but they have JAWZ II on LAZERDISC


Ohmygod, I just finished the entire first draft of a whole hour-long pilot and it’s 2am, but caveman posted his list of “stuff that other people had when you were a kid that meant they were totally rich” – he and I have listserved about this before, but it’s such a great topic. To recap, his list:

1. Pinball machine and/or pool table

2. Ice maker underneath a bar

3. Trampoline

4. Pool

5. Garbage compactor

6. Intercom system in house (you were beyond loaded)

7. Separate “kids” phone line (holy sh*t)

8. Any convertible

I would include all of those and add the following:

• when the dad had the 70s version of the boots on a giant elliptical wheel that would hang you upside down if his back was fucked up

• riding mower


• Volvo with leather (classy, understated)

• tennis racquets in screw-down wood frames (to stop warping!)

• V-shaped TV antenna on back of car

• playroom attic with fireman pole

• equipped treehouse

• top-loading VCR the size of a microwave with 15-foot wired remote control cable

• speaking of which, a microwave with analog (alarm-clock flip style) countdown numbers

• that leather-bound Britannica “Great Books” Series with gold lettering

• stepmother


as long as I’m sitting in my dad’s Porsche, you can’t beat me up, motherfucker

31 thoughts on “but they have JAWZ II on LAZERDISC

  1. Ellani

    -a real kid-sized car (convertible) that you could actually drive (one of my friends had two of them when I was 4 and I knew they were beyond extremely well off).
    Why stepmother though? I had one of those (the best in the world I might add!) and we weren’t loaded–at least in comparison to the kids in my school. Most of the things on the list are almost always a sign of *rich*, but unless the stepmom is clearly a trophy (ahem) wife, they aren’t always a sign of luxury—particularly when I was a kid when alimony could really be a joke (my mom got a pittance, probably through her own meekness). Don’t know if it is any different these days.

  2. emma

    Great lists, I will add
    An atari
    Golf clubs
    Cable with mtv
    I take issue with the screw tennis things. How much could they have cost, but if you had your own ball machine, you were rich

  3. LFMD

    I LOVE that photo of you and your dad!
    You know, I grew up in such a solidly middle class, homogeneous rural/suburban community in New Jersey that I never really noticed any split between me and folks with more. In my neighborhood, we all had the same and we were all happy. Sure, some girls went to sleep-away summer camps or had canopy beds, but we were pretty much all the same.
    I really started to notice that people were RICH when I branched out to college and law school. Here is my list:
    You are rich if:
    1. you went to private school
    2. your first name is a family surname (Beckwith, Archer, Tally, etc.)
    3. you live in New York City
    4. your family has a vacation house
    5. you graduate law school without student loans

  4. Anne

    I am going back into history farther than most of your readers, Ian. But I remember the Big Deal stuff (I spent 6 formative years in Greenwich, CT, so we were the middle-class mice among the wealthy) in the 1960s as
    — Memberships to both the country club and the yacht club
    — A power boat or yacht big enough to sleep aboard
    — An actual STEREO (my friend and I spent the Beatles years with our years plastered against the standing speakers in her parents’ living room)
    — A maid who came on the train from the Bronx to do the ironing
    — Ditto a cook. They both wore white or pink uniform dresses, and of course they were black and we were supposed to address them by their first names even though we were only 8 or whatever.
    — Horseback riding lessons **green with envy**
    — An oil portrait of the woman of the house by a pricey society artist, hanging over the sofa or the mantel in the living room
    — A color television. O. M. G.!!!
    — Tennis court
    Well, I could go on, that being Greenwich and all, but you get the drift. The upside is that I got to do cool things with my friends — hang out at the yacht club pool all day as a guest and say “charge it to R——” at the snack bar; camp on a little private island off the waterfront mansion grounds of my friend Suzy (her last name is that of a huge, well known rubber company); attend a few country club dances for teens; get taken on trips into NYC to go to Radio City Music Hall at Christmas, etc etc.
    By the time I got to an Ivy university, I was pretty well immersed in how The Other Half lived, which stood me in good stead socially.
    Boy, it’s funny to think back on this stuff. My parents did know how to pick the least expensive house in really nice neighborhoods….

