There’s an obscure video on YouTube that haunts me, my friends. It’s mostly just footage of random people walking around Charleston, WV in 1981 or 1982. That would’ve been when I was a senior in high school, approximately. I grew up in Dunbar, one of the small towns outside of Charleston, and know those streets well. I mean, I basically grew up there.
Here it is if you want to give it a quick look. The music is a little off-putting, so you might wanna crank your speakers down. Good Lord.
Anyway, there are a couple of things that bother me about that thing. For one, look how vibrant and alive the streets of Charleston were. Stores everywhere… people out and about. Then they opened a mall down there, many of the big department stores moved into it, and the downtown area went swirling down the ol’ poop catcher. The mall was good for a while, but now it’s shit too. So, what did we gain?
People get caught up in trends and destroy great things. Malls were the hip and happenin’ thing back then, and everybody just willingly turned their backs on the world that was captured in the video. Within ten years it was decimated. The area has made a comeback over the past few years, to be fair, but it’s mostly restaurants and bars now. Much improved, but definitely not the same.
That kind of stuff bugs me. Ya know? I’m aware the same scenario played out all over the country, and all over the world, probably. But it still bothers me.
And the other thing… There are no fat people! It’s wild. Everybody’s relatively thin, not to mention exceedingly fashionable. It’s a wonder I’m not in this thing, maybe walking out of National Record Mart with a Buzzcocks album under my arm. And I would’ve been super-skinny too. Like Black Crowes-skinny.
But even the middle-aged people look to be in pretty good shape. Sure, they might be suffering from emphysema or possibly Black Lung. But that’s beside the point. If you went to a high traffic area like this now, in any town or city in America, you’d see a whole different landscape. Many people would be 1981-fat, which means 2018-trim. And there would be no shortage of flesh mountains waddling around with knee braces, or riding motorized jiggle jazzies. Huffing and puffing and bitching up a storm…
And it feels like we all ate like crap back then. I mean, I ate baloney sandwiches all the time, and pork chops for dinner with fried potatoes, and gallons of spaghetti with meat sauce. Everybody did. But it wasn’t as processed (except for the baloney), I guess? And there was much more activity, I presume. Oh! And not nearly as much fast food. That might be the big difference, right? Fast food in 1981 was a rare treat. Now it’s often a main source of sustenance. I’m as guilty as anyone…
Anyway, I know I’ll be accused of being an old man pining for the old days, etc. And that’s fine. You can shove it deep and on a slant, but it’s fine. I’d like to get your thoughts on this: the destruction of real downtowns and the reasons why so many of us are now the size of a Rose Bowl Parade float. Use the comments.
And I’m going to call it a day, my friends. As I type this, I don’t have the Monday episode of the podcast back from the producer dude yet. It’s my fault… I sent it to him late on Sunday. But it’ll be up today, and it’s a good one. Possibly the funniest one so far. At least I think so.
UPDATE: Episode 33 of the podcast is now up. I like this one, it’s one of my favorites so far. Please check it out.
I’ll see you guys again on Thursday.
Have a great one!
Now playing in the bunker
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About the same in Fairmont –
I vaguely recall being downtown when I was a kid. Our mall opened in 1973 I think.
Now it looks like the set from The Omega Man.
Morgantown would look that way to if it was not for the bars and students.
Holy wow! Muldoons! Cheers! Lerner’s! I’m still looking for me in this video, but don’t think I’ll see myself.
Thank you for sharing this.
Root 66 says
More so than malls, I think the present-day person’s size is more attributable to cell phones and the web. With them, you don’t have to get off your duff for anything–you can even order from Grub Hub or whatever and have it delivered straight to your drooling pie hole!
“Going out shopping” is virtually unnecessary since almost everyone delivers for free online. I’m just as guilty as the next guy–I do most of my shopping over the internets and hardly ever go to brick-and-mortar stores any more. Phones make you fat! 🙂
Thanks for that video, it reminded me of what we all used to wear back then…and how UGLY cars were!
You were not wrong about the music.
What’s with all the boat-bumper balloons about halfway through?
I wish I was as ‘fat’ as I thought I was in 1981. That’s an embarrassing number of pounds ago. I’d stand out in the long-ago crowd now.
