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The 80s, myth and reality?

Juanito

One of the Regulars
Messages
227
Location
Oregon
That's the thing that makes me a bit queasy about the whole "reenactor" thing -- I get what they're trying to do, but it's hard for me to shake the idea that it's basically an excuse for middle-aged men to play Army. Which is fine if that's what you want to do, but still, all the stitch-counting sound and fury over authenticity rings kind of hollow when nobody even has dysentery or trench foot.
I would tend to agree. While I understand the "living history" part of it and the educational part of being able to talk and interact with the "spectators" or non-participants, there is something very odd about seeing an overweight, 65 year old private.
 

ChiTownScion

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,192
Location
The Great Pacific Northwest
That's the thing that makes me a bit queasy about the whole "reenactor" thing -- I get what they're trying to do, but it's hard for me to shake the idea that it's basically an excuse for middle-aged men to play Army. Which is fine if that's what you want to do, but still, all the stitch-counting sound and fury over authenticity rings kind of hollow when nobody even has dysentery or trench foot.

You do, however, have the opportunity to savor a minute- and I admit, a VERY minute- taste of a few of the hardships. Wear a wool uniform in humid 100 plus (Fahrenheit) degree heat for a weekend, and you begin to appreciate why Meade's exhausted army did not pursue Lee's Army of Northern Virginia after three days of pitched battle at Gettysburg. A weekend of solid rain and subfreezing temperatures in a canvas tent that affords little warmth, and you get an ever so tiny glimpse of what it the winter campaign of 1862- 1863 might have been. You understand why soldiers drank coffee by the gallon so strong that it could melt paint when you're chilled to the marrow and need to remain alert.

No, it was never " just like going back in time," really. If we were honest about it, that is. Yet there were those rare- VERY rare- golden moments when no modern anachronisms intruded. A hundred or more campfires surrounded by men as far as you could see, and the magic lingered. At least until the far away sound of a jet or traffic broke the spell.

Part of it was - admittedly- tubby bearded middle aged guys chasing each other around a meadow while burning gunpowder... but there were enough participants who took their role as living historians seriously enough to justify the investment of time and money. What they ate, how they spoke, what they'd read: authenticity was so much more than thread counting. And in some ways, the realization that even with our best efforts we'd never really be 100% authentic made an appreciation of what transpired back then even greater. At the end of a weekend, we all had an air conditioned car ride to an air conditioned home, and access to a hot shower and a cozy bed. You realize that these 'luxuries" actually decrease physical and emotional stress and prolong your health and life. That the life they lived back then really was nasty, brutish, and short. While I love reading books about that war, there's a tactile reality to reenacting that Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote, or Douglas Southall Freeman can never convey.. and yet it makes their monumental work all the more enjoyable.

Anyway.. as I said, I finally realized that I was getting too old for the Hobby. I was portraying a surgeon who was half my age, and that alone made it morph from the sublime to the ridiculous. I don't regret a minute that I participated, but it really was time to leave the party when I did.
 
Messages
10,682
Location
Germany
I think, they need to feel "free".

Same on Cosplayers, LARPers, manly hobbygroups with camouflage army-clothes in the woods and so on. Escapism and a portion fun...
 

BlueTrain

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,073
I don't know about the part about a short life. Not everyone got killed. And as for "children," well, we keep raising the age of childhood. Right now it seems to be hovering around the age of 21. My father was drafted when he was 28. I don't think the average age was necessarily all that low. But the requirements to be drafted or to enlist at the time of the Civil War were certainly low. I don't even think a physical exam was required.
 

p51

One Too Many
Messages
1,089
Location
Well behind the front lines!
Funny, people think the re-enacting hobby really got rolling from the Centennial in the 1960s. That died off after 1965, and the modern era of re-enacting stated in the mid 1970s. I was a kid then and clearly remember people getting that going in the South. The re-enactment at Olustee, Florida (one of the largest events in the Deep South now) started in '77. I was there, the little kid on the left wheel in this photo of my dad and his cannon:
olustee77a.jpg

Plenty of cowboy bib shirts, blue jeans and cowboy boots back then!
More authentic stuff wasn't seen at such events until well into the 80s.
 

Atticus Finch

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,717
Location
Coastal North Carolina, USA
I’m very late to this thread. Sorry. But I read the original post and I think I understand the question.

I was in my late twenties and early thirties during that decade...and from my perspective, those were some very good years. Yes...the music wasn’t great and the major social movements of the sixties and seventies had either died or gone underground. In fact, some people had become downright self-centered. But I was young and single and had decent employment...and there just weren’t many slow days. Even better, the war in Vietnam was over and the draft had ended...which was a sword that had hung over my head for much of my late teens and early twenties.

