It was September 15, 1985 and....
September 15, 2015 1:45 PM   Subscribe

What was it like to be alive on September 15, 1985? I was born 30 years ago today. One of my best friends had a (beautiful and healthy) baby yesterday, and I couldn't help but think how much I will have to tell him about the day, the month, the year he was born (Black Lives Matter, Obergefell, Donald Trump's campaign, the continuing Kardashian plot to take over the world, the ISIS beheadings, Pope Francis, the lion-murdering dentist, Kim Davis's last stand, the rise of avocado toast, and on and on and on). My parents don't reminisce about what the day of my birth was like, despite my asking, and I have always wondered: what was like to be around 30 years ago today--from the mundane to the profound, what do you remember about that time?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (135 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
I would start by looking up newspapers - not just the major mainstream ones, but also things that might give you a glimpse into culture (i.e. "Boston Phoenix"-type publications).
posted by Seeking Direction at 1:54 PM on September 15, 2015

It was an awesome time to be in third grade. Ms. Cody was my teacher and she had the longest, most luxurious hair. I remember always getting 100% on the multiplication table tests, because, well, because I'm just badass like that. Also, I was obsessed with Wham! and Tears for Fears.

It was a groovy, groovy time. Then fourth grade came and Sr. Gertrude entered my life.
posted by lock sock and barrel at 1:55 PM on September 15, 2015 [29 favorites]

i remember not being allowed to watch miami vice or moonlighting because it was on past my bedtime and this was the greatest injustice any human has ever faced in the history of the universe
posted by poffin boffin at 1:59 PM on September 15, 2015 [44 favorites]

Happy birthday!

I was 25 on the day of your birth and most vividly I remember Reagan and AIDS, not to be a debbie downer or anything. I remember being SO ANGRY about the way AIDS was being dealt with on a global level. I was working for Drexel Burnham Lambert, in Beverly Hills, on the (then-)famous X-shaped trading desk. When I started working there, no one knew what it was. By 1990, everyone thought they knew what it was and had an opinion on it. Everyone still thinks of Mike as a criminal and that's not how I knew him at all. But okay, yeah, probably some people I knew who were running wild (and who later got immunity from prosecution) had a fair amount of responsibility for bringing down the savings & loan industry.

You know, you could do worse than read American Psycho. It's a satire, so please don't take it seriously at all, but there's a bit of truth in every biting criticism.

Also: big hair and big shoulder pads.
posted by janey47 at 2:03 PM on September 15, 2015 [19 favorites]

There were rumors that Freddy Mercury and Boy George were gay. Rumors. I was 19, in Charlotte, NC, liberal and outgoing, but I didn't know any out gay people. It just wasn't a part of most folks' world-view at the time.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:04 PM on September 15, 2015 [26 favorites]

do you actually want answers from people who were children like many accounts in this thread? Because I too was a child and my memories are of My Little Pony and a long hot car ride to Disneyworld. But that could read "1985" or "1995" or "2015" with maybe interchangeable electronic devices on the car ride.

Probably a good idea to consult newspapers. Also a lot of things that seem "of the day" right now, like Cecil, might just be social media ephemera while Black Lives Matter might end up in textbooks. Or, the opposite might happen. We don't really know yet.

It might be best honestly to write some personal memories of this kid's birth and what your life is like at that time, and things the parents are doing and saying. What your group of friends is like, what you like doing. That might be pretty neat in 30 years.
posted by zutalors! at 2:10 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

There was still excitement in the general populace about the Space Shuttle. Losing the first orbiter was about 5 months in the future.
posted by achrise at 2:10 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

There honestly wasn't as much news then, as the internet and 24/7 TV hadn't been invented! We weren't as stressed out as people are now, and the pace of life was a little slower. I got married in September 1985, and I'm having trouble remembering anything that was going on then in the world.

The Berlin wall was still up. This was a big deal, and I have trouble explaining to my grown children how significant that was.

Apartheid in South Africa was still a thing, and I dreamed that it might end in my life time. It did!

We still listened to music on records or cassette tapes. CDs were just around the corner. VCRs had been around for a little while.

Now I have to go google "avocado toast" to see what that is!

(Edit- apparently it is avocado on toast!)
posted by LauraJ at 2:13 PM on September 15, 2015 [11 favorites]

I was in second grade, six years old, and had just started at a new private school because neither I nor my parents could put up with the Catholic school they had sent me to for Kindergarten and first grade. I remember loving the school and my teacher, in stark contrast to the school I'd come from.

I do not remember paying much attention to the news, current events, culture, or music. I *do* remember that we were slated to watch the Challenger launch (which Wikipedia tells me was a few months later, in January 1986, by which point I had turned 7) on the TV news (after we went to gym class) and it was a Big Deal that there would be a Teacher aboard. The actual launch took place during gym class, and I remember coming back from gym and our teacher telling us that we wouldn't be watching the launch because the shuttle had exploded and that the Teacher had died. I went home and got together with some friends from my old school and we watched the replay on the news, over and over again.

And that is the only news, culture, et cetera I remember from my second grade year.
posted by tckma at 2:15 PM on September 15, 2015

i remember not being allowed to watch miami vice or moonlighting because it was on past my bedtime and this was the greatest injustice any human has ever faced in the history of the universe

I remember successfully negotiating for a later bedtime so I could watch The Golden Girls, which premiered September 14, 1985.

M.A.S.K. and Wheeled Warriors toys were a big huge deal to me at the time. Star Wars was starting to feel kinda long in the tooth, warmly remembered but a little passé.

The best music was whatever my older brothers were listening to, which was a lot of Depeche Mode and Tears For Fears.

Reagan had been reelected president, and that was cool, because he wasn't going to take any crap from the Soviets, who were still probably going to attack us at some point. I think my mom was trying to teach me basic Russian vocabulary so I could survive by being a useful collaborator if we were ever occupied.

I was six at the time and this pretty much covers everything I remember being aware of.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:17 PM on September 15, 2015 [8 favorites]

Oh, sorry, I didn't realize that you were only wondering about what things were like when you were born, not looking for things to tell the kid in 30 years. Still think the writing project is a good idea, but yeah, I was a pretty little kid then so remembering a lot of things similar to those others who were children then. No internet or iPads, probably a little less in terms of like Nintendo DS type stuff than when you were six.
posted by zutalors! at 2:21 PM on September 15, 2015

The fall of 1985 was a great time to be four years old!

It turns out school is amazing, and I'm FINALLY starting to learn how this whole reading thing works. I lost my first tooth a few months ago, which means I am now living large on the sweet, sweet toothfairy money. (The Tooth Fairy brings $1, in 1985.)

I learned to tie my shoes!

My parents talk about AIDS a lot when they think I'm not paying attention. I keep asking what that is and they keep saying it's complicated.

The embarrassing children's clothing of the fall of 1985 is a bowl cut and jams. Ugh, jams.
posted by Sara C. at 2:22 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is a nutso coincidence, but I have a dear friend who was also born on September 15, 1985 and she's posting a bunch of stuff from her parents' memories of the day of her birth on facebook right now. The #1 thing was that her parents missed Farm Aid because her mom went into labor early (she was two months premature). That was actually on 9/15/85. Other things that were important to her parents that month included lots of space shuttle Discovery stuff, a cool new sitcom called "Golden Girls" premiered and was apparently hilarious since her mom literally went into labor during it, there was a big earthquake in Mexico City a few day later, and everyone was obsessed with "Money for Nothing" by the Dire Straits.
posted by juniperesque at 2:23 PM on September 15, 2015 [33 favorites]

"Back to the Future" was actually released a few weeks before October 21, 1985. I remember in the theater thinking "hey, that date hasn't happened yet!"

All the John Hughes movies (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink) and the Brat Pack were very big, if you were in high school.
posted by Melismata at 2:24 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Live Aid concerts for aid to Ethiopia happened. "We Are the World" happened.

Terrorists hijacked planes in the Middle East a lot.

Tennis was a popular sport and lots of tennis players were household names, like John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and Monica Seles.

Wrestlemania was a thing. The WWF (back when it was still the WWF) even had a Saturday morning cartoon.

Rock Hudson died of AIDS. AIDS and homosexuality were still not something most people talked about or thought about much. AIDS was still widely thought of as something only gay men got. President Reagan said "AIDS" for the first time in public in 1985.

Coke vs New Coke.

Everyone loved the Space Shuttle and NASA. The Challenger explosion hadn't happened yet.

The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, Desperately Seeking Susan, The Goonies, Mask, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Rockey IV, St. Elmo's Fire, Teen Wolf.

Madonna, Michael Jackson, Tears for Fears, Cyndi Lauper, Foreigner, Prince, Dire Straits. Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69." Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA." Starship's "We Built This City."

Suburban families worried that shady "drug pushers" would accost their elementary school kids and convince them to take "free samples" of "drugs" to get the kids hooked.
posted by erst at 2:29 PM on September 15, 2015 [17 favorites]

everyone was obsessed with "Money for Nothing" by the Dire Straits

yeah that video was everywhere.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:29 PM on September 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

A couple people have mentioned Reagan and AIDS. I'll mention that my uncle died of AIDS in September 1985. It was terrible. My grandparents were told by his doctors to burn his clothing and personal belongings. My sister and I were not allowed to see him after his diagnosis. And his funeral was really weird and awkward. (edited to add that I was 14 at the time, my sister was younger)
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:30 PM on September 15, 2015 [21 favorites]

In southern California in September of 1985 we had recess indoors a lot of days because the smog was thick. The sky was muddy at midday and orange a few hours before sunset. Up in the mountains where we lived you could almost see above the smog.

Now you can see all the way to the ocean.
posted by annathea at 2:30 PM on September 15, 2015 [19 favorites]

OH and similarly MTV was amazing and interesting and exciting and had actual music videos by the most popular interesting and amazing and exciting musicians, ALL DAY LONG.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:31 PM on September 15, 2015 [15 favorites]

Oh! Someone would go around and put flyers on doors warning us to stay inside during the malathion spraying. The next day your car would have a bunch of sticky white or orange dots on it.
posted by annathea at 2:31 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

MTV was totally radical and pretty much all I watched. I liked Cyndi Lauper A LOT and I always jumped when David Lee Roth told me to.
posted by annathea at 2:32 PM on September 15, 2015 [9 favorites]

Bulletin Board systems. 1200bps modems. Downloading Apple ][ games from pirate boards that took 2 hours to transfer 140K. Trading 4 digit MCI codes to make long-distance calls to other BBSes. CompuServe CB chats.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:36 PM on September 15, 2015 [10 favorites]

Oh, one other thing I do remember from second grade was negotiating with my (somewhat racist) parents to be allowed to watch "The Cosby Show," because a (black) friend of mine at my school watched it and we wanted to talk about it on the bus. I remember eventually wearing them down.
posted by tckma at 2:38 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

New Coke was released in Spring 1985 and of course everyone hated it. They came out with Coca Cola Classic in July 1985.

We Are The World was released in March 1985. Proceeds were supposed to benefit victims of the Ethiopian Famine. I remember crass jokes about Ethiopian Famine victims.

Bernhard Goetz was a vigilante in Dec 84; the idea was that New York City was very very dangerous.

Unabomber incidents. I don't really remember knowing about that.

Madonna. Desperately Seeking Susan.
posted by vunder at 2:39 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

A full quarter of "card shops" like Hallmark and Carlton were devoted to stickers. Boom boxes were a big deal and super expensive.

Garbage Pail kids were not quite yet a thing but they were coming. Cabbage Patch kids were still out there and it was a Lisa Lisa Frank Frank world. Trapper Keepers kept things together and big hair and shoulder pads roamed the earth as lace finger gloves and memories of the Los Angeles Olympics faded.

Our Ataris and Colecovisions and Intellivisions were starting to age as rumors swept across the continent of a new system out of Japan for home gaming consoles: the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Back To The Future was still playing in movie theaters and half the middle schoolers were writing sequels.

Microwave ovens were starting to become more common place, with directions on foods that varied based on your oven wattage. Ours had a metal rack so we could cook two bags of popcorn at once.

Cold War was still colding. Gorbachev was in the news more than Chernenko (I had to look him up as I thought Andropov was succeeded by Gorbachev) and giving speeches on TV.

Chuck Woolery was the baddest hippest TV show host out there.
posted by tilde at 2:40 PM on September 15, 2015 [11 favorites]

I was six, so pretty much all I remember is mundane, sorry.

People were thinner and in better shape.

Blue laws were a thing where I grew up.

Movies were rare treats for me, but if you missed something in the theater, you could rent a videotape of it overnight and watch it. There were two types of video tapes that were fighting for market share back then, VHS and Beta.

AIDS was a growing concern, but not something I had to worry about, so people told me. They were lying, of course—look at that kid Ryan White! (The test for HTLV-III in donated blood wasn't approved by the FDA until March.)

