Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about childhood fads. So we will look into what a fad is for you who may not know that yet. We’ll talk about popular drinks, sweets, crisps et cetera when we were young. Popular toys. Things on TV, hairstyles, fashion even. Not that I’m the most fashionable person. I need your opinion on that.
Yes, he’s fashionable, really.
We’ll look at music, things that might embarrass us to talk about. We’ll share all the embarrassing stories with you.
Some, just some. Maybe the least embarrassing. We’ll look at what became popular and is now popular or still popular with us. And are they useful? Is there a youthful fad that we still enjoy doing? Are they a good thing, these fads? So sit back and relax.
You can sit back and relax too. So let’s get going, shall we? Ryno, what’s a fad?
What’s a fad? I don’t know, I thought about this word. Usually it’s just something that is actually quite stupid sometimes. Something immensely popular for some unknown reason sometimes actually.
It’s some… I would give it a simple description – popular for a short time, something…
A flash in a pan. Is it magnesium if you burn it – very very popular, and then it’s away. Everyone – if you continue to have whatever it is or keep doing whatever it is, you’ll be looked at like you’re an idiot. Pretty much. So, to give examples. What examples can you think of? Modern or recent examples?
Maybe, looking and walking around Novosibirsk – green hair?
Green hair? Maybe purple too.
Green, purple, those are pretty popular.
Tattoos are definitely not a fad anymore. I think it’s almost an expression of our style, that is. It’s become acceptable.
That’s because it’s a permanent… It cannot really be considered a fad anymore.
Right. You know those pigeon… Fidget spinners – you remember those?
I never had them either, but I remember them.
Fads tend to be for kids, that’s why we call them childhood fads. Because fads tend to be for kids often, or for teens.
Young people. We’re getting away from that.
I’m far away from that, thank goodness sometimes.
And so, like I look at a fidget – oh that’s kinda cool? But I don’t think I need one – that’s all I can say. I think that Rubik’s cubes were a popular fad for a while. You remember those bracelets? Elastic bands that you could make your own beads? I would say that was a fad.
We actually used to use thin metal wire, electrical wire. And we used copper. Not copper, but plastic electric wire.
For shouldering or something?
Something like that, right. Right.
We used to make bracelets with these things and just…
We had a special way, yes, of tying and knotting it in an interesting ways. So all of these things, of course, the old version of the fidget spinner is a top. The spinning top, the old wooden top was the string that you had to throw and that would spin.
I’m very old. That’s very odd. Thanks for that. But that’s okay. I had my dad’s one, that sort of passed on – it was very interesting, I could never get this thing to spin.
Of course I remember those. I’m gonna admit, I remember those. But I don’t know if I remember them being a fad.
I grew up in a very small town, right. And things in small towns tend to be…
Yes, they tend to stay a bit longer. A fad lasts a little bit longer than in the big cities. The news travel slower.
There is an interesting question which we haven’t planned to discuss, but what makes a fad? It is I think a good question. What makes a thing so popular?
It’s internet. It’s anyone who makes something, and there’s someone who decides ‘oh that’s cool!’
And if the right person. I guess, answering my own question, if the right person thinks it’s cool, then enough people think it’s cool. And if you get a crowd thinking it’s cool, and you’ve got more – it’s kinda simple.
It’s Justin Bieber wearing his pants short, then everyone else…
Everyone thinks he’s cool.
Well he has… He has a huge falling, the Beliebers.
Okay, I’ll take your word for it.
Don’t, because I don’t know much about him… But yes, I think these days it’s easy. It’s the right person at the right time. If a celebrity or pop-artist or someone does something, tweets or something, puts diverse…. it’s very easy I think these days for something to become a fad.
We sound like the two old men from Sesame Street.
No, the Muppets. Maybe someone will know that reference. What were the most popular drinks, sweets, crisps, et cetera when you were a little boy? Little boy with a bold head…
I wasn’t bold! Oh don’t be, Sam, don’t be. The usual things of course – chocolates and chips and crisps were fashionable. Coca Cola has been fashionable. There’s one thing I remember – cream soda was quite new.
