Let’s travel back to a time when the music was good and love was in the air: Wheeling, W.Va., in 1987.
Place the tape in the deck and press play.
Track One: True Love
The Cure – Just Like Heaven
Wheeling, W.Va., in 1987 was the place where I experienced an awakening. A seventh-grade, 12-year-old with four channels on TV, red converse all-stars, peg-able acid-washed jeans and a wonderlust for life, I was ready for true love, but achieving that would prove to be challenging. On the social scene, Triadelphia Junior High School provided an open landscape, a sense of pure freedom that quenches your adolescent thirst. “Going Out” in middle school wasn’t really dating. You were only attached to another person by name. Here is the evolution of one such relationship through the then means of communication:
Track 2: Communication Breakdown
R.E.M. – The One I Love
Before texting, snap-chatting, and all things 2015, there was 1987 communication. The most effective arguably was passing notes. Often lengthy but not to the point, adorned with doodles and folded into a million squares, the passed note served as an easy medium to deliver the truth. “This teacher is so boring”; “Major Harris is the best quarterback ever”; and “Will you go out with me?” were common themes. The answer to the latter — Katie said yes.
“Who are you going out with?” they ask. “Katie,” I reply. “You talk to her on the phone?” (This is the true test of the legitimacy of union.) “Oh yeah, for like 30 minutes on weeknights and 1-2 hours on weekends.” This is a total lie of course. Here’s the truth. Yes, I would invest 30 minutes a night into “going out,” but only in staring at a the phone. Some of us would write a script: If she says something like, “What’s your favorite restaurant?” — I will say “Rax, I always get the BBC with curly fries.” But in the end, anxiety, sweaty palms and justification for not calling would always prevail. I’m left staring at the phone, attempting to pick it up, 242, 232, 233, repeating in my mind over and over again. I’ll call her tomorrow.
Few make it to this stage of “going out.” An actual in-person encounter, such as eating hot or cold lunch together in the cafeteria or having the same homeroom kind of count. But it’s the outside of school meeting that truly counts.
Track 3: Ohio Valley Mall
Debbie Gibson – Only in My Dreams
Your parents do the organizing for the drop-off and pick-up. This time they arrange for Katie and I to go to the mall for dinner and a movie. We share Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers amidst the doorway-bead motif and then see Biloxi Blues starring Matthew Broderick. We exchange few words and the pinnacle of the night happens five minutes before the movie ends, when, after resting our hands one centimeter away from each other for the entire movie, we finally hold hands.
Track 4: TJHS Dance
The Bangles – Eternal Flame
I have solicited some Wheeling friends to help me tell this part of this story.
MD: Every guy was petrified of every girl, and all it took was one or two people to start dancing, and it loosened up the environment. At the end of the dance we would walk through the cemetery and meet up at Pizza Inn (current Greco’s location). If a fight would break out, we would immediately feel as if were in the MGM Grand in Vegas.
Note: MD claims he would often French kiss outside Pizza Inn; however, Weelunk cannot validate this claim.
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CK: I remember drinking a beer and smoking a cherry cigar prior to each dance.
Note: Again. Weelunk cannot validate this claim.
JK: I actually had the courage one time to ask a girl to dance to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame.” After swinging side-by-side together, arms and hands frozen solid just above each others’ hips, I made a bold move to place my hands on her back and actually felt her bra strap.
Note: Again. Weelunk cannot validate this claim.
SB: My memories are mostly waiting for it to end because of pending mischief afterward.
Note: Weelunk can verify this claim.
Track 5: Couples Skate
Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock – It Takes Two
Friday nights at the Wheeling Park Skating Rink were epic. If you were like me, you didn’t play hockey or skate very well, but in order to “couples skate,” I had to forgo the available figure skating rentals, convince my parents to buy me the cheapest Bauer hockey skates available, and struggle to at least make it around the counter-clockwise pattern in the rink.
JW: Couples skate was the highlight along with Bryan Adams songs and reluctantly waiting for parents to pick you up afterward in front of the White Palace.
SB: Everyone really wanted to be upstairs at the WOMP-FM Monster Jam, but you had to be 13.
MD: Sitting at the dinner table with my older sister looking at each other in hopes that one of us would ask if we could go. Once one of us built up the courage and our parents said yes, we would eat as fast as we could and then take off upstairs to put on some jeans, a hoodie, and our Bauer skates. I also can remember trying to “spray the glass”; the “skate guards,” (Were they wearing onesies?), or whatever they were called would be wearing headphones while they would skate around and talk to an older, cooler kid that would be overlooking the rink from the glass window above. They both would scout the ice to catch anyone “goofing around.”
And that person “goofing around” would often be CK.
CK: Ronnie and Brad would try to hunt me down while the Zamboni was cleaning the ice. “Another One Bites the Dust” — man I loved when they played that. MD and JW always had their jeans pegged perfectly at the top of their skates.
MD: Damn, CK is right, and I also think I used mousse in my hair.
JW: Yep, and you wore a turtleneck everytime.
SB: Miss Pacman
CK: Donkey Kong
AM: My first kiss was in the game-room upstairs.
JK: My first kiss was on the ramp to the parking lot.
Track 6: Truth or Dare
Tiffany – I Think We’re Alone Now
The odds of ending up in this scenerio are similar to those of bringing back Green’s Donuts or Mac’s Club. But those who have can fill in the blanks and keep it to themselves.
The last and most deadly of late-80’s pre-teen communication was the intermediary. If you needed to convey something important to the person you were “going out” with, you asked a friend to send the message. The most common uses of this method were either to ask someone out, or break up with someone. A week after my first kiss at the skating rink, Katie asked Amy to tell me that she was breaking up with me. The reason: “He would never call me.” Damn.
Track 6: The Age of Innocence
Don Henley – The End of the Innocence
In 2015 Wheeling, 12-year-olds have cell phones and access to a universe of information. Bad drugs are available. Yet, Wheeling is currently rising from the ashes of decades of population loss and depression. Its comeback needs to pull from a simpler time in order to face the challenging reality of the present. Love was in the air in 1987, and I say it it’s in the air in 2015.
LeeRoy: Wheeling is still a great place to grow up.