Gorbachev took power after Cherneko died. AIDS was so at the forefront of American consciousness that I wondered if Cherneko had died of it.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:40 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

We are the world reminded me of hands across America and live aid and farm aid. Lots of concerts and hoopla though I may have the year wrong ... Maybe I remember 1984 better.
posted by tilde at 2:42 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

No cell phones, no social media, no internet, no Google. If you wanted to look up something you physically had to go to the library and look it up in a book. Probably an encyclopedia. We had typewriters if you wanted something "printed". The school had a few computers where we had classes to learn archaic educational games, but no one I knew owned one. I was just starting 8th grade. My biggest worries were whether Jeff at school liked me (he didn't), how high I could get my bangs (too high judging by the horrific photo evidence), and whether I was going to get my own phone line (I wouldn't). If I wanted a song, I would usually tape it off the radio on my ginormous stereo and hope the disk jockeys didn't talk over the end of it. And yes, MTV was huge and pretty much just played videos. Ooh, and I got my first VHS tape of a movie (one I didn't have to tape off the TV). It was Footloose. I thought I was rad.
posted by cecic at 2:46 PM on September 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

I was 12 years old, starting junior high (7th grade). I remember writing a paper for Social Studies class on "Wham! vs. Duran Duran". I took a poll and everything. (No Common Core yet, ha ha.)
posted by candyland at 3:00 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I remember it very well. After all it was not that long ago.
I was 44, on my second marriage, and my son was 21..
Living in Sweden, as I still do, and working for Social Services in the suburbs of Stockholm.- as I dont anymore.

In february that year I borrowed 30 grand ( swedish crowns) and went to Uruguay with my girlfriend who was then the head of a day-care centre and had come to Sweden as a refugee in the 70s. She had been in the Tupamaro urban guerilla and being still on the wanted list it was all very clandestine, with her new Swedish passport and new name and the general chaos of the time we thought we could swing it
We intended to make a film about her return to Montevideo as the dictatorship ended, and meeting her old Tupamaro boyfriend who was due to be released from prison.

By september, when you were born, the film project had collapsed, I had decided to leave the secure life of a social worker, and I fell out with my Tupamara girl.

Among the unused footage there is a sequence of the release of the political prisoners in slow motion. 5 armoured cars emerging from the basement of Police HQ at night. Among them José Mujica who later became president. On, a by now obsolete video format - U-matic.

Days of strong light.

I played in a band too - some our music from that time is here on Metafilter Music.

Happy birthday, mate.
posted by jan murray at 3:07 PM on September 15, 2015 [43 favorites]

I was a first-year college student in 1985. During orientation we had to take a workshop about safe sex. The list of safe and unsafe sexual practices was quite an eye-opener for a sheltered Catholic girl from Ohio. No one had PCs in their rooms; the only computers on campus were mainframes. I brought my electric typewriter to campus so that I could type my papers. The big thing on campus was protesting apartheid. (They did get the college to divest in 1986.) Ronald Reagan was president and outside of our liberal enclave everyone in America loved him. It would be 3 years before I even heard the term "email" and a few more before I even had an address. We didn't even have phones in our rooms, so if you wanted to talk to someone, you called the hall phone and hoped somebody was bored enough to answer it.
posted by tuesdayschild at 3:17 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Cold War was in full swing - I know I've mentioned Threads before. A real spectre for my entire youth. AIDS was a big deal - new and scary. Not hyperbolic-scary. Actually-scary. Act-Up wasn't even a thing yet.

+1 Anti-Apatheid Movement
+1 DEC PDP-11/70
posted by j_curiouser at 3:28 PM on September 15, 2015

This was the time of the very beginnings of street skateboarding. People were just beginning to Ollie on the flat, and the single Ollie flip had just been invented by Rodney Mullen, and he was the only one doing them. The first Oceanside street contest had just occurred a month prior.
posted by rhizome at 3:31 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

I had a job in an office writing software. I smoked at my cubicle. The person in the next cubicle over, a non-smoker, hated it and would sometimes ask me if I could change to a different brand. No one (not my boss, not my co-workers, not even the non-smoker in the next cubicle) ever suggested that I might actually stop smoking at my desk.
posted by ManInSuit at 4:11 PM on September 15, 2015 [22 favorites]

September 15, 1985 was my first week or so of my senior year of high school. I had just turned 17. I was taking two computer classes that year one in Basic and one in Pascal I think. We had a VAX in the school computer lab that we all had accounts on an so we could send email back and forth to each other in the computer lab. I remember using ed as an editor and being fairly confused by the whole thing. There was basically no such thing as the Internet (for most people) but if you had a parent who worked with computers you might have a terminal at home that you could dial in to bulletin boards or a mainframe at your parent's work and play text adventure games. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Leisure Suit Larry were games that you could buy on disks and play on IBM PC type machines at home. I think they had 16 colors.

I was an editor at the school newspaper and I remember we thought a lot about the Star Wars program and whether it was just a scheme to bankrupt Russia or actually something that would work to keep us safe. We were still really worried about nuclear war as a real thing.

I had a spiky hair cut, it looked a little bit like Cyndi Lauper, and listened to New Wave and punk music. I think people still wore acid washed-ish Jeans and I know I pegged my own jeans for a while. The only hair dyes that you could get were the kind they came in the drug store nobody had any interesting colors even the super punk kids in my school. In my suburban high school, we knew about AIDS but the big fear for kids that were sexually active was more pregnancy than STDs.

I had friends with cars and one friend had a brother who was 19. The drinking age in New Hampshire was 18 and the drinking age in Massachusetts was 21. I lived in MA. We'd drive an hour over the border to go buy alcohol in New Hampshire. They raised the drinking age to 21 in New Hampshire a couple months before school started.
posted by jessamyn at 4:52 PM on September 15, 2015 [9 favorites]

I had just started my senior year in high school and my friends and I were likely still cracking each other up by quoting the movie Better Off Dead, which premiered three weeks prior to Sept. 15, 1985.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:00 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Cold War was in full swing

And let's just remember exactly what that means.

In today's world, there's a (debatable) concern that ISIS, Al Qaeda, North Korea, Iran, or some other baddie might use a nuclear weapon in anger.

However, in 1985, it was not impossible to have half an hour's notice that 5,000 Soviet ICBMs had just been spotted heading over the North Pole, and, well, you can at least die knowing that a few thousand of ours are going the other way.
posted by Hatashran at 5:00 PM on September 15, 2015 [24 favorites]

I lived at the edge of town then, with a newish wife and her two daughters, and my son, who had been born the previous November. I was 40 years old. I loved her two girls as much as I did my son, but it's true there was a difference. For one thing, because our pediatrician was occupied at the moment my son decided to emerge, my wife delivered him into my waiting hands, and I watched his eyes struggle to gain a proper image of this new thing that was happening to him. Magic. He grunted, but didn't cry. His little body was a solid muscle--I'd always thought they were supposed to be soft. I wrapped him in a soft towel and lay him on her stomach. The buzz I got from this experience lasted weeks. It still rises when I let myself go back there, bates my breath so that I have to remember to breathe.

I was a farrier, school trained, specialized in hard to handle horses and mules. I would teach them to be calm while they were being tended by humans who had few clues to their world. In the summers I worked at one or another pack-station, riding the foothills to gather the herds for the season, residing at the pack-station while I put shoes on a hundred or so stock. In the fall I returned and got paid to ride the back country with a string of mules, a thing I would have sold valuable possessions to do.

There was Disco, too. I'm so sorry. It wasn't my fault, but I still am so sorry.

I went to The Wall in 1987. The Wall was a big deal for a lot of people. Now the second and third tiers are cashing in; more power to you, but I know what I saw in those polished panels.

My son is grown and her girls are grown, and they are scattered all over, doing more or less well, after the manner of the rest of us. She is my second ex-wife now, whom I call The Dragon Lady. We are better apart than we were together. By now I've come to peace with it.

Alien was big then. Lethal Weapon. I didn't realize they'd have all those sequels. Beverly Hills Cop. John Travolta was still thin, and hadn't yet gotten his jet-pilot's license (who knew?).

Gas was cheap and I was going to live forever.

On the whole, we seem to actually have gone downhill. I thought it was just something the old farts said to make us feel uncomfortable. I guess it's a little late for a spoiler alert, but there you go. Good luck.
posted by mule98J at 5:19 PM on September 15, 2015 [24 favorites]

Hair was SO BIG, they still let school children use rubber cement, clothes were super-colorful and loud and shoulder pads were everywhere for women, and gas stations with no attendant were a new thing near me (and my mother was scared of them). Gas cost a dollar. 24/7 commerce hadn't happened yet; in my town there were NO 24-hour stores and just a local 7-11 type chain that was open from 6 a.m. until midnight. If you needed a gallon of milk before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m., or on Sunday, you went there and paid their extortionate prices. Supermarkets were still closed on Sunday, which seems crazy in retrospect. (My mother met Michael Jordan at the local convenience chain one Sunday in 1985 or 1986, because she needed milk and he needed Diet Coke, and he was extremely tall and very nice and gave her an autograph and it was a big deal.) If you lived in Chicago, the Bears were starting an AMAZING season that was going to end in a Superbowl and just barely missed going undefeated. At the later Mass on Sundays, which ran into the Bears game, my priest would get a whispered score update from the deacon near the end of Mass and would announce, "The Mass is ended, go now in peace to love and serve the Lord. Bears up by 7 with 2 minutes left in the first quarter. Go Bears! Amen." (It was a really intense time to be a Bears fan.)

Your town probably had a video rental place, which probably rented VCRs as well as tapes because while VCRs were exploding not everyone had them yet. It was probably a local place and not yet a Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. Tape selection was relatively limited and random as studios were still identifying it as a market. If you had cable it came in a set-top box (that actually sat on top of the nice wide CRT set) that probably got very hot and probably your cat liked to sleep on top of it and sometimes changed the channel rolling over. Personal computers were just becoming a thing; they were expensive and mysterious big deals and everyone would gather to admire it when you got one, kind of like getting a car in the 1950s. Not novel, but still unusual enough that everyone wanted to see what you got.

You probably still had local TV networks that broadcast much more idiosyncratic local programming than just local news and a morning show. (Chicagoans will remember WGN and Svengoolie and Eagleman.) Commercials were nowhere near as slick as they are now. The movie Cocoon was a big deal, I think for the sex scenes (I was too young to see it). Pee Wee had a big adventure. TV stations still went off the air overnight, usually with the national anthem and then ... static.

The Unabomber was bombing people and sending manifestos, and there were several skirmishes with Islamic militants and with Mexican drug cartels. I feel like it was a bad year for air travel between crashes and hijackings, but maybe that's just the first year I paid attention. Pete Rose was still playing baseball and was a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Long distance calling was hella expensive and something of a special occasion. (Like, your mom might have called your grandma once a week for a 20-minute call at a specific time, and interrupting someone on a long-distance call was an offense on par with kicking the dog.) Transatlantic calls had a delay.

Roller skating was still a big deal and there were a lot more roller rinks (and bowling alleys). Roller blading hadn't happened yet. People did aerobics, not yoga. There was a lot, lot more smoking. High school seniors could still smoke at school (in the senior's lounge or something). Not that many restaurants had smoking sections, and even if they did, your parents would come home from a night out just reeking of smoke.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:19 PM on September 15, 2015 [16 favorites]

Reagan had been reelected president, and that was cool, because he wasn't going to take any crap from the Soviets, who were still probably going to attack us at some point.

I remember that as being really creepy. Ronald Reagan was feeble-mindedly joking around about starting a nuclear war, and we all just walked around and did our daily business with this constant little thought in the back of our heads that everyone on the planet could suddenly start to die because of some little misunderstanding with the missile defense systems.

Also, the music played on most radio stations in the mid-80's was mostly awful. Anything interesting (mostly coming from England) you heard about from your friends or college radio.
posted by ovvl at 5:33 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

As we probably know, you can enter the year or date of your birth on Wikipedia and find out if anything globally politically interesting happened around around that time.

This question came up at work the other day, and my co-worker who asked was born in 1988, which was a kinda boring year for geopolitics (Bush Sr was elected, and that's mostly it). BoingBoing mentioned that anyone born in mid-1988's has a 10000 day anniversary soon.
posted by ovvl at 5:50 PM on September 15, 2015

I was 10. I mainly remember worrying about AIDS and nuclear war. My memory is only about those things.
posted by gaspode at 5:56 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Recycling was a strange new idea that was meeting a lot of opposition. Most people were very reluctant to devote any thought or effort to dealing with their garbage, which until then had always been magically taken "away" to "the dump."

Paper maps. Asking people for directions. Getting lost. Going to a new place without knowing much about it before hand.

Working in an office was very different -- secretaries did all the typing, copying and filing, and a lot of the phone work. Many still took dictation by shorthand in a steno book; others transcribed from cassette tapes recorded on dictaphones.

Teachers and civil servants were generally well respected.

Public utilities and services were usually provided by actual public employees, whose primary mission was to provide the service, not to generate a profit.

It was still a little unusual to see a woman doctor, lawyer or engineer. In many professional settings, you would see no women at all, or maybe one or two just-out-of-school. Seeing a middle-aged or older professional woman was rare indeed.
posted by Corvid at 5:59 PM on September 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

In 1985, I was a nerd in college at a large university in the Midwest. Things I remember fondly from the mid-eighties that are now largely of the past:
  • Card catalogs.
  • Lugging library books around.
  • Looney Tunes on independent UHF channels early in the morning.
  • "M*A*S*H" still in heavy syndication.
  • People still danced (badly) at clubs.
  • Bloom County.
  • Seeing the new Star Trek movie with my nerdy friends.
  • Snark wasn't the national language yet.
  • Innumerable Velvet Underground soundalikes on college radio.
  • You could easily buy well made clothes, sheets, etc. whose fabric was good quality.
I'll end it there before I start weeping.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:07 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

That was just about the time that the IBM PC appeared. The Apple 2e was still found in corporate offices. PC networking was still in the future. Corporations used networks of terminals working off a mainframe. Punch cards were still in use, but their time was nearly over.

You had to look up airline flights in the OAG. Most people would book through a travel agent.