And for us in South Africa it was green, very green drink. And of course now if I drink I get heartburn because of all the additives and fake things in it. But I used to love cream soda when I was young.
I don’t know if I’ve drunk cream soda. I know what you’re talking about, I think I do. I don’t… Tell me this, because I don’t think I’ve asked you this – crisps or are they called chips in South Africa?
Chips. We call them chips. So we have chips and we have slop chips.
The chips that you get from fried oil that you eat with fish, like fish and chips – those are slop chips. Because they’re flexible.
Ours are just called chips. You can call them crisps chips.
You have our unique… While we’re talking about crisps, we have… I don’t know if you have them I remember we remember them from the early 80s I think – they were called Kreols and of course there is Creole islands or something.
The most god awful chips.
Are they made of potatoes?
I’m not sure if there were any potatoes anywhere inside them. When these things were made, they had the most…
They were reported to be potatoes.
They’re small.. They had fish, but they were…
Maybe they were fish chips.
They were, because it was based on the island, the advertisements was about being on an island. They were a huge fad. And we all ate them. And if you ate them, the smell of those chips… You could smell it on yourself for two days after you had them. They were terrible.
And still they were popular.
And I’m gonna answer this question. So what was popular – monster munch, have you heard of that?
Ah, yes, I’ve heard. They were Gobstoppers?
Not sure. I remember Monster Munch more, much more. They were shaped like…
and ghost… and they were corn snacks. They were crisp, but a corn snack, not from potatoes.
Sam, stop, please. These were very popular after Ghostbusters became a hit.
They had the same stuff, just different shapes.
Yeah yeah yeah. Actually that is quite… Now that I’m thinking about it – in the 80s lots of fads were created in movies. Because we didn’t have internet at that time.
No wifi, no even internet, because before wifi there was…
This was before Internet for me.
And Gobstoppers became very popular because it was based on the Ghostbusters movies.
And nerds, I think they’re called nerds. You can still find some places. They’re tiny round sweets if you want. And they’re different-colored and full of sugar of course.
But what sweets aren’t? So… But they were called nerds and nowadays nerds are kinda cool, as far as I gather, but back then I remember my older brother and I were offending on purpose. Like brothers do, calling each other nerds. It was really offensive.
But did you guys have choppies?
Guess what choppies are? Maybe that a South African thing, I’m not sure. But I actually I googled some before this podcast to remind myself of some of the things. As you quite rightly pointed out, I’m very old, so I had to refresh my memory.
And we had these bubble gums, squared little bubble gums colored pink, green, some yellow. And there were a lit bit of flavor.
If you open the wrapper, it was information. Did you know the Egyptians things are so many years old? Did you know…? There were thousands of facts. It was intellectual sweets, very intellectual sweets.
I remember it like a square bubble gum, but nothing with information in a wrapper.
Maybe that was uniquely South African, I’m not sure.
The one thing – when I was a kid, there was a screwball scramble, it was…
It was called a screwball scramble. It’s like a… It was ice cream in a container, not a huge container. In a cone-shaped plastic container. And at the bottom there was this big lamb of cheap ice cream, oh, bubble gum. Chewing gum. Not even bubble gum. I loved it. Even though the chewing gum wasn’t very good.
It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good quality. But the fact that you had ice cream plus a chewing gum, it was a novel. And I really liked that, and mum didn’t always want to give us. Because chewing gum is not for young, little kids.
It’s bad for your teeth. I can hear your mom say this ‘bad for your teeth’.
Well it could end up in the carpet or something or something.
Or in your brother’s hair.
That was pretty popular. Sweets sold by weight.
I mean, back in… I grew up in a housing estate, which is basically in the UK it’s an area where a lot of people are kind of supported by the government.
My family wasn’t, my parents were working and everything. That’s where we grew up. Nothing wrong with it at all, I had a happy childhood. But in that kind of area, the big area, there was a sweet shop and it wasn’t very far from my house.
