Items reminiscent of the hit show lurk amongst History Colorado’s treasures.
If your social media feeds and company water coolers are anything like ours, Season 4 of “Stranger Things” has been all the talk this summer. And if you are arriving a little late to the party, never fear no problem! We’ve got the CliffsNotes for you.
With storytelling set solidly in the 1980s, this hit Netflix series is way more than popular airheads and bullies at odds with lovable nerds and wannabes. It’s a totally intense immersion into the decade that brought you Farrah Fawcett Hair Spray, the Pontiac Trans Am muscle car, over-the-top neon, and arguably some of the coolest music, for sure. And all that has had us thinking (in era-approved lingo) about the '80s-related treasures that might be hiding out in our collections.
The "Stranger Things" story begins in Hawkins, Indiana, where life in 1983 moved at an easy pace and the biggest problem the town's police chief had to deal with was an owl landing in a woman's hair. This striking image, taken on June 19, 1986 in Bennett, Colorado, speaks to that time when chilling out with friends at the park and cruising the town astride prized bicycles was mega rad.
Shoppin’ From A to Z
Season 3 of the television show has many of us smelling the Sbarro pizzas and caramel corn cooking, and recanting the finer points of our local shopping malls (and loitering locales). Pictured on this postcard is one of the huge fountains at Cinderella City, a very popular mall in southwest Denver. If you missed out on the shopping mall phenomenon, check out this video for a sweet taste of that '80s mall culture.
Hit That Perfect Beat
“Stranger Things” protagonist Will Byers enjoyed listening to his favorite song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash on vinyl in Season 1, but music lovers in the '80s maximized their access to funky fresh tunes by listening to radio stations, vinyl records (including the popular EP), and cassette tapes…and along came MTV on August 1, 1981. Compact discs, or CDs, were first made available to the public in 1982, and portable players like the one above, “boom boxes,” and the Sony Walkman quickly upgraded from cassettes to CDs so listeners could jam to their music in either format, anywhere their Duracell batteries would take them.
There is a Light That Never Goes Out
Actor Winona Ryder plays Will’s mother, Joyce Byers, for whom Christmas lights such as these take on a whole new meaning. This particular set of lights was manufactured by General Electric around 1936–1940, but this bulb style remained popular for many years. You can see some of the first Christmas lights—invented in Denver!—in the Zoom In exhibition at History Colorado Center. And for creative decorating ideas, see “Stranger Things” Season 1, episode 3.
Just Can’t Get Enough
Spotted throughout the “Stranger Things” series, awesome Lite-Brite toys, Casio watches, and mini-cassette recorders are shown here for your holiday wish list, available in this Kmart advertisement page from The Broomfield Enterprise, December 10, 1981.
She Blinded Me With Science
Anti-Contamination Gloves like these were used by Rocky Flats workers in Colorado during the Cold War period between 1947–1991. And of course, the totally gnarly Dr. Brenner and his colleagues at the Hawkins Lab. You can see these gloves in person at History Colorado Center, also part of the Zoom In exhibition. Radical!
I Ran (So Far Away)
Dungeons & Dragons may have been invented in 1974, but during the 1980s it was a game popularized by, like, everyone’s nerdy friends. This D&D Players Handbook, printed in 1978, is similar to the one used by Will Byers and his friends in the show, especially during the fateful campaign in which they encounter the totally heinous Demogorgon. But look who’s playing D&D in real life now.
Every Breath You Take
Jonathan Byers, Will’s older brother, is handy at capturing images with his camera. When it gets broken, he receives a replacement Pentax MX camera as a (totally wicked) gift, a very similar model to the ME Super on offer in this November 22, 1983 issue of the Golden Transcript.
Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)
It seems like we all know a Joyce Byers or two in our lives—and maybe we feel like the Joyce Byers character, ourselves. Sometimes, life totally gives you a Ford Pinto. From the Golden Transcript, May 12, 1983.