to fourth grade, the best place to shop was Limited Too, back when they sold preppy vests, stirrup pants, and boxy sweatshirts. 


1996. Obligatory State Park sign during our family “West” trip. Seventh grade was the year of the sunflower.

My family owned a few of our favorite movies on VHS but most of our movie collection was made up of movies we recorded from TV to our VCR. It was so exciting when we’d get a free promo weekend of HBO or Showtime because then we could record all of the newer movies! My mom would record General Hospital everyday on the same beat up VHS tape and we’d watch it together in the evening, rewinding the tape at the end so that it was ready to record tomorrow’s saga all over again. 

I had my own cool pink radio/cassette player which I would use to play my favorite tapes: Amy Grant, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, Ace of Base and the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. I also perfected the skill of waiting for my favorite new song to come on the radio and pushing “record” just in time. 

katie and fish

1995, down at the shore in my Umbros. I always caught the biggest fish on my Pop-Pop’s boat.

Recess was spent playing Horse, 4-Square, trying to knock the other person off the other end of the see-saw, or pretending to do gymnastics on the balance beam. We all believed in the mythical tale of the kid who once swung so hard on a swing that he flipped himself all the way over the swing set. I looked forward to rain days so we could have inside recess and play teacher and write on the chalkboard. The go to classroom chore was being the student who got to go outside and clap out the dirty chalkboard erasers. 


1991. Troll dolls on Christmas morning!

We had a computer in the house but it was mostly used to make very pixellated Mother’s day cards printed on paper that you had to tear the perforated edges off of.  When I was in 7th grade the word internet started to be thrown around.

When I was in 9th grade my parents secured a second phone line so that we could log onto AOL and be able to receive phone calls at the same time. Yet we still didn’t spend too much time online because there wasn’t much to do. I was still happy about the second phone line because then I could spend HOURS talking with my friends on the phone.   

In the early teen years I was obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio. The entire inside of my closet was covered in magazine cut outs of Leo. Love. I couldn’t wait to get my newest issues of Seventeen and YM Magazine.

I listened to Jewel’s “Pieces of You” album on repeat. The first CD I ever bought with my own money was Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissett. I was with my Pop-Pop when I bought it and he made me play it for him when we got home from the mall. It was so embarrassing.   By 8th and 9th grade the internet was gaining popularity. Now the only reason I logged online was to chat with my friends or boys. 


1997 Easter. Baby doll dress and platform sandals.

 In high school your AOL profile defined you. I would sculpt and edit mine on a daily basis. There was so much pressure in listing our favorite bands and movies and choosing song lyrics or a quote that would make you seem cool. No one was cool.  Still, the only thing I did on the internet was chat with my friends and meet boys. It was an experimental adventure. But honestly, I formed some good friendships and even met a few in real life and became pen pals. All innocent fun! 

I thought I was so cool because I doused myself with tommy girl and wore skater clothes. Delias was the coolest place to buy your clothes! But you had to order it via the phone or by a handwritten form that you’d send in the mail with a check. I had the coolest patent leather Airwalks. I made my mom drive around to all the surrounding malls to find them. No online shopping for us. My go to body product was Bath and Body Work cucumber melon and I displayed it proudly on my dresser.


2000, Junior Prom. Where are my eyebrows?

My friends and I would make a lot of at home music videos and comedy videos as well as take a lot of staged dressed up photos. We had to be stingy with the photo taking though as film was expensive and it would usually take us weeks to get the film developed I got my first real cell phone when I got my license. I drove a 1988 Honda Accord that was originally owned by my grandmother and then passed down to my mom, then to my older brother, and then finally to me. I loved that car.

high school car

2001 High School Graduation day, I loved my Honda Accord.

When I wasn’t jamming out to my latest mixed tape I was blasting my walk men that I hooked up via a tape deck. My big Nokia phone, complete with a pull out antenna, was kept safely in my glove compartment. I only turned it on when I needed to make a call, and for emergency’s only, like to tell my mom I was going to be 10 minutes past my curfew. 

There was no Facebook or even MySpace. The only thing you had to worry about online was scripting the perfect “away” message on AOL Instant messenger. Your confidence and identity was built offline.

Life was (dare I say it again?) more innocent and free. What are your best memories from “back in the day”?  

SMD's Blog
  • Ahh this is so amazing and even though I was born in 88 I’m still an 80s baby and can relate to SO much of this!! Really is sad that someone who is 10 years old would think you are speaking a different language!!

    • kwalshmac

      It makes me so sad! And then I begin to wonder what it will be like for my future kiddos. Am I going to be that mom that forces them to turn off electronics and go be free kids?! Will they hate me for it?! We had it good, you had it even better, baby calves?? #bestchildhoodever 🙂

      • zimmerma2014

        I hope you are that kind of mom! Technology is wonderful but it should not RULE our lives. The concept of “Free range kids” is so much better than constantly “plugged in kids”. My college aged students are also feeling saturated with technology to the point that they just want to have real face to face conversations and not have to do all their work online.

