Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Twenty Four): The Pullman Combination Personal Organiser

And they called it ‘Yuppie’, love…

Yuppiedom reached the heady heights in 1988. In a big way. In that big a way they were a ‘different class’ with their fast cars and ‘loadsamoney’ dichotomy. A short lived boom and another tax cut for the rich not only saw greater competition, but also a sense of loss as public services were sold off in the name of ‘popular capitalism’.

Yuppiedom also had echoes of post-industrial riverside apartments. Plus the very point where cookery programmes began to have fancy ingredients a world away from anything the average Joe could pick up in Lo Cost. Most obviously, the rise of car phones and mobile phones the size of house bricks. Though the fast cars and mobile phones were out of reach of many working class household, there was one ‘must-have’ Yuppie item available for a realistic price.

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Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Twenty Three): The Hitachi 3D Super Woofer

The must-have stereo system for any youth at the time

Musically, 1988 was quite an eclectic year where Stock, Aitken and Waterman coexisted with The Sisters of Mercy, and The Second Summer of Love. Besides the Second Summer of Love’s influence on The Haçienda, that year also saw the rise of The Beastie Boys and Guns ‘n’ Roses.

Back then, Hitachi launched a portable stereo which was more at home with G’n’R than Mel and Kim.

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Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Twenty Two): The Care Bears

Tenderheart, Cheer and Bedtime Bears

If you was growing up in 1986, and had a younger sister, chances are she may have been aware of several popular toy franchises from America. One was the Cabbage Patch Dolls, launched with much chutzpah and hysteria in late 1983. Another was My Little Pony, based around the shenanigans of psychedelic ponies.

Neither of the two aforementioned creations spawned films. The Care Bears did with its own film, The Care Bears Movie released in 1985. This would lead to spin-off films and animated serials, popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Twenty One): The Starhunter Astronomical Refractor Telescope

“…Says the girl with the mousey hair…*”

1986 was a seminal year for many an amateur astronomer. Hailey’s Comet appeared in the spring. Back then, Oldham’s very own Professor Brian Cox celebrated his eighteenth birthday.

With the hubbub at the time, this addition to the house would have been useful:

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Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Twenty): A 9 Carat Gold St. Christopher Pendant

Just the thing for travelling from one Argos store to another

Key to the success of the Argos retail chain is the Elizabeth Duke jewellery section. Part and parcel since the mid-1970s, it has cut out the middleperson in jewellery sales within its portfolio. Hence the lower prices, and how in recent years it has been associated (unfairly) with Chavdom.

Shortly after Richard Tompkins formed the Argos Catalogue Shop chain, he took the name ‘Elizabeth Duke’ from his wife. Whatever you say about Elizabeth Duke, it has democratised the purchasing of jewellery. It has made for a less snooty and invasive environment for shoppers. In its catalogues, it has been placed near the front, with the aim of impulse purchases.

Back in 1985, the average Tameside citizen had to travel to Manchester or Oldham for their nearest Argos store. The item we are about to see may be appropriate for our journey on the 216, 218, 219, 343 or 409.

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Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Nineteen): The Bluebird A-La-Cart Kitchen

Great for that delicacy of jam swiss roll and baked beans

Mummy got her new microwave for Christmas. My brother liked his train set. Daddy loved the aftershave my brother bought him.

I loved my toys, loved my Girls World doll head off grandma, and my giant ice cream dolly off Auntie Pat. But I really wanted one of these…

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Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Eighteen): The Sharp R5541 Microwave Oven

‘Ping’ went the steam from my tart

Besides the home computer, there was one other device that any middle class household couldn’t afford to be without. It not only revolutionised the way we made cakes, cooked meat and fish. For many, the sole source of a rushed household’s tea or supper.

A lot of us use the said product for reheating ready meals. Not, in the words of a Marshall Cavendish part-work available at the time, ‘baking cakies’. Today, almost 30 years on, they are almost everywhere. I am referring to the microwave oven. For this entry in particular, it is…

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Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Seventeen): The Tefal Burger Maker

The best value under the bun?

At this time of writing, you may be a little excited over the arrival of Five Guys at Ashton Moss. The close of 1984 may well have been similar when McDonalds’ first Tameside branch opened on Warrington Street, next to the stairs up to Allsports.

With money running tight in many Tameside households, there was several cheaper and better ways. In 1984, a cheap box of burgers from Snow City; or some pristine patties from Donoghue’s in the food section of Ashton Indoor Market. There was another gadget on the market; pretty much of its time, though one that could be just as comfortable with 2014.

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Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Sixteen): The Commodore 64 computer

The world’s best selling single computer format

The Argos Catalogue started selling home computers in 1983. In its Autumn/Winter 1983 edition, the VIC20 and the Mattel Aquarius featured, next to the video games consoles. There was a higher page count for the Atari VCS 2600, Colecovision and the Mattel Intellivision, plus their cartridges.

Then came the Great Video Games Crash of 1983 which saw a number of Pac Man and ET cartridge buried in a desert. Whereas Atari imploded, the British home computer scene flourished. There was Sir Clive Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum (the UK’s biggest selling home computer); the BBC Micro, Models A and B becoming a feature of many 1980s classrooms; last but not least, the Dragon 32. In the Spring/Summer 1984, Argos sold what would become the world’s biggest selling home computer ever, for the first time.

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Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Fifteen): The Malroy Mammoth Shopping Trolley

Come on down!

The spring of 1984 saw the UK launch of a TV programme, which was popular in the United States for several years. As with any programme likely to take off in a big way, it was panned beyond redemption in the Daily Mail. Panned for its exhibition of greed and the lack of British reserve. Yet, the programme was a foretaste of the “Greed is Good” popular capitalism mantra which would seep into British households by the late 1980s. Which is pretty much with us in some circles today, thanks to the government of the day that the Daily Mail fully endorsed.

I shall leave the UK version of The Price is Right alone for now. Well, apart from the fact that Leslie Crowther’s affable patter and tight production by William G. Stewart made for excellent Saturday night television. Whilst participants tried to guess the price of any item, you would have been likely to see in an Argos Catalogue, ‘The Price is Right’ for many households remained – as of now – checkout savings. Supposing we eschewed the hypermarket for Ashton Market, no shopper couldn’t afford to be seen without one of these:

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