Growing up in the 80s meant a lot of things – jelly bracelets and Members Only jackets. Stonewashed jeans and Michael Jackson cassettes. Wishing you could sing like Madonna and really unfortunate hairstyles. The 80s were when the video arcade and the roller rink were the hottest places to hang out – only when you weren’t outside riding your bike. Most people who grew up in the 80s remember these things. But if you were in Virginia for the decade of breakdancing, the first Nintendo, and parachute pants, then here are a few more things you might recall. Remember when…?
1. Dirty Dancing was filmed at Mountain Lake.
Baby and Johnny danced their way into our hearts in 1987 when Dirty Dancing, perhaps one of the most iconic movies of the 80s, was filmed in large part at Mountain Lake in Pembroke.
2. Speaking of Mountain Lake…that’s when it still had water.
Beginning in 2002, the lake began experiencing a dramatic drop in water levels – going so far as to completely dry up for 3 days in 2008. Geologists and environmentalists are making efforts to discover and fix the source of the lake’s shrinkage, but for now, it’s not the same lake we remember. The lake is shown here in 2008.
3. Ralph Sampson was the king.
At 7’4”, Ralph Sampson was a giant on and off the court. Considered to be one of the most aggressively recruited college and professional basketball players of his time, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated a record six times in less than four years (December 17, 1979; December 1, 1980; March 30, 1981; November 29, 1982; December 20, 1982; and October 31, 1983. Source: Wikipedia). As a center for University of Virginia, he dominated, earning three National Player of the Year awards and a record 2 Wooden Awards. He went on to become the #1 NBA draft pick for the Houston Rockets and earned Rookie of the Year in his first season. In 1996, he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
4. The Colonial Parkway Killer made driving at night a terrifying prospect.
Between the years of 1986 and 1989, at least 8 people disappeared along the stretch of highway connecting Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. While no one has ever been convicted of the crimes, investigators continue to search for clues and answers. Needless to say, it was a long time before anyone felt fully safe on the Parkway.
5. Dairy Queen, Tastee Freeze and Friendly’s were the “it” spots for weekend hangouts.
Even if you never went inside, these were the parking lots that the kids just couldn’t seem to stay away from.
6. Hurricane Juan wreaked havoc on the Chesapeake Bay and Northwestern Virginia.
When Hurricane Juan formed in the Gulf of Mexico in late October 1985, no one could imagine the devastation it would bring. After ravaging its way through Louisiana, Juan caused damaging floods throughout Arkansas, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. When a low-pressure system stalled just outside of Washington, D.C. on November 5, Virginia was hit with massive flooding. Overall, Juan caused nearly $1.5 billion in damages and claimed 62 lives.
7. Punk reigned supreme with bands like GWAR taking center stage.
The 80s saw the onset of several new genres of music – rap and hip-hop made a strong appearance and punk became the “alternative” go-to. GWAR, who began in Richmond in 1984, took punk to a new level with their over-the-top costumes and onstage sci-fi narratives, which led to the coining of the term “shock rock.” Still performing today, the band opened an upscale dive bar called “GwarBar” in Richmond in January 2015.
8. And even though you didn’t know it, Dave Matthews was getting ready for his world domination…by tending bar at Miller’s in Charlottesville.
In the late 80s, before the now famous Dave Matthews Band played their first ever show, Dave Matthews was tending bar at Miller’s on Charlottesville’s downtown mall. It was here that he met many of the people who played a part in the band’s eventual success.
9. The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond was closed and vacant – but fortunately, not for long.
To see the opulence of the Jefferson Hotel today, you would never think that it had once been vacant. But in 1980, the Jefferson closed its door after years of decline. Fortunately, a developer took interest in 1983 and renovations began. Finally, after 3 years of work and $34 million in expenses, the Jefferson reopened in all of it restored glory on May 6, 1986.
10. Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens were the ultimate in fun.
Both parks opened in 1975 and in the 80s, were considered the ultimate in theme park amazing-ness along the Mid-Atlantic Coast.
11. Unless you lived in Salem…then it was all about Lakeside Amusement Park.
As one of the most popular family destinations in Salem for nearly 70 years, Lakeside was still hugely popular in the 70s and 80s. But eventually, bigger parks started drawing customers away and a flood in 1985 caused damage and by 1986, the park closed. However, for you Salem residents who still miss this local icon, a group formed in January 2015 with the intent of reopening the park. What do you think? Should they bring Lakeside Amusement Park back?
12. WaterCountry USA opened in 1984 and became the Mid-Atlantic’s largest water park…
…and it was TOTALLY rad.
13. The first Five Guys Burgers and Fries opened in Arlington County in 1986.
When the first store was a hit, the “five guys,” made up of Jerry Murrell and his 4 sons, opened 5 more shops in the metropolitan D.C. area. By 2003, they began franchising, and as of 2012, Five Guys became the fastest-growing fast food chain in the United States.
14. William and Mary’s Women’s Soccer team began their three-decade winning streak.
From the first game of the newly formed William and Mary women’s soccer team in 1981, the women of “The Tribe” have dominated women’s soccer, earning a NCAA record for most consecutive winning seasons – 34 as of the 2014 season. And you might just have heard the latest news: Tribe alum and women’s soccer standout, Jill Ellis (’88), led the United States Women's National Soccer Team to a World Cup Championship just over two weeks ago.
15. Unless you lived in the “big city” (i.e., near a mall), you did your back-to-school shopping at Rose’s and Peebles.
Rose’s used to be the place to shop for all your odds and ends and Peebles was the hometown department store. Both chains took a beating when Wal-Mart and Target came onto the scene in the 80s and 90s…but fortunately, there are still a few of them out there!
Yep, there was just something special about growing up in Virginia! What are your favorite memories of the 80s in Virginia? Share some stories with us in the comments below!