  • Pat (Mom)

    Happy memories of special years. I remember all of the outfits in your photos. I think you and I spent a lot of time choosing the perfect clothing for you. I’m so glad that you and Eric could have fun growing up together in more simple times. Thanks for reminding me of the wonder of being a parent. Love you!

    • kwalshmac

      Thanks for BEING such an awesome parents. Shopping for tweens seems a lot more trickier these days too. I LOVED that Spumoni clothes but hated stirrup pants. Could not stand those straps between my feet and shoes!!!

  • I love this post Katie! Much of what you shared felt like my own childhood and how much easier it seemed back then!

    • kwalshmac

      Thanks Amanda! It was so fun to dig through these old photos. I wish I could remember even more things. Everything was so much more simple and free! I’m so glad my mom has kept most of our old toys, I always love a good walk down memory lane.

  • oh gosh! your post reminded me of so many trends from our day that have slipped my mind! i often wish i could get even HALF of the money back that i spent at the limited too!!! 😉 1983 was a great year to be born! *

    • kwalshmac

      Limited Too was the best!! I loved collecting all of their scrunchies and dangly earrings too. Glad you could relate!

  • This is AMAZING!!! So many memories that I had completely forgotten!!!!

    • kwalshmac

      Yay! It’s amazing what a single photograph or a memory of an outfit can make you recall! So many fun childhood things!!!

  • All of this was me — just three years earlier! I even had those pink plastic glasses too!

    • kwalshmac

      You’re the same age as my brother then! Those glasses were SO awful ha! I remember thinking “well since they are my skin color and are kind of clear, maybe that makes them invisible?!”

  • omg that just brought back SO many memories.. I look at my kids and Im like do you know how much fun there is outside..they want to be cooped up inside playing video games. I remember pretending my cousin and I were the jetsons on the swingset (our space car) we’d do that for hours..mud pies.. kickball with the neighborhood kids…ahhh the memories.

    • kwalshmac

      So true!! I’m imagining myself being the “mean” mom that forces their kids to use their imagination and play outside. Sure we watched our fair share of TV and played video games too but my most favorite memories are from playing pretend and being outside.

  • haha I love this! I drove a Honda Accord too…Loved that old car- it was the best! And honestly, it’s probably still running somewhere!

    • kwalshmac

      Oh yes, those Hondas last FOREVER. I remember being SO sad when it was time to say goodbye to that car. I spent so much time in there just thinking and driving around and playing my favorite music.

  • Oh my gosh, I love everything about this. I had a baggy sunflower T-shirt too! And pogs. Your brother is such a spot for playing My Little Pony with you! And I agree – our generation has such a unique experience by knowing life before the Internet and being a part of the big tech boom. I imagine this is what it was like for the generation that was around when cars or the phone were invented!

    • kwalshmac

      Baggy sunflower t-shirts were the coolest! I was never cool enough to get the matching “Blossom” esque hat though! And you’re right, I’m sure even this youngest generation will be looking at the one behind them saying “well I remember before there was a way to teleport yourself and it was so much better”. Or something like that haha.

  • Limited Too was the best place on earth!

  • I love this! I sometimes reminisce about the “old” I was an avid pen pal writer, sticker collector and I had a pencil collection that was something! And then the times changed! Thanks for this little time travel backwards!

  • Veronica and I always talk about how the 80s and 90s had a “look” to them. Is there even a look to the 2000’s? The 2010’s? If so what is it.

    • kwalshmac

      I think we may not know what that “look” is until maybe 2020?? I’m sure in the 90’s when we were rocking out in neon or grunge looks we had no idea it was a specific “look”.

  • Fantastic post! Im a 1982 baby and agree with ALL of this. Loved that I got to learn to type on a typewriter with a bib covering the keys and ‘upgrade’ to a computer. Have fond memories of heading to the PC room at lunch time to ‘check out’ this internet before I left school! Listening to mp3’s online and looking up photos of my favourite bands never felt so good 😀

    • kwalshmac

      Oh yes, I remember the one or two computers in the entire school that were the designated “internet” computers. No one really had any clue what to do on there!! Glad you enjoyed my trip down memory lane 🙂

  • Limited Too was THE place to buy the “cool” clothes. I remember the first time I ever got anything from that store, and it was a shirt with sunflowers on it! The 90s really were the best years ever. Thanks for linking up!

  • Kara L Smith

    Love your writing. I was born in 1982, and could relate to everything you said. I totally forgot about Delia’s, haha. I always think that we had a childhood similar to our own parents. Playing outside, sports, sleepovers. There is such a huge difference between that and our children’s generation. But what can you do? Hope they still come out of childhood with some integrity and are happy.