Cigarettes kept people thin. You might die of cancer but at least you died thin.
West Virginia people – I have to drive from Philly to Lexington,KY (and back) next month. What touristy thing not too far from the interstate should I stop at?
I’ve placed 4 orders in the last week on Amazon. I feel guilty every time.
Sebastian Valmont says
I grew up in the 90’s and remembered the downtown areas of various cities in Southern California being downright depressing. Downtown LA was mostly pawn shops, check cashing places and liquor stores. I visited a few weeks ago and now it’s hip, with tons of breweries and $20 a plate restaurants. Various other downtown’s were decrepit: failing shopping centers that were turned into flea markets, “antique” malls and second run/porn theaters. Now the old theaters are turned into historic landmarks, there’s a bar on every block and the crummy SRO’s above are turned into luxury apartments and condos.
Mr. Valmont (if that’s your real name), for what it’s worth your comment is nicely written. You don’t need me to tell you that, but it’s sort of a rarity — not for this site, but in general.
Of course you used the correct construction/punctuation when talking about the theaters, but I laughed thinking about second run porn theaters. Since the first run porn theaters closed long ago, I’m picturing a smoking-required former neighborhood movie house and an owner/operator desperately searching for a 70mm copy of The Devil In Miss Jones. Since I’m retired, I hope you won’t mind if I list my occupation from now on as an owner of a second run porn theater. It will spruce up my image which, like the rest of me, is sagging.
many more fast food places, many more people eating there, small things that have become conveniences since that time (you used to have to stand up, walk to the TV to turn channel, stand up, walk to the phone to answer it). People were more active and in addition, real sugar was used in lieu of high fructose corn syrup.
One day we will all be like the people in the Wall-E movie I reckon..
Yep. Charleston as I remember it. Same thing here. Downtown Sarasota used to be awesome . All the cool places are gone. It all caters to the wealthy now.
Phil Jett says
At the 6:00 to 6:20 range there is a odd looking convertible. I think it may be a WV Thing. Haven’t seen one of those in a long time, except for Dud driving his around on the show Lodge 49 this fall. The lack of fatties is pretty amazing but understandable with today’s lifestyles.
Yeah, I watched the video and that’s a VW Thing. I looked at those on the new car lots in ’73 and ’74, the only years they were available. If I remember right they were $2995 new. Should have bought one, but in those days I made probably $300 a month in the Army, so $500 cars were a better option. In ’81/’82 was working in the oilfield east of Kettleman City, CA. That was when the whole town of Coalinga fell down in a mighty earthquake, if my memory serves. And I don’t remember a whole lot of morbidly obese “disabled” in their electric fat shufflers in the stores then either. Now they’re blocking the aisles in every grocery store in town. I’m not as thin as I was back then, but I haven’t let fork-in-mouth disease relegate me to a disabled parking place and a “mobility chair” either.
Phil Jett says
I understand the new car thing. In 1977 I was looking at cars and settled on a ’71 Chevy Nova with 24,000 miles and only paid $800. Finally traded it in in 1985 for a new Jeep CJ7 while stationed in Hawaii and they gave me $500 on trade in. $37.50 a year was a pretty good deal.
Bill McClernan says
A lot of smaller cities are doing a good job of revitalizing their downtown areas. Durham, NC is definitly one… Not sure what the cause is, but I’ll agree that malls had a lot to do with it…
Regarding think people… I have a theory that cities might have more thin people because they have to do a lot more walking that those of us that live in the suburbs… Check the NYC 5th Ave cam… I watched it for a few minutes and didnt’ notice any large people: https://www.earthcam.com/usa/newyork/fifthave/?cam=nyc5th_str
But that may be who is riding in the cabs or just sitting at home… who knows!
Although there are a number of activities which will result in that lean and hungry look, some should be avoided on any account: pig wrestling for one, and especially for two. Uncle Andrew is a wise man.
I grew up in mount Vernon, ny which wasn’t far from cross county in Yonkers ny. That was an outdoor mall. You could walk along outside and see all of the stores, window watch and move on. Very iconic. I miss going there even though it’s still a,strong presence. Just haven’t been back in decades.
The baloney sandwich is sticking it’s tongue out at me. Having a hard time getting past that.