I’m sure there are sound arguments that the eighties brought the genesis of many modern problems. Heck...maybe even most of them. But in my tiny corner of the world...life was damn good.

AF
 

Hemingway Jones

I'll Lock Up
Bartender
Messages
6,099
Location
Acton, Massachusetts
One man's perspective. I was 21 in 1988 and it was a wonderful time with a pervasive sense of optimism. If you achieved a college education, you were able to find decent employment. New industries were being created as the fail-out from the transition from manufacturing to a service economy begun in the 70s was finally beginning to show some positive effects. Folks like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were in the nascent phases of their careers and the PC revolution was underway. It was a time when the average American was gaining more of a global perspective as areas of the world were beginning to open up with the coming fall of Communism and more and more ethnic restaurants were spreading into the suburbs introducing people to a world of culture. There was a home electronics boom with tech gadgets making their way into the home, and those homes were appreciating in value; around major metropolitan areas. There are much better sources on this than me out there, but it was a wonderful optimistic time to be alive.

I like 1980s music. Yes there was too much gated reverb on the drum tracks, but the music itself was large, passionate, and interesting. It was far more diverse than our top 10 now. Fun, what they called then "Preppy" fashions were popular as well as the new wave and early rap-influenced styles of dress; not to mention, the "Miami Vice" look and people still dressed up to go out, even if that mode of dress was a pastel blue jacket over a white silk shirt, and those were the boys.

It is a media cliche that it was some era of greed and self-centeredness, especially in contrast to our time. No working person then spent $3,000 on a purse; a practice that is common now. The plethora of designer labels in people's closets were making haut couture then. I cannot imagine a person then buying a phone for $1,000 and then buying another one 2 years later. Not everyone lived like Patrick Bateman, a Jay McInerney character, or Clay, Blair, and Julian!

Looking back, the thing I remember most was that there were opportunities out there and that it was up to me to seize them. I felt that it would all pass me by if I didn't prepare properly and make a life for myself. I was aspiring toward an interesting life full of friends, travel, and knowledge. I got there, eventually, after a whole lot of work and refusing to quit.
 

LizzieMaine

Bartender
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30,932
Location
Where The Tourists Meet The Sea
Twenty-one was probably the most tolerable year of the '80s for me, but frankly I got a lot more pleasure out of life when I was fifty-one. Twenty-two was the year my boss embezzled all the money he'd deducted out of my paychecks for the year. Twenty-three was Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley in the World Series. You can sense the downhill trend.

I bought a phone for $50 in 1986 or 1987, and I'm still using it today. So that's something at least. Of course, it was fifty+ years old at the time.
 
Messages
10,682
Location
Germany
Class of '86 here, I was 17 when I graduated high school that year. I've got to say the 80s were a blast here in Sydney, it was a great time to be a teenager. Pre-political correctness! We rode our bikes all summer and swam in each others' pools. Had bonfire nights with firecrackers in winter. School dances were a big deal: Adam Ant, Madness, Dire Straits, Madonna, David Bowie's 'China Girl' and 'Lets Dance'. Aussie rock was in its heyday, 20 years before local councils, developers and noise restrictions wrecked it. There was INXS and Australian Crawl and Midnight Oil and a hundred other great acts. I remember vinyl records, big movies like E.T., Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters and Return of the Jedi. I got into rockabilly in 1984 when it was enjoying a huge resurgence of popularity here. There were lots of youth subcultures: punks and goths, Westies and trendies, rockabillies and skinheads. Flares were out and pegged pants were in. Jackets were worn with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows. What about the Karate Kid and Good Morning Vietnam? Back to the Future. The A Team on TV and Battlestar Galactica, Diff'rent Strokes, Full House.

The world was not so cynical, not so sarcastic. It was an age of innocence for me. It was FUN!!! Yes there were fears of a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR. But the dark world that we now inhabit ever since 9/11 didn't exist. We made our own fun. Video games were new and exciting, like Pac Man, Galaga, Xevious and of course Space Invaders. You got into a fight at school and then a week later you forgot it and were friends again. Now kids stab each other in the chest and run away.

Our culture was Australian. We honoured the ANZACS and our colonial history, our convict history and our British Scottish or Irish roots. Our migrants were Italians Greeks and Yugoslavs, whise kids we hung out with and ate new types of food with. They became Aussies like us. Now it's multiculturalism, which is everyone else's culture but ours, and in my home city the population is now 40% Arabic and 30% Indian. It's as though we are now the ones who live in a foreign country. Europeans only represent aboyt 5% of the population.