Every group in a large corporation had a secretary who would type all correspondence and keep a copy in the chron file. Business messages might go by telex. Voice mail was just coming in. FedEx was new, but the USPS also had an overnight delivery service.

A high percentage of white collar workers (men) wore suits. Women wore similarly formal attire. Casual Fridays were just coming in.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:08 PM on September 15, 2015

I was born a few months before you and my parents splurged on a VCR and a video camera, which had just barely become affordable for them at the time.
posted by town of cats at 6:27 PM on September 15, 2015

We wore suits to work. "Dress for Success" - both the book and the concept - was a big thing. We smoked in our offices, which were real offices with real doors, not cubes, as well as in the hallways and in meetings. We programmed in Fortran and debugged in Assembler. Our big hard drives were 10MB and we had A: and B: for diskettes.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:27 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was 13 and just starting to get seriously into music, and curious about bands like the MC5, Velvets, and Television that I had read about, but that weren't played on the radio. This was significantly harder to do in 1985, and required a lot of shoe leather and bothering of older record store clerks (if your town was lucky enough to even have a moderately hip record shop) and/or bullshitting your way into clubs, getting a fake ID, etc. Pop culture as a whole felt much more monolithic and homogeneous in the 80s - the upside being that the margins felt that much more rich, secret and strange.

There was also a lot of local and regional uniqueness, partly as an artifact of communication between scenes being much more slow and spotty, if it happened at all - that seems to have vanished almost entirely.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:29 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

A regionalism that says a bit about the state of tech at the time: I used Ottawa's NABU Network at the time. It was technology that did not succeed because society was not ready for it, the first “cable-based micro-computer operated home computer game network.”

Our cottage first aid box had a "1st" and AIDS decoupaged on from that Time magazine cover for years. (Grandparents were doctors with wry senses of humour...)

It was not many years after watching The Day After and being sure that I would be shot at if spotted peering through the fence by the Russian embassy (in Ottawa). I had a relative who lived next door to the embassy and did a lot of this I'm-going-to-get-shot peeking, and once I spotted a swingset in the yard of the embassy, and thought: Russian children SWING? I have been LIED TO. (I mention to explain the apparent state of international relations if you were a kid at the time.)

Yuppies were increasingly noticeable; around 1985 I spent a while being the only kid I knew whose parents were still together and whose mother stayed at home and whose lifestyle was...modest. My friends had two Christmases, lavish presents and vacations, and were generally feral the rest of the time; the term latchkey kid was in wide use.

New Coke was nuts; people had stockpiles of the old stuff in their garages. I still associate Coke with Max Headroom who was also big at the time. Pay television and VCRs were increasingly common and I spent the entire summer of 1985 watching MuchMusic, a Canadian music video channel like MTV.

I remember being aware that new wave was going away and preppy was the new thing.

Many happy returns of the day!
posted by kmennie at 6:42 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was ending junior high and starting high school at that time. If there is a more spot on presentation of my life at that time than the show Freaks & Geeks, I haven't found it.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 6:46 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

The best computer of all time, the Amiga 1000, had been introduced a little over a month earlier.
posted by rfs at 7:06 PM on September 15, 2015

I was 25 and my husband and I moved from San Diego to Los Angeles that year and we both got our first full-ime jobs in a long while.

We bought our first MacIntosh computer in late 1985. We brought it home from the store and couldn't get it to work until I remembered that it needed a "mouse". We drove back to the store and asked for it, and then it worked. My husband joined a Mac Club at work to hang out with other people who had them. He would call someone up and coordinate times to dial up with the modem to send messages back and forth, and I asked, "If you have to call them anyway to get this to work, what's the point?" He ignored me.

I used it to do the church books on Excel. "apple = " would make it calculate, which I did only at intervals because it took forever. Some operations involved doing the Macintosh shuffle: inserting and removing certain floppy discs in order to get the thing done, save the spreadsheet or whatever. Very time consuming, but so powerful. Before that, the treasurer's books were on paper. No internal storage at all, All programs, all data was on 4" floppy discs.

We got our first wireless phone around that time. (We might have been luddites in this department, I can't remember.) We could walk around the apartment and talk without having to drag a cord around. It was still a one-jack, one-phone system though. (Now we have one jack that supports handsets scattered throughout the house.)

I remember the microwave as being pretty standard at that point though, or maybe that is when we bought one. We definitely had one by '86.

We got a new stereo that Christmas, turntable and cassette deck, so nice. A friend of ours had recently invested in laser discs--they looked like record sized CDs. CDs were just coming out I think and things hadn't standardized yet.

I worked nights in a hospital. At break times the lounge was full of cigarette smoke. Smoking in the hospital was not banned for severl more years.

We bought a new Camry in 1985. It was just the second or third year or production and they were smaller and boxier than they are now, not the luxurious car that is made now. Great steady ride. I had it for 18 years, until some scum stole it and stripped it for parts for his Camry. In 1986 the third brake light became mandatory in California. You can always tell pre-'86 car by that. They are infrequent now.

Happy Birthday!
posted by SLC Mom at 7:12 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

TV commercials were not ironic, edgy, absurdist, or (intentionally) creepy and awkward the way they are now-- they mostly just promoted the product, often with high enthusiasm and a jingle that would implant itself into your subconscious for eternity.
posted by kapers at 7:17 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

New Englanders will probably remember -- Hurricane Gloria was just about to form and would plow across the entire East Coast in the following couple of weeks.
posted by sesquipedalia at 7:42 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Dukes of Hazard was very popular. My son had a Dukes of Hazard big wheel.

Very preppy clothes were in style...think Princess Di with ruffled colors, bows at the neck, etc. a lot of influence from her fashion style, and even the wedding still. Big poufy wedding dresses. Spiral perms and crimped hair. Short, ankle-length and high waisted jeans.
posted by tamitang at 7:59 PM on September 15, 2015

I had just started my sophomore year of college. Reagan was president--fuck he was in his SECOND TERM. I just met Janet, my bestest friend ever (who died over fifteen years ago, christ), and we both had shows on the college radio station. There was so much fantastic music to play, the Smiths and the Cure and the Furs and Wall of Voodoo. If you wanted to write a paper you had to use a typewriter not a computer--though Janet came to school with her very own personal computer--and if you wanted to make a phone call you had to walk down the hall to the one pay phone on the whole floor and talk in the middle of the hall. If you wanted into the dorm after hours, you knocked on the door or the nearest window and you got in. We rented videos and played them in the dorm TV room and watched Letterman. I didn't have a car yet, so you'd have to walk to the Bi-Mart to get groceries and supplies. The only place to get food late at night was at the Shari's, where we'd "study" while eating nachos.

TL;DR: It was a great time but there was a constant undercurrent of fear about war and other stuff that seems laughably small now.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:00 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ah sesquipedali now I remember September of 1985 because my best friend and I went to London and Paris. We had saved up for a year to go, and the dollar was so strong it felt like we weren't spending any money at all.

In London we visited a friend of a friend who worked at Rough Trade records. An English friend took me to a party where they were dancing to Bhangra music.

Christo wrapped the Pont-Neuf.

In Paris we saw the new Clint Eastwood movie, Pale Rider.

I was going to spend the night with a crush in London, and when I got there he told me my flight back to NYC was probably cancelled because of the hurricane, so I spent the weekend just to be safe :). There was a riot in Brixton that weekend.

Later I discovered the Husker Du song Dead Set On Destruction was about being stranded in London because of that same hurricane.
posted by maggiemaggie at 8:24 PM on September 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

I was just starting 9th grade. Reagan, Cold War, a serious legitimate fear that the world was going to end in nuclear holocaust. Peter Gabriel, Sting, U2, Talking Heads. Clove cigarettes and faded denim jackets with stuff written all over them. Card catalogs and microfilm and The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:40 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Brixton Riot September 28 1985
posted by maggiemaggie at 8:50 PM on September 15, 2015

After being missing for 73 years, the wreckage of Titanic was discovered on September 1, 1985. Back to the Future continued its long reign at the box office, but there were in general a lot fewer movies arriving. A quick check of Boxofficemojo shows that the highest-grossing new release thirty years ago today was the largely forgotten drama Agnes of God, turning up at #9.

Me, I was just starting first year university. Some of my papers were typed on an electric typewriter, others were handwritten. I knew all of two people with home computers, I think. (I was near the campus this evening and it occurred to me that the iPhone in my pocket likely has more computing power than the university's mainframe did in 1985.)

Microwave oven, telephone answering machine, VCR, CD player: all these were things that had arrived in my middle-class home within the previous two or three years. And yes, research meant the public library or the university library.

Bloom County was the highlight of the comics page; two months in the future a strip called Calvin and Hobbes would debut. If you were a science fiction fan, which I still was, sucked to be you. Star Wars had wrapped up two-and-a-half years ago, Star Trek was a little long in the tooth but churning out a movie every two or three years, and sf on TV was Saturday morning cartoons

Oh, and if I am not mistaken, thirty years ago today I met the woman who I am marrying in a few weeks. So there is that.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:05 PM on September 15, 2015 [9 favorites]

Nuclear war at any moment, agonisingly slow modems and BBSs, big hair, Punky Brewster, everyone studiously ignoring the Iran-Iraq war, Miami vice, space shuttle, Axel F, live aid, Nintendo, Amiga, Gorbachev.
posted by ead at 9:12 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

The LAPD were raiding gay clubs and busting people's face in with little to no reason.
Burger King kept asking "Where's Herb?" (the only guy in America who'd never eaten a Whopper) and no one cared except for Burger King.
Disco was the biggest joke and "Death Before Disco" was the coolest t-shirt you could wear.
People into sports ball cared about a dude named Pete Rose.
Every adult did or talked about cocaine like it was no big deal. T-shirts and mirrors that looked like the Coca Cola logo but said, "Cocaine" were sold at gas stations. Everyone carried the little spoons from McDonald's coffee for coke.
Disney movies suck and the company is past its prime. The press talks about this new guy Michael Eisner selling off the rides at Disneyland and they start Touchstone Films so they can at least try to make grownup movies with swears in them.
Kids, particularly ones that don't live with their parents - Punky Brewster, Webster, Silver Spoons, Facts of Life - are at the heart of every sitcom.
The Japanese are the bad guys destroying American jobs and anyone driving a Japanese car is an a-hole.
You bring gasoline if you go to the beach in LA to wash the tar balls from the offshore oil rigs off your feet or else that just stick there.
Stores that used to be piano stores are now electronic keyboard stores and offer free "piano" lessons if your parents buy an overpriced keyboard.
Stock trader is the coolest job anyone could ever have just because they're rich.
Any comedian with a jar of jelly beans was doing a Reagan impression or a joke.
Hippy moms are passing around copies of Duffy's "Sugar Blues", convinced that sugar causes all societal ills and that you only get lung cancer from sugar cured tobacco
There are no Whole Foods or organic anything. There is a health food store that only hippies go to that sells weird vitamins and frozen yogurt that's totally unsweetened -- like just yogurt frozen.
"Save the Whales" was the big eco motto and balding creepy hippy dudes had albums of whale songs they listened to.
Burl wood clocks are everywhere for some reason.
Everyone, even if they don't smoke, has decorative ashtrays in their house.
Tender Vittles is the big "innovation" in cat food technology - it's neither wet food or dry food but a foil packet of gummy bear-like pellets for cats.
Garfield is everywhere - stuck on the inside of car windows with suction cups on his paws.
The Los Angeles school district vows to put one computer in every classroom -- but the teachers have no idea how to use them so Apple IIs just sit in the back of the class unused.
"Princess Bride" is a book every teacher wants you to read to give you the thrill of reading.
Everyone is trying to learn to breakdance, but everyone's bad at it.
posted by Gucky at 9:37 PM on September 15, 2015 [14 favorites]

I'd just started my first real job after grad school in August 1985. I missed the Internet and USENET news, which I had access to back at school but I figured I'd never see it again. This was before the Great Renaming. Emailing people on the 'net often meant shotgunning 3 or 6 address variants and Subject: lines like "Test 3" and waiting to hear back which, if any addresses worked.

Laser printers were uncommon.

Musically speaking, MIDI had only been finalized in 1983 and was still a bit shaky. The Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 was on its way "out"[1] while the Yamaha line of FM-based synthesizers (especially the DX7) were hot hot hot! (Although I personally feel they sound like shit and were a nightmare to program). These were the keyboards you heard on the pop music of the time. Also, sampling was just beginning to register in the public mind, although I believe it was 1989 before those idiots 2 Live Crew forced some legal analysis on the process.

And in the world of guitars, Eddie Van Halen plus the Floyd Rose locking tremolo system made Kramer guitars #1 for a few years until Kramer management pissed it all away.

[1] Although 30 years later, DSI has apparently been doing a brisk business selling a new, improved Prophet line.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:52 PM on September 15, 2015

A few things: I was a senior in high school in 1985. When I think of September 1985 I think of how many women were wearing Calvin Klein's Obsession that fall. It had just been launched and if you walked down the street you could just generally smell Obsession in the air. It was everywhere and it was crazy.

Sting's 'If You Love Somebody' and Ah Ha's 'Take On Me' were on MTV and the radio a lot that September. I listened to all sorts of music but was only just becoming aware of hip hop in 1985. People wore walkmen with headphones but kids still carried around boom boxes, too. Music was more public back then where now it feels private (If I hear other people's music on the train, for instance, I'm surprised, but in 1985 it was all the time).

