I Grew Up In The '80s — Here Are 9 Memories That Are Just So, So, So '80s

Hi, I'm Mike, and I was an '80s kid (I was 4 on January 1, 1980, and 14 on December 31, 1989). Today, I have a 14-year-old daughter who is fascinated by the '80s (thanks mainly to her obsession with Stranger Things). When she asks me what it was like growing up back then, these are the stories I tell her:

Side-by-side comparison of the same person as a child in the 1980s and as an adult in the 2020s

1.MY LIFE OF CRIME: The statute of limitations has likely expired, so I feel safe confessing that, back in the '80s, I was a criminal. My crime? TP'ing (aka "toilet papering") the houses of people I didn't like in my neighborhood.

A mailbox and front yard covered in toilet paper, indicating a prank or celebration

2.WATCHING THE CHALLENGER DISASTER LIVE: On January 28, 1986, about 30 minutes after school began, my fourth-grade teacher enthusiastically switched on the TV so we could watch the space shuttle Challenger launch into space. We were all excited to see it — us kids because we'd just finished making dioramas of the nine planets (there were nine planets back then; Pluto had yet to be ignominiously demoted), and our teacher because the Challenger crew included 37-year-old Christa McAuliffe, who was set to become the first teacher in space.

Rocket launch captured mid-ascent with trailing smoke

3.THE CABBAGE PATCH KID STAMPEDE: Like a whooole lot of children in 1983, my sister was desperate to get a Cabbage Patch Kid. Getting one wasn't easy, though — they were the hottest toy on the market in decades, maybe ever. Our mom searched high and low, doing everything she could to find one, but no luck. She finally resorted to calling a dozen or so toy stores every day for weeks to ask if — and when — they might have some in stock. Finally, around closing time one day, someone at a local Toys "R" Us whispered into the phone, "Just between us, we're unpacking a shipment right now. They'll be on the shelves when we open in the morning."

Busy store with parents and children purchasing Cabbage Patch Kids dolls

4.FIRST LOVE: On January 31, 1988, Super Bowl XXII filled the screens of 37 million TVs across America, including mine. I wasn't a happy viewer, though — our local team, the San Francisco 49ers, was not playing in the big game despite going 13–2 in the regular season (the Vikings eliminated them weeks earlier in one of the biggest upsets in playoff history). But who cares about football when what came on after the game was so life-changing? Certainly not me.

Two young actors from a vintage TV show sitting on a rock, sporting trendy 90s attire

5.MY RUN-IN WITH ANDRÉ THE GIANT: In the mid-'80s, my family took a vacation to Maui, Hawaii. I was stoked to splash around in the sun and rock the kid-sized Hawaiian shirt my mom picked up for me at Mervyn's, but the most memorable part of the trip came while checking in at the hotel. Why? Because checking in next to us was none other than André the Giant!

Andre the Giant, a wrestler, stands in a ring wearing a one-strap black singlet, ready to compete

6.WAITING FOR NUCLEAR WAR: If you grew up in the '80s, the possibility of nuclear war felt very real. It was the Cold War, after all, and it didn't help that adult conversations often drifted to discussions of the Soviets, the arms race, and increasing tensions. But if there was one day kids were most convinced we were all soon to be toasted in a massive nuclear war, it was Monday, November 21, 1983.

Historic photo of a large mushroom cloud in the distance viewed from a long road

7.ORDERING SEA-MONKEYS: As you can see below, I was a Spider-Man kid. That's me at my 7th birthday party. Spider-Man even attended! My friends and I hounded him to prove he was the real Spider-Man by climbing a wall or shooting a web, but he said he couldn't because it was his day off. At the end of the party, he peered into the distance and said, "I just spotted the Green Goblin! I've got to go!" That's when my buddy Eddie yelled, "I THOUGHT IT WAS YOUR DAY OFF?!"

Child in a white sweater with a person dressed as Spider-Man. Vintage photo aesthetic, evoking nostalgia

8.TRYING NEW COKE: It's a footnote in history now, but in 1985, when the Coca-Cola Company discontinued their original Coca-Cola formula and replaced it with a new one — and a new name: New Coke — it was a big deal. It was such a big deal that a kid in my class planned his birthday party around it. The party invitation even had a drawing of a Coca-Cola bottle on it along with text like: "Swimming at our house followed by a trip to McDonald's to try New Coke! Yippee!" (Coca-Cola has a longstanding relationship with McDonald's, and in many parts of the country, including mine, McDonald's was the first place to offer New Coke.)

Billboard of a New Coke advertisement with the tagline "Great New Taste! Better Than Ever!"

9.MY FIRST CONCERT: One Saturday morning in the summer of 1985, I was looking through the entertainment section of the newspaper when something caught my attention — an advertisement for a concert that night. The artist? None other than "Weird Al" Yankovic!

Weird Al onstage