Oh, the good ol’ days; candy cigarettes, cap guns, and free range parenting. Just like probably all previous generations, those of us who were raised by baby boomers are now getting nostalgic for the days of old. Never mind that I almost burned the house down, nearly cut my toe off, and nearly drowned in the Mississippi river. Never mind that my beloved wife had something like twelve bone breaks, nearly died drinking bleach, and wandered a Vegas casino on her own at the age of four. Most of us made it to adulthood. A little danger is good for evolution, right?
Parents these days, my wife and myself included, are much more cautious about their children. If you’re a parent now, even if you’re not a “helicopter parent”, there are surely things you did as a child that you’d never dream of having your kid do today.
- Waiting in the car – This was something kids did on the regular in the ’70s. Sometimes we had a sibling or cousin in the car to converse with, other times we had conversations with other kids waiting in other cars. If we were really lucky, our parents left the car running so we could have a radio playing and maybe a heater on cold days.
- Riding in the front seat of the car, and even on the armrest – The front armrest was considered the prime seating position in any family sedan or wagon. You’re in front, you can see everything, and you’ve in the middle of the car, so you’re totally safe, right? We didn’t need stinkin’ seat belts, because in those days the distance to the dashboard was much greater.
- Wandering the neighborhood on our own – We a relatively acute awareness of traffic, we memorized back alleys and shortcuts, and we knew where the creepy people lived. As long as we made it home by the time the street lights came on, we were good.
- Standing by the roadside to get a spray from the street sweeper truck – Maybe it’s because in my hometown nobody had a wrench big enough to open a fire hydrant, but a passing street sweeper truck was a neighborhood event on a hot day. Plus, it was a lot more exciting that running through a lawn sprinkler.
- Riding a bike without a helmet – When I was a kid, wearing a helmet to ride your bike would get you beat up for sure. It was better to take your chances with the pavement. Even BMX riders went without a lid.
- Riding a seesaw – We rode real seesaws, not the modern bastardization that only goes two feet in the air and has shock absorption bumpers on the bottoms of the seats. We didn’t have springs and padding, we had a twenty foot board mounted at its midpoint to a metal bar by way of a big hinge thingy. If we were lucky, the big hinge thingy had some kind of bearing to make working the device a bit easier. The seesaw of old was the ultimate instrument in trust-building, because if the other kid got off the thing at the bottom of his swing, you’d eat dirt.
- Lawn darts – My grandpa had a set of these. We thought they were awesome. There’s a version sold now with round weighted heads on the missiles, but we had the original kind with the big metal spike. The originals are outright banned in the US and Canada now.
- Riding in the bed or a pickup truck – This was another summertime treat when we were kids. Now, several states have laws banning or restricting the activity. In California, even dogs aren’t allowed free run of the pickup bed.
- Buying cigarettes and beer for dad – My dad sent me to the store with a note on the regular, a note instructing the cashier to sell me tobacco and alcohol. I usually got to use the change to buy snacks and candy. Also, my mom would send me to the store to cash checks (in the days before ATM machines).
- Sledding on runner sleds – Finding a sled for sale that’s not on the internet is a challenge these days, and many cities in the Midwest and New Jersey have banned sledding. You can usually buy a plastic toboggan, sometimes with a crappy attempt at a steering mechanism that doesn’t work. Another casualty of injury litigation is the “saucer of death”, those aluminum woks we used to dare each other to ride down the hill, spinning hopelessly out of control.
- Mowing lawns for a living – Gone are the days of the neighborhood kid who mows everyone’s lawn for pocket money. Many people are wary these days of letting someone else’s kid onto their property, let alone with yard implements, for fear of getting sued if something bad happens. Moreover some states prohibit anyone under 15 or 16 from operating any tool with a motor, including lawn mowers, weed whackers, and leaf blowers. There doesn’t seem to be a similar ban on garden rake operation, even though they are likely dangerous than a leaf blower.