It was at this point in time that Fashion became very Prince/Madonna centric. Long strands of pearls, big crosses, faux fob chains, family crests, roses, crowns, fleur-de-lis, velvet, tartans, rococo. I did sew the inseam of many of my pants around this time to make them as tight as possible at the ankle. And I admit I did sew them while actually wearing them a few times, too (whip stitch/seam ripper for removal). But otherwise I was only slightly punk. Piercings were very rare. And I can safely no one at my high school had a tattoo in 1985.

I lost sleep as a teenager thinking about nuclear war. The thought terrified me. I remember wondering how I was going to live my whole life with the bomb hanging over my head. This combined with AIDS was harrowing. Both were clearly on people's minds, but no one ever spoke about these fears with anyone. And there was no Internet yet in 1985 to confirm that other people were scared, too. (Pretty much, people white knuckled through life without an Internet in 1985).

I saw Pee-Wees Big Adventure in the theater with my little brother at this time. I think many would would agree that Pee-Wee changed and defined things for the time period in question. Try to imagine a Pee-Wee-less world. It's not easy to do.
posted by marimeko at 11:27 PM on September 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

I was 9. I was wearing whatever my mom had bought for me and had glasses the size of my face. Sept. 15, 1985 was a Sunday, but school was in session, so I would have been annoyed because I couldn't stay up late to watch Monty Python and Doctor Who on PBS. (Doctor Who was The Face Of Evil, which I still haven't seen to this day! Aw, man.)

During the day I probably would have either been in the backyard running through play tunnels and playing in the sandbox, or I'd have been been watching nonstop videos on MTV while building monsters and spaceships out of Legos, crashing them into each other, and building new monsters and spaceships out of the wreckage.

Wait, no, a Google search shows that there was a Bears game, which means I was in my bedroom playing with Star Wars figures and maybe watching a Godzilla movie on my TV while my dad and uncles WHOOPED AND BELLOWED AND CHEERED AND BOOED AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS in the living room. They tried to get me into football a couple of times, but I just Did Not Get It.

Did I have Maximilian then? Probably. Maximilian was my pet turtle, named after the evil robot in The Black Hole. He may have passed on by 1985, in which case he'd been replaced by Maximilian II. I had to feed him live crickets, which was gross, and gross was awesome because I was 9. This also meant that crickets would sometimes escape, so I always had lots of them lurking in my room. Once I was sitting on the floor right next to my bed playing with my Hoth set. For whatever reason I happened to turn to look next to me, and my eye level was right at the surface of the bed. And there was a cricket right there. So when I turned it was GIANT CRICKET FACE TAKING UP MY ENTIRE FIELD OF VISION. For the sake of this thread, I will say that this heartstopping event took place on Sept 15, 1985.

Here's a bunch of other stuff that actually happened on that day!
posted by brianrobot at 11:37 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was 13. It was a scary time in terms of the Cold War. "Russians" was on the radio. We watched "The Day After" in 8th grade class. Reagan seemed really incompetent and doddering. I grew up in the Chicago burbs, and I used to take the encyclopedia and a map and try to figure out what would kill us if warheads hit downtown. I still don't know how the fuck we made it through that.

AIDS was a scary disease that was far away, but I figured I'd have to worry about it whenever I had sex in the next decade.

There was a ton of synthpop on the radio, and to some extent it was beginning to abate.

John Hughes films to me looked like an only-slightly-stylized representation of reality. So, among other things: white and homophobic.

My friend's dad would download games for us to play on the Atari 800 from the local BBS.

The Bears were really good.

Everyone in my school wore Lee jeans and Ocean Pacific shirts. I think parachute pants were on their way out.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:52 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh yes, it seemed like there were serial killers everywhere. This was just after Gacy in Chicago, and after and Bundy, and during the heyday of the slasher flicks, and I believed I had a quite good chance of not making it to adulthood because a serial killer would get me. The City (Chicago) was other and crime-ridden and we didn't go there except to take the train or go to a museum. Maybe. This was the height of white flight and segregated living, at least in Chicago.

Upshot: I grew up in a cultural wasteland, and it's amazing I today have any palate for anything good.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:00 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Eyebrows: by 1985 it was Son of Svegooli!

ryanshepard: how did you learn about protopunk etc. at 13? Honestly, I don't think bands like VU were on my radar until 10 years later.

Other factoid: Classic Rock radio played...exactly what it's playing now!
posted by persona au gratin at 2:06 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Last one: Reagan made being a selfish fucking asshole cool. So Alex P. Keaton and yuppies and all the stuff parodied in American Psycho.

In the suburban supermarket food was shit. Few fresh vegetables, especially out of season. Just as suburban culture was white and middle class and devoid of anything worthwhile, so was our food. And, not that I cared at the time, but good coffee was impossible to find. There were no coffee shops. There were occasional diners, but that's about it.

If you're getting the sense from us the the thread that we're better off today in nearly every way, well, we are. That's why I look at conservatives who want to go back to the 80s like they have three heads. Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by persona au gratin at 2:14 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was alive then and had just finished high school. More relevantly, I got pregnant and had my first child in feb 1991. In the months leading up to his birth, and for a couple of years after (until his sister arrived and I had rep to think of) I wrote in a little hardback notebook. The gulf war was happening while I was a naive pregnant 23 year old, so I told him about that. I told him about the price of milk, bread and real estate (then and what I knew it to be at my birth thanks to a cheap fairground printout). He's turning 25 next Fevruary, and I gave him the tatty book on his 18th, around the time when he didn't value reading (or maybe even his parents opinions) much. He still has the book and mentions it in historical context - he's a huge history buff and my go to person for an explanation about anything geo/political. He's not sentimental but I don't think he will ever throw this away - possibly because it's an authentic historical first source, possibly because it gives him an insight into the child his mother was when he was born, possibly because he feels like he was loved from conception even though unplanned,

So that's what I'd recommend. It's a long play (not metaphor I wanted) but s completely original, pertinent, personal document. Write in a little notebook. Write about public opinion changing, about new technology, about your awe and pleasure of this little being growing and relating. It was one of the most powerful things I did, for an audience of exactly 1
posted by b33j at 5:42 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Btw, the newspapers Id saved from the date of my kids births were not appreciated and have since been tossed. The little shoeboxes with artefacts from their growing (haircut, clothes, toys, birthday cards) all pretty much ignored - the hastily scrawled notes in cheap notebooks are held dear.

I have pretty awesome kids, I think.
posted by b33j at 5:46 AM on September 16, 2015

Many, many, many "Baby on Board" signs on car and van windows.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:53 AM on September 16, 2015

Others have said it, but I want to emphasize how afraid we were of nuclear war (and Russia).
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:56 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

On September 15, 1985 I had just started college at RPI majoring in electrical engineering.

I was feeling pretty good because in my dorm room I had both an Atari 800 computer and a Sony Hi-fi system to play my records I had shipped out. No compact discs because they were brand new (I had to wait until the next summer and saving a lot of money ($350) to buy a CD player). I could still log into my favorite BBSs since I had a modem and phone line in my dorm room, and freshly hacked calling card numbers.

I was 'rushing' several fraternities and eventually choose one to join, where I lived the next three years. Most of those men remain my friends today and have made a huge positive impact on my life in times of trouble and joy. Despite all the multiple problems with fraternities, it remains one of my best decisions to join.

We played on the nascent internet and school network with chat systems and remote access to mainframe computers. However, if I wanted a print out from the mainframe (required in many classes) I still had to walk to the computer center to get it. We were taught the basics of word processors and used Lotus 123 as a spreadsheet for engineering calculations, which was revolutionary at the time.

We drank lots of booze, as the drinking age in New York was 19 (grandfathered to 18 for some). The main drugs were marijuana, cocaine, and mushrooms. Awareness of drunk driving as a problem was just starting.

The big fears of the day were nuclear war with the USSR and getting AIDS, which at the time was a literal death sentence. Reagan was President and the 'Moral Majority' was topic of the day as conservative social attitudes made their first entrees into political discussion.

I eagerly wanted a girlfriend and dated a few in that first year, but didn't find a serious girlfriend until 1986.

South Africa was run apartheid and Nelson Mandela was in jail.

East Germany was part of the Warsaw Pact and behind the Berlin Wall.

You could not pause TV. A trip to the 'video store' to rent a VHS tape was fun. They even had pron available, which was thrilling at the time to be able to get without hiding from parents. VHS tape players were still fairly new and expensive. Again, a luxury for a college student to have.

MTV showed music videos mainly and was a prime source of learning about new music.

Feel like I'm rambling now. I was happy, optimistic about the future, and having a wonderful time learning how the world worked.
posted by Argyle at 6:58 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had three kids and I was an undergrad at a state college in upstate New York. We had a computer lab where we could type our papers in Word Perfect, but we often had to wait for access because there were so few computers. The professors could borrow gigantic portable IBM computers that folded into a suitcase- not sure if I'm remembering this correctly- and a professor friend borrowed one and let me use it at my house over Thanksgiving that year because I had several papers to write. Another friend worked at the big research university nearby and told me about communicating through a computer terminal with a friend at a university in Alaska; this was probably through CSNET.

I remember the big hair and big shoulders but never did adopt those styles. We were all worried about AIDS and my gay friends had a lot of sick and dying friends.
posted by mareli at 7:03 AM on September 16, 2015

I was in college in South Carolina. You could buy beer at the student center - some people had it with Cheerios for breakfast - and many local bars had huge happy hour buffets. We hit those and gallery openings for our nutritional non beer needs. I wore ripped black tights and elf boots and pink fiorrucci skirts and I painted my t shirts myself. We had multiple ear piercings and wore huge earrings, none matching. Listened to the Psychedelic Furs and the Smiths and the Pogues, Bananarama, REM - I saw them in a tiny theatre in Columbia sometime around then or maybe a year later. Michael Stipe came on stage wearing a dress and I was blown away. My brother had the worlds saddest Mohawk - there is just not enough dippity do in the world to hold up fine blonde hair. The Starn twins and Jonathan Borofsky were tearing up the art world and Keith Haring was dying of AIDS. Interview magazine showed us what was up in NYC which I thought was the center of the universe. My boyfriend and I went up for a long weekend and went to Danceteria and CBGBs, we were so fucking cool. Back in Charleston we protested Reaganomics and Nicaragua and nuclear power; we had a die in on the customs house steps. We rented a giant apartment in a nice neighborhood for $400 a month and shared it with 6 people. I did all this with a toddler in tow. Murphy Brown said it was ok to be a single mom, after all. Heh. And Repo Man was then, is now and ever shall be the best movie ever.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:05 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

I was 17 and a freshman at college in rural Maine. Aside from what everyone above has said about the cold war looming over us all, this might be helpful: Time magazine for the week of September 16th. (Here's the prior week).

You might also enjoy this article from the September 1985 issue of Rolling Stone - "Compact Disc: The New Sound of Music"

Over the summer between graduation and college, the father of a good friend has purchased one of those "new" CD players to add to his Hi Fi system (with AMAZING) speakers. It came with a "demo" CD of music and sounds (to convince you of how awesome things now sounded on the "clear, flawless" CD recordings -- the first track of which was In The Air Tonight. The drum break at 3:16 made me jump out of my skin -- it was literally (and I do mean that) like the drums were in the living room with us, and I'd never heard anything that crisp played at home in my life.

The 1985 Sears Wish Book might inspire memories from some folks (toys start around page 420). Take note of the two page spread of roller skates on page 424-425. As a teen, roller skating (at Happy Wheels skate rink) was a regular thing - I'm pretty sure we went every Friday and Saturday as well as at least one week night, and hung out there for hours. The rink also had all your standard video games (Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Frogger). Console games (at home) did exist, but I did not personally know anyone who owned one. I did, however, own an Apple IIe (purchased used), which I carted off to college in a big tan bag. I did not own a printer, so I would go to the computer lab on campus (with my 5 1/4 disks that you sometimes had to flip over to access the content on both sides) to print out papers. Mostly, though I used my trusty Smith Corona typewriter which had been a gift for the start of my senior year.
posted by anastasiav at 7:09 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, the college drinking! Freshman year at UNC, my dorm would sponsor keg parties, all official-like, paid for out of student funds and staffed by the resident assistants. Hawaiian Tropic sponsored a free off-campus party with 75 kegs and Marshall Crenshaw. Halloween was bar hopping with 25-cent pitchers. And, yeah, every year there would be a car-load of kids killed by a drunk driver, usually their own.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2015

I forgot: Magnum, P.I. Aloooha bra'. I liked to scan the background to see familiar locations.
posted by mule98J at 9:06 AM on September 16, 2015

I was a freshman in college. MTV was still awesome and Russia was still the USSR and the bad guys in real life and in lots of movies. We had "word processors" - fancy typewriters that stored a few lines at a time instead of typing as you went. If not that you had a typewriter with that stupid correction tape. We actually had to turn in papers we had written as opposed to emailing homework. If you wanted to talk to a prof you had to go visit them or call. No email so you didn't know class was cancelled until after you got out of bed and stumbled across campus. AIDS was new enough and my college town conservative enough that safe sex still meant mostly birth control and not protecting your life. Virtually noone came out in middle school or high school and lots were still pretty discreet in college. That is very different now from my kids experiences.

