Number Twelve: VHS and Me

Today I invite you to jump into my Way-Back Machine — a la Bill, Ted, and Rufus — and come with me to 1985 or thereabouts. No, we will not be joining Marty McFly and Doc Brown in their Delorean, but we *will* see something almost as cool: VHS and the home video explosion (Back to the Future, included).

I was nine years old at the time, and little did I know that my parents were about to dramatically change my life forever. I came home from school one day – a day like any other day — only to find that one of our upstairs bedrooms was filled wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with massive cardboard boxes. Confused by all the hubbub, my parents showed me the inside of one box, and what did my eyes behold?

VHS Cassettes. A lot of them.

My parents, in a move that still causes me to shake my head in wonder and respect over their until-then-unseen entrepreneurial spirit, had decided to open a movie rental store. The store’s name was CNM Family Showcase, the “CNM” standing for my parents’ names, “Carmen ‘n’ Mike” (although my grandmother, who sometimes helped out at the store, said it actually stood for “Carmen ‘n’ Marilyn”). Just like that, I had a home away from home. I cannot convey how enamored I was of that store. Very simply, I couldn’t get enough of it.

The store itself was setup like a bar. There was a counter that ran around the room, and behind the counter all of the movies were displayed on shelves (similar to bottles of booze behind a bartender). When customers wanted to see the movie case, I would help get it off the shelf and hand it over. Even better, when a movie was rented, I would get to stick one of the store’s “OUT” cards on the video box (attached via Velcro stickers). When I wanted a break from the action, I sat behind the counter and read a Hardy Boys book or watched a movie on the store’s TV, which was used to showcase movies.

And what a time it was to be surrounded by movies! On top of modern classics like Jaws, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Star Wars, there was the new batch of movies coming out each week: Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Top Gun, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Princess Bride, The Lost Boys, Full Metal Jacket, and on and on they go. It truly was a golden age of cinema, and I was right in the thick of it.

And how about the covers that adorned the movies?! My mom was a huge fan of horror movies, so those are the ones that come to mind: C.H.U.D., Silent Night, Deadly Night, and the one that always creeped me out as a wee lad, Happy Birthday to Me.

At closing time, imagine being a kid who could stand in the middle of the store and turn a slow circle, eying all of those movies and getting to select one that I could bring home and watch before the store opened the next day. I bet I watched The Goonies a thousand times during a few-year stretch, as it was easily my favorite movie during those years. I watched Sixteen Candles over and over, laughing over some of the ridiculous scenes as well as being wide-eyed over seeing *gasp* boobs during the short shower scene. I waffled between joy and uneasiness as mogwai transformed into gremlins after midnight (a silly condition to the seller’s deal, as unless I’m wrong, it’s *always* after midnight).

My parents were (and still are) movie buffs, especially my mom. She routinely gave out recommendations to customers, most of which were appreciated, but a few of them weren’t. She recalls one person not being happy about the violence in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and another person being upset about the language and nudity in Trading Places. The one I remember was the parent of one of my childhood friends being miffed about The Goonies, when “mom’s favorite piece” broke off of the miniature version of Michelangelo’s “David” statue. Heh.

Ah, the memories.

I want to say my parents owned the store for three years or so. By the late 80s, movie rentals were a hot business. Mr. Movies was the first place to start competing with the shop. I don’t think they hurt my parents too much because Mr. Movies required memberships at the time (remember that nonsense?!) and the prices were similar to theirs. The nail in the coffin was when a local grocery store chain started offering movie rentals at $.97, which was a *huge* discount at the time. Hard to compete with those prices.

And with that, my parents sold the store and moved on. I’m sure I was sad to see it go; as I said above, I spent a bunch of time there. That being said, the shop was a young boy’s dream come true, and it exposed me to all kinds of movies I never would have been able to see otherwise. It also made me the movie fan I turned out to be. While I enjoy some of today’s movies, I still find myself revisiting the classic films from that era. For my money, they don’t come any better.

Until we meet again…


p.s. I’ve started a Facebook page for Much Ado About Nothing.  On it, I write shorter commentaries about movies & television, books, and music.  There’s even a homemade card my stepdaughter made me…one that needs to be seen to be believed.  Visit the fun and frivolity by clicking the link at the bottom of every blog page.  I’d love to have you join the fray!


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