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The Reasons Why Gen X Summers Were The Absolute Best

How many of these 13 memories do YOU recall??

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The Girlfriend Staff
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Remember when summer vacation was actually a vacation? Remember the freedom in doing nothing? Today, kids’ summers are overscheduled weeks of camps, classes and jobs. It seems like parents are afraid to let their kids be bored — or heaven forbid, not know where they are.

Our generation spent entire days wandering, our parents having only a vague idea of where we were or what we were doing. With little supervision, we made our own fun. Summers in the ’70s and ’80s were full of … well, not much. We were easily amused, and we also were bored. And we not only loved it, but we also were better for it.

Which of these things do you remember?

Playing outside

We could spend all day roller-skating, skateboarding, climbing trees, skipping over our Lemon Twist or just throwing a tennis ball at the garage door over and over again. If we got too hot we’d just grab a quick drink of cool water from the hose or get a popsicle that would instantly melt all over our hands — if it didn’t break apart and fall on the ground first.

Bike riding

We’d hop on our banana seat Schwinn — or when we got older, our 10-speed with the curled handle bars — and take off with absolutely no idea where we were headed. Sometimes our bikes took us to a friend’s house, where we’d show up unannounced and still be welcomed; sometimes we’d go to the 7-Eleven for a Slurpee and a Marathon Bar; and sometimes we would just ride aimlessly — the feel of freedom was all we needed.

Listening to music

We’d spend hours on the floor listening to our 45s of  “Shadow Dancing” or “Da Doo Ron Ron” while carefully removing posters from our magazines, trying not to tear the middle of Shaun Cassidy’s forehead with the staples.

Playing video games

We didn’t need fancy graphics and virtual realities; we were thrilled with a bouncing pixel. Pong and very rudimentary games on Atari were cutting edge, and we were entranced.

Listening for the ice cream truck

The twinkling melody from the ice cream truck that got louder and louder as it approached was the soundtrack to our 1970s’ summers. And the mad dash around the house to find dimes and nickels to make up enough for a Bomb Pop or a Dreamsicle before the truck passed us by was as thrilling as any episode of Battle of the Network Stars.

Staying up late

Waiting forever for our favorite video to come on MTV and watching Saturday Night Live made us feel so grown up (especially if we got the jokes). Our goal was to make it to the “Star Spangled Banner” TV sign-off and watch that little bright dot of light disappearing into the middle of the screen.  

Going to the park

If we were lucky, the merry-go-round would be empty when we’d get there and we’d spin fast enough to throw ourselves off. After burning the backs of our thighs on the shiny metal slide that was basically a broiling pan, we’d hit the monkey bars to hang upside down and watch in wonder as the older kids did cherry drops. Then we’d swing until the chains slacked before jumping off, sticking the landing like Nadia Comaneci.  

Watching soap operas

Summer days were when we got caught up on all the drama in Pine Valley or Port Charles, drinking grape Kool-Aid and eating Hostess fruit pies with grandma.

Spending the day at the pool

We’d get dropped off with a friend and maybe a dollar for concessions, and be left there until the pool closed. We slathered on baby oil, spritzed some Sun In in our hair and positioned our towels far enough away from the water so our Tiger Beat magazines didn’t get wet.

Playing night games

Once the sky darkened and we’d all finished our Swanson’s TV dinners, the neighborhood came back alive with games of kick the can, ghost in the graveyard or flashlight hide-and-seek. The fun was terrifying and real — until the buzzkill sound of the first mom calling her kid inside at about 11 p.m.


Whether they were sponsored by the library or we challenged ourselves, summer was the perfect time to binge-read Judy Blume, V.C. Andrews and stacks of Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams romances. Contraband (and highly desirable) books like Forever and Flowers in the Attic were easier to hide when we could read them outside.

Hanging out at the mall

We’d get dropped off at 10 in the morning and our friend’s mom wouldn’t pick us up until 4 p.m., which meant we had plenty of time to grab an Orange Julius, browse the iron-on decals at the T-shirt store, flip through aisles of record albums at Sam Goody, lose all our quarters at the arcade, and catch the latest inappropriate-for-our-age-group movie at the cinema (The Blue Lagoon? Little Darlings?).

Staring at the phone

Willing it to ring and be for you. We could do this for hours.

Kids today can have their phones, traveling soccer schedules and back-to-back camps. Our memories of doing nothing are everything.