I'm super excited to get this article rolling! When I think about what retro means to me, I think about the times I spent on a normal weekend during the late 90's (1997-1999). These moments during this time period are my little safe haven from the modern day pressures. I think about this stuff to bring me back to a time of innocence, fun, and care-free. We all have a place like this to harken back to. It's pretty much the reason why this website was started. The past is what makes us who we are today.
I was at the age of 10 or 11 when these events take place. I admit, that's not all that young. If you want to hear me talk about how I played with Micro Machines from sun up to sun down, or built Legos while watching the likes of Who's the Boss and Growing Pains on the tube, or play with my Ghostbusters action figures until it drived my mother crazy then I'll tell you. Just in another article. That's during a time when the simpler things satisfied me and I could stay at home and play with army men for hours on end. Not really exciting. For this article, I'm sticking to a time that had a little more substance. Now, let's begin.Friday
To start this off right, I'm deciding to set the mood of the events to come. The day before Saturday is the only way I see fit to do so. School would let out at 3:10pm and my mom or sister would pick me up to take me home. I would hop in my mom's '94 teal Ford Windstar or my sister's '91 white Chrysler LeBaron anticipating the weekend ahead.
We would get home and I would throw my books on my bed and immediately head back out the door. I was on a mission. Nothing was going to stop me from my tradition. I had to go ride my bike around the neighborhood. It was customary on Fridays to do so since God knows when! I designed a route that spanned about a mile and a half complete with a dizzying round-about in a cul-de-sac, a level sidewalk to reach top speeds, a monstrous hill to get the legs burning, a tree covered alley to get cool, a honeysuckle pitstop, and a huge bump in the sidewalk to get some air. It was all planned masterfully to get me excited for the day to come.
red=route, green=overlapping routes, blue arrows have yellow tips to show direction, light-blue=starting/ending spot
After my escapade outside, I would run back inside to watch some TV and snack on my favorite snacks. String cheese, Goldfish, yogurt, Chewy Chips-Ahoy, and countless more were on my afternoon diet.
All being digested while watching episodes of Hysteria!, Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, Freakazoid, Brotherly Love, and others.
Soon, time came for dinner and a Friday night staple, TGIF. The TV screen always glowed the brilliance of Boy Meets World, Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, and Clueless every Friday night. This TV block was soon destroyed by Who Wants to be a Millionaire and reality TV, but TGIF will always be missed in my heart.
Time started to become my enemy as I got sleepier and sleepier. I soon retired to my room and fought the Sand Man to death (or sleep). I would often fall asleep to the sounds of Cartoon Network, most notably Freakazoid (it came on at 10 at night, too) and Toon Heads. Though I struggled to stay awake and eventually lost, I always fell asleep with a smile on my face. Awaiting the fun I'd have the next day.Saturday
Peeking its rays over the trees, the sun reaches my window to wake me up to a new weekend. We've all done it before. We wake at the crack of dawn, grab our favorite cereal and milk, and turn on the TV to watch the entire lineup. My parents are still sleeping in their room and the nighttime TV shows are still playing. You see, I would wake before the Saturday morning cartoons came on. I'd grab my favorite blanket, my Toy Story one, and plop on the couch. Nothing beats the feeling of anticipation to watch the best shows during the week. All the greats came on Saturday, and on the three giants of Saturday morning channeldom. Fox Kids, ABC, and WB. During the time span of this article, ABC's One Saturday Morning was only about a year old and it totally ruled. That intro still gets me excited to this day.
On most mornings, my dad would walk into the living room or my room and ask, "Wanna go to the comic book store today?" Cue the happy music!
This little tradition of ours started back in 1996. I was watching one of my favorite shows, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, and totally got floored when I saw a character that got me hooked on comics. The episode was "The Sins of the Fathers, Chapter VII: The Man Without Fear", and it's pretty obvious who that character was.
Daredevil jumped out of the screen and into my heart as my favorite hero. The whole back-story on how he got his powers by saving a blind man from getting hit by a truck full of radioactive waste (which spilled into young Matt Murdock's eyes) and his heightened senses made him an easy character to like. I begged my dad to take me to a comic shop to grab a few of this guy's comics. He said "SURE! But I gotta stop at some places first." This meant I had to wait in the car for countless chores, but it was well worth it! We stopped at all the places my dad had seen around town that sold comic books. We probably went from one side of Dallas to the other just to make me happy. We got done with the last shop and headed home. I was proud of my bag full of inexpensive back issues. I knew I had found my new hobby.