And any time I had, got my hands on any free money, you know, any change or pocket money, I went to the shop and bought sweets in pounds.
By weight. It wasn’t grams, kilograms, but pounds and ounces, and usually I would get like half a pound or quarter of a pound or something like that. Or maybe if I had a lot of money a whole pound of sweets.
Almost 500 grams, that’s a lot.
If I remember correctly a pound is a 2.5 kilograms.
Or is it the other way round?
The other way round. 2.5 pounds is one kilogram. 1.1 pounds is 500 grams. A little bit of mathematics and useful information for our listeners.
So that’s just in case you don’t know the metrics that what it was. And that’s what we used to buy, things like that. Like boiled sweets, hard sweets, but tasty.
Maybe that’s a European thing, because actually that’s still quite popular here. You can find it in Russia.
I’m pretty sure you can still… I haven’t seen it here, I’m not saying you can, but you can still get it somewhere in the UK, but I no longer go to that shop, we moved…
Still find something. Interestingly enough for us, we had some things that you could buy by weight. Not many, but. We had the corner café where you could go and buy bread and milk and fish and chips, or sausages, boiled in oil that was 200 years old.
And it was so tasty because the oil was so disgusting. But they also sold a lot of sweets. And inevitably it was owned by a Greek person. So I think there were three or four in a little town where I grew up. And they were all owned by a Greek person.
You’d have thought that it would be healthy olive oil, no?
Oh no. I wish that was healthy. It was great fun on a Sunday if my parents had money. We would go and now that I’m thinking about it, we drove and it was like a 3-minute drive. It was very close, it was a small town.
It was a short drive. And then taking a drive to the rich suburbs to look at the houses and dream and eat our sweets in the car.
So the toys of course were a popular fad. What kind of toys were in your youth?
Yo-yos. I’m sure you had them too.
Yes, I have remember getting yo-yos. There were popular, and I think they are popular again. And I was maybe a teenager and maybe late-teens and I remember yo-yos became popular and you could save up… If you bought coca cola or fanta, you could save up and get these…
Actually they were fantastic.
They were really good. And you know, I got a couple, maybe two or three. And I don’t think they were that hard to get actually. It might have needed a little bit of money, but I don’t think they were hard to get. Cause we didn’t drink a lot of fizzy drinks.
But you could get these and they became a real fad. And I started to play around in my free time. And I did a lot of tricks.
Nothing spectacular. But it was quite straightforward. And I loved it, actually loved it. If I found a yo-yo now, I’d probably pick it u and try.
Yeah, me too. I did actually, because as the listeners may know, I’m a teacher back in South Africa. And of course you witness a lot of these fads repeating. And in fact the last school I taught at in 2011-12 the yo-yos were absolutely, incredibly popular.
You could’ve confiscated them and have a go with them.
Nothing of those were as good as those coca cola and sprite and fanta…
The special edition ones.
Yes! They were fantastic! Absolutely!
Tamagochi! I never played around with chickens for sale.
I had one when I was young.
It required too much thought.
Absolutely. And it was so easy to take it apart and put it back in the correct order.
That’s mostly what I did. Nano or tamagochi pets – do you know those in a key ring.
Tied to a key ring kind of thing. I think I just got it and I think I had myself one and it was quite a small thing, inside a key ring like pet. This was before mobile phones became popular. You go at a mobile phone and it’s not exciting. Then it was like WOW. And you can look after this! Yeah! Interesting! Pugs – have you heard of them?
I have no idea what it is.
Pugs are discs made of cardboard, mostly cardboard, some were plastic. And they all had some fun pictures on them. And they were fairly small, you know, like a large coin size, quite a large coin size. But they weren’t big and you could collect all these.
I think there might’ve been numbers on them. But you could collect them and they had lots of different pictures. Fun pictures, big cartoons and stuff. And then you could also play games – there were different games you could play with them, for value of course.