Jeans were tapered, we wore Keds with everything including dresses, hair was huge and we made the sides stick out like wings and the bangs very tall with aqua net and paul mitchell hair spray. Lots of shoulder pads, bright colors and chunky bracelets. Or the tiny little black rubber ones that madonna wore. No cell phones so if someone came to visit you were buzzed from the front desk of the dorm. If you weren't home a little white thing would appear on your intercom so you knew you missed a visitor. Dating was different than it is now. Soap operas were big viewing opportunities after class. You drank Coors light or keystone if you were on a budget - the micro brewery craze was a long way off.
posted by domino at 9:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was apparently with Argyle at RPI. *waves*

Met my (future) husband at the RPI Playhouse about this date, give or take a week.
posted by blurker at 10:37 AM on September 16, 2015

I was a few weeks away from my 13th birthday. And I lived in Louisville, KY. My memories are going to be colored by those facts.
  • There was an arcade at the nearest mall. (We were fairly poor. I lost a lot of quarters in less than 3 minutes at a time)
  • There was also a hobby/game store there. That had Car Wars stuff. And a Marvel Super Heroes RPG. My best friend at the time and I would create tons of stuff in all these games, and never actually play the game parts. The creation was so much more fun.
  • There were hair bands on the MTV. All the time. It would get worse. Much much worse.
  • The girls in my area used a ton of hair spray (that would also get worse)
  • There was a lot of fear about The Soviet Union. It was a weird layer of constant dread that you couldn't really do anything about.
  • The pretty constant Space Shuttle flights were routine and boring to everyone around me. (That was going to change soon)
  • Reaganomics had lowered interest rates, and the manufacturing jobs hadn't yet all disappeared.
  • Calling long distance was crazy expensive.
  • My dad had a car phone. No one else we knew did. (He drove around a LOT for work)
  • HMO insurances were really getting rolling, and dictating healthcare to patients in new and frightening ways.
  • Comics were pretty cool
  • The St Louis Cardinals (baseball, I *think* there was a football there then too) were pretty good.
  • My grandfather bought a new Apple II (maybe GS?) because that macintosh thing was too expensive, and he didn't see the point.

posted by DigDoug at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2015

Fall of 1985 was an interesting time. It was both a time of hope and fear. It was about a year after Reagan did his infamous "We begin bombing in 5 minutes" joke and we lived in the shadow of possible nuclear Armageddon (spoiler alert: didn't happen). Meantime, a lot of musicians were trying to raise money for impoverished people by writing and performing songs (spoiler alert: not a lot of the money made it to people who needed it).

In my college, Apartheid and how to end it was very much an active thing. One of the approaches was letter writing campaigns and boycotts of businesses that did business with the pro-Apartheid government.
posted by plinth at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2015

On more thought about this, I want to add a more serious note as well. (Although, XTC! And Elvis Costello! And the Specials and the English Beat!) I don't necessarily think things are better now than they were then. It is not so much that they are worse, either - it is that they are too much the same. I would have told you in 1985 that feminism had achieved its goals and that racism and homophobia were basically things of the past. I would have been terrifyingly wrong and hopelessly naive, which is maybe not surprising when you're in your early twenties but still, I didn't expect things to go backwards as far as they have. I'm still out there protesting stuff I thought had been solved, like abortion rights. And you know, I have said this before on Metafilter, but life was genuinely much more affordable then. Wage stagnation and the income gap had not really hit, although you can thank Reagan for those terrible seeds along with so many others. I could afford to go to college: it was $900 a semester. I could afford to move out of my parents house. There was a recession than as now - my friends didn't leave school and find jobs; we waited tables - but we could afford to live and even have a good time. Nowadays it seems to me that this is just much more difficult: kids aren't making much more than we were in the 80s but everything (except long distance; I do not miss the long distance bill! Yes, you had to pay extra to call anyone outside your area code and those charges could get crazy out of hand FAST) is way more expensive. My point to this, I guess, is do not assume that things are solved. Issues have a way of lurching up from the grave. For just one example, think about this: in 1985 there were multiple Planned Parenthood clinics throughout North and South Carolina. Now, there are not. So anyway, happy birthday! And stay vigilant.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:13 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

I was 18. For me 1985 was all about music. Dance music to be exact. Mixing records was in its infancy, but it was exciting! Madonna wa steaming hot, and people like The Latin Rascals showed how far you could go with tape edits, e.g. Loveride by Nuance. Other records I recall: Eight Arms To Hold You - the Goonsquad, Thinking About Your Love - Skipworth and Turner. It was a great year for music for sure! Right then and there I knew I had to do editing of sound. And hey, 2015, that's what I do for a living!
posted by hz37 at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2015

I want to add a bit more, too. I was doing hospice volunteer caregiver work then, which was considered really really unusual. Medicare only added hospice care to its coverage in 1982. Before then, the idea of seeking palliative care only was thought to be kind of crazy. At that time, doctors felt completely comfortable not telling their patients that there were no treatments left to combat their disease.

Also, that was the year I did my first meditation retreat. I really can't stress hard enough how unusual that was. I literally had no friends who meditated. Every single person I worked with thought that a 10 day silent retreat was crazy -- and that was the normal reaction. People would say, oh sure silent, but you can read, right? Oh sure but you can watch TV, right?

That retreat was led by three teachers who no longer teach together because they are in such high demand. Retreats that they lead are now filled by lottery that opens 6 months prior to the retreat and generally have waiting lists in the hundreds. I registered for my first retreat with them about a month in advance, no problem, no wait list. Thich Nhat Hanh was quoted a lot. Now everyone knows who he is. Then he was an obscure Vietnamese monk whose books were almost impossible to find.
posted by janey47 at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't have a lot of clear memories of my childhood, but I do remember watching the Macgyver pilot episode which aired on September 29, 1985. The plot involves him infiltrating some kind of science lab facility and there's a part where Macgyver seals a leak in an acid tank with a chocolate bar. My dad was a high school science teacher and I explicitly remembering him being quite impressed with this plot point because he thought the chemistry of that plot point actually held up. Years later, Mythbusters confirmed it.

Also, in Canada, 1985 was a big year for Sunday Shopping. We didn't get full-on Sunday shopping in Quebec until some years later, but it seemed like a constant source of conversation (at least among the grown-ups) for a while.
posted by mhum at 12:40 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

poffin boffin: "i remember not being allowed to watch miami vice or moonlighting because it was on past my bedtime and this was the greatest injustice any human has ever faced in the history of the universe"

I couldn't watch Miami Vice because nobody else in my family wanted to watch it and there was only 1 TV in the house in my parents' bedroom, which was a major suck as how else was I supposed to learn how to be cool?
My dad, proving his awesomeness, bought me a small Sony TV for my room, specifically so I could watch Miami Vice (and learn how to be cool). I studied hard, and learnt my lesson well enough that I went to my prom wearing a cream-colored suit and a pink tie, which looked so cool that my prom date kissed me and became my first girlfriend.
posted by signal at 1:14 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, I gave away the 30 year old Sony TV this year, it was still working but nobody used it anymore, proving that electronics used to last more than 2 or 3 years, godurnit.
posted by signal at 1:15 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

A couple of people have mentioned it, but I can't emphasize enough how much the USA was still obsessed with the USSR and the Cold War. Among the people I knew, we took for granted that there would be a nuclear war in the next decade and we wouldn't live through it. People look back at the popular entertainment of the day and it looks pretty fluffy, but IMO that was a reflection of the powerlessness we felt. When Prince sang "2000 party over oops out of time/so tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999" that's what he meant.

However! After a few years of Soviet leaders dying off one right after another, Gorbachev took over in 1985. He was the first leader of the USSR who was born after the revolution, and had a reputation as a reformer. So by September people started to be a little hopeful that he wouldn't want to be the one to push the red button. Lech Wałęsa was also making a lot of news in Poland, kids in dorms had Solidarity posters up along with band posters. There was also a big push and rallies to try to get US companies to divest from investments in South Africa, to push economically for the end of apartheid. I know this all sounds very political, but we WERE very politically minded. It was hard not to be.
posted by cali at 1:44 PM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

I remember a lot of social instability, centering around things like the MOVE bombing, Sun City, and Iran-Contra.

Not a great year for America, in remembrance. But since when has ANY year been a good year for America, in hindsight?
posted by scrump at 2:26 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was almost 35 and single. The New York Times had an article reporting that it was statistically more probable that a 35-year-old American woman would be the victim of a terrorist attack than that she would find a husband. The phrase "biological clock" was spoken quite a bit.

I was (and am) a psychologist and worked for a drug abuse facility. I was sent to take a course on cocaine abuse given by Columbia University Medical Center, because cocaine was the Big Drug at that time. We were told of the many rich executives who came to Columbia's outpatient treatment clinic (located in a fancy area of the Upper East Side of Manhattan) to try to get off cocaine. We were also told that the commonly held notion that cocaine was only "psychologically" (as opposed to "physically") addictive was incorrect, and shown many slides demonstrating cocaine's actions on the nervous system.

A few years earlier, probably in 1982, I had received a VCR -- one of the first of anyone I knew. I remember recording TV shows like DAvid Letterman and watching them EARLIER in the evening! It was a miracle.

I also got a video CAMERA (an early adopter, I was) and brought it to Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's. I took some video and then showed her the video. She said, "Wait -- is this the video you JUST RECORDED?!?!?! I can't believe it!!!" (all our family films up to that point were Super-8 film)

And around 1983 I bought a computer -- a Leading Edge Model D. It was a very fancy computer! Its hard drive held 20mg and you did not need a floppy disc to boot it up! you just turned it on and it booted itself up!

And yes, shoulder pads. And I got a permanent (my hair did, that is). Many of us did. BIG HAIR and BIG SHOULDERS.

And Reagan.
posted by DMelanogaster at 2:50 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

30 years ago, I was in 7th grade. Spent most of my time playing basketball for the school team, drawing, and then getting voluntold to do various and sundry graphic design jobs for the school administration because I could draw.

I walked 1.5km each way to school, and no one called child protective services. While recess was often canceled because of the smog, basketball practice strangely never was. Every Thursday was running day for gym class, and if you ran 9 ¼-mile laps, you got a free, almost-frozen fruit punch that tasted like victory. They didn't let you run with a Walkman, so in my head I'd endlessly repeat "Eye of the Tiger" while I ran.

My dad had a Macintosh 512K that he carried back and forth to work in a padded carrier. Shareware was abundant and the games were mostly crap.

My favorite teacher was a Vietnam vet, who was one of the few people talking about Vietnam. He educated us about prisoners of war by having us each pick a prisoner's name off a list, and he then bought us memorial bracelets with their names. The Cold War was very much a concern in everyone's mind; several teachers reassured us that because we lived so close to so many Air Force bases and military targets, we'd see only a flash of bright light, and then we'd be dead, so we wouldn't have to worry about fallout or bunkers, like the educational movies. That made all of us feel strangely better.

My favorite TV show: Robotech; I was amazed that for the first time, a cartoon had real episodes and told an actual story. I thought it was the best thing ever, and the Robotech vs. Thundercats lunchtime debates were epic.

I bought my very first book with my own money: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, for $2.95. (In my defense, I was 12.)
posted by culfinglin at 3:17 PM on September 16, 2015

Reiteration upon reiteration about the nuclear war thing. Seriously, when 1989 finally came around and the cold war started winding down and there was some hint that the world wasn't going to end in a giant fireball any second, it was like someone had just rewritten the entire future.

This is primarily why I can't understand "kids these days". It's not the video games or the lousy pop music or whatever; we had those too. It's this weird sense that they grew up believing in some kind of non-nuclear-wasteland future.

It's hard to convey given the recent decade's bizarre war-on-terror fearmongering, but this was just a ... different mood. It wasn't like "maybe someone's a secret bomber, so we must be paranoid!"; it was like "hey bad news, everyone on earth is going to be incinerated in a wall of fire any minute now because it's official government policy to do so". It was a different mood. An insane, incomprehensible, apocalyptic, how-can-this-really-be-the-policy mood. Watch this scene from The Day After and realize that 100 million people watched that movie when it was broadcast, and basically had nightmares for the rest of the decade because it was all real.

That's the problem with nuclear war: it wasn't exaggerated or anything. They really built all that shit, and really aimed it at each other, they really planned to use it to annihilate the world, and they really avoided doing so by the narrowest margin.
posted by ead at 4:32 PM on September 16, 2015 [15 favorites]

I was in Mrs. Danzi's first grade class. I met my best friend. I got to make picture books out of manila paper and pipe cleaners, which were still called pipe cleaners and not chenille sticks or some crap.

A few months prior, Reagan had visited my town, which was a Big Deal--they cleaned up City Hall all nice, for him to speak on the steps. Everyone seemed to be excited about it, but my family went to protest. I was bored and climbed around on a fence. Later I saw my classmate on the local news, waving a flag. It was confusing that we could be friends and enemies at the same time like that.
posted by the_blizz at 5:05 PM on September 16, 2015

My car (which was not built in 1985, because not everyone drives a brand new car; I think it was a mid-1970s Detroit product but I don't remember the year now) felt more like a steel shell wrapped around a steel chassis than a plastic shell wrapped around a computer. When I started it up, there was just the engine noise. Things were electrical, not electronic. There were no ding-dong noises or lights to warn me about anything like open doors. I could just go without putting my seat belt on, though I think they had just recently made it a legal requirement for everyone in the front seat to wear a seat belt, so you were taking a chance (legally, not just physically) if you drove around without one. (And the hell with anyone in the back seat.) When I turned on the headlights, a light bulb in the dash lighted the mechanical speedometer needle and the odometer numbers slowly clicking around under it. When I opened the hood, there were metal mechanical parts I could adjust, remove, replace, take apart and put back together. On icy days, I pulled off the air filter (held on by a wing nut in the middle), held the flap open on the carburetor with a finger or a screw driver, and sprayed ether into the hole to get the engine going. The braking system was a simple mechanical affair that performed only as well as I did, which on ice meant holy shit here we go! But I think September was still fine weather and I was zooming around listening to the radio blasting out of the little speaker in the middle of the dash.
posted by pracowity at 3:33 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

BMX, rap, breakdancing, new wave, Queen Street West was just barely west, IBM 286AT, Toronto Rocks with John Mahjor, CFNY 102.1 The Spirit of Radio.

