Retro-graphic Evidence is a series I used to write based on old family pictures and videos. I always loved rummaging through my photos, looking for inspiration. When I started writing for 80sXchange, I knew this subject, above all others, was one I had to revisit. Toys, video games, childish exploits, video stores, horror, and Halloween: it’ll all be here, related back to you in Technicolor and a pure ‘80s sheen. Join me on this exploration of the past in Retro-graphic Evidence.
In my upcoming novel, Tommy and the Order of Cosmic Champions, I spent a great deal of effort, reflection, and research in constructing the perfect 1980s bedroom for our main character, Tommy. I know, as all of you reading likely understand, that a child’s bedroom is their Sanctum Sanctorum. A holy place. Literally, the holy of holies. This might sound like an exaggeration, but bedrooms often become a child's only refuge from an otherwise very adult world.
As a kid, unless I was playing outside, everything else of note occurred in the bedroom. My brother Mike and I would play Nintendo, watch TV, read comics and books, draw, and record our fake radio show on cassette tape (195 Cool House Sony, to which a future article will be dedicated). We’d play with our action figures, reenacting sprawling battles. We'd set up race tracks and obstacle courses for toy cars.
I pulled from my own life to construct a fictional bedroom of 1988 for Tommy. One with all the appropriate video game posters and sports banners. One littered with comics and composition notebooks. One where Tommy could usher friends in from the heat of a summer day to play Nintendo.
I wish I had more pictures of my old bedroom, but the ones I have found serve as potent reminders. This photo is one I’ve used before, but how could I not highlight it once again. Let’s ignore my “look at how cool I am” pose for a second and focus on the room itself.
There’s the old CRT television in a place of honor on my dresser. On top of the television sits the Nintendo Entertainment System, like a beacon of wonder. Next to the TV is a bubble gum machine and some Nintendo games (Fester’s Quest and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Of course you can't miss the tire of my bike bullying his way into the picture. There are two Micro Machines display cases filled to the brim, Red Rider BB guns on a rack, and of course the head-to-head baseball game in my hand.
In the next picture we have a better look at the Red Rider BB guns, along with a cardboard display (another topic for a future article, if you were wondering). Despite my best attempt, I can’t remember (or make out) what the poster is depicting, but I think it was something from a vacation.
Lastly, we have another angle on the room, this time with my brother and a friend. I’m smiling like an idiot while my brother attempts to devour an entire pizza crust in a single swallow. We’re playing a video game, though I can’t tell which one.
Most notably, in this picture we have a better view of the Zelda poster, which I was able to determine is actually the March page in Nintendo the Power Game 1990 Calendar.
Every picture is a time capsule of ephemera from my childhood. A Fort Knox safe, Tootsie Roll bank, word a day calendar, Gremlins bed sheets…the list goes on and on. It’s my firm belief that our childhood bedrooms are what spawned things like “man caves” and “she sheds.” Our childhood selves are reasserting dominance in a world on fire. They crave a safe space filled with things we love so we can escape, if even only for a moment, back into a world of imagination and hope.
Above all else, my room was where I would dream. Not just while I slept, but those waking dreams of an innocent mind, when magic things still existed and anything could happen.
So yes, our bedrooms were holy places. Places, I hope, no one ever sullied for you. Places of safety, happiness, and dreams.
What was your favorite thing in your childhood bedroom?