I recall the 80s with great fondness.

I think, you will like it:

 

2jakes

I'll Lock Up
Messages
9,680
Location
Alamo Heights ☀️ Texas
Sadly, I'm born in 1984. And I'm very interested in how the 80s really were, especially in the US.

How was it really, for the masses? Feel, atmosphere, popculture and all that?

The 80s was a grand time for me.
Visited many places without much difficulty at the airports.
The train stations and the buildings were still very beautiful.
Gas stations still provided full service.
Using the telephone to call a business was greeted by a human
and not a recording device.
The shopping stores were still located downtown and there was more variety of
movie theaters and good local restaurants and book shops.
There was more grocery stores which we benefited by the prices
staying competitively low.
There was a variety of music to enjoy on radio or buying
at the record shops.
The price of gasoline was not so high. Public phone booths were
everywhere.
City tennis courts were free.
And I finally had a job that I enjoyed very much.
Doing camera for the television news.

Viel hängt davon ab, wie Sie sich entscheiden, Dinge zu sehen!

:rolleyes: :eek: 11971480981520996297tomas_arad_mug_of_beer.svg.med.png
 
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Harp

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,508
Location
Chicago, IL US
Even better, the war in Vietnam was over and the draft had ended...which was a sword that had hung over my head for much of my late teens and early twenties.AF

A Damoclean sword finally lowered April 30, 1975, but this blade has never quite been sheathed in memory either, yet the date signaled life's hopeful renewal.
 
Messages
15,737
Location
New York City
(My comments refer to where I lived and what I experienced at that time - I am not disputing anyone else's experiences. Fedora Lounge has taught me how different everyone experiences events and how different regions of our country has had dramatically different experiences.)

To me, the '80s felt like the freshest, brightest sunrise ever after a very dark and gloomy night.

Growing up in Central New Jersey (part of the greater New York City metropolitan area), the '70s felt like everything was going backwards or falling down:
  • Unemployment was up
  • Inflation was destroying family budgets
  • Interest rates were so high that you were rebuying your home in interests payments every ten or so years
  • Taxes were crippling
  • Factories were closing and strikers were marching
  • Graduating from college meant hunting for an in-your-field job that didn't exist
  • My family members and friends who were teachers and construction workers couldn't find work / were taking any job in any field they could find
  • While great that we finally got out of Vietnam, it sure wasn't a victory, nor were the dead soldiers or helicopters left broken in the deserts of Iran (technically 1980, but that was a '70s event if ever)
  • American cars were junk
  • There were periodic times when you had to queue up to fill up your car (at crazy prices)
  • New York City seemed one bad day away from lawlessness
  • Overall, people were outright angry and depressed

As the '80s took off:
  • Unemployment fell meaningfully
  • Inflation came down to, eventually, non-budget-wrecking levels
  • Interest rates started a long and large decline
  • Income taxes were cut dramatically
  • Some factories reopened or expanded (a Ford plant near me finally had a parking lot full of workers' cars again)
  • College kids were getting jobs in their fields right out of college (I was one)
  • My family members and friends in teaching and construction went back to work in their fields (and stopped being miserable)
  • The Wall came down and the USSR was on a respirator with DNR instructions
  • Gas lines all but disappeared
  • New York City began the slow climb back to functioning
  • An optimism came back that was missing in the '70s

Again, just how I experienced it, but to me, the '80s were a successful moon shot versus the '70s' crash and burn on the takeoff.

Heck, even the clothes got less bad and American cars were not as horrible. Unfortunately music was all over the map in both decades, but at least Guns N' Roses came along in the '80s to be the last great true classic rock band.
 

MikeKardec

One Too Many
Messages
1,139
Location
Los Angeles
I think of the '80s as a tipping point, I'm guessing that's why the decade gets a bad rap from some. A lot of what we may be discovering today to be counter-cultural fails had reached the end of their fun upside and were hovering in neutral before beginning the descent we see more clearly today.

My personal observation about the meaning of "decades" is that, post WWII (and because of WWII), the eras of history break more clearly on the five year mark with 1945 to 1955, '55 to '65, '65 to '75, etc being a better set of dividing lines. I feel like this may have ground to a halt in the late '90s, and surely in 2000 - 2001, for a number of reasons; politics, the atomization of popular culture caused by the micro targeting of demographics, and by various systems like the internet's ability to serve those demos.

