an 80's childhood

A few of the things that stick out from my childhood.
December 05, 2007

Book It!
Book It! was a program formed in 1984 that encouraged reading. Sponsored by Pizza Hut, the program offered a free pizza when you met your goal of books read. As an avid reader I absolutely loved this program. I remember putting the little gold stickers on my pin with pride.

Hypercolor T-shirts changed color when heat was applied. As a child I found no end to the amusement of finding patters to make on my shirt.

My Little Pony
Besides the cartoon, there were My Little Pony figures. My first pony I named Free as I received it for free as a promo in the mail (this was in 1982, the first year of production), and I commenced to collect them all. I started my equestrian career at the age of three and wanted anything and everything horse related, so My Little Pony became a great obsession of mine.

Earth Ponies were the first to be released, followed by Sea Ponies, Unicorn Ponies, Pegasus Ponies, Flutter Ponies, etc. Baby ponies were, obviously, the babies, and Sweetheart Sisters were the "teenagers". Despite their popularity, US production stopped in 1992.

Oregon Trail
My family got our first computer in 1986 (back in the days of DOS) and my parents bought me Oregon Trail. In the game you have command of a wagon, and you have to try to get to Oregon as fast as possible. However, the faster you travel, the more risks are involved. The game is full of choices such as how to ration food. Unexpected events such a illness or flood can occur. Also, you can make trades at Trading Posts. The game is meant to help children learn decision making and problem solving skills, but what I remember most is my friends and I naming characters after people we disliked and trying to kill them off, then writing nasty things on their tombstones. Slightly morbid, yes, but what child doesn't have some enemies at school? The game is still around many versions later, but nothing compares to the original 1985 release.

Saddle Club series
The Saddle Club was a series by Bonnie Bryant about three horse-loving girls and their adventures. The first book of the series, Horse Crazy, was published in 1986 and the series continued through the 101st book in 2001. Reading this series is probably my fondest memory of childhood. I began riding in 1983 and competing in '88, so I was thrilled to find a series dedicated to horses. I got so lost in those books that I feel like I actually lived in Willow Creek, the fictional town where the series takes place. There were several spin-offs including Pine Creek, Pony Club, and an Australian television show, but the original series is now out of print. I, however, still have all 101 books, and they're one of my most prized possessions.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark was another favorite read of mine. There were stories of haunted tales and urban legends as well as illustrations. The first book was published in 1986, followed by More Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. The book was actually meant to be read aloud but I liked reading it alone in the dark with a flashlight. The books created a large amount of controversy as many felt them to be too graphic and disturbing for children. But that's what I liked about them - they were scary! Reading those books could very well be the root of the love for horror movies I have today.

Pencil toppers
When I was in 4th grade in 1989, you were only as cool as your pencil toppers. There were erasers with pictures on them, furry ones, rubber ones, plastic toy ones... the variety was endless. Some students brought them in buckets they had so many. We traded them like they were stocks, and eventually the school banned them from all classrooms. But I've never seen a fad catch on - and cling on - quite like pencil toppers did that year.

Choose Your Own Adventure
And finally, who could forget the Choose Your Own Adventure books? They were written from a second-person point of view, making the reader the protagonist of the story, and after each brief scene you, the reader, got to choose what to do next. You would be given options, such as "if you want to (a) go to page 5., if you want to (b) go to page 6" , and multiple story lines and endings were possible. As a child who read most books many, many times, I loved being able to read a book over and over and not be stuck with the same ending. The books are currently being re-released as the original series was extremely successful.
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