This blog is devoted to all those pieces of 20th century culture too often pooh-pooh'ed by the so called 'high brow' crowd. The stuff that conjoures words like 'vibrant', 'garish' and 'lurid'. Cheap paperbacks, b-movies, exploitation, fantasy, horror and hokey sci-fi - all have a place on this blog where the trash of yesterday is recognised as the classics of today.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What was Christmas Like... 20 Years Ago?

With the countdown to Christmas in full swing, I thought I'd take a trip back in time and stop off at each 10-year interval until 1970 or so, to see what was going on at this time of year back then. This post will take a look at a year I remember very well - 1990 (I skipped 2000 as it still feels way too recent).


Here are a few of the biggest widely released movies of the Christmas season in 1990. Home Alone was huge and was one of the highest grossing movies of that year.

Christmas No. Ones

In the UK, having a number one single at Christmas is kind of a big deal and often results in festive (if sometimes overly wholesome) entries by big names (and sometimes not so big). The yuletide spirit is somewhat less reflected in the US with the Billboard Top 100 rarely taking notice of the festive season.

In 1990, the US number 1 single on Christmas was Because I Love You (The Postman Song) by Stevie B.

And in the UK... Saviour's Day by Cliff Richard. Remember what I said about wholesomeness? But to be fair, it only lasted until December the 30th before being knocked off the top spot by Iron Maiden with Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter so it's not all bad.


I tried very hard to find some sort of definitive 'Top Selling Christmas Toys Year by Year' list on the Internet, but to no avail. There are many lists out there but they are all culled from different sources while some seem to be purely made up. At the risk of doing the same, I decided to trawl through a few catalogues and articles and come up with a few examples of what was hot for Christmas in 1990.

The Gameboy
Released in Japan and the US in 1989 to huge success, Nintendo's Gameboy made its way to European shores in 1990. This was huge. Hopelessly obsolete in light of today's technological advancements obviously, the Gameboy was unbelievably popular in its day with its 8-bit graphics and 'green' colour scheme. A common sight in the early '90s was a group of kids crowding around a single Gameboy held in the sweaty hands of a comrade, watching over his shoulders in attentive silence as he tried to beat that tricky level on Super Mario Land. And woe betide any joker who thought it was funny to flip the 'off' switch when somebody was mid-game. No way to save your games in those days, kids. Each time you switched it on, you had to start from the beginning.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Turtles were everywhere in the early '90s. The first movie came out in March of that year and the cartoon show was still going strong on Saturday morning television. Of course in the UK, they were called 'Hero' Turtles instead of 'Ninja' Turtles as some nanny-state enthusiasts decided that if British kids heard the word 'ninja' they would instantly start killing each other with nunchuks and shuriken. I can't say that this deterrent worked however, as I have clear memories of leaping around the living room as a kid wielding homemade nunchucks fashioned from toilet roll tubes and string.

The Turtles figures began in 1988 and the new additions to the line in time for Christmas 1990 were variants of the main characters such as 'Leo the Sewer Samurai', 'Raph the Space Cadet', 'Don the Undercover Turtle' and 'Mike the Sewer Surfer'.

Power Drencher
Super Soakers were a huge part of childhood in the '90s. These high-pressure water guns made hot summers a war zone for kids with a seemingly endless variety of armaments from small pistol type things right up to gargantuan rifles that actually stung when you got hit by them.

But the famous Super Soaker brand didn't come until 1991. In 1990, the very first Super Soaker was named the 'Power Drencher' and was later re branded the 'Super Soaker 50' the following year. The bright neon (and so very '90s) colour scheme and top-mounted reservoir was a staple from the beginning and totally changed the game for summertime water fights.

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