Ah, for those dangerous days of yore
By Janine Wiehl
The real question is, how will we (this current generation) survive? 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 seatbelts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.
Our baby cribs were painted with bright-colored lead-based paint. We often chewed on the crib, ingesting the paint.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, or locks on doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.
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 played with toy guns, cowboys and Indians, army, cops and robbers, and used our fingers to simulate guns when the toy ones or the BB gun was not available.
We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda, but we were never overweight; we were always outside playing.
Little League had tryouts, and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.
Some students weren't as smart as others or didn't work hard, so they failed a grade and were back to repeat the same grade.
Almost all of us would have rather gone swimming in the lake instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring). The term cellphone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pager was the school P.A. system.
We all took gym, not P.E. ... and risked permanent injury with a pair of high-top Keds (only worn in gym) instead of having cross-training athletic shoes with air-cushion soles and built-in light reflectors.
I can't recall any injuries, but they must have happened because they tell us how much safer we are now.
Flunking gym was not an option ... even for the stupid kids. I guess P.E. must be much harder than gym.
Every year, someone taught the whole school a lesson by running in the halls with leather soles on linoleum tile and hitting the wet spot. How much better off would we be today if we only knew we could have sued the school system.
Speaking of school, we all said prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance (amazing we aren't all brain dead from that).
Staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention for about the next two weeks. We must have had horribly damaged psyches.
Schools didn't offer 14-year-olds an abortion or condoms (we wouldn't have known what either was, anyway) but they did give us a couple of baby aspirin and cough syrup if we started getting the sniffles. What an archaic health system we had then. Remember school nurses? Ours wore a hat and everything.
I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I was allowed to be proud of myself.
I just can't recall how bored we were without computers, PlayStation, Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital cable stations. I must be repressing that memory as I try to rationalize through the denial of the dangers that could have befallen us as we trekked off each day about a mile down the road to some guy's vacant lot, built forts out of branches and pieces of plywood, made trails and fought over who got to be the Lone Ranger.
What was that property owner thinking, letting us play on that lot? He should have been locked up for not putting up a fence around the property, complete with a self-closing gate and an infrared intruder alarm.
Oh, yeah ... and where was the Benadryl and sterilization kit when I got that bee sting? I could have been killed.
We played king of the hill on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites, and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of mercurochrome and then we got butt-whooped. Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $49 bottle of antibiotics and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.
We didn't act up at the neighbor's house, either, because if we did, we got butt-whooped (physical abuse) there, too ... and then we got butt-whooped again when we got home.
Mom invited the door-to-door salesman inside for coffee, kids choked down the dust from the gravel driveway while playing with Tonka trucks (remember why Tonka trucks were made tough ... it wasn't so that they could take the rough berber in the family room), and Dad drove a car with leaded gas.
Our music had to be left inside when we went out to play. I am sure that I nearly exhausted my imagination a couple of times when we went on two-week vacations. I should probably sue the folks now for the danger they put us in when we all slept in campgrounds in the family tent.
Summers were spent behind the push lawnmower, and I didn't even know that mowers came with motors until I was 13 and we got one without an automatic blade-stop or an auto-drive. How sick were my parents?
Of course, my parents weren't the only psychos. I recall Harry Hinson from next door coming over and doing his tricks on the front stoop just before he fell off. Little did his mom know that she could have owned our house. Instead, she picked him up and swatted him for being such a goof.
It was a neighborhood run amok.
To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family. How could we possibly have known that we needed to get into group therapy and anger-management classes? We were obviously so duped by so many societal ills that we didn't even notice that the entire country wasn't taking Prozac.
That generation produced some of the greatest risk-takers and problem-solvers. We had the freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
How did we survive?