And you could buy the pugs… I don’t remember what it was called – slammer I think. And it was a hard chunk of plastic about the same size. And you stack these pugs and then you would hit them with s slammer and then – I think it was a very basic thing, but you could…
whoever ended up moving more you could, or if you had a pile you had more of yours or something. I don’t remember exactly, but it was very basic. It was fun, and the idea is you could collect these cool looking and… the game of fad.
Did you every play marbles?
Yeah, but it was never a fad when I was young.
It was very much for us. We had glass ones and metal ones, and milkies – they were glass. My god they spent their life in glass of milk, and they had the whitish color.
That looked like gold, looked like milk. Looked like they were made of cords. And we would exchange them, we would play games and you would lose your precious marbles, not intending. But yeah, there was not very much…
A bit like bowling, were they?
Usually it was quite simple. At school we would dig a hole in the ground on the playground we would make a little hole about the size of a teacup and you stand about 5 or 8 meters away. And first you would throw them to get as close as you can and after that you would flip them with your fingers you know.
Yeah. The fingers were attestive. That was pre-1990. South African kids were meant to be strong.
It wasn’t like today when the man is tested by the text per minute. I’m being too harsh. Popular TV shows and cartoons, cause as we said these kinda set the tone, right, they made the things popular.
So it was… This was quite different I would think in South Africa, because pre-1990 in the apartheid era for us television was quite closed. It was run by the government, only certain things were broadcast.
So we had very few international programs, a lot of programs developed for the South African market by the South African broadcasting corporation. But the one or two things I can remember very very innocent things like Postman Pet. Paddington Bear. So Postman Pet, and he’s a black and white cat, I remember that clearly.
I remember Chip and Dale rescue rangers, the cartoon.
Other than that I couldn’t think of anything that was… like that people would even recognize today. And in fact a lot of them were in Afrikaans. So yeah, a lot of it was in Afrikaans, so very different.
Wow, I can imagine watching – for me, not knowing Afrikaans. So, in contrast, in the UK we had… Those few that you mentioned we had, but I don’t know, I think – you know what? Looking back I think I was probably addicted to cartoons as a kid. But huge amount…
Huge amount of USA stuff. I mean, no limit in the amount of TV from the USA and as it is today. Most, maybe most of the stuff on TV was American. But there were also Irish and UK stuff too. Some animation series was on there, Teenage Ninja turtles.
They make fun of everything.
I was jolted by that as well.
I missed out on that too.
Huge fan! I had toys and…
And they came back! That’s the one that came back cause it was remade.
These toys are still popular today, I’ve seen them in toy shops now.
Friends. The TV show, the sitcom. Really good.
I’m actually watching it again at the moment. Still quite enjoy them.
You know what? Some of the stuff today you wouldn’t hear, cause not very politically correct.
It’s very politically incorrect at times.
Maybe they get away with it cause it was their style and they were popular.
Maybe it was a bit more free. Before the time when people got so offended so easily. So maybe it was a little bit easier, but I thoroughly enjoy the show.
Everyone and everything, yep.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Now this is a story – how long did that happen?
Was that Will Smith? He was introduced to….
A charismatic guy, popular I think… It came…
It was his breakout. Now that I think about it, there was a series 21 Jump street. And it was a roughly…
Yeah yeah yeah, well before the movie. Why do I speak like you? Long before the movie. It was a series, I think maybe one or two or three seasons, I cannot remember. But in fact, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt as very young guys played in that sort of… I was introduced to them for the first time. Sort of the same series.
I watched the film – not a super fan of it, it’s not my type of humor, but…
The series was actually quite good. Actually quite good.
It’s good for you and I, right? So back in the 90s when I was… I mean 80s-90s I was a youth, so but back in the 90s… I don’t really remember the 80s, I mean I was quite…
Too young to care about fashion, about hairstyles, but the hairstyles I remember are basically gel – you got gel and you spiked your hair, at least at the front. And the rest of it could be fairly normal,
maybe some gel to push it forward to keep it standard, and then like some gel at the front and that was it. And it was… A lot of it was based on the guys from Friends and stuff, it was quite similar.