Back to the year 1998ish, I would finish watching my shows while my dad got dressed. We would hop into his brand new '98 Ford F150 and head out for some father/son bonding.
This expedition wasn't just for fun, though. We were out to get some rare treasures; boxes of baseball cards to be exact.
To explain, my family made it a habit to spend time over at a family friend's house every Saturday night. This other family was actively involved in the Little League baseball team that I was a part in. My dad and the other dad (Rick) coached the team, and my friend Justin (Rick's son) and I played on the team. In the process, our mom's became friends through the numerous baseball games we played, so we just started hanging out as two families as much as possible. Justin and I would hang out and do the kid things. My mom and his mom (Cindy) would make dinner and such, and my dad and Rick had fun talking, drinking some beer, and opening old packages of baseball cards. My dad was interested in anything Texas Rangers and Nolan Ryan, while Rick was interested in anything Cal Ripken Jr. (my favorite baseball player). I would always get the duplicates of anything Cal Ripken, while Justin got his pickings of all of the Ken Griffey Jr.'s.
So, my dad and I would travel around the Metroplex looking for the most alluring unopened box of baseball cards at various card shops. We would judge each box on what cards it could possibly contain. Does this one have this special edition card? Does this one have so-and-so's rookie card? Everytime we got one of these cartons of unopened packs, we were always surprised with what we got. When we ran into a comic shop along the way to these card shops, we would stop. On this single and glorious day of Saturday, I would get my fill of comics at the comic shops and my fill of comic cards at the card shops.
You can say I was pretty blessed to spend a day hunting around these small stores. My dad has always done this stuff. He's a huge Beatles collector, and has always taken me to record/memorabilia stores. I guess that's where I get my collecting gene. I've collected everything from baseball cards, comics, bottle caps, to yo-yos. It's engrained in me.
After the long day of pure enjoyment, we headed back home. From there we would load up the food, beer, beach towels, and all sorts of stuff and left for my friend's house. Upon arrival, Justin and I would go straight to his pool. There was no checking the temperature here, just jumping right in was the only way to go at that age. We would play the usual games. Diving for those sinking sticks, cannonball contests, water volleyball and basketball, marco polo, swimming relays, and all sorts of things.
We'd swim for hours during the afternoon, right until dinner. Treats from the grill were always the staple. Burgers, hot dogs, and fajitas charred on the open flame. The dads would man the grill while the moms worked in the kitchen. They would fix the fries, potato salads, or whatever goes well with the main course. The specialty of their craft in the kitchen was the strawberry shortcake. Nothing was able to top off a dinner like that.
After dinner, Justin and I would have to wait for thirty minutes until we jumped back in the pool. The typical mom thing to do. When time was up, we'd flip on the pool lights and swim in the twilight of the day and into the night.
The parents would chill in the hot tub with their beer margaritas in hand. One of my favorite things we did was pretending a shark was in the water (like Deep Blue Sea). The safe zone was the hot tub, but there was always someone to save back in the pool. As night started to wind down, the dads would do the baseball card thing, the moms would clean the kitchen, and Justin and I would play in his room. The parents would get done with what they were doing and my mom and dad would get to that point where they knew what was coming. They'd tell me to get ready to leave and I'd muster the kryptonite. "Can I spend the night? I promise I'll be good."
Their answer was almost always a "yes". It didn't take much to sweet talk my parents, but still the pure elation that that the word "yes" gave me was unimaginable. This only extended the fun that Saturday harbors. I said my thank yous and ran back upstairs to play. Nothing could beat hanging out with your friend into the wee hours of the night.
Justin and I would do the normal kid stuff. Watch movies like Heavyweights, Nutty Professor, The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, The Paper Brigade, and P.U.N.K.S.
The main thing we would do was play his N64 NONSTOP! He had all the greats. Mario 64, Mario Kart, Diddy Kong Racing, Goldeneye, Banjo Kazooie, Pilot Wings 64, Snowboard Kids, and many others. We would definitely wear out those games.