Personally, it was a great time to be alive. I was in my 20s, just out of film school and just starting to work in the business. It was changing and expanding in many ways with lots of independent productions, shifting technology (NOT all good!) and yet it was still a "small" business where people knew each other and still had a few of the founders left around to advise and humble us. I was a bit naive and my personal loyalty to some who didn't deserve it (no big scandals just wasted time) held me back but it was a time when that sort of lack of cynicism and caution worked for many in positive ways.
 

2jakes

I'll Lock Up
Messages
9,680
Location
Alamo Heights ☀️ Texas
To me, the '80s felt like the freshest, brightest sunrise ever after a very dark and gloomy night.

I've taken the liberty of quoting a part
of your reply which I like.
This is the way I feel about my '50s.

I couldn't have expressed it any better.
Thank you.

My '60s were like an Eastwood movie...
"The Good, the Bad & the Ugly."

Having survived it, anything that came at
me afterwards, I was able to cope.
 
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NattyLud

New in Town
Messages
27
I saw the 80s somewhat like Fading Fast--the 70s seemed somewhat of a depressing malaise, vestiges of counterculture, war issues and economic depression, and the 80s felt as something of a hopeful rebirth. There was a new optimism that was being pushed and could be felt (by those susceptible to it, I admit), not the least from Uncle Ronnie's proclamation of the end of the Long National Nightmare. In my own youthful eyes, this was a wonderful time in which we were encouraged to join the party: smile, buy lots of new things, and tune in more often. The music seemed to become much more uptempo and electric, and aesthetics moved from the dark and earthy to brighter, shinier things.

I am sure my impressions had less to do with any general objective realities than with my personal circumstances, as is clear by the many varying impressions of you all here. And today, it all looks very different from a distance. From today's vantage point, I see the decade as the last bit of calmer water before things went over the falls. These were the last years before societies succumbed to the sort of tyranny of technology (and its downstream effects) I see today, when it was still "normal" to not be constantly connected to a computer network, and when old-fashioned concerns like your place in a physical community, interpersonal skills and social customs were important. Recently I have seen video of amateur on-the-street reporting from that period that shows random, average people speaking and behaving with the once-common simple eloquence, dignity and sincerity that now seem shockingly alien. I see a direct correlation between the effects of technologies such as social media on societies with the erosion of human behaviors to a degree that has never before been experienced. Viewed this way, the trends of the 80s take on a much more insipid nature.

I don't look back with much reverence on the things that the 80s brought--the music, trends, products, etc.--even though at the time I loved much of it. I instead tend to fondly remember the things that I/we(?) enjoyed that were at the time taking their curtain call.
 

vitanola

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,249
Location
Gopher Prairie, MI
(My comments refer to where I lived and what I experienced at that time - I am not disputing anyone else's experiences. Fedora Lounge has taught me how different everyone experiences events and how different regions of our country has had dramatically different experiences.)

To me, the '80s felt like the freshest, brightest sunrise ever after a very dark and gloomy night.

Growing up in Central New Jersey (part of the greater New York City metropolitan area), the '70s felt like everything was going backwards or falling down:
  • Unemployment was up
  • Inflation was destroying family budgets
  • Interest rates were so high that you were rebuying your home in interests payments every ten or so years
  • Taxes were crippling
  • Factories were closing and strikers were marching
  • Graduating from college meant hunting for an in-your-field job that didn't exist
  • My family members and friends who were teachers and construction workers couldn't find work / were taking any job in any field they could find
  • While great that we finally got out of Vietnam, it sure wasn't a victory, nor were the dead soldiers or helicopters left broken in the deserts of Iran (technically 1980, but that was a '70s event if ever)
  • American cars were junk
  • There were periodic times when you had to queue up to fill up your car (at crazy prices)
  • New York City seemed one bad day away from lawlessness
  • Overall, people were outright angry and depressed

As the '80s took off:
  • Unemployment fell meaningfully
  • Inflation came down to, eventually, non-budget-wrecking levels
  • Interest rates started a long and large decline
  • Income taxes were cut dramatically
  • Some factories reopened or expanded (a Ford plant near me finally had a parking lot full of workers' cars again)
  • College kids were getting jobs in their fields right out of college (I was one)
  • My family members and friends in teaching and construction went back to work in their fields (and stopped being miserable)
  • The Wall came down and the USSR was on a respirator with DNR instructions
  • Gas lines all but disappeared
  • New York City began the slow climb back to functioning
  • An optimism came back that was missing in the '70s

Again, just how I experienced it, but to me, the '80s were a successful moon shot versus the '70s' crash and burn on the takeoff.