It was the best of times.
posted by srboisvert at 5:34 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

On September 15th 1985 I was 18 and staying on a small farm in Tuscany while helping out with the grape picking (vendemmia). All Chianti region grapes were, I believe, picked by hand at that time. Most of the other pickers were people who had been doing this for a very long time. One man would great me with the only English I would sometimes hear "one, two, three" - he had been a prisoner of war in England in WW2 - the war was much more of an active memory at the time.

In the evenings I would listen to cassettes to try to improve my Italian. There was also a phrasebook with rather outdated expressions about calling for porters and about wanting to go to a nightclub with a floor show (language learning tools were all very much more primitive). I would probably either receive or write a letter each day: to my parents, siblings, school friends - letters were still very much the way to keep in touch (generally - but especially when living abroad). Every trip abroad would therefore feature an attempt to buy stamps and post letters. Regular (and lengthy) trips to a bank to cash travelers cheques were also vital (ATM cards were coming but would not work in another country for several years). If one did not manage to get cash on a Friday then there was a real possibility of having to survive the weekend with none.

The slightly older daughter of the vineyard owner had an interesting record collection. It was the first time I remember hearing REM's Murmur and Lou Reed's Transformer. There was an enormous gulf between hearing a song somewhere and getting a chance to buy a copy (or even find out who the artist was) - I carried around a notebook full of scribbled titles of songs that I had heard somebody talk about on the radio - it would often be years before I would find out the music I was looking for.

My memories of this time were recorded with a 110 film instant camera. There are pictures from the farm - and from a trip to Florence. But they are very few and technically very poor. The people creating good photos from that era were, I dare say, those who were rich enough to afford a decent camera as well as plenty of film and the processing thereof.
posted by rongorongo at 6:24 AM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

The culture was reacting to the 70's and grooming came back with vengeance. It was becoming fashionable to make money in any way possible and business as a major in college suddenly exploded. Nerds and geeks were not credited with knowing anything, computers or otherwise. CD's were just coming out, with endless debates about analog versus digital among audiophiles. Music was shared among friends, and going to grunge or punk shows in odd places uninvited was normal, and you didn't need to belong or fit in. A good mixed tape was a something to guard, and it wasn't unusual to find it again after it was stolen three times and gifted back to someone you know. Obviously there were no cell phones, and if you wanted to make a call to someone you would be leaving a message anyway.
posted by Brian B. at 6:40 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, in Canada, 1985 was a big year for Sunday Shopping. We didn't get full-on Sunday shopping in Quebec until some years later, but it seemed like a constant source of conversation (at least among the grown-ups) for a while.

In Ontario, at least, there was a maximum floorspace to the stores that could be open on Sundays. My baffling recollection of childhood is that if you walked into a grocery store for the five hours or whatever it was open on Sunday, most of the aisles would be blocked with those big wheeled bread bins and the aisle (or perhaps two) where you found staples was open. You cold buy milk and bread on Sunday, but if your grocery list called for canned ham or paprika or cat toys, come back tomorrow.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:46 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh man, blue laws! Our shopping centers were closed on Sundays, so they'd turn into giant flea markets. On Sept 15th they'd only been rescinded a while and from what I recall the markets moved into Drive-In theatre parking lots instead. There still are blue laws on the books - here in Florida I can't buy booze on a sunday morning (though I talked a WinnDixie clerk into selling me a bottle of Fre once).

I remember the excitement over the Titanic, though it took this thread to remind me. I still watched all the shuttle launches I could on TV (when broadcast). I didn't hear about AIDS until after Rock Hudson.
posted by tilde at 9:07 AM on September 17, 2015

Heck, my old calendar of 85-86...

it actually is a Garfield calendar!

Last year of studies in Amsterdam: final examen in May '86.
September 85: nothing recorded, nothing.

Harpsichord lessons start 24 October (long summer break, ain't it); it is also the year I'm taking an Italian course; and apparently the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra (not yet "Royal" at the time) was performing with Vladimir Ashkenazy as a soloist on 30-31 October. Ton Koopman and his Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra played on 3 November.
I myself was busy accompanying a bunch of fellow students in their respective final exams, so just 2 weeks after you were born, rehearsals pop up around Garfield and Odie like mushrooms. Later that year, some pre examen-concert-nerves came creeping up which explains why I didn't see much of the world at all that year. Amazingly and not previously recalled-ly, we had a house concert with all the harpsichord students in December, though.

In terms of technical equipment, it was a year or so before I bought an electric typewriter. I think that's about the only gadget I owned at the time.
posted by Namlit at 10:23 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Great comments! I'll have to find my diaries to figure out what really happened. But yes, the cold war was up front every single day - the fear was truly part of everyday life.
A general feeling of hopelessness, too. Reaganomics didn't feel very real in my corner of the world, and it would be a decade before economic improvement was felt. I remember we hosted an American student that year, who was very conservative, and my family eyerolled in the most polite way imaginable. Most people I knew were really poor, and a lot of them underemployed. I was lucky, but the jobs I had brought me in close contact with the people who were overrun by the great social and economic changes of the day.

On the positive side, my gran bought live chickens and pigeons at local providers, and they were most certainly organic and the taste of those birds was amazing. But we had to pluck them and the smell was horrible.

During summer 1985, I'd been on an amazing trip to Italy. But again the poverty of those days is very different from now. I can't see my 22-yo meeting the people I met or experiencing the world I saw. We met agricultural traditions that are obsolete today, and lived under conditions no modern person (who is not an anthropologist) would accept.

We visited an aunt of a friend, and she provided a three-course meal of broad beans, lambs inestines and oranges. Delicious! But even then, my friend worried we wouldn't eat it. Well today maybe the culinary fads make this acceptable.

Culturally, I was more a Specials girl than a Madonna fan, and where I lived, counter culture was not really accessible. You had to know someone who was going to London to get a record. I had like 25 records, and that was considered an epic stash.

Even though I was a math geek and understood computer science, it would be another year before I got access to computers at school, and two years before I got my first personal computer.

AIDS was a thing, but I lived in a very gay-positive environment (my godmother and great aunt were both gay, more than one friend had a gay dad, the gay people in secondary school and architecture school were all out), and was mostly worried about real people, less about politics. However, a few years later, I'd be with a boyfriend who was extremely paranoid about AIDS.
posted by mumimor at 12:22 PM on September 17, 2015

oh hey check this out! Theory of Everything has an episode on 1984. It's the year before your birth, but there's a lot to be devoured here.
posted by janey47 at 1:53 PM on September 17, 2015

I was almost five. I spent tons of time going to the bank with my Mom since so many transactions were still in cash. There were no ATMs yet, so the fastest option was the drive through. Our bank's drive through had two lanes, and the outer lane had a pneumatic tube to transport your money and deposit slips to and from the teller. Sometimes when the pneumatic tube capsule came back there was a lollipop in it for me. I still love pneumatic tubes 30 years later.

We had a computer, but it didn't have a hard drive, only RAM. This meant there was nowhere to store the operating system when it was off, so to get it running you had to first put in a floppy disk that contained DOS and load that into memory, then put in the disk that contained your program and load that. I loved to use a program that let you make banners and greeting cards using clipart and text. We had a dot matrix printer that printed to connected perforated pages, so you could print out long banners by leaving the pages attached.

My mother sewed a lot. Clothes, curtains, quilts, stuffed animals, doll clothes, halloween costumes--all kinds of stuff. I learned so sew by sitting on the floor next to her and making little cushions and things from the scraps. She seemed to enjoy it, but the reason she knew how to sew was because she grew up in a family where the women still HAD to sew to save money, and some of the motivation behind it still seemed to be financial. Today if I sew something it is 100% for hobby reasons and it is always a lot more expensive than just buying the premade equivalent.

I would regularly receive postcards from my grandparents' travels. They weren't wealthy, and when they were kids you still went to Europe by boat, so they were so happy that travel had become so affordable. They never expected to be able to do so much travelling, so they really appreciated it. When they came back we'd watch a slide show of their vacation photos.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 2:48 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

There were no ATMs yet,

No, there were, I was a college sophomore and the ATM in the student union was a regular feature of my day. But they were pretty new.

The library had a real card catalog, but they were already in the process of phasing it out. It disappeared in alphabetical phases over the course of that year.

Definitely the nuclear war thing. In the summer of that year there was a made-for-TV movie about nuclear war that made a big impression on me. The scene I remember most was all the cars in rush hour traffic suddenly stalling due to . . . what? Something to do with magnetic fields or electrical charges or something from the bombs heading our way from the USSR. My only other TV-related memory is that the We Are the World video was in heavy rotation that summer on MTV.

This is the year that I started teaching myself to cook, knit, use a 35mm camera, and do calligraphy. And I learned all of these things through physical books. I went to the library and checked out cookbooks and cooked up a storm. This was the beginning of the Martha Stewart era but it hadn't yet reached critical mass; the big names in my mind were James Beard, Marion Cunningham, etc., and the hippie cookbook authors like Mollie Katzen still had plenty of currency too.

I bought a paperback book on knitting and followed the diagrams and knitted a scarf for my terrible boyfriend. Today I needed to know how to knit a bobble and I automatically looked for a YouTube video. SO much easier, wow, I remember puzzling over those line drawings forever!

This was also just after phone deregulation and there were a million long-distance phone companies. I ran up a $500 bill talking to the terrible boyfriend every night on the phone and then the phone company went out of business and I never had to pay the bill.

The big thing in interior decoration was chintz. Cabbage roses on everything. In clothes, shoulder pads. I remember going to get my hair cut and taking off my blazer with the huge shoulder pads and the girl remarking on how tiny I was under there.

Also, I didn't see anyone mention this, but for me this was the year that pot got too strong. It no longer made you laugh your ass off with your best friend while devouring a box of Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies, but instead scared the hell out of you after just one bong hit and maybe later fall down and split your chin open and be too freaked out to go get it stitched up.
posted by HotToddy at 4:53 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, Banana Republic still had a banana republic theme. The store was decorated with, like, wood crates and burlap sacks and they sold cargo vests, etc.
posted by HotToddy at 5:11 PM on September 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

That was the weekend after my second week as a freshman in high school. We had just moved to a new town (again.) I was happy because I had already made new friends, a couple of whom are still good friends today. We finally settled down so I got to stay at that school all four years.

I was basically free to ride my bike wherever I wanted and be gone from the house for hours at a time. This was a freedom I had enjoyed since I was 8 years old. If I wanted to hang out with a friend, I would just go to their house. If they weren’t home, I’d go do something else. There was nothing special or unusual about this.

Nuclear War
I didn’t like Ronald Reagan. He liked to talk tough to the Russians. I was afraid he was going to get us into the nuclear war that was always hanging over our heads on a hair trigger.

One of my new friends gave me a copy of Van Halen's 1984 on cassette tape. Eddie Van Halen was incredible on the guitar. I listened to a lot of Van Halen that year because I didn’t have very many tapes. My new friend also showed me a much faster way to rewind a tape with a pencil and a scrap of paper. I would get my first CD player that Christmas as a gift from my older brother. (He gave one person in the family the expensive gift each year and that was my year.) It was a Sony portable model. We marveled at how small it was. By today's standards, it was a brick. I couldn't actually walk anywhere with it because the technology to make CD players not skip didn't exist yet. CDs came in jewel cases wrapped in huge shrink-wrapped cardboard packages. They were ridiculously expensive. I didn’t have a decent CD collection until the 90s.

Computers and Information
My Commodore 64 died earlier that year (maybe the year after) so that was it. I didn't have a computer or access to one. My brother had a job with the government. He was the first and only person I knew who had an email address for many years. He also had the first Macintosh. I think he paid extra to get 128 Kilobytes of memory. Maybe it was 256 K.

I read the Chicago Tribune every Sunday, though I was a lot more interested in the comics than the news. My Mom watched CBS Evening News every weeknight. I’m not sure if Dan Rather had taken over from Walter Cronkite at that point. Walter Cronkite was far and away the most trusted man in America. We didn’t have cable.

I went to the library often. This new library was trying out a fancy terminal where you look books up. You still had to write the number on a scrap of paper with a golf pencil. It was easier to just use the card catalog. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. I read The Lord of the Rings somewhere around this time.

Drinking was pretty common among the older kids. My first toke on a joint was about 2-3 months in the future. I didn’t actually get high until a year later. My first (and only) experience with cocaine was also a year in the future. I wasn't heavily into drugs, but a few of my friends were huge pot smokers. I never heard of meth or ecstasy during high school. I was dimly aware there were drugs called heroin and crack, but I didn't know anyone who had even tried either one. Heroin was a bad drug they did back in the 70s. Crack was a huge bugaboo. They said “those people” hooked on crack would steal anything or kill anyone to get it. It made “those people” into superhuman criminals, they said. Cops wanted bigger guns with more “stopping power”.

Casual racism
It wasn't okay to use the n-word in polite company or in class, but people still used it sometimes in private conversation. My Mom told my Dad that he couldn’t use the n-word at home anymore. The next city over was Gary, Indiana. People were terrified to drive through "the ghetto" lest they be attacked or even killed by roving gangs of black people who needed crack (see above.) I thought that was pretty silly, but even I believed that white people were best off staying away.