  5. Anne

    PS: I agree with all of LFMD’s items — definitely the second (sometimes third) house in a resort area, either ski country or Caribbean.

  6. kent

    The one I always coveted because you could get 10 channels: A big TV antenna on a tall mast, motorized so you could aim it at different transmitters. On top of the TV (walnut console, with attached record player, naturally), a giant knob that you’d mark with the locations of stations, and when you changed channels, you could hear the motor whine as the antenna lumbered around to its new heading.
    Actually just writing that out makes me want one again. Did you know that digital broadcast TV has a higher quality picture than digital cable TV?

  7. Kelly

    In my rural Canadian upbringing, the rich kids were the Dairy Farmers — although as an adult I understand it was millions of dollars of loans, not true wealth. Still, rural rich was:
    Had your own sports car / jeep / ATV /snowmobile, which could be driven to school.
    Bought lunch at school every day
    Canopy or Water Bed
    TV & VCR & phone line in your room
    Parents had two luxury cars (in addition to 4wD or trucks that were specific to the farm)
    A house with a long Paved driveway (only for the richest farms)
    Sport specific high end brand Gym shoes — a pair for volleyball, a different pair for basketball season, another for outdoor sports, etc.
    I remember regularity having lunch at a large dairy farm where my friend’s mom and grandmother cooked lunch for 15 (the farm hands & uncles and cousins) — and thought that they have to be rich to have two fridges & stoves and the groceries to feed all those people everyday.
    In rural PEI, according to my husband and going back 30 years, it was the same for the kids of the lobster & tuna fishermen — new trucks to drive to school, vacations off island in the winter, and the belief that daddy will always bring in huge coin to support an indulgent lifestyle.

  8. josie

    That second list of yours? I didn’t even know that stuff existed back then. Heck, if you had a dishwasher or a clothes dryer, you were loaded in my book. Very telling.

  9. CM

    Intercoms – totally. I was just amazed.
    There were also things you coveted in the 1970’s even if they didn’t belong to rich kids:
    -WHT, the movie network!
    -A pool
    -Any pets
    -One of those beds shaped like a racecar
    -An older brother who taught you about great music
    -A later bedtime

  10. Greg T.

    – All of the Star Wars figures with the Darth Vader carrying case.
    – TV in the kid’s room
    – A king-sized bed (WHY DOES A KID NEED THIS???)
    – A moped

  11. Salem

    Everyone pretty much had the same stuff, in my little high school world.
    Toilet- I do remember thinking that my high school girlfriends parents must have spent wild money on their modern toilet. It had a wide back and a big seat, like a fat tongue, squared off in the back.
    It turns out, I had simply never had a toilet less than 80 years old! Our toilet seats were small and round-ish. My mother lives in their neighborhood now, and has the same toilet. I think of my high school girlfriend every time I sit down. Isn’t that sweet?

  12. Salem

    Ian, extraordinary picture! The packed back seat, with luggage, kinda pulls at my heart. Feels like boarding school.
    “Once more into the breach”

  13. erica

    Kids who got brand new cars on their 16th birthday (some even when they got their learner’s permit!) – complete with big red bow.
    My sister and I shared a used beater station wagon that my father paid less for than his riding mower. I know I should be grateful but still…
    And *designer* jeans – I remember coveting a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt’s when my mom was firmly attached to Lee/Levi…*sigh*

  14. Different Julie

    Tretorn shoes
    A beta machine and then a vcr
    pinball machines and pool tables in the basement/playroom
    mothers who drove merecedes or jags to pick up carpool
    guess jeans
    a new car (any type) when you got your license
    a fake id in high school
    a beach house in Va. Beach or Nags Head and a mountain house at Wintergreen

  15. Lee

    vacation homes are a funny thought now. back then, i thought you were rich if you went on vacation and stayed in a hotel. we only went somewhere where we stayed at other people’s houses.

