It’s Labor Day, meaning summer is symbolically if not officially drawing to a close, meaning whatever fun you’re having is probably tinged with a little wistfulness for days gone by, meaning you’re especially primed for nostalgic feelings this week, internet-induced or otherwise. With that in mind, here are some videos of ordinary people riding the same roller coaster of jubilation and sadness you’re riding today, only 15 or 20 years ago.
As we noted on Memorial Day—happier, more optimistic times, when the summer spread before us like an endless picnic blanket—YouTube is a treasure trove of vintage home video. Again, we’ve sifted through the VHS-distorted noise to bring you five of the most compelling, from a firsthand document of ‘80s adolescence to a highlight reel of the world’s greatest forgotten lawn game. Enjoy.
Dave & Arlene’s Labor Day 1990
A stunning example of the shove-a-camera-directly-into-the-faces-of-people-who-aren’t-necessarily-enjoying-being-filmed genre of home videography, this clip reaches its apex when a neighborhood man begins griping about the newfangled “discs” that are taking over his local record store. “You walk into your average record store—you go to Record City. What do you find at Record City? Discs! Discs. I walked in there, I had a fit.”
1985 Labor Day Camp montage
This longish video doesn’t inhabit any particular geographic region so much as it does the dad zone, circa 1985. We open on two gentlemen in shades pretending to be radio DJs, move through a fishing scene, briefly meet the most impressive tongue-flicker I’ve ever seen, and end on a heartwarming talent show. The granny in a headband does a mean “New York, New York.”
Frisbee Keg Labor Day 1992
Beer pong? Come on. Cornhole? You must be kidding. KanJam? Fuck you. Back in ‘92, they were playing Frisbee Keg, a lawn drinking game that was exactly what it sounds like. I only wonder why this hasn’t come back into vogue among America’s college kids yet. Or has it?
All I’ve ever wanted out of life is to drink Coors Light and listen to Foreigner on a boat with some dude named “Uncle Dwight.” Chances are I’ll never get to experience my dream, but at least I have this YouTube video.
Music for Pets, Labor Day Street party 1984
Music for Pets, a long-since-forgotten band from Bolinas, California, plays a 30-minute live set that sounds something like a shaggier and and more psychedelic take on the earliest and most incomprehensible Pavement recordings, with a backing vocalist who reminds me a little of Ari Up. Their weirdo sax- and djembe-adorned version of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” is a highlight.