I knew there was a disease called AIDS. It was a death sentence. I knew it killed gay people. My Dad had an inexhaustible supply of jokes about Rock Hudson and AIDS "killing off all the queers in the land of fruits and nuts" (California, esp. San Francisco) I was super-unclear about gay people and had certainly never knowingly met one.

I knew that it was completely socially unacceptable to be gay. That was ingrained so strongly that I felt terrible guilt and shame every time I had a sexy thought about another guy. It was so strongly ingrained that I never, ever acted on those feelings, even when I had a chance before I met my wife and got married in my early 20s. It was so strongly ingrained that even to this very day, when coming out is supposedly almost passe, nobody in my real life knows about what I call my “20% gayness” besides my wife, my Mom (who refused to believe me) and two close friends.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:11 PM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was born in 1979. All I remember was this about September 1985: My family was in process of moving from absolute middle of nowhere to small town, which got even more epic because it officially became a city in 1986, so that was one New Year's celebration that I have vague recollections of. (And the mayor's speech was boring or something. Which in retrospect doesn't surprise me.)

...I have extremely vague memories of the town I was born in and I really start to remember stuff much better from late 1980s. In part because I went to 1st grade in school and got my first camera in 1986, so I guess I got out a litle bit more.
posted by wwwwolf at 4:55 AM on September 18, 2015

September 1985? Oh, man. If you were a Canadian kid, that was the time you finally, after eight. long. years, finally... FINALLY, knew what it was like to have your team make the playoffs. Of course I'm talking about the Toronto Blue Jays, and the year they finally, after such an impossibly long time, won their division, and took 3 out of 5 games in the series against the Royals. It was also the first year the playoffs were a best of seven instead of best of five, so you got to see them lose their first playoff series.

(If the sarcasm isn't dripping obviously enough from that paragraph, it's now been 22 years since the Blue Jays were last in the playoffs, even though they've doubled the number of teams that make it. But this year it looks like they'll finally be back... on a collision course with the Royals, of all teams, who weren't in the playoffs from 1986 until last year.)

I remember 1985 as the time punk and New Wave (that had killed off disco) was overtaken by dance music (which was indistinguishable from disco to me). We went from the Clash and Sex Pistols and Talking Heads and Police and Blondie and DEVO to... ugh... Madonna.

There still was a lot of talk and genuine concern about nuclear war. The idea that the Russians might launch an invasion of West Germany through the Fulda Gap while its submarines sat off the coast launching missiles on American cities (and projections of the fallout clouds spreading across eastern Canada). Wondering if your city was on the target list for a direct missile strike (and Halifax, being a very large ice-free port with airforce and naval bases, was obviously on the list). My friends and I had "graduated" from role playing games like D&D, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Traveller, James Bond and Star Trek, onto strategy war games - board games with hundreds, even thousands of cardboard counters representing actual military units and battles from Roman times to modern day. It was a strange juxtaposition, the constant background noise of nuclear annihilation while playing games.

Also, in Canada, 1985 was a big year for Sunday Shopping.

Unless you lived in Nova Scotia, in which case you'd need to wait another twenty years.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:19 AM on September 18, 2015

Also, in Canada, 1985 was a big year for Sunday Shopping.

Unless you lived in Nova Scotia, in which case you'd need to wait another twenty years.

Yeah, when I lived there in 2004, it was like being in Ontario in 1978. On the other hand, at some point since then the Google Maps aerial view of Halifax showed all the grocery store parking lots empty of cars, which led me to surmise that the shot had been taken on a Sunday. The house backing on to mine was under construction in the photo, so it must have been 2004. The expansive trees suggested full summer, so July-ish; the angle of the shadows put the photo in early afternoon... the more I looked at it, the more I wondered if by looking at just how far out the Dartmouth ferry was from the dock, the state of the roadwork on Quinpool Rd. and so forth, whether or not it would be possible to work out to the minute when the photo was taken.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:41 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

There were no ATMs yet,

1985 Johnny Cash would like a rumbling word with you.
They were still novel enough that they were being promoted with TV ads, but they were definitely around.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:20 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tapes! Tapes were a thing. I had just started my first year of college, and one of my parents' going away presents was a boombox that did tape-to-tape recording. I had a fine time copying the best parts of my suitemates' tape collections.

The move to raise the drinking age was in full swing, mainly from pressure from MADD. I was one of the first cohorts to fall under the 21 age limit for my state, while my sister, two years older and at the same university, was grandfathered in. So I had her buy my booze for me.
posted by tavella at 9:18 AM on September 18, 2015

Cabbage roses on everything.

Qft. Ivy with little pink flowers was popular, too.

I read a lot of Doonsbury then -- it's a good look at "current" adult politics and culture. It was on the editorial page of our paper, not the comics page.

Golden Girls premiered, Gaeker reminded me. I caught every episode as well as the "next door" one about their neighbor vet, and like others here, Miami Vice, and Mamas Family.
posted by tilde at 12:13 PM on September 18, 2015

Banking and ATMs and the like is a really, really good one.

One of my brothers was born in July of 1985. He was almost born in the bank, because when my mom went into labor my dad happened to not have any cash on him. So they had to stop at the bank. There was a long line. Thankfully they did make it to the hospital in time, but this is something that just straight up would not happen in 2015.

While ATMs existed, they were not ubiquitous yet in the way they are today. There also were no debit cards, meaning you needed to have a special ATM card that only worked in ATMs. Possibly only your particular bank's ATM. People also didn't use credit cards for everyday transactions, and computerized POS systems didn't exist (instead credit cards had to be processed by hand). Checks were more commonly accepted than they are now, but yes, the bulk of your mundane purchases would be done in cash, which you had to actually go to a bank to get (even if the bank had an ATM).
posted by Sara C. at 12:33 PM on September 18, 2015

Cabbage roses on everything.

Qft. Ivy with little pink flowers was popular, too.

That's right, ivy. There was ivy everywhere, and little ivy topiaries were a popular thing.

And when you wanted to buy a plane ticket, you did it over the phone. Every time I went home from school, I would call People Express and sit on hold for an hour until I got a rep and then they would go through the available flights with me. How did I pay for them though? I'm sure I didn't have a credit card. Did I just pay when I showed up at the airport? I can't remember.
posted by HotToddy at 2:55 PM on September 18, 2015

(And calling the airline directly was, I think, the modern new way, as opposed to always using a travel agent, which we also still did for more complicated trips.)
posted by HotToddy at 2:57 PM on September 18, 2015

Crack cocaine. Regular cocaine. Preppies. Keith Haring graffiti in NYC subway stations. National love affair with the stock market. A nascent private equity industry, and hostile takeovers and leveraged buyouts. Permatemp jobs freeing corporations from having to provide benefits. Iacocca: An Autobiography makes the CEO into a hero in a whole new way. But there were still independent book stores, record stores, video stores!
posted by Lyme Drop at 5:42 PM on September 18, 2015

You could literally run through an airport, late to your flight -- I know this because I've been the last one on the plane more than once, the stewardess shutting the door behind me. You did not need an ID to purchase a ticket, just the cash. There may have been metal detectors in 85, not sure if they were in place yet, but even once they had metal detectors you could carry a knife with a blade just under 3.5 inches, which a Buck 110 knife (my pocket knife at that time) just barely cleared -- there was a line on the metal detectors, they'd lay the blade out and test it for length; Dallas was the only city that ever hassled me about it but I knew the law. This was the case all the way through the morning of September 11, 2001, btw, you could carry a knife, you could carry all kinds of stuff.

I lived in Houston in 85, and the mayor of Houston, Kathy Whitmire, was a dead ringer for the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie Tootsie -- same glasses, same big hair, same everything, pretty much, other than plumbing. She was of course known to one and all as Tootsie.

AIDS. Houston had then and has now a huge gay community, and it was just beginning to get felled, like a forest being free-cut. The Montrose, the gay/artsy/cool neighborhood in Houston, the Montrose became a funeral procession in the following years, it was an absolute horror show. Fundamentalist religious people of every stripe said with fervor and glee that it was god getting back at these horrible sinners, I know there's still echos of that but it was loud and clear at the time, the hatred palpable. It was a disease of shame. In your lifetime there has been unbelievable change in our society, change comes so slowly but it has come and you've been here as it's unfolded.

Clothing. The shoulder pads thing in womens clothing was ridiculous, as many have pointed out in this thread. Stylish mens shirts had very narrow collars -- you'll find them in any thrift shop, many of them silk, also. Many of them are comical, but a few look great if you hack the collar off, wear them casual -- I've got probably six of them done that way, they're great fun summer wear.

The telephone monopoly had been broken up, only recently could you *buy* your own phone, rather than the phone company owning your phone. You could shop garage sales and still buy the good old-fashioned ATT type telephones for three bucks or five, and those things were absolutely bombproof, I had three of them in my apartment on the day of your birth -- kitchen (wall phone), bedroom (trim-line), living room (standard ATT type in beige.) Those things were the best.

Cell phones? Computers? No way. I had free cable in that apartment but you know the drill, 5000 channels and nothing's on.......
posted by dancestoblue at 7:03 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh my goodness, this is bringing back so many memories. Yes, it was a new thing that you could buy your own phone. The phone that I ran up the $500 bill on? My roommate and I had made an expedition to a big drugstore and bought that phone in clamshell packaging. All the years before that, you could only choose from the phones that the phone company had on offer. There was actually a pretty wide selection--wall phones, trimlines, even faux-Victorian phones. And there was no calling your boyfriend/girlfriend directly; most of the time a parent would answer and you'd have to ask to speak to them. And everyone else in your house would be waiting for you to get off the damn phone in case some boy/girl was calling for them. Oh, the phone drama.
posted by HotToddy at 10:30 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had just turned 16 and was a junior in high school. In movies, theBrat Pack was big - The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire. I loved Real Genius with the super adorable Val Kilmer. Ophrah first came to my attention with the Color Purple.

A good year for books. Anne Rice published the Vampire Lestat, which started me on a love of what we now call urban fantasy. Margaret Atwood's the Handmaid's Tale freaked me out. David Brin's the Postman came out.

I only had access to superpopular music in my small town. I loathed We Are the World with every fiber of my being. But liked Walking on Sunshine with Katrina and the Waves, felt vaguely uncomfortable with the double standard in Centerfold by John Fogarty, and couldn't stand the schmaltz of Whitney Houston's the Greatest Love of All. Good times.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 12:10 AM on September 20, 2015

the double standard in Centerfold by John Fogarty

Can you clarify that, Coffeespoons? Centerfold was by J. Geils Band in 1981, Centerfield was by John Fogerty in 1985. I can see a double standard in the former, but not the latter.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:52 AM on September 20, 2015

I was 21, just graduated from college in Boston, and had no idea what I wanted to do. I lived in a 2-bedroom apartment next to Fenway Park that cost $900 monthly. Got an internship at WBCN radio, "The Rock of Boston." The station wasn't owned (yet) by a massive conglomerate, so DJs had free reign over what they played. Through the station I ended up DJing at a few rock clubs in Boston.

If you were a musician or an aspiring comedian at the time, you wanted to live in Boston, where the rock and comedy scenes were huge. Boston comedians like Dana Gould, David Cross, Louie CK, Denis Leary were out playing open mike nights and then getting their own showcases.

If you wanted to travel outside of Boston, People Express was the most ridiculously cheap airline. You could fly to London for $150, and a lot of us did that. We'd go check out the music scene, stock up on records from bands unheard of in the US, and of course hit Camden Market for "Frankie Say Relax" t-shirts and pointed leather ankle booties.

Cocaine was everywhere. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who had some for sale. A quick trip to a pay phone and within an hour, a person would be hooked up.

Renting movies was pretty new. For $25, you could rent a VCR weekly and then select from a handful of videos to play. But oh, the thrill of choosing your own show was unreal. I've tried explaining this to my kids and they can't get their heads around it. Up until then, you watched whatever was on. Movies were things you went to, and if you really loved the movie you could pay to see it again, but the idea that you could some day watch the movie at home was laughable.
posted by kinetic at 4:44 AM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

GhostintheMachine. Ah, I was looking at a list and got confused. I definitely meant J. Geila Band. Yick. [Sorry for the derail all]
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 6:08 AM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

j_curiouser: "The Cold War was in full swing - I know I've mentioned Threads before. A real spectre for my entire youth."

1985 especially. Total nuclear war was seen as a real possibility. And something like Red Dawn not out of the question. At least to this 13 year old Canadian. I lived in constant fear of nuclear war and used to carry, what would be known now as, a bug out kit everywhere I went in a jacket specifically selected for it's many pockets.

Though at that time AIDS was still something that only gay people in California got.
posted by Mitheral at 11:07 AM on September 20, 2015

Rural England. That day was my birthday. I'd started college in the "big town" (Evesham, around 14,000 people, three miles away) a few weeks before, studying Maths, Computer Science and Physics 'A' Levels to try and get a place at university and therefore escape farm life.

I was very single, despite several clumsy attempts to ask Linda from the farm at the bottom of the hill out for walks and fun in the haystacks. I'd watched Carry On films, and some films very late at night, quietly, on Channel Four (of four), which gave me a rough idea of what to do in the haystacks. However, asking Linda was not helped by there being zero communication privacy, the sole telephone being in the middle of the kitchen. A private call meant using the phonebox at the other end of the village, which was also problematic as Tom the alcoholic ran his betting operation from it and would hit, with a stick, anyone who tapped on the door and interrupted his multi-hour habitation.