  16. Schultz

    An IBM PC! remember the first ones that came out in the 80’s???
    Also, any soft drink product other than Shasta or Chek Cola

  17. ally

    – a separate kids phone line
    – frequent trips to Florida so the father could golf
    – the mother golfed and/or played tennis
    – family sailboat
    – a garage door that opened with a remote control device

  18. Salem's Little Sister

    I absolutely thought a waterbed was for rich people and a playroom blew my mind. You mean you have a room just for your toys! I had riding lessons, a pony, a housekeeper, private school and a jeep for my 16th birthday and never once did it cross my mind that we had any more than anyone else. I would like to thank my dad for that.

  19. jje

    So I have a spin-off question from the original want/have question:
    What did you actually own at some point – but sold, tossed, lost, etc. – and WISH you still had now?

  20. LFMD

    Rebecca – I always thought that anyone with a working mom was rich. Those were the girls who went to sleep away camp all summer, while I sat at home, bored.

  21. Lisa Villiarimo

    Growing up in Hawaii, the rich-seeming asian neighbor kids had an automatic rice dispenser–measured out exactly how ever many cups of rice you wanted to cook. I thought that was the bee’s knees. How lowly of us to have to measure out our own rice a cup at a time. hahahaha. Now I know that they were not so spendy after all…

  22. Neva

    Having just finished the book “The Help” I know that in the south if you had “Help” you seemed wealthy to me.
    Also, I thought anyone with curtains matching the pillows was rich. My Mom was too busy working to sew or worry about these details (also not wealthy or interested enough in hiring a decorator to do it).
    If they weren’t of the same plaid preppy fabric as the curtains the pillows were those needlepoint things with silly little sayings about golfing and tennis and that always meant wealthy to my sad little self.

  23. Piglet

    My idea of rich was my grandmother’s house…a huge, clunky old place with uncomfortable antique furniture and fragile things on shelves such that my cousins would tell me “Don’t play near that thing; it’s worth more than you.”
    I didn’t know expensive things invented in the 70s even existed, until the 80s.

  24. Kelly

    Gotta chime in again to agree with LFMD on Rebecca’s comment — I too thought that anyone with a working mom was rich, i.e. two incomes and kids who got to go to cool activities after school. And those kids often had convenience items for lunch, which = rich, put to my homemade bread sandwiches. Great question Ian.. I’m going to put forth the question to with my 7 year old to see if she has a concept yet of these things the way I did at that age. Be interesting for those of us with kids/grandkids of that 6 – 12 age to see what their concept of “rich” is, or is there at all an awareness.

  25. CM

    JJE, I wish I still had my Mad magazines that my mom threw out when we moved. I can find a lot of them on ebay now, though.

  26. Joanna

    Rebecca, LFMD, Kelly,
    My 7 year old son, who is hardly going without, told me accusingly that we would have a lot more money if I would get a job. That felt good.
    When I was in 5th grade, I thought the girl with a different Izod shirt for every day of the week had to be loaded. My mom explained that there was going to be a revolution. The poor people would identify the rich by the alligators on their shirts, round them up and gun them down. Isn’t that CRAZY? I’m still a bit label shy.

  27. josie

    OK, for whatever reason, i feel the need to clarify (perhaps if only to avoid what I should be doing…)
    I am not saying that I don’t believe we could not afford a clothes dryer or dishwasher, it’s just that having one was not amongst my parents’ expectations.
    When I hit high school, we remodeled the kitchen and with that came a dishwasher. My mom stored pots and pans in it. She finally capitulated to the modern convenience of a clothes dryer sometime around the year 2000.


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