According to today’s fun police, regulators, bureaucrats, and the legion of namby pamby, (those that believe any child on the loose from the protective environment of their home is a menace to themselves and the environment in general), in the community, we, me and every one of us who were kids in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s probably shouldn’t have survived beyond the age of perhaps 10 years of age.
Yes! I think I just heard you ask why?
Our baby cots were covered with brightly coloured lead based paint, which was promptly chewed and licked.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, which were often purloined and emptied to become storage devices for a myriad of things that we may have come across during the day. These often included bugs, beetles, and spiders which invariably ended up being dropped in some unsuspecting kids lap. Doors and cabinets often had no latches thus any object found within became objects of play especially pots and pans.
When we rode our bicycles we wore no helmets, often barefoot or in a simple pair of canvas sandshoes, gumboots, or whatever was available and we had fluorescent clackers on our wheels. We rode through the mud across the grass, through the pine trees of the town belt, a place where one had to be extra careful or else a slide on the pine needle would ensure the pine trees would wear us.
As children we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the passenger seat was a treat. But remember airbags and seat belts hadn’t yet been invented. Nor kiddie lock doors or baby seats and carriers. A ride in a car was an adventure in itself.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle – tasted the same. Not that bottled water was available then. Often from a creek or stream, it didn’t taste any different either. One place we never tried was the duck pond at the zoo, it just didn’t look right. Albeit one or two of us fell in it, or perhaps were pushed on occasions, whilst looking for duck eggs on the sly, and having climbed the fence to do so.
We ate dripping sandwiches, bread and butter pudding and drank fizzy pop with sugar in it, but were never overweight because we were always outside playing. There were no such things as Play stations or X –Boxes, no video games at all. No 99 channels on TV. TV did not arrive in New Zealand until 1960 and it took some time to spread throughout the country. No videotapes, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, and no Internet chat rooms. We had friends – we went outside and found them.
We shared one drink with friends, from one bottle or can and no one actually died from this.
We would spend hours building go-karts out of scraps of whatever and then went top speed down the hill, only to find we forgot the brakes. After running into stinging nettles a few times, we learned to solve the problem. Occasionally we would roll them trying to avoid an unsuspecting neighbour stepping out their gate, that was a problem that went unresolved.
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back before it got dark. No one was able to reach us all day and no one minded provided we arrived home in time for dinner.
We played elastics and street rounders and sometimes that ball really hurt. Street cricket and softball. We sped down hills like lunatics on steel wheeled roller skates, one of the most dangerous inventions that seemed soley devised to cause serious gravel rash should you not manage to hold your balance. Broken bones were not uncommon.
We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits. They were accidents. We learned not to do the same thing again.
We had fights, punched each other hard and got black and blue – we learned to get over it. Bullying when it occurred was dealt with the hard way, win or lose you got respect and were not bothered again.
We walked to friend’s homes and nobody bothered you. Communities looked out for their children, no matter what or who they were.
We played King of the Mountain on any convenient hill or mound of earth, attempting to avoid displacement and hurl all who would try to depose you back down the hill. In the wet and the mud was best albeit our mothers would voice their displeasure when we did so.
We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate live stuff, and although we were told it would happen, we did not have very many eyes out, and nor did the live stuff live inside us forever.
We rode bicycles in packs of 7 and wore our coats only by the hood.
Living in a city with beaches an wharves available we would walk miles to spend the days fishing. Sometimes locating eels in a stream on the way home we might be lucky enough to catch one and having skewered it on a sharp stick carry it home.
Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. You accepted the consequences and learnt from them.
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law. We were taught to have respect for the law. Unlike the carry on today. Imagine that!
These generations have produced some of the best risk takers, problem solvers and inventors, ever. They have provided an explosion of innovation and new ideas. They had freedom, failure, success, and responsibility, and they learned how to deal with it all.
If you are one of them – Congratulations.
You had the luck to grow up as real kids, before lawyers and government bureaucrats began regulating our lives, for our own good and stuffing it up for generations to come.