At a family reunion this weekend, sitting around with my husband Ray’s cousins who grew up together in the 50’s, I was reminded how surprising it is that we all survived our childhoods!
Ray shared with his cousins that he used to order snakes .. including poisonous ones .. through the mail. His parents knew about it and encouraged his interest in herpetology. Unreal!
Here’s a blog I wrote last year about some of the other things that should have killed us as kids in the 50’s. I’m sure many of you will relate!
Those of us in our 60’s like to brag that we lived through a lot of things that parents today worry about incessantly. But some of us – including me – think our parents should have worried a little more!
We all know that cars didn’t have seat belts in the 50’s and we shake our heads remembering how dangerous that must have been – especially since today’s news stories constantly remind us that car seats have to be chosen with extreme care.
Car seats? The only car seats available in the 50’s were designed to “bolster” children so that that they could look out the window and not move around so much. A few early protective car seats began to be used in the 60’s, but it wasn’t until the 70’s that they really got on a roll.
I remember dad driving home from many family parties in the 50’s after partaking of a couple, if not several, Manhattans. We three kids, all 10 and under, would be in the back seat dozing or fighting – probably more of the latter – while mom (who didn’t drive) would hold on tight, work her feet on imaginary pedals and say, as sweetly as possible – “Joe, don’t you think you should drive a little slower, dear?”
I also remember leaving the house early in the morning on lazy Cincinnati summer days and staying out until lunch – or sometimes even until dinner. I would be at a friend’s house on my street, riding my bike up and down neighboring streets, or going to the drugstore a few blocks away to get a Cherry Coke. There were no cell phones and no electronic trackers… in other words, no way for Mom to know where I was. I don’t remember her being all that concerned about it, either.
I asked my husband, Ray, what he remembered about the 1950’s and the dangers lurking for kids in his small town of Gaffney, SC. Riding bicycles with his friends behind the DDT spraying trucks came immediately to mind. Apparently, at that time, in areas where mosquito populations were high, the government decided that spraying a few times a week would help cut down on malaria. Parents, his included, encouraged the fun. DDT was finally banned in 1972.
Here’s a photo if you don’t believe me:
Another story Ray told was about accompanying his mom to Gaffney’s downtown shoe store and getting his feet x-rayed in something called a fluoroscope. The machine, operated by the shoe store salesman, had a little box on the bottom where he would put his feet through in a new pair of shoes. The x-ray would be turned on and Ray’s mom and the salesman could look through the viewing windows to see if the shoes fit well – that is, if there seemed to be enough room for all of the bones in his feet. According to articles I found on the internet, the only safety shield on the fluoroscope was a tiny layer of aluminum and the manufacturers’ brochures recommended that the stores place the fluoroscope in the middle of the store for easy access.
Sometimes, Ray and his friends would stick their hands in the hole and look at each others’ bones. The kids loved it! What fun!
These stories, of course, highlight only a few of the hazards we faced in the 1950’s. Toy arrows with rubber tips that could be taken off easily, a radioactive science kit called the Atomic Energy Lab, baby oil that we slathered on our skins for a great sunburn, mercury that we played with when thermostats broke, skating and biking without helmets or knee pads, drinking out of garden hoses … I could go on and on.
So, what were our parents thinking? Well, to be fair to them, they were probably not very clear about the best way to raise kids, especially when they were bombarded with ads like these …
Now that I think about it, we are pretty lucky that we made it into the 1960’s, much less into our 60’s!!