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the occasions lady and

College in the Eighties
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest

While working on our annual Arkansas State University issue last month, I realized that this year marks a milestone – it’s been 30 years since I graduated from A-State. Since it didn’t seem possible that three decades have passed since I earned my degree, I did the math again, and again. Despite the number of times I added or subtracted, it still equaled 30 years.

I graduated from A-State in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. It was a different world in the ‘80s. Big hair, cassette tapes, acid washed jeans, neon – those were good times, but what a difference today’s technology would have made. Here’s a quick retrospective on college life at A-State in the mid-1980s:

Owning a 20-pound Typewriter

Students didn’t have their own computers when I was in college. Because I was a journalism student, my parents bought me an electric typewriter from Sears at Indian Mall so I could work on assignments at my apartment. If you didn’t make too many mistakes on your paper, you could use the correction tape on your typewriter to back up and erase the error you just made. If you messed up more than a couple of letters, you better have a container of “White-Out” handy to smear over it. The Herald, A-State’s student-run newspaper, got its first Mac desktops in the newsroom while I was a student. They were tiny but a little intimidating at first sight.

Talking on a Corded Phone
Unless you wanted to share every conversation with your roommates, you had to purchase a long cord for the phone in your dorm or apartment so you could drag it down the hall for a little privacy. With no Caller ID, it was a little risky to answer if you were avoiding certain people.

Using a Phone Book
I doubt my kids have ever used a phone book, but if you met someone at ASU in the ‘80s and wanted to give them a call, you used the Southwestern Bell phone book to try to find their number if they lived off campus. If they resided on campus, you looked them up in a directory provided by the university. If you still couldn’t find them, you could dial 411 for information from the telephone operator, but they charged you extra for that service.

Research at the Library
If your professor required you to write a research paper, there was no online searching from the comfort of your bed. You actually had to drag yourself to the Dean B. Ellis Library, search through the card catalog system and hunt down the information during library hours. Even after you found what you wanted, chances were that it was either checked out or you couldn’t remove it because it was considered a “resource.”

Party Pics
No one brought a camera to a drop-in or dance back then. If you wanted party pics, you hired a photographer to come to the event and take photos. If you were lucky, you would get to see the photographer’s contact sheet before it disappeared and could order photos of you and your friends. Several weeks later, you might have prints.

Stiff Hair and Shoulder Pads
Acid washed jeans, neon colors, black high-top Reeboks – we all looked a little like we stepped out of a scene from Footloose in the mid-‘80s. Stiff hair and shoulder pads were essential for young ladies. The last thing you wanted was soft, flat hair or droopy shoulders. Most of the sorority girls wore their hair the same way – big and crunchy with the sides curled and then sprayed stiff to form cups over their ears.

Parties at The Pav
There were a few fraternity houses on campus in the mid-‘80s that would host parties and a few private clubs off campus, but there were always plenty of parties at The Pav. Located by the pond near the football stadium, it was the most happening place on campus at the time. Chair surfing to the song “Wipe Out” was one of our favorite things to do there.