Heck, even the clothes got less bad and American cars were not as horrible. Unfortunately music was all over the map in both decades, but at least Guns N' Roses came along in the '80s to be the last great true classic rock band.
Your memories of the '80s may be a bit overly rosy. Unemployment was higher (often MUCH higher) between 1980 and 1985 than it was in any but the one worst year of the 1970s. Even the best years of the 1980s, 1987, 88, and 89, unemployment exceeded considerably the rates of 1972 and 1973.

Though all was not perfect in the "Me Decade", the industries upon which our economy was based were yet expanding innthose years. In the 1980s I watched our industrial base utterly collapse. In many cases going, profitable concerns were sacrificed to the mantra of "shareholder value above all". Other solvent entities were saddled with crippling debt after LBO artists played their profitable games. Most of the economic dislocations which led to the mass disquiet is our so-called "Heartland" (a term which, like "Homeland" I have always viewed with deep suspicion due to the company that it kept) arose in the 1980s.

Of course, my view was from the Midwest (Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Chicago) and the Northeast (Boston, Providence, Bridgeport). My memories would naturally differ from those of a Bloated Eastern Capitalist...

I JEST! I JEST!

In fact both of our memories can be accurate. The 1970s, though they were not too bad in much of our nation, were the absolute nadir of life in the New York City area. Compared to the days of "The Bronx is Burning", the incremental improvements of the '80s must have seemed heaven sent.
 

LizzieMaine

Bartender
Messages
30,932
Location
Where The Tourists Meet The Sea
...our so-called "Heartland" (a term which, like "Homeland" I have always viewed with deep suspicion due to the company that it kept)...

I'm glad I'm not the only one to find those terms epically creepy, especially given their current popularity with the newly resurgent "Blut und Boden" crowd.

The 80s saw the collapse of my state's industrial base as well, and for pretty much the same reasons: either buyout/merger fever, or attempts to go to sunnier climates where workers were taught that Solidarity was a dirty word. At the start of the 80s, our industrial base was built around papermaking, fish processing, poultry processing, shoe manufacturing, and textiles, with metal and wood fabrication of components for the construction trades in there as well. By the end of the 80s, poultry was completely gone, shoes were almost completely gone, textiles were on their last legs, and fabrication was severely undermined by overseas competition. Fish processing was heading into its final collapse by the turn of the 90s, and papermaking was right behind it.

The real question we were asking as the eighties flashdanced on was "what's going to happen to all these people who've worked in these plants and mills all their lives?" The answer we were given was "they can all work in these new call centers we're going to build in exchange for tax-increment financing!" Well, that didn't work out either, especially when the executives of the companies who built the call centers bled said companies dry. Ooops.

The industries that really flourished here in the 80s were the cocaine and heroin trades, but even then you had to buck a lot of "foreign competition."
 

NattyLud

New in Town
Messages
27
I saw the 80s somewhat like Fading Fast--the 70s seemed somewhat of a depressing malaise, vestiges of counterculture, war issues and economic depression, and the 80s felt as something of a hopeful rebirth. There was a new optimism that was being pushed and could be felt (by those susceptible to it, I admit), not the least from Uncle Ronnie's proclamation of the end of the Long National Nightmare. In my own youthful eyes, this was a wonderful time in which we were encouraged to join the party: smile, buy lots of new things, and tune in more often. The music seemed to become much more uptempo and electric, and aesthetics moved from the dark and earthy to brighter, shinier things.

I am sure my impressions had less to do with any general objective realities than with my personal circumstances, as is clear by the many varying impressions of you all here. And today, it all looks very different from a distance. From today's vantage point, I see the decade as the last bit of calmer water before things went over the falls. These were the last years before societies succumbed to the sort of tyranny of technology (and its downstream effects) I see today, when it was still "normal" to not be constantly connected to a computer network, and when old-fashioned concerns like your place in a physical community, interpersonal skills and social customs were important. Recently I have seen video of amateur on-the-street reporting from that period that shows random, average people speaking and behaving with the once-common simple eloquence, dignity and sincerity that now seem shockingly alien. I see a direct correlation between the effects of technologies such as social media on societies with the erosion of human behaviors to a degree that has never before been experienced. Viewed this way, the trends of the 80s take on a much more insipid nature.

I don't look back with much reverence on the things that the 80s brought--the music, trends, products, etc.--even though at the time I loved much of it. I instead tend to fondly remember the things that I/we(?) enjoyed that were at the time taking their curtain call.

I must correct myself... apparently it was Ford that issued that proclamation, not Reagan. My apologies...
 
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