…to that. And then a kinda t-shirt. I remember wearing a t-shirt and then a shirt over the top, and that seemed quite fashionable. At least I thought… Don’t get me wrong, I was not a fashion guy or anything, nor am I now. But I think that was popular, that kind of stuff.
Even a long sleeved t-shirt with a short-sleeved t-shirt over that was also quite popular.
It’s kinda like escape warning sign.
It was escape warning star.
That was quite popular as I remember.
So, embarrassingly, if our listeners feel the need, they could google this – I’m not sure if they would find it. I hope actually that they don’t, because it’s quite embarrassing. If I think back to the hairstyles of the 80s – some of them were quite good, some of them was quite short and tight.
Military, not quite military-style short, but short because films like Top Gun, and those things were very popular. So a lot of it was based on that. But there was one particular hairstyle we would, in South Africa we referred to it as the stick.
And the easiest way to explain this – is if you take a pot and put it on your head and shave around that pot, so very very short below, and long on top. So it looked like you had this stick in your head where the hair ended and the skin are. It was absolutely dreadful.
I hope our listeners cannot find this, because I would be embarrassed to think that they know I looked like this.
The bold haircut? I think I know what you’re talking about.
It’s terrible. Really terrible.
Oh yes, I had one. I had one.
I can imagine, I can imagine. And I’m trying to look at you now…
80s music. I’m thinking 90s, but you’re thinking 80s. What was popular then?
Lots of things that actually are popular again. A lot of the 80s music are being remade and revived, but modern talking, Duran Duran, A-Ha, Tina Turner, Madonna, the Bangles, Queen, Police, so so many.
The list is incredibly long, and so many of…
I don’t know, I think electronic music… People are in love with the 80s at the moment because Stranger Things and stuff, and written films, they’re kinda capitalizing on that idea of the 80s nostalgia. To me, I like it. I like the style of the music, the films from the 80s.
A good thing, if our listeners want to get a real idea of the 80s – something like Back to the Future with Michael J Fox. Actually it was quite… I watched it again recently, the second and the third one is not great, but the first one was actually quite relevant. My advice - Don Johnson’s type of clothing – it was quite accurate. I had a good walk down the memory lane.
Beverly Hills cops – was it the 80s?
Yes, yes, yes, it was quite… Police Academy?
Police Academy is very popular.
Lots of those films and they get a good idea of the styles and clothes and what made the 80s.
90s music for me, from what I remember, Spice Girls. Very popular. Not in my opinion, but they were okay, but they were really popular. Oasis?
Ah, yes. Robbin Williams became really popular.
Green Day I guess, but not very. A bit take with that.
A lot of boy bands emerged in the 90s.
Bands in general I guess.
But I’m not good enough at music. Not my thing.
I love music. I love music.
A little bit, a little bit. So, embarrassing stuff is what we want to talk about more. Is there anything you are embarrassed about that you used to do?
Probably, as I mentioned the hairstyles. Some of them were atrocious, and if I think about the clothes. The 80s…
The flares… Flares were popular, yeah?
Hey, that was 70s! Calm down, calm down. But that’s okay. No, 80s was known for its primary colors. The reds, the yellow, and the blues. And you wore them all at the same time.
And we had shirts with newspaper print on it. And the ladies wore plastic bangles and earrings. It was huge! Everything was absolutely huge! I remember one particular pair of pants.
I think if I saw them in a shop now, I would say it was a pair of ladies pants, because they were very flared at the top, and then very skinny around your calves and the waistband would be 8 or 10 or 12 centimeters wide. It was terrible! Red, yellow, all of them, and then you wore…
Oh dear god, I hope not. I promise you, that would be my immersing thing.
No, thank goodness, I’m not a photo person. Not many of those.
I would like to see. Well, I was a part of a bat society. Not that it was a fad. Well, for me it was a personal fad, to be a part of a bat society. It’s not that I don’t love bats now, but at the time it was like a thing that I’d started to get know and to see bats about.
