There was something I saw online a while ago about being a child of the '50s. Well, I am a product of the '60s. Gasp. I’m still alive and I’m healthy. That is such a remarkable thing because listening to news stories product recalls or even doctors it’s a wonder that children reached the ripe old age of 10 or saw the turn of the decade.
When I grew up, there weren’t car seats for babies. Dad devised this nifty bed with hooks that set over the back of the front seat and we’d lay there within easy reach of mom’s loving hands. There were no seat belts, or air conditioners, for that matter. We drove with the windows down and our hair blowing in the hot breeze. Our hands would brace against the wind and, surprisingly, nothing came along and knocked off our hands.
We drank Kool-Aid with real sugar, even the red flavors. We ate cookies and popcorn, and chased the ice cream truck, but it was OK because we burned up all those calories playing outside, or doing our chores. We rode our bikes, refurbished ones that looked brand new because we were poor but didn’t know it, and played games that involved forts, cowboys and Indians, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. An old beat up saw horse was Trigger and the saddle was pure imagination. We held off armies with sticks, and believe it or not we didn’t put our eyes out.
Shoes came off the last day of school, and except for shopping on Saturday and church on Sunday, our feet didn’t see a shoe all summer. Flip-flops and sandals kept the heat and the stickers off the soles just fine in the beginning and then we “toughened up” and didn’t need the things.
When we got a little older, our games involved dress-up with old clothes gathered from our moms. We’d let down the attic stairs and pretend we were Miss America coming down those rickety steps. Who cares if Miss America had sweat drops beading her upper lip and her hair clung to her forehead? We were beautiful.
If there were just two Cokes in the refrigerator, we’d pass one around so everyone would get a swig, and save the other for tomorrow. To cool our throats, we’d turn on the hose and satisfy our thirst that way. Of course, everyone would get wet, it was part of the fun. Nobody had ever heard of cold water mold, and bacteria was something that hung out in sick rooms, not on water hoses. We’d let the water run a little while until all the hot water stored in the hose ran out. No harm in that, was there?
When it rained, we’d play in the water rushing down the ditches, never thinking there might be a broken bottle in them or a rusty can, because folks didn’t toss trash out into other people’s yards back then. I climbed trees and hauled my books up into the tree in a plastic bucket, and spend the afternoon reading where the cool breezes blew. No such thing as air conditioning. We didn’t have cable, or DVDs or even videotapes. We didn’t have anything for entertainment but wild and wooly imaginations. Black and white TV and an AM radio was how our parents kept up with news; and evening entertainment meant I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, To Tell The Truth, and everyone knew who Allen Funk was.
When we wanted to see a friend, we rode our bikes or walked. When we got there we usually just walked in because no one kept their doors locked.
Holidays were such fun. Both sides had huge families so when we’d all get together the kids were shooed outside to play and the grown-ups would visit: women in the kitchen and men on the porch or in the big room. The TV never came on. It was conversation that was the diversion and family news was exciting. Holidays were all about sitting on the porch listening to the brothers talk about the funny things they did when they were kids; and hiding behind the rocking chair listening to the women talk about all kinds of things.
Holidays were yummy things my Aunt Marian, Aunt Ollie Bell, Aunt Alease, Aunt Lou Ann, and Mom conjured up in the kitchen with fabulous aromas which reached the backyard barn drawing us kids from everywhere. But it was OK, because there weren’t any X-Boxes, computer games or iPods to make a child’s activity cease burning up those calories. We had just spent hours swinging on ropes from hay bale to hay bale high above the barn floor, or sliding down the old metal oat bin lid.
We walked to the store to get ice cream when the ice cream truck quit running, we had to rake the mowed grass and leaves to earn an allowance. We never felt tortured or ill-used because everyone was expected to do chores. We tasted the dog food because the dog liked it so much, it had to be good. My sister put rocks in her mouth, and let lizards hang from her ear lobes. She’s still alive and healthy…it’s a wonder.