1984 remembered

Trent Ernst, Editor


In 1984, your esteemed editor turned 14, a landmark year for a geeky teenage boys. You see, that was the year that Apple Computers introduced the Macintosh, the computer that defined what computers were to become. While it was not the first personal computer, nor was it the first affordable personal computer, it was the first that asked, “hey, rather than having the user try and relate to the computer in computer terms, what would happen if we tried to make the computer communicate to people in human terms?”

The commercial that launched the Mac is still considered one of the landmark ads in history, and, while only broadcast once, lives on in cultural memory and on YouTube.

Though I didn’t know it, a small town in Northeastern BC was looming on my horizon. I still had four years before graduating, before moving to Tumbler Ridge and I had no idea that Tumbler Ridge even existed. At the time, that seemed an eternity, but looking back the four years between that and the day after graduating from high school, seems like a blip.

Four years later, I was bound to pack up my suitcase, hop in my sister’s van and head with her into the wilds of Northern BC. But that was the future. In 1984, I was still a pimply teenage boy in the throes of puberty living in a small town in Saskatchewan.

That summer, I went and saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The previous summer I had spent at my sister’s in Lanigan, Saskatchewan, watching and re-watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, sometimes up to four times a day. I still know much of the dialogue off by heart. The second movie? Not so much, though I still find myself chanting “Kali Ma… Kali Ma… Kali Ma Shakti de” every once in a while.

While Temple of Doom was a sequel—or rather a prequel, as the events take place before Raiders of the Lost Ark, even though the movie was filmed afterwards—1984 saw the first movies in several movie series. At the top of the box office heap was Beverley Hills Cop, part four of which is due out in 2016. Other first movies in their respective series include Ghostbusters (which was number one at the box office for the week of June 6), Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Police Academy, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Romancing the Stone and The Terminator, another series that still has legs, thirty years on.

At the Academy awards, Amadeus took honours for best picture. It was also the Year that Friday the 13th, the Final Chapter was released, though alas, the title was a lie.

Musically, 1984 saw the release of my favourite album of all time: Meltdown, by Steve Taylor. Steve Taylor is an obscure artist in the annals of history, a satirist who poked holes in the sacred cows of Christian culture, a fringe artist on the edge of a fringe industry whose lyrics spoke to me in a way that few others have. While other kids were listening to George Michael croon about ‘Careless Whispers’ or bounced around with Cyndi Lauper’s  ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’, I was listening to Meltdown on a near-constant rotation. I listened to the tape (ask your parents, kids) so many times that it finally wore out and snapped.

Speaking of Cyndi Lauper, her ballad ‘Time After Time’ was the number one song on Billboard for the Week of June 6, followed by ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boy’ by Deniece Williams and ‘Oh, Sherrie’ By Steve Perry.

But while I loved Steve Taylor, I wasn’t unaware of other music. 1984 was the year I discovered metal, or at least, hair metal, with Van Halen’s 1984 topping the list of favourites. It was also the year that Dee Snyder and the rest of the boys proclaimed ‘We’re Not Going to Take it,’ and Bruce Springsteen’s seminal (non-metal) Born in the USA was released. And, while it took me a few years to discover, it was also the year that Bruce Cockburn released what is arguably one of the greatest songs ever written: ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time’, originally found on the album Stealing Fire.

As a geek, I was well aware of the formative video game industry, and, while 1984 wasn’t the best year, it did see the release of King’s Quest, the first animated adventure game, and Gauntlet, a series which is still going to this day.

In 1984, Clara Peller asked “Where’s the Beef?”, while Michael Jackson discovered that the advertising business is a dangerous game when his hair caught on fire while filming an ad for Pepsi.

1984 was the year that Pierre Elliott Trudeau, one of Canada’s most dynamic and colourful Prime Ministers, announced his retirement.

In Japan, the Mitsui Miike coal mine explosion killed 83, and on March 6 of that year, the British Coal Miners went on strike. It would be a full year before they went back to work.

And, of course, 1984 was the year that Tumbler Ridge and the Northeast Coal project was officially opened.

While Tumbler Ridge was signed into being in April, 1981, the town itself didn’t exist then. But in just over three years, a town, two mines, roads and a railway were carved out of the wilderness, and so the town council of the time declared that June 6, 1984 would be a civic holiday, and a party was planned.

It is this date, not the incorporation date, that the forthcoming Big Block Party will celebrate.