February 2011

Flavored Popcorn Stores

There's a category of "things that you experienced in Anchorage, Alaska in the 1980s" and "things that everyone experienced in the 1980s." And sometimes I'm not sure which category something fits into. Flavored popcorn stores are one of those things. Did everyone have these? Or was it just a weird local fad?

For at least the first half of the 1980s, Anchorage experienced a boom in stores which sold flavored popcorn. These were set up using the visual language of the ice cream parlor.

The popcorn was stored in big round cardboard tubs, which were shelved in something that looked very much like an ice cream parlor's chest freezer. You peered in through the glass front to pick out your flavors.

The '80's Preservation Society

Don't Let the Kids Steal Our Decade

The 80’s are being stolen from us by young whippersnappers with far too much time on their hands.


I’m not claiming to own the  ‘80’s. Just because I graduated from high school in the ‘80’s and grew up listening to all of the ‘80’s music, I don't have rights to the entire decade. I can share the rights with my fellow Gen-X-ers, just not with the entire cast of “Glee."

"Glee" just did a cover of  “Don’t You Want Me?”, which I discovered  when I was searching for ring-tones. I felt slightly ill after seeing it as the number one hit. It was MY song when I was 13; why was the “Glee” cast allowed to sing it?


Satanic Abuse Mass Hysteria

Although we look back at the 80s with nostalgic rose-colored glasses, it's worth remembering that the entire decade wasn't unicorns and rainbows the whole way through. One of the odder chapters in our country's history happened in the 80s, with the mass hysteria regarding "recovered memories," and Satanic cults.

Until the late 1970s, most people thought that you pretty much remembered things which had happened to you. Sure you might forget, but nothing was ever put very far back in the memory closet. You could literally be walking around living your life with no idea that you were repeatedly sexually abused as a child.

Walkman and Boombox: Opposites Attract

The boombox came first, rising to fame in the late 1970s as a smaller, more portable, more affordable stereo system. Ironically although they were designed to be portable, bragging rights often accrued to the person who carried the largest boom box. (I remember seeing a guy toting a boom box on the bus that must have weighed fifty pounds, if you included all the D batteries it took to power the thing.)

The boombox was, as the name indicates, responsible for bringing the boom. As with car stereos today, the raw bass power and volume was far more important than sound quality or ease of use. It was all about blasting a sonic field out around you to define a territory, or to set up an impromptu dance club on a noisy city street.

Fonts of the 80s: Arcade Fonts

It's funny how cohesive things seem when you look back on them from a distance of time. At the time, it didn't seem like everyone was using the same video game fonts to seem "futuristic." But I'm sure twenty years from now people will be rolling their eyes at some common element of graphic design that seems perfectly natural to us now. (Probably the "logo or item reflected on a shiny black table" effect. But I digress.)

In the 1980s if you wanted to look futuristic (and oh, how you wanted to look futuristic) you chose a font with a particular set of variables. There wasn't a single font which spoke to all of these, the way that Cooper Black was iconic of the gentle "family oriented" aspect of the culture. But between the original Battlestar Galactica logo and this picture of an Atari cartridge, I think you can see what I mean.

Fonts of the 80s: Cooper Black

When I think about the 1980s, a surprising number of my memories involve the font Cooper Black. Bubbly, buoyant, cartoony and huggable, Cooper Black embodies the candy-colored 1980s better than any other font.

Cooper Black first came to national attention in the 1960s and 1970s as "the rock star font." It was used on the record cover for the Beach Boys album "Pet Sounds," as well as for the cover art for "LA Woman" by the Doors, and later for the cover of the David Bowie album "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars."

Oh how far a font has fallen. Once counter-cultural and cutting edge, Cooper Black found itself known as "the Garfield font" in the 1980s. Non-threatening; cuddly, even. Suitable for use on both candy wrappers and tepid sitcoms. One might even say that Cooper Black's cultural softening and decline mirrors that of the Baby Boomers themselves.