By now, you’ve probably heard that the last VHS VCR will roll off the line at Japan’s Funai Electric plant this month.
It’s the end of an era. When I was little, my mom and I used to rent movies from the library. Rows and rows of black plastic cases, with untold treasures for creepy kids — “My Pet Monster,” “The Last Unicorn,” “The Huggabunch Movie,” “Goonies.” How I loved those flicks.
Back then, we used to rent movies at Video USA, “Home of the 25 Cent Rentals.” After my parents divorced, it became a special ritual to get Chinese food and rent 3 or 4 movies with my dad on his weekends. He introduced me to so many movies — “Escape From New York,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Commando,” Tombstone,” etc.
Later, when I met my husband, we bonded over our love of movies, especially scary ones. Here’s his VCR memory from our early days.
I was 15 and Andrea was 13 when we met. That was about 1995. VHS played a huge role in our lives. I used to go over to my friend’s house and invite her over to watch movies, on VHS of course, since DVD had not yet arrived. We would flirt back and forth, hold hands and once we even kissed (gasp!) (that was Andrea’s first kiss, I’m proud to say).I vividly remember one such evening, when I invited her over to watch a movie. She asked what movie and I enthusiastically replied, ‘Slaughterhouse!’ Of course, she accepted, how could she resist? We watched the ’80s slasher on glorious VHS in my friend’s room and held hands the entire movie.‘Slaughterhouse’ on VHS brings the love.
The year before I graduated from college, Dave and I made our first joint purchase — a DVD/VCR combo unit — knowing that we would be moving in together after school. That was probably about 2003, and DVD was making all our dreams come true — Anchor Bay was putting out titles like “Burial Ground” that we thought would never see release. But we both still had huge VHS collections, so the combo unit was perfect.
It’s now taking up space in our closet, but I keep it around because we still have a few VHS tapes. And VHS is having a bit of a resurgence among genre fans, so you never know, I may find it useful in the future.
It’s easy to dismiss these memories as nostalgia. But I think there is more to it — there was a ritual associated with VCRs and VHS tapes. Families would go to the rental store together, and pick out a tape for the evening entertainment. It was a “date” for couples to rent movies. It was special.
I wanted to share some of my VCR nostalgia, so I asked some Facebook friends for their memories. Here they are — feel free to comment and leave your own too.
- Anne Merchant: “We got our first VCR in 1984 as a ‘family’ Christmas present. It was $500 and had a wood-grain finish. The first movie we recorded was ‘Woman in Red;’ however, I used to tape ‘Headbanger’s Ball’ in the hopes that they’d show a KISS video, or better yet, Gene and Paul would be guest hosts. R.I.P., old friend!”
- Clare LaTourette: “My favorite videotape had ‘My Little Pony’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ both recorded on it. It was my older sisters and I would get to watch it only when she wasn’t home. My family also acted out a Batman/ Robin Hood sketch when I was 2 (I was an evil witch playing the drums) and it’s only recorded on a VHS tape. I’ll be sad when I have no way of watching it.”
- Kim Brett: “I used to love taping ‘General Hospital’ and watch it when i got home from work, LOL.”
- Laurie Schueler: “Our first VCR had a remote control that was connected with a cord to the unit! So not very convenient! But we thought it was pretty cool at the time.”
- Annie Sofran: “When Toby started speech therapy, he couldn’t speak but we would tape his sessions. By the time we stopped taping them four years later, he was talking like a champ. I’ve kept these tapes for obvious reasons and those are the only reasons I hold onto my VCR.”
- Jill Morgan: “Our family VCR recorded Days of Our Lives, Monday through Friday, every week. My dad would make sure my mom “set it” before he left for work in the morning. At dinner time, we set up our TV trays and watched our soap opera as a family, dad and brother included. How would we have survived the Bo and Hope era otherwise?”