We, The Kids of the ’60s and the ’70s

I don’t like receiving “joke” e-mails or those that purport to offer some profundity on life. I’d say that 99 percent of the time, they’re either not funny or too syrupy for my taste. To me, they’re the product of someone, somewhere, having too much time in their hands.

But today my brother sent me one that falls in the 1 percent. I don’t agree with it completely, and I do think some of the changes that have occurred are for the better. But it does address this nagging notion that’s been floating around in my head for a while, namely how we, in North America, have forgotten what makes for moments of simple happiness during childhood, and how my nieces’ and nephew’s childhood memories, unlike my own, will be of structured activities that often lacked soul (though they won’t know the difference) and were entirely too concerned with “safety.”

Here is that missive, from Author Unknown.

You lived as a child in the ’60s or the ’70s. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we have managed to live as long as we have.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat. Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!)

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

Horrors. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem. 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. No cell phones.

Unthinkable. We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents? We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it. We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda but we were seldom overweight because we were always outside playing. We shared one grape soda with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from this.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X Boxes, video games at all, 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cellular phones, personal computers, Internet chat rooms, … we had friends next door. We went outside and found them. We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s home and knocked on the door, or rung the bell or just walked in and talked to them.

Imagine such a thing. Without asking a parent! By ourselves! Out there in the cold cruel world! Without a guardian. How did we do it? How did we survive?

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever.

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 so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade…

Horrors. Tests were not adjusted for any reason. Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was practically unheard of. They actually sided with the law, imagine that!

The generation of people who were kids during the ’60s and ’70s has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to. And you’re one of them, so congratulations!