And I had a kind of a moment, a year or two, when I was like ‘let’s go and investigate!’ And I dragged my parents out in the middle of the night to do a bat survey for one of the bat societies in the UK. I don’t know what my parents must have thought about that, working and everything.
I can imagine if I have a child and it want me to do it now. It wouldn’t be easy. So we were walking around at night, with that box we’d lent, that we borrowed. Listen up for ultrasonic, you know, this…
For the signals of bats. So that was a fad, which… I don’t know if I’m embarrassed by it, but it was not something I think I would want to continue. And also when I was about 12, I was in junior high school, I asked Santa, and I knew Santa wasn’t real, I asked for a Batmobile.
A toy Batmobile. And while some older guys nowadays would say ‘what’s the big deal? Santa loves toys’, I think I was too old for toys, but I really did love Batman that much. And Daniel O’Donnell music, which is an Irish guy, basically it’s granny’s music from Ireland.
I listened to that. Now, I was influenced to that, not in a bad way or anything, but I would be embarrassed, and I would not listen to it today, no way! But at that time that’s what I was listening to. Not so much Robbie Williams, but… So what became popular in your younger days that’s still popular?
I don’t know what standing on the yo-yo is nowadays. I don’t know, I would probably say jeans. Jeans in the 80s became very fashionable. Very fashionable – not a worker, like factory workers used to wear it, it became popular as a high fashion piece of clothing. Probably that, because it’s still these days you can get away with wearing jeans.
Unfortunately, yes. The denim jacket was very fashionable, and stone washed. It was so faded it didn’t even look like jeans anymore, but yes, I wore those. So yes, I wore jeans.
Not really the worst thing. And I would maybe, say, music. There was this huge explosion of music, of different kinds of music which started in the 80s and are still going today. Maybe, if I really had to think about it, maybe I would say that.
Mobile phones? I was the first one when I was 16. Not quite 16, maybe 14-15. I was in my later days of high school, senior high school, and I was the first in my class to get a mobile phone. I followed my older brother’s example.
And I thought WOW, cool! And it was heavy, live a brick. It was huge, and it was so cool! And, of course, I started it in my class and everyone wanted to have one too. And I kinda felt so proud, you know.
I guess I didn’t start the fad for my school, but I felt that way. But that was, and it’s still popular nowadays. And I guess it’s not a fad, cause it’s still popular. Are fads a good thing? What do you think?
I think it depends on what it is. Some of these things were quite formative, it defined me. Some of my music defined who I was at the time, and maybe still am. Some of the stupid things, the haircuts, and very bad clothes – not so sure.
But I think what it does for a person is when you participate in something like this, you are part of something. And that’s quite important for people to feel like they belong. It’s also important to discover what you like, what you don’t like. So maybe I’m being too…
..apathetical about this, but I think…
To create, to become, to feel that you’re a part of this society, or culture or whatever – and you connect.
Especially for teenagers! Teenagers often feel like they don’t belong, because it’s so confusing with all the formats and everything. So maybe some of the fads in that aspect, or from that perspective, give you a sense of belonging.
I have some memories. Not everything, not everything, but some of the things like yo-yos and pugs.
Some of them embarrassing, but they’re still good memories.
So, if something is a kinda of fad or fashionable, do you think that’s it’s all gonna come back?
It depends again. I think if the thing is really good, do, because my dad or some of older brother would say ‘Oh! This was so cool when I was at school!’ It started again, so I think when something is really cool, it’ll keep coming back again and again.
Cool. So, guys, that was the craic about childhood fads. So we talked about the different periods, slightly different periods, there was a bit of an overlap when we grew up. The kind of food and drink that was popular, the toys.
The TV shows, cartoons, the fashion and hairstyles, which we’re embarrassed about. The music a little bit, things that really did embarrass us. We talked about things like ‘are fads important for people?’
And so I hope that it was interesting to you maybe there’s something that you know about, you remember as well that we spoke about. Or maybe not, maybe you learnt something new about different things that Ryno likes and had as fads and I had as fads. So that was the craic about childhood fads.