Caldwell: Magic of our youth lost forever
Published 8:11 am Saturday, March 31, 2018
Technology has become The Grinch who stole our childhood wonder.
It was announced last week the Toys ‘R’ Us chain will be closing its doors across the country.
This is a sad day for those like me who grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s and remember what it was like to visit one of the behemoth monuments that were basically portals to another world.
Email newsletter signup
Even the jingle — I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid; they got a million toys at Toys ‘R’ Us that I can play with … — stood the test of time.
But we know nothing can withstand the pressures of Walmart, Amazon and a host of internet sites that offer products without the soul.
As one of the last major chains still operating standalone toy stores, this relic of days gone by will soon be going the way of the dodo bird. It will be extinct.
Toys ‘R’ Us joins a few other childhood mainstays on this list. Long before Redbox and Netflix, you had to walk through the doors of a movie store to find the latest films. This was often an adventure of its own.
Before the days of Blockbuster and Movie Gallery, video stores ran by mom-and-pop owners were a staple of small-town America. Most communities had three or four, at least.
And while renting a movie or video game was the end objective, the visit was an experience in and of itself.
It was about looking at the boxes and discovering something you never heard of. It was about the wild movie posters on the walls. It was about the claw games and other attractions designed to entertain the youth they knew were inevitably going to visit. It was also about the candy and other merchandise most had filling one corner or another.
Another fading icon on this list is the local newsstand.
Although they still exist in big cities like Chicago or New York, most small towns had some sort of newsstand where you could go pick up the latest newspaper, magazine and, maybe most important to a child of the ‘80s, comic books.
And just like the video stores, they often had other things to draw you in like pinball, air hockey, foosball and everything else.
The Internet has changed everything, not the least of which is how we purchase toys, movies and other media.
Unanswered questions are now also long gone.
Information and connectivity are at our fingertips.
I remember going to concerts and events when you had to choose a time and location to try to meet up with friends in a crowd of tens of thousands. Today you can text a running commentary of where you are or use an app to walk you to within a few feet.
I remember queuing up the cassette tapes to try to catch that favorite song on the radio so you could record it for multiple play backs.
If you wanted to know who sang a song or wrote a book or who was in a movie, you had to rack your brain until it drove you crazy. If you came up empty, it was time to phone a friend.
Nowadays Google is just a few clicks away, for better and worse.
Technology has changed our world in so many positive ways but it’s hard not to think tomorrow’s youth won’t be missing out on some things.
Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. He can be reached at (859) 759-0095 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.