I’m now about to enter my late sixties. I marvel at the advances of the last sixty years, and marvel even more that those of us who grew up without all of today’s safeguards have survived to tell about it. The way lots of people figure it, all of us over about the age of forty should be dead. Here’s why.

HitchhikerAccording to today’s regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 1950s, 1960s, or even maybe the early 1970s probably shouldn’t have survived. Our baby cribs were covered with bright lead-based paint. We had no child-proof lids or latches on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets. And when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we rode in cars with no seatbelts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose—or sometimes even the ditch—and not from a bottle.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from a single bottle, and no one actually died from this. We spent hours building 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.

Playing outsideWe left home in the morning and played all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on.Go cart No one was able to reach us all day. No one had cell phones! Unthinkable! We did not have Play Stations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, or any video games at all. We did not have ninety-nine (or more) channels on cable. We did not have videotape or DVD movies, surround sound, personal computers, or Internet chat rooms. We had friends! We went outside and found them.

We played dodge ball, and sometimes the ball really hurt. We fell out of trees, got cut, and broke bones and teeth, but there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it. 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 LeagueLittle 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. Tests were not adjusted for any reason. Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sidedClimbing tree with the law.

Despite all that—or, more probably, because of all that—my generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem-solvers and inventors ever. The past fifty years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success, and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

Note: I wish this was original to me. It’s not. But it sure could have been: I remember doing every one of these things but two: I never built a go-cart, and I never ate worms. At least not that I remember. And it was my brother who played Little League, not me (that’s him in that tree—which, incidentally, he did fall out of, breaking his leg in two places). And I didn’t get held back in school; Us and Reedersin fact, I skipped a grade—but here’s how smart I was: until I was a senior in high school, I thought they moved me up because I was too tall: five-foot-nine in third grade; absolutely mutant. Check out this pic of me and my brother—also very tall for his age—in the alfalfa field out back: I’m the really tall one; my brother is wearing the hat. The other two kids? The boy next to me is my age, the girl on my other side is a year older than me and four years older than my brother. See? Mutant. 

I’ve seen this great write-up in more places than I can count all over the internet, and have never succeeded in finding the original source, because no one else seems to know it either. So I guess this is one more place you’ll find it without proper citation; just know I did the best I could. And I hope you enjoyed it! 


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