Multiplayer Goldeneye contests were what we did back then. Halo was not in the foreseeable future.
Countless Mario Kart hours were spent in his game room upstairs. We'd play the circuits and then duke it out in the Twisted Metal-esque battle mode.
We'd fly, hover, and drive alongside Diddy and his friends.
Battle Gruntilda with Banjo and Kazooie.
Fly around the then humungous world of Pilot Wings, exploring everything within its virtual world.
Race down the snowy mountainside of Snowboard Kids.
Get swept away in the adventures of Mario running around that big castle.
Nintendo 64 was indeed a great gift for us kids in the 90's.
I myself had a Playstation and Sega Genesis, so I didn't get to experience the N64 revolution. I enjoyed what I had, don't get me wrong, but sometimes playing on a system designed with the younger kids in mind was more fun than playing the more mature games of PSX, or the out of date games of my Sega. Just looking at a N64 system screams the image that a kid clutched it tightly after unwrapping it on a Christmas morning or birthday afternoon.
Back to the sleep over (and yes it's a sleep over, not slumber party. I would have kicked you if you had said such a thing back in the day.) The time would slowly creep up once again for the second night in a row. We'd fight to see who could stay up the longest. No matter what the circumstance, I would always wind up on the floor with no pillow and Justin's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blanket,
and he'd wind up on the couch with two pillows and about ten blankets. No matter what, we always made the best of every Saturday night.
The occurrence of a Saturday like this was about 2 or 3 every month. You can say my family and his knew how to party it up. Not to degrade my old house, but we did spend most of these shindigs over at their house. They did have the pool, hot tub, the TV room, and a better surrounding community. On rare occasions, though, we would reside at my family's abode, and do pretty much the same things, but I wanted to write about the AVERAGE Saturday that I would have.Sunday
We'd wake to the smell of cinnamon rolls and any other tasty breakfast grubbage in the sunny morning. I'd get up and stretch my aching back and head down the stairs behind my pal. We'd hurriedly eat the food and race back to the beckoning N64. We'd finish up of the adventures we had the night before as we slowly woke up. Sunday always seems like such a mystery to me these days, well, the Sundays of the past. Every Sunday with Justin seemed different than the rest. We'd do a multiple of things without much of a schedule like my dad and I would have for Saturdays. We'd hang out at his house and play more games and watch more movies, or take a drive to the local Wal-mart/Target/mall with his parents,
or carouse the neighborhood and play with the kids on the block. Nothing seemed to have a set agenda on Sunday. At the aforementioned stores, we sought out for the usual kids stuff to buy. I'd spend the money my parents would give me the night before (which was to be used for food, emergencies, etc.) on all sorts of things. Action figures, baseball cards, and little toys.
Some of my favorite objects to buy were the Basic Fun toys. The company made a living making miniatures and keychains of all sorts of things, most notably game boards; I had Monopoly, Mouse Trap, and Clue.
I'd spend hours looking at all of the little trinkets the company sold in the catalog/insert that came in every toy. I would indulge myself with more baseball cards. It was something I could never get tired of. You start to pray your favorite player's going to be in the next package.
It's almost as if I had a gambling addiction! On the few times we played with the neighborhood friends, we would play basketball, baseball, jump on the trampoline, ride bikes, and just flat out explore. We'd go off to the forest behind the houses, ride to the other side of the neighborhood, or try to find new kids to play some games with. Whatever we did on Sunday had pretty much nothing to do with the upcoming week. No worries in sight, we played to live and lived to play.
Justin's house and the cul-de-sac we played in (I know, the cloudy skies don't tell the beauty this neighborhood had back in the day).
Eventually the joyful weekend had to close. My parents would sometimes pick me up, or Justin's parents would drop me off. It was extremely difficult to come to terms with the closure of something good every Sunday. I still live with this burden today. I would get home and go with the daily routine of getting ready for school the next day. The mood was very somber and dead. Despite the dreaded idea of school approaching, I still had five more days until the fun started all over again! Saturday, here I come!
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading about my weekends from the past. Feel free to share your childhood weekends or anything that struck you as familiar from my article.