Live Aid was that summer; I remember watching it on the TV in between serving customers in the farmshop on a hot July day. With nearly a decade before the Sunday Trading Act and the expansion of supermarket opening times, farmshop culture was still popular; our stretch of road (the A44 between Evesham and Broadway) had the highest concentration of such places, selling fruit, vegetables, pickles and jams, in England. We (a few years before) also sold home made scrumpy (a noxious form of cider), second hand golf balls retrieved from a golf course lake in the middle of the night, and ferrets. I still have a few scars from the latter.

That year was also the end of the miners strike, and frequent football violence.

The ZX Spectrum was still in mainstream use, despite being three years old. Even after an unwise flirtation with the (budget BBC micro) Acorn Electron, I was using my Spectrum, and making a tidy income from copying games on a twin tape ghetto blaster and selling them in the school playground. Through news reports, I was slightly aware of a Japanese company called Nintendo were releasing a console in the USA around that time.

My dog, Pip, was a Jack Russell Terrier. He had a famously bad temper, even as terriers went and bit everyone. The milkman, the coal man, customers who went too close to the house, the tax man, the electricity meter reader, me, Linda on the sole time she visited.

Bowie and Jagger were #1 with "Dancing in the Street". Madonna had been #1 for most of August with "Into the Groove". Her poster adorned my bedroom wall; she was wearing a black lacy bra under a see-through top. In those times, in rural Worcestershire, this was racy stuff. I will never forget that poster.

A pig was stolen from the next farm. Everyone in the village suspected it was a revenge theft because of a tractor being driven into a ditch in the middle of the night a few weeks before. Such is, and was, rural life. A few weeks later, several farms and households received anonymous gifts of a ham.

Some of the autumn would be spent stubble burning, still legal then. Vivid memories of running down fields, dragging a burning stick or similar, leaving a trail of fire behind. Sitting on top of the hill in the evenings and watching fields, literally of fire, aflame and smoking across the vale. Wishing I could share the view with Linda.

I looked like a total nerd. No, I WAS a total nerd. Did I tell you I was very single?
posted by Wordshore at 12:32 PM on September 20, 2015 [13 favorites]

I was 13 then and in 8th grade in Minnesota.

Prize Bull Oktorok: The best music was whatever my older brothers were listening to, which was a lot of Depeche Mode and Tears For Fears.

Yeah, me too: my older brothers taught me everything I knew about music. I believe that year I got a cassette tape player but very few tapes, so I listened to "90125" or, later, "Listen Like Thieves," every damn day on my hour-each-way bus ride to school. My brothers and their friends were gamers, and they shared that with me, too -- and I in turn got my friends to play. We played a lot of games -- Car Wars, especially, then -- and watched movies and drank Coke.

Being the youngest creatures in an all-boys, Catholic, JROTC junior+high school was awful: Wednesday Mass before lunch, scuttling out of the locker rooms before the giant varsity football players showed up to change for practice, getting hip-checked into the lockers when we ventured out of our wing of classrooms. (The bus ride was the worst.)

We still all feared dying in nuclear war, and I for one had not forgotten the TV movie "The Day After."

Because I was an 8th grader, that year I got to take the awesome Mr. Dave Bassett's awesome class on airplanes and model rockets. My classmate Chris Ginther launched a five-foot purple rocket (with a ring of D engines) right up into the MSP approach path. We never saw the rocket again -- but on the bright side, no airport police or FAA enforcement guys showed up, either. One day I was in the small shop around the corner (a converted car repair place) that rented VCR tapes; I saw the headmaster returning "Blood Simple" but didn't know what that meant for a good ten years.

People still told jokes with gay people as the punchline.

In the summer my family drove an hour or so up to our lake cabin every weekend, where we swam a lot and played in the sand and floated on inner tubes. Also, my dad taught us all to safely handle and to shoot a .22 rifle.

I may have hiked the length of Isle Royal with a bunch of Boy Scouts that year. We camped overnight on the drive up, spent a week on the island, and then drove home in one night because the muffler fell off of Rob Dufresne's car. (Damn, that was loud.) I got home at 2:00am, which was simply MADNESS.

I think my cousins has a 128k Mac; we only had a huge old IBM desktop computer.

My parents settled their joint checking account every month by sorting paper checks on the kitchen counter. It was still years before I would get my own checking account: carrying my checkbook around and just buying stuff felt almost as adult-y as having a car.

My dad travelled to Korea and Japan for business a lot around this time and I always loved poring over the crazy coins he would bring home.

Both of my grandpas were dead.

My Scout Master drove a car that still used leaded gas, so we would drive to this one station in Minneapolis before every drive to a campout.

Damn, that was a long time ago. Onion, belt, &c
posted by wenestvedt at 8:13 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I decided not to go back for my final year at art school because I'd got a job at an animation studio. Animation wasn't yet the juggernaut it would become and all the upcoming projects dried up a month later. We lived like church mice on piecework all that fall and winter.

Everybody suddenly tried to seem like an expert on everything about better living: you have to french press your coffee and store the beans in your freezer. You shouldn't be cooking your spaghetti as much as you thought...and it's called pasta. Italian restaurant food was moving upscale...with a lot of new dishes that were scary to pronounce.

Certain people were suddenly spending huge portions of their income on expensive clothes. Mortgages were something like 16 percent and people were fighting to buy places to flip. People were trying to rook each other into pyramid sales schemes for things like water filters and long distance calling cards. They were drying roses in sugar to make cute displays. Bob Dylan was dressing like Don Johnson. White rooms with newly refinished floors and a few pieces of rustic furniture, stripped and rubbed down with linseed oil.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:21 PM on September 21, 2015

People still told jokes with gay people as the punchline.

Oh, my among my middle school set it was Ethiopians.
posted by tilde at 4:36 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ah yes -- checks. And checkbooks. Yeah, we had ATM cards but most everything was handled with writing a check. Rent. Groceries. Dry cleaning. Shoe repair. Pretty much whatever bill it was, you paid with a check. The dentist. Doctor. Etc and etc. I still have a few checks laying around here, I don't remember the last time I wrote one.

I'd had cassettes since 1977, real nice decks in both home and car, always recorded my own tapes off of records -- if you bought tapes from the record store they were shit quality and gunked up your tape decks. I always used Maxell cassettes; of all the cassettes I bought from them (a lot), only one ever failed. I gave them all away when I went to cd's, all of them still in perfect condition, for all I know the people still listen to them.

I did not at all like any current music when you were born, I was listening to an independent radio station in Houston, KPFT, lots of Texana, lots of folk, lots of music smack dab in the middle of Texana and folk. And it was about as far left a radio station as there was at that time, and it still is. Great station. No Madonna. No depeche mode, whoever they were. Pretty much no "pop" music for my ears, though as noted above, it was impossible to not hear Springsteen and Dire Straits and Sade; fortunately I did mostly like that music (esp Sade and Dire Straits) or I'd have had to slice my wrists -- it was *everywhere.*

I'd already set down cigarettes before you were born but I can tell you that anyone could still smoke anywhere/everywhere; clubs, restaurants, just pretty much anywhere. No more. A good change, seems to me. People used to see cigarettes as evil and/or glamorous, so lots got hooked into them; now, people mostly see cigarettes as stupidity, and are ashamed if they smoke, and want to stop. I hope they are able to do so...

American cars were total pieces of shit, for years, and the Japanese took them on in a huge way. Now there are again great cars being made here, really well engineered, really pretty. We needed the competition the Japanese provided us.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:35 AM on September 23, 2015

Ah, wish I'd seen this earlier. I was in college from 1982 to 1986, so I remember it pretty well. And, honestly, the fall of 1985 wasn't that great for me (for reasons that I'll get to shortly). I think that the thing to emphasize, although it's been mentioned pretty well already, was that media, particularly video media, wasn't nearly as ubiquitous as it is now, especially among college students. Yeah, there were video rental stores, but not everyone owned their own TV (and if they did, it was probably a small 13", and black-and-white sets were not yet uncommon), and VCRs were even less common among students. Maybe your dorm had a VCR, or maybe it just had a set in the common room that people would fight over if there was a conflict over programs to watch. Usually you knew at least one person in your dorm that had a computer, but they were very primitive by today's standards, and they used them mostly for programming or writing papers and maybe had a few really simple video games (such as the original Castle Wolfenstein). Most people had a record player or stereo of some sort, but if you wanted to listen to anything other than an album as originally recorded and released, you had to have the setup to make your own mixtape. (And the medium referred to as a "compact disc" really hadn't made serious inroads yet.)

I'm making a point of all of this because it's very, very easy to forget how un-ubiquitous specific entertainment and information sources were. You arranged your schedule around particular TV shows, if you were obsessed about a particular movie you went to the theater multiple times, then to the shabby second-run theater, then an agonizing wait until the videotape was released. Records were heavy and bulky and people "forgot" to return them; people fought over sections of the newspaper; you didn't find out about breaking news within seconds unless you happened to run across someone who happened to have been listening to the radio or watching TV when the news broke. I almost feel like I'm describing pre-World War I America here, but that's what it was like before the ubiquity of the internet and personal wireless communication: people walked around without their electronic tethers. (You didn't even see that many people wearing Sony Walkmen and their knockoffs, even though they were relatively common and affordable.)

In terms of my personal situation: eh, not so great. Now the previous year was amazing: 1984 was a great year for films, with even the cheesy ones being thoroughly enjoyable (in a thoroughly cheesy way); I moved off campus; I was actually starting to enjoy college. As it turned out, 84/85 was my best year of undergrad; by the time you were born, I was back on campus and had just started a job that I was quickly coming to hate. But, that's life.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:07 AM on September 23, 2015

I was in the Army, posted to Denver for biomed training. Fitzsimmons Army Medical Centrer, was absolutely beautiful. Denver was in a serious economic depression. Homes were being sold for pennies on the dollar. It was a great place to be poor. There was always a yard sale, thrift store or used book store. It was also, the tail end of my addiction. Anytime I wasn't on duty, you could count on me being fucked up. By this point the germ of recovery had been planted but had yet to start growing. That wouldn't happen til next June. Denver was a really awesome punk rock town. There were always warehouse or squat shows and no one seemed to mind the army guy enjoying the bands. I walked everywhere and took the bus. The infamous route 15 originated downtown and its last stop was on fitz. I would take it down Colfax and hit all the thrifts & bookstores. There was a running 3 card monte game at the back of the bus. I was from Philly, so I knew better than to lose my money on that shit. It was equal parts awesome and awful.
posted by evilDoug at 11:53 PM on September 26, 2015

Game shows! My brain is telling me I saw this episode of Press Your Luck, but that might be bias on my part. I watched way too much daytime TV. Price is Right, Pyramid, Scrabble, Family Feud, Dating Game (Chuck Woolery), Wheel of Fortune (not a fan of Sajak) ...
posted by tilde at 11:40 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don’t remember anything at all about that day – it was a long time ago – but then again, I write a lot of stuff down. I would have guessed I was in Maine, in the town to which I would move 9 months later, but according to my notes I had just finished up a six-day rafting trip on Idaho’s Salmon River. My someday-to-be wife and I had toured with them earlier on the Owyhee River in Oregon, which I wrote about, then I got asked back to go on a second trip for free. (My article about Salmon River guides ended up in a short-lived magazine called Superfit.)

We got off the river on the 12th, and spent two days with a friend in Lewiston, Idaho – including going out to the Foreignour, which at the time was reputed to be the only Indonesian restaurant in the Northwest. (Looks like the rafting company, under different management, still exists; the restaurant does not.) On September 15th we left Idaho around noon and drove 315 miles to Seattle, via highways US 12, WA 261 and 26, then I-90. The highlight of the drive was a side trip to Palouse Falls State Park, just past Starbuck and not far south of Washtucna.

p.s. After a week in Seattle, we took Amtrak the thousands of miles back to Pennsylvania – with a stopover in Minneapolis to see other friends – and arrived home during a hurricane. That night we drove over to Dickinson College to see Stephen Jay Gould lecture, but he never showed up, because of the bad weather.

p.p.s. It’s not recorded in my notes, but I think this was the trip where a friend in Idaho introduced me to a college-aged kid who told us that his dad was “the Asian guy in The Association.” I remember thinking that I really was getting old, if the rock stars of my youth already had kids in college.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:36 PM on October 1, 2015

Hurricane Gloria was just about to form and would plow across the entire East Coast in the following couple of weeks.

I had just started sophmore year in Eastern Connecticut; Hurricane Gloria hit my town about 2 weeks into school. My mom and I rode out the storm with our neighbors, the P's, across the street; I remember thinking our town's local radio station was sooooooo lame for forecasting "breezy with a chance of rain" for that days' forecast. I napped through most of the hurricane on their couch, which hit about 2 in the afternoon, and woke afterward to find that a couple trees on my street had blown down and we had no power. Our neighbors had a huge downed tree in their front yard which my dad helped them gradually cut up with chainsaws over the course of a few days, and our little brothers played on the trunk while they hacked at the branches. There was a school dance a couple days after the storm, but power wasn't back on on my street; Mrs. P was a nurse, so she let her daughter and me come to work with her at the hospital right before the dance and shower and change and get dolled up in one of the hospital break rooms.

My school never played much of the Cure or the Smiths or such at our dances; it was all wall-to-wall pop. Sting and Peter Gabriel, yes, I remember that; but also remember that September of 85 was still the high mark for Phil Collins. Don't Lose My Number was particularly big in September.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 PM on October 8, 2015

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