CF alumna reflects on 1980s culture resurgence

American culture is going through 1980s resurgence. Big feathered hair, mullets, neon colors, Madonna and Michael Jackson. For those who didn’t live through this era, watching “Stranger Things,” “GLOW” or Stephen King’s “It” is enough for one to get a feeling for the culture of that time.

Melanie Abbas is a CFHS alumna who actually lived through the ’80s and had feathered hair in her 1986 graduation photo to prove it. Abbas is now a Director of IT Educational Technology & Media Services at the University of Northern Iowa since 2016.

In that position, Abbas is the second highest ranking woman in Information Technology at UNI. She directs a department of 14 staff and 20 students to provide technology services to the UNI community to support teaching and learning. Her department also provides media services support for audio and video needs for events and activities across campus. She also teaches classes in UNI’s computer science department, where she attended with multiple scholarships and got her BA degree. She later earned an MS in computer science and a doctorate of technology degree.

Back in the 1980s, Abbas did the classic jobs that Cedar Falls teenagers often still do. “I detasseled one summer, and I was a waitress at Happy Chef restaurant on 1st street,” she said.

Lunch time in the 1980s was similar to today, too. “Open lunches included going to friends’ houses or getting fast food and eating it across the street at the cemetery,” she said.

Abbas remembers one of the major highlights of her senior year: “Winning the state drill team contest in the large school color guard category in December of 1985,” she said.

Yet many traditions from her graduating year have now changed. At that time, the high school had a gym with a rubber floor, which wasn’t compatible with high school dances.  “Costume dances in the rubber gym where we had to take off our shoes and put them in numbered paper sacks,” was an odd custom of the time, Abbas said.

In the 1980s, the high school also had a Sadie Hawkins Day, the now-outdated tradition where the girls would be encouraged to ask boys to a dance.

Abbas also said the high school had “the smoking square” outside for students to smoke, but added, “I did not hang out there.”

Abbas said she would have done at least one thing differently if she had to do high school all over again. “I would not have dated at all and spent more time enjoying time with my female friends,” she said.

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