Waayyyy back in the day, in about tenth or eleventh grade, I was at my friend Martha’s house. She was going to drive me home and her mom handed her this small, black rectangular box and asked her to “return it,” on her way.
I was curious. It was a video, she explained, you put it in this machine. She pointed to a large box under their television, it plays movies. What? She continued… you rent the movies for three days, watch them on the “player” and return them. Simple.
Yes, simple, but it was awhile until our family got a video player, we were always late to the game. Last ones to get color TV, last for cable, we never even got a telephone answering machine and now, video players, everyone had one! By the time we got one, I fully understood the concept. It was genius! After much debate my parents bought a Beta player. Yes, a Beta Player. Not VHS, which in hindsight was a mistake, Beta died out pretty quickly.
With the Beta player came membership to a video store. This was light years before Blockbuster, so we joined “Family Video.” A converted old auction house on the Old Seward Highway. There were twisty corridors, a section for each type of movie, one room housed cartoons, another drama, comedy in the next room and there was the mysterious curtained off room. You had to be over 19 to go behind the curtain. Porn. Right from the beginning.
I LOVED LOVED LOVED Family Video. I loved the TV they had playing movies, I loved the posters on the walls, the bins of popcorn you could buy, the cardboard cutouts of current movie characters. I loved perusing the aisles, reading the backs of lame old 70’s movies. Not one would I watch today. OK, maybe “Annie Hall,” but on second thought, maybe Woody Allen is super-creepy.
I loved seeing all my friends and neighbors there, “What is good?” we would ask. Eventually a Blockbuster Video opened in one of the strip malls that were popping up all over Anchorage, they were mega stores compared to little our Family Video. Eventually Family Video went the way of the Beta Max video player, doors closed, no longer in production.
Years passed, we ended up in the rainy town of Ketchikan, where watching a video on a Friday night was just perfect. The girls and I would stop by the video store to pick out a movie or two for the weekend, my efficient husband would round them up and return to avoid paying late fees which was his personal pet peeve.
The closing of video stores happened without me really noticing it. For starters life got BUSY! We had less family time to sit down and watch a movie together. We had cable. We had a Netflix account – ordering one disc at a time through the mail. Soon we were streaming everything and watching things “On Demand.”
In connection with video stores, in find this sociological observation fascinating. The fact is tomorrow’s generation probably will not understand, but here it is anyway: One person goes into the video store and comes out within ten minutes with a video. Two people go into a video store together and take over twenty minutes to select a video. But if three people go into a video store together, they spend on average thirty minutes and there is a fifty percent chance that they will leave without a movie.