A 90’s Post: Things Our Kids Will (Probably) Never Experience

Between bites of McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches at 6:30 a.m. last week, we had plenty of time to chat on the car ride to Rochester for another infertility appointment.

Whether or not this succeeds or fails, or if we adopt, or both, our children will grow up in a different world than we did.

It’s weird to find yourself on the other side of “I think I’m old now!” coin.

Most of these things are super specific to the grade school I attended. Jake commented they most certainly did not do many of these things in his public schools. Millennials from District 196 can relate. 90’s sensibilities were different than today’s, for better and for worse.

Here’s a list of things our kids will (probably) never experience at school:

  • Bring your pet to school: In elementary school, students could ask a parent/guardian to bring their pet to school. Your class would sit in a circle as you introduced your pet. My sweet, old dog Reggie came to class to get pets for years, despite his worsening skin disorder that covered his body in harmless warts and dandruff. Jake said they did not do this in St. Paul public schools.
  • So much milk: I remember almost no awareness of food allergies growing up in the 90’s. One of my first memories of school was of teachers collecting our Kemp’s milk orders each morning (they made a point to say “Kemp’s milk” and “Tony’s pizza.” We’d write the flavor we wanted on a popsicle stick (skim, 2%, whole, strawberry, chocolate, or root beer). Later, someone delivered plastic crates of milk cartons that did actually have pictures of missing children on them. Eventually we realized I was lactose intolerant. The school offered a disgusting low-lactose milk they poured into a little cup that you had to request at the register. Between schools’ snacks and lunches, “Got Milk” magazine and television ads, the message was that children should drink milk all of the time! I hope kids have more beverage options these days.
  • Homemade Birthday Treats: Schools used to let students bring in homemade birthday treats for the class. Again, this was before we had much awareness about food allergies and sanitation. I remember occasions where homemade birthday treats were delightful but other times where they appeared questionable, but we ate them because we didn’t want our classmates to feel bad.
  • Halloween time: Let me preface this story by stating I’m almost positive this would never be allowed to happen in public schools today. Each Halloween, the lead librarian would dress up like a witch and invite classes into her office. She decorated it *to the nines* like a haunted house and passed out those plastic spider rings. Beneath spider webs, we’d gather around her chair as she held a flashlight up to her face in the dark and read from “Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark.
  • The Good News Phone: Located in the main administrative area near the principle’s office was The Good News Phone in a glass booth. If a student did something remarkable, a teacher would invite them to use the Good News Phone. The entire phone was made out of a rainbow of Legos. It was quite the site to see. I was only invited to use the Good News phone once. I remember picking up the oversized Lego phone and, well, dialing home to say “Hey Mom, I got to use the Good News Phone!”

Here are a couple more struggles we experienced before we had cell phones and smart phones:

  • Misadventures caused by not having cell phones: About half of Seinfeld episode plots are made possible because they didn’t have cell phones. The episode that best captures this is when they try to go see a movie, but can’t find each other because no one has a cell phone to say, “Hey, I’m at the wrong theater” or “Hey, I’m running late!” This sh$t really happened.
  • Always getting lost because didn’t have smart phones: We were always lost. Back when we were really young, we navigated road trips with maps. Like, actual paper maps and big atlas books we got from AAA. There was no other way. When you got lost, you asked for directions from the person at the nearest gas station. Later,  we’d print out directions from MapQuest to take with us in the car. You had to note the approximate distance to the next turn (e.g. 2.5 miles) and actually watch for cross streets. If there was some sort of closure or detour, well, that kind of sucked. Many of our cars floors were littered with crumpled up map quest directions. Smart phones have made us really lazy at this. I’m almost never get lost, though!
  • The awkwardness of sharing one land-line:  There was only one way to reach you and that was your family land-line phone. People called and you typically just answered it because there was no way to tell who was calling. We kept note pads of paper and little white boards near the phone to take down messages for each other. Of course, Caller ID changed this. The phone later shared the connection with the internet. Phone calls couldn’t be made or received if someone was using the internet. As a teenager, this felt kind of tragic. Now, the thought of hour-long phone conversations with anyone feel like a nightmare.

Reminiscing about the 90’s is one of my favorite things. And I could be wrong about some of these things. Feel free to add any thoughts below.

A few of my favorite 90’s posts:


  1. Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids

    I’m proud to say that my kids’ school still allows homemade treats! The blessing of going to a small-town school. One of my niece’s schools doesn’t allow any food to be brought it. They used to allow certified kitchen or packaged treats, but eventually outlawed all of it. So for Valentine’s Day no candy. Instead they get lots of pencils or stickers.

    • Jeni

      I remember when the rule required treats to be pre-packaged. No treats at all is a big change from that!

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