Friday, July 9, 2010

Take A Trip Down Memory Lane With Hillary Buckholtz...

Just a few days ago I was super excited to bring to you a new web find in "I'm Remembering," a site that posts photos and videos of long lost toys and pop culture staples from the eighties and nineties. I spent a good amount of time reminiscing and then I emailed the creator of the site to suggest quite a few more items to showcase. One has already made it on, and I've come up with quite a few new ones I wanted to share, but I thought I would restrain myself. Now, though, My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture is proud to feature an interview with the site creator Hillary Buckholtz. Forget set visits or Emmy nominations; this was the highlight of my week!


"I was looking through old Sears catalogs from the eighties," Buckholtz shared on a phone interview with My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture, "and I started feeling some serious pain because I saw they had these sleeping bags-- My Little Pony sleeping bags and She-Ra sleeping bags and Garfield sleeping bags-- and I was like 'Why can't I order from this 1984 catalog?' I wanted so bad to be able to call the number and order it!"

That, in a nutshell, is what "I'm Remembering" is all about because Buckholtz knew that she couldn't be alone in thinking this way. After all, she and her brother used to call each other up to try to "out nostalgia" each other with the various toys, games, and foods (especially foods) that they recalled from their childhood. Her desire to share her love with other like-minded people was what inspired the blog in the first place.

"I thought, you know, maybe there are other people my age who maybe feel the same way, so I thought I'd start [the site] to have an outlet to put all these memories. And basically so I could save myself all the phone calls to my brother! And, you know, people started to really respond to it, and I found that I really enjoyed the sense of community and the shared experience."

Buckholtz, a producer, comedienne and publicist, does hold a full time job in addition to running "I'm Remembering," which she calls it a "labor of love." Though the site was born out of her own personal experiences and memories (like long lost loves Fruity Marshmallow Krispies cereal, the bubble gum pellets that came in little milk cartons, and the original Cabbage Patch Kids), she also welcomes submissions from her readers.

"People send me in ideas, and then I just sort of scavenge the internet for the images that I feel sort of reflect the thing," she explained. "But I'm particular about the image that I chose; I want the image to reflect the thing as I remember it, not as it is today. So it's really important that if it's a TV show like California Dreams, then it's a screen shot of one of the scenes and not the case of the DVDs."

[Editor's Note: Buckholtz brought up California Dreams all on her own. My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture did not prompt, prod, or bribe her in any way. But I bet you see why I am so obsessed with her site now!]

And if a particular image can't be found, Buckholtz admitted she just won't post the item...yet. There's always a chance a really good scan or collector's photograph will pop up down the line. And other selections are made purely by instinct. "I came across this book, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and I had such a strong response to it. Now, I didn't remember reading it, but I just had to go with it. And, like, three weeks ago I was in my parents' basement where I do a lot of my remembering, and I found this box, and that along with a couple of other books were in it. And I was like 'Oh, duh; that's why!' A part of me remembers but there's just a lot of things that are kind of stuck back there!"

Buckholtz shared that some of the items she has gotten most excited about have gotten the least responses on the blog, but regardless, she loves it when people comment with their own memories on whatever image she has tagged. "I think nostalgia is a complicated emotion," she offered. "There's a lot of warmth there, but there's loss [too]...I'm interested in my own response but also in others' experiences."

Those experiences can be those who grew up around the same influences she did or even kids today whose toys are completely different ("My Little Pony is all sexed up!" she exclaimed). Buckholtz has a five-year-old niece and a seven-year-old nephew, who she said she is completely jealous of because "they can hang out with each other and sit on the couch and eat cereal and watch TV! With so many toys!"

Some of their influences are brand new, like Silly Bandz or SpongeBob, both of which Buckholtz cited when asked what she thinks a website ten or twenty years from now might feature when "remembering" the influential items from the early 2000s. But perhaps thankfully, some are timeless, like Star Wars, which she pointed out her nephew loves. And of course others can be passed down from one generation to another.

"I had The Chipmunk Adventure, if you remember that movie; it was a big deal for me! It was Alvin, and the Chipmunks, and the Chipettes, and it was a movie. And [my niece and nephew are] into the whole "Alvin and the Squeakuel" and that whole terrifying animation, but I thought maybe-- be still my nostalgia heart-- maybe they'll be into Alvin and the Chipmunks. And they loved it! They watched it, like, fifteen times, and that made me so happy-- to be able to say that 'even kids today' can enjoy it...That gives me comfort."

Side by side comparisons: Buckholtz and her brother
as kids (right) and Buckholtz' niece and nephew now (left).

It also gives Buckholtz comfort that her parents have saved a lot of her favorites from her own childhood, and now her sister is continuing the tradition for the little ones, too. "I am certainly so grateful to my parents for keeping a lot of my stuff-- I mean, a lot of stuff, like my little Miss Piggy Puppet, which I got when I was one and was my whole life," she laughed. That piece of memorabilia is another example of a toy that one can't find anymore, outside of eBay, collectors' showrooms, or the odd garage sale. But that doesn't mean its best "playing days" are necessrily behind it.

"I was in the basement with my niece...and she's obsessed with Miss Piggy, too, and I told her 'Oh but you don't want to play with her; she's kind of old and dirty.' But she still wanted to see her. So I took her out, and she's, like, really dirty and has seen better days, and I said, 'Oh you don't want to play with her'; it was like something out of Toy Story. But my niece was like 'No, I do!' And she held her and was like 'Hi-ya!' in the little, funny Miss Piggy voice. And I was like 'I think that really probably means a lot to her'."

"I really feel like I'm passing along the experience that I have when I think of this stuff," Buckholtz continued. "When I remember it, I just lose my mind and have a total nostalgia shut down. It's sort of a fun and silly experience, and I feel neat about sharing that because I can sense from what feedback I get from people that people are feeling that to and having an emotional response so there's a lot of satisfaction there for me that I'm creating an emotional response so similar to my own."

So in addition to the blog, which is gaining notoriety every day, Buckholtz is also planning a live event in the fall to bring together even more people. The event will be based back east, out of Washington D.C., which is where Buckholtz is based (though I personally hope it's such a success she decides to take it on the road out to L.A.!).

"I'm going to have three comedic storytellers do a story inspired by something that they remember, and then I want to do a slideshow of Show and Tell photos, and maybe a montage of television theme songs, and then have nostalgic hors d'oeuvres like Dunkaroos and Capri Sun. Just to bring people together in real life who are a part of this community of people who are born between 1978 and 1985 or 1986. That's what really excites me: creating more of a community and bringing people together," she stressed.

Sifting through submissions and scouring the internet for the perfect photos every day undoubtedly tempts Buckholtz to try to reacquire some of the childhood favorites that were lost along the way. Buckholtz considers herself "one impulsive purchase away from becoming a collector" and when asked what item she would love to obtain now, she couldn't name just one.

"I [would] buy She-Ra's Castle because I'm obsessed with that thing. I don't know why, but my neighbor had it, and I just have very strong feelings about it! Oh, wait...I would buy the Fisher Price conveyor belt and cash register!"

So if you decide to check out the "I'm Remembering" event in a few months and want to bring the hardworking hostess a gift, now you know what to get her!

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