A look back to the good old days of multiple cinemas, mobile phones which didn’t take pictures and junk food served on plates at Wimpy
The 1990s seem like a long time ago now.
But those who were growing up at the time can never forget the era that gave us the Spice Girls, grunge, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and wearing clothes several sizes too big.
And boys wearing vast quantities of hair gel perched East 17 style baseball caps on top of their rock hard hair.
We also had to put up with video games with no save options – who else has nearly got to the end of Sonic the Hedgehog, died, and then had to play the whole game again.
And dial up internet is something that very much belongs in the past.
We who grow up in Reading, Berkshire, during the 1990s, remember many things that you could do in the town as a kid you can’t do now.
Some we’d like to see make a glorious return, some we’re happy to see confined to the dustbin of history.
Don’t get us wrong, there are lots of other brilliant things in Reading now, and you’re certainly never short of anywhere to get a cup of coffee, but we do look back fondly.
Take a trip down memory lane with our look at what 1990s kids can no longer do in Reading.
In no particular order
1. Laser Quest
Remember it? The old warehouse in London Street where you’d inevitably go for birthday parties.
Laser Quest was a simple concept which involved racing around trying to zap each other with lasers.
There was always one or two kids who’d go there every week and be absolutely brilliant.
They had a plan, they’d target dads, and then mercilessly follow them around, blasting them every time their pack came back on.
There are still Laser Quests scattered around the country and there’s one over in Maidenhead.
2. Virgin Megastore
Now a bank, this was on the corner of Broad Street.
A massive (mega, in fact) shop where those who weren’t in to the delicately placed baseball cap and Reebok classics look could spend hours looking for heavy metal T-shirts.
I bought my first album there, (And Justice For All by Metallica, if anyone’s interested, on cassette).
3. Watch football for free/on the cheap
Elm Park, the former home of Reading FC, now flats, was a magnificent example of a proper football ground.
Small, loud, mostly standing and intimidating, both for opposing teams and the home fans when the opposition supporters used to jump over a small fence and get in to the Southbank.
In the good old days of the 90s, it was quite easy to sneak in to Elm Park, and it was only a few quid anyway.
Now, a ticket is a tenner, although it’s fair to say the Madejski is more comfortable and has considerably less threat of marauding gangs of opposition fans.
4. Rent a video/DVD
It’s fairly certain cassettes and videos don’t hold much affection with 1990s kids.
I’ve yet to hear a music fan ever say “Yeah man, but it sounds so much better on cassette”.
What was more likely to happen was an epic bout of swearing when the player chewed up whatever video/cassette you really liked.
“Noooooooooo, not Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (RIP Alan Rickman, the magnificent Sheriff of Nottingham).
Anyway, you used to be able to go to Blockbuster Video in Oxford Road to rent videos, and later DVDs (Remember the little letterbox you had to post it back through?), but now you can’t as it closed.
Remember when you sat down to watch your vid and the person before you hadn’t rewound it? Rage.
I think it’s fair to say most people prefer Netflix to videos.
5. Buy a phone with an aerial
iPhones are fantastic. No doubt, they’re all singing, all dancing and do everything you could possibly need, apart from driving – yet.
The 1990s were a simpler time and it was all about this Nokia, complete with aerial and Snake.
As everyone knows, Snake was a great game to play during boring lessons in the sixth form.
And, kids, they didn’t even take pictures.
6. Go to a (proper) nightclub
There’s a lot of late bars in Reading where you can strut your funky stuff and try to meet people to your hearts content.
However, as has been discussed before, there are now no “proper” nightclubs in the town.
1990s kids will remember the mighty Utopia, Level One (which could be extremely violent) and Washington Heights/RG1.
Of course, there was that “underage drinking haven”, and THE place for minor celebrity visits, Nue Valbonne’s.
Utopia has been turned into IKEA, Level One has been demolished and is now part of the Chatham Place development and RG1 has been flats for at least 10 years.
Of course, it’s important to point out the town’s two closest things to a proper club – The Purple Turtle and The After Dark Club – are still going strong and are absolute institutions of the town.
7. Buy a school uniform from Jacksons
Not that 90s kids spent too much time shopping in Jacksons for their school uniforms, that was left to mum and dad, but that’s where you went.
What followed was a row as mum/dad deliberately bought you a uniform a couple of sizes too big so you “grew into it”.
While baggy clothes were fashionable, having a school jumper miles too big didn’t win you any style points.
You can still get uniforms in Reading, but not at the iconic Jackson’s.
In 2019, Jacksons is being converted into flats.
8. Breakfast for under £2
In the good old days, you could get a fry-up with six items in BHS for £1.99.
BHS is no longer there, and we’re fairly sure you can’t get a fry-up anywhere for that little.
If there’s someone out there who can prove us wrong, let us know.
9. Go to the Food Court
If there were six of you and you wanted different cuisines, you’d have a big argument.
In the old days you could just head to the Food Court at the Broad Street mall for a big selection.
(Nowadays you could try Cosmo, but we think the Food Court had more)
10. Argue about which cinema is best
In the 1990s, we had the Odeon in Cheapside and what was known as the ABC Cinema/Cannon.
This prompted ludicrous arguments about which was better (they were all perfectly adequate for the purpose of watching a film).
They both closed when the all-conquering Vue in The Oracle opened.
11. Have a Wimpy
What you could get at McDonald’s but on a plate by a waiter/waitress while sitting down.
And you could get a thing called a bender. I think it was a circular Frankfurter type thing.
A sad loss.
There are still a few around with the nearest in Basingstoke and Farnborough.
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