MILWAUKEE COUNTY, WI — If you are a child of the '80s, you remember circling items in the Sears Christmas catalog. Long before PlayStation 5, holiday shoppers got into fisticuffs over Cabbage Patch Dolls.
Eva Welch, co-founder and director of Street Angels Milwaukee Outreach for the homeless, was self-isolating after contracting the coronavirus. She spent the time gathering mementos from her childhood and ended up creating a "totally '80s" Christmas tree.
The tree also has references to throwback magazines such as "Teen Beat" and "Bop Magazine."
"If you didn't have a wall like this in the '80s, were you ever a '80s kid?" Welch asked.
Totally outrageous collection
Before getting sick, Welch was interested in reliving her childhood memories from the flashy and colorful decade. Welch already had a few McDonald's Happy Meals toys from the '80s such as mini Cabbage Patch Dolls and Fraggle Rock cars. She also had the old View-Master.
She posted a message on Facebook asking people if they were selling or donating old toys. One friend gave her a lunchbox, and another friend gave her a few New Kids on the Block dolls.
Welch even used guilt to her advantage when messaging her brother.
"I called him and asked if he remembered breaking my Barbie dollhouse when I was 8. He sent me $100 and told me to shut up and buy new toys," Welch told Patch.
She didn't replace the dollhouse but ended up purchasing a Cabbage Patch doll and a Punky Brewster doll on eBay.
She told Patch that during her nostalgia trip, she remembered "You Can't Do That On Television" and "Small Wonder," a sitcom about a girl robot who lives in a house with a couple and their son.
While she has been in quarantine, Welch has spent time playing with the dolls and other items.
"I was changing the Cabbage Patch Kids' clothes and staging the New Kids on the Block. I'm actually waiting on the stage to come in," Welch said.
She admits some of the vintage toys are hard to find and also quite expensive. Welch said she hopes to go to the thrift stores and rummage sales in search of treasures.
"I need money to actually buy Christmas presents," she laughed.
Back to simpler times
Welch was shocked at the response to her tree and her collection efforts. Many people on her Facebook page reminisced about their favorite toys.
Even her mother wrote, "I totally agree she actually brought tears to my eyes for I'm her mom and truly brought memories to me. Man I LOVE MY DAUGHTER."
Welch said her mother was one of the parents fighting over the Cabbage Patch dolls back in 1983.
Welch said her favorite Christmas toy was a plush Wuzzle Eleroo doll, half elephant, and half kangaroo. "The Wuzzles" was a popular cartoon in the '80s. Welch remembered bringing the toy everywhere she went.
The throwback to her childhood has helped Welch get through the pandemic. Normally, she sees her other Street Angels often, and it has been tough to not see them.
Every year, the Street Angels — who provide resources and service to the homeless community — hold a Christmas party. Due to the pandemic, they can't offer that.
Instead, Welch plans to hold an '80s employee party with her other two other Street Angels. She purchased a record player and some old records.
"We plan on leaving our worries at the door and channeling our former 8-year-old," she said.
The party will be complete with experiments using Mentos and Coke or maybe Pop Rocks and Coke. According to the urban legend, the concoction allegedly led to the early demise of the kid from the '80s cereal commercials.
For now, Welch has her tree to remind her of happy times.
"It made me feel good in a time that is not so good," Welch said.
She added that nostalgia is a reminder that one's childhood is over but also a reminder of not having the worries of bills, the pandemic, politics and other concerns.
"It is about going back to simpler times," Welch said.