Family Life in 1988
A look at late ’80s trends in the Triangle
It was a magical year. Bruce Willis showed us what it was like to “Die Hard.” Tom Cruise wooed Elizabeth Shue while tending his beach bar in “Cocktail.” “Beaches” forced us to decide whether we were C.C. or Hillary. “Big” had kids begging for a giant floor keyboard. And “Beetlejuice” started a fashion trend for black-and-white-striped suits.
It was the birth year of “The Wonder Years,” the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, and Carolina Hurricanes’ great, Jordan Staal. Speaking of local greats, it was also the birth year of Goodberry’s Frozen Custard, the Washington Duke Inn and, of course, Carolina Parent magazine.
When Durham moms Bobbi Matchar and Gita Schonfeld launched this publication 30 years ago, they couldn’t have imagined that North Carolina was on the verge of a population and cultural explosion that would forever transform the Tar Heel state and attract newcomers from all over the world.
“It was small back then,” says Jenny Lahiff, a native of North Raleigh who was a freshman at Cardinal Gibbons in 1988. “I lived out in Crosswinds near Greystone, and when Stonehenge Market went in, it was a super big deal because we didn’t have a grocery store anywhere near us. If you lived in North Raleigh, you lived in the boonies,” she laughs.
Though in 1988, cars weren’t such a need for Lahiff, who traveled everywhere on her bike. “The rule was, ‘Be home when the streetlights come on.’ I’d usually get home by dark, and I don’t think my parents cared. I mean, they had an idea where I was, but not really!”
North Carolina’s very own Goodberry’s Frozen Custard opened its first store in North Raleigh in 1988. Now, there are nine locations across the Triangle, plus two in Australia.
“While the Triangle was, in many ways, a very different place when we opened our very first Goodberry’s Frozen Custard location in 1988 at the corner of Spring Forest Road and Atlantic Avenue, what hasn’t changed at all is the tremendous spirit of the area and the character of the people who live here,” says Henry Brathwaite, vice president of Goodberry’s Frozen Custard. “It’s one of the things that makes this area so special, and why it’s such a great place to live, work and raise a family. We’re just honored to have been a small part of the fabric of the Triangle community over the last 30 years, and hope that we’ve been the location of a lot of good memories made with family and friends.”
No conversation about 1988 could be complete without talking about style. And when it came to late 1980s special occasions, the Laura Ashley brand — which celebrates its 65th anniversary this year — comes to mind. Of course, it also helped that Princess Diana was a fan of the brand.
“I’m the youngest of three girls. It was a big day when we would drive to the Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem to buy matching dresses that we’d wear to church on Sunday,” says Amy Piland, a Raleigh mom and Greensboro native who loved Laura Ashley dresses.
Laura Ashley USA President Penne Cairoli says that embracing the independent and versatile feel of the 1980s helped Laura Ashley become the must-have dress of the time. “With a nod towards the Victorian era, along with classic ’80s puffy sleeves, the styles tapped into the romantic and free-spirited 1980s decade,” Cairoli says. “Women could wear tomboy baggy sweaters or a preppy turned-up collar polo one day, but turn to our versatile dresses the next.”
For Raleigh locals, shopping trips were often to North Hills Mall. In 1988, this shopping destination was not the modern, outdoor boutique shopping center Triangle residents know today, but rather an enclosed mall that included favorites like The Limited, Ivey’s and Woolworth’s (the place to get baseball cards and candy.) “That’s where you went for your Forenza sweaters and Gasoline jeans,” Lahiff says. “And, if you’re lucky, your one Benetton shirt,” she adds.
Dunn native Emily Powell says fashion was important, but “everything was about the hair.” The oldest of three girls, Powell recited with alarming detail the impressive routine to ensure her hair was on point. “You start with the big body wave. Then you get a section and wrap it around your curling iron, spray and hold until you see the smoke coming out. Then, you tease it and spray some more.”
Parenting Prior to Pocket-Sized Screens
Despite the pervasive trends, Raleigh mom Robin Mentha believes it was easier to raise kids with an independent spirit in 1988. Her daughter, Cassie, was born in 1984.
“I think it’s more difficult now,” she says. “There’s so much more information now, computers were just starting to come into our homes then.”
In 1976, Mentha lived on Poole Road (where there is now a Burger King). Determined not to have N.C. Interstate 440 as their front yard, Mentha and her husband bought 5 acres of land on Creedmoor Road so they could live in ‘the country.’ “Well, it used to be the country,” Mentha laughs.
Inspired by the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Cassie wanted to try everything from gymnastics to swimming. Mentha encouraged her curiosity and had no problem with Cassie stopping one activity to pursue another. She believed, like many parents of the time, “The more opportunities a kid has, the better!”
While it’s true that “ThunderCats” (author’s note: I was Cheetara), “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “The Real Ghostbusters” started dominating airwaves and toy shelves, most families only had one TV, so kids only had Saturday morning before relinquishing the den and channel control back to Dad. And although Nintendo was the hottest-selling toy of the year, usually only one kid on the block had one.
“It was simpler,” Mentha says. “We even had a wood-burner for heat, so a lot of time was spent snuggling by the fire while Cassie read ‘The Baby-Sitters Club.’”
Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey (the original members of “The Baby-Sitters Club”) were joined in literary popularity by Ramona Quimby, Sweet Valley High twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, and comic book favorites Calvin and Hobbes.
Parenting books were flying off shelves in record numbers. John Rosemond’s “Parent Power” advocated a less-is-more parenting style, while pregnant moms turned to 1984’s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” (“What to Expect the First Year” debuted in 1989.)
The More Things Change…
Carolina Parent has been here for Triangle parents as the region’s population has doubled; as fashions, styles and trends have changed; and as the world was revolutionized by smartphones. But Mentha insists that wisdom remains unchanged.
“My three favorite phrases when Cassie was growing up, are still applicable today: ‘Don’t expect too much,’ ‘Pick your battles’ and ‘Learn to let go. ’”
While it may be challenging to let go of 1980s nostalgia, it’s even crazier to think that another 30 years from now, Carolina Parent will be celebrating its 60th anniversary and readers will reminisce the trends of 2018.
Mandy Howard is a mother of three and freelance writer in Raleigh.