Another five things Southampton children of the 1990s will
remember

Another five things Southampton children of the 1990s will remember

If you grew up in Southampton during the 1990s, then buckle up for a trip down memory lane! In fact, even if you weren’t a child at the time, you’ll probably remember them all anyway.

This article – our second in the series – will take you on a nostalgic journey, exploring the fads, fun, and everyday adventures that defined childhood in this vibrant city.

READ MORE: 5 things Southampton children of the 90s will remember – part 1

From conquering the concrete maze at Mayflower Park to mastering the latest yo-yo trick, we’ll delve into the playgrounds, pastimes, and pop culture that ignited the imaginations of Southampton kids in the 90s.

So, dust off your Furbys and put on your jelly shoes – it’s time to revisit a simpler time when Southampton streets echoed with the laughter and adventures of youngsters.


Quasar

When Quasar opened in the late 1980s Southampton hadn’t seen anything quite like it before.

It was a popular laser tag arena in Ocean Village during the 1990s, known for being a fun place for friends and families to play exciting laser tag games.

It was designed and built with multiple levels, ramps, obstacles and neon lights to create a more dynamic and strategic game environment.

Players would wear vests equipped with sensors and carry phaser-like laser guns to tag their opponents.

Quasar.Quasar. (Image: Echo)

Games typically involved teams competing to score points by tagging opposing players, although variations in game modes were sometimes offered.

Although fairly short-lived, it was a cherished spot for locals in the 90s, especially for youngsters.

It all seemed like great fun at the time but there were constant problems.

The technology was in its infancy and the packs would frequently experience difficulties. The chipboard scenery quickly looked tatty and dog-eared too.

But it was Southampton’s first taste of laser tag and as a result, was much loved.


Tamagotchi

In 1997, Tamagotchis became the must-have accessories.

These little keychain gadgets were virtual pets that required constant care – feeding, cleaning, and playing with them to keep them happy and alive.

Many a schoolyard argument arose over whose Tamagotchi thrived the longest!

The name Tamagotchi is a portmanteau of the Japanese words “tamago” (egg) and “wotchi” (a Japanese approximation of the English word “watch”).

The characters were designed in a cute, pixelated style and resembled a variety of pets or fantasy creatures.

Basic needs like hunger, happiness, and cleanliness had to be monitored through icons on the small LCD screen. If these needs weren’t met, the Tamagotchi would become unhappy or even sick.

TamagotchiTamagotchi

As your Tamagotchi matured, it would evolve into different characters.

The goal was to keep the Tamagotchi alive and happy for as long as possible, helping it reach its final adult form.

Tamagotchi became a huge success, selling more than 80 million units worldwide by 1999.

It was a pioneer in the digital pet genre and spawned numerous imitators.

Tamagotchis are still around today, though they’ve undergone significant changes.

Modern devices feature colour screens, more complex characters, and even the ability to connect with other Tamagotchis.

The core gameplay loop of caring for your virtual pet, however, remains the same.


Balloon and Flower Festival

The heart of the festival in the 1990s was no doubt the vibrant display of hot air balloons.

People would flock to witness these colourful giants ascend and grace the skies.

However, the event wasn’t just about hot air balloons. It also incorporated a flower show, adding another dimension to the festivities. In fact, the agricultural side of things was the sole focus when the event began back on Southampton Common in 1947.

The festival thrived throughout the years, reaching its peak attendance in the mid-1990s. Estimates suggest nearly half a million people participated, showcasing the event’s massive popularity.

As the festival grew, so did logistical challenges.

The increasing number of flights from Southampton Airport posed safety concerns regarding hot air balloon operations. Additionally, securing sponsors became more difficult.

Balloon and Flower FestivalBalloon and Flower Festival (Image: Echo)

Unfortunately, these challenges proved insurmountable. Together with rising costs, the difficult decision was made to cancel the festival in 2005, marking the end of an era.

Despite its cancellation, the Southampton Balloon Festival holds a special place in the hearts of many residents.

There have been calls to revive the event, with petitions garnering significant support.

While challenges regarding airport proximity remain, discussions about alternative solutions, such as tethered balloon displays or light shows, keep the hope alive for a potential comeback of this cherished Southampton tradition.


Yoyos

 The 1990s saw the UK swept up in a full-blown yo-yo craze.

Owning a Coca-Cola “spinner”, as they were often called, became a status symbol.

Kids would brag about their throws and tricks, with the best skills garnering playground admiration.

Coca-Cola yoyoCoca-Cola yoyo

Soft drink branded “spinners” also included Fanta and Sprite.

Mastering tricks like “walk the dog” and “around the world” became a badge of honour. Playgrounds would be filled with kids practising and showing off their skills.

Some yo-yo companies even sent out demo teams to schools, performing tricks and igniting the yo-yo frenzy further.

These events often included sales and opportunities to learn from the pros.


Maze at Mayflower Park

The concrete maze at Mayflower Park was a thing of pure delight for youngsters. In actuality, it was a concrete monstrosity!

Paths weaved around a hexagonal shape, leading to a raised centre where trepid explorers who found their way could stand, gloat and guide their lagging friends through the concrete warren.

Maze at Mayflower ParkMaze at Mayflower Park. Possibly in the 1970s.

Young children would slowly meander around it, hoping they wouldn’t get stuck – despite the walls only being a couple of feet high and easily seen over!

Older children would simply climb over it – often the cause of scrapes and cuts on the knees – obligatory war wounds of fun times had on Mayflower Park.

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