Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we have lived as
long as we have. As children, we would ride in cars with
no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup
truck on a warm day was always a special treat. Our
houses and baby cribs were covered with bright colored
lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine
bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes,
we had no helmets. (Not to mention hitchhiking to town
as a young kid!) We slept without flame retardant pajamas,
without air conditioning, with doors and windows open.
Our dogs did not have rabies shots, distemper shots, parvo
shots, and we didn’t pour chemicals on them or on us to
repel fleas and ticks and mosquitoes. We followed along in
the big white clouds sprayed out by the city trucks to kill
mosquitoes breathing in the wonderful smell of DDT. We
raced around town without adults on Halloween collecting
treats and eating them as we went along without having
them x-rayed first. We drank water from the garden hose
and not from a bottle. We would spend hours building our
go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only
to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the
bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem. We
would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long
as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was
able to reach us all day.
We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really
hurt. We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, fried fat back for
breakfast along with biscuits made with pure lard, and drank
sugar sodas, but we were never overweight… we were always
outside playing. We played with cap pistols and toy rifles and
rubber knives. We took snakes or frogs or lizards to school,
but never guns.
We waded barefoot through muddy water in ditches catching
tadpoles and crawdads. We cut the grass with push mowers,
climbed trees, and walked along the top of fences like they
were tight ropes. We petted stray dogs and cats and took
them home to see if we could keep them. We shot off fireworks
without supervision or safety precautions and without getting
arrested. We made match guns out of clothes pins and shot
flaming matches at each other and at passing cars.
We walked or rode our bicycles to and from school in the
flaming heat, in the freezing cold, and in the pouring rain.
We were not afraid to accept a ride home from a total stranger
when it was raining. We knocked on strangers’ doors without
fear when we were searching for our missing puppy or kitten.
We left our bicycle lying in the middle of the front yard at night,
and it would still be there in the morning.
There were tryouts for cheerleader and Little League, and not
everyone made the teams. Those who didn’t had to learn to
deal with disappointment. Some students weren’t as smart as
others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the
same grade as many times as necessary. We didn’t wear
designer clothes to school or drive shinny new cars to high
school. If we had a car to drive, we were happy with anything
that would run no matter what it looked like. We had never
even heard of seatbelts or airbags, which probably not done
any good anyway with ten people packed into a Volkswagen.
That generation produced some of the best risk-takers and
problem solvers. We had freedom, failure, success and
responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all. And if
you’re one of them. Congratulations!