I promised myself that I wouldnt make a lot of social commentary on this web site .... but...
have witnessed a trend in America that troubles me deeply.
Kids are no longer allowed to get hurt. They are overly protected
and coddled to the point that they rarely experience what it
means to GET hurt or injured. Kids learn most things by example.
They learn what's safe and what's not by the little scrapes and
bruises that WE learned "back in the day". These little injuries
are a reminder that "I'm not doing THAT again!" and we become
more thoughtful about our actions as we progress through childhood.
Today, many of the ways we got hurt have disappeared, and if you listen to
todays parent, it makes you wonder in amazement how WE managed to
survive at all! How for example did we manage to ride our bikes
without a helmet throughout our growing years without getting killed?
There should have been dead kids laying about on every block if
you believe what you hear today. That's a photo of me in the old
City Park . I rode a couple of thousand miles growing up and
still lived to tell it.|
OUR PLAYGROUNDS This
is the school I attended. Mercer School was like any other in
Charleston. It had hard-packed playgrounds with gravel scattered
about. See that killer slide? (more later)
If you fell off the swing or other child killing
device like the dreaded jungle gym, (no longer allowed)
more than likely got tiny pieces of gravel in your wound. These little
injuries better prepared us and kept us from getting seriously hurt
later in life. Today, most all playgrounds are covered in mulch or that
smelly shredded rubber. Lord knows that little "Snowflake the
miracle child" ( did you notice how many more miracle children there
are today?) should fall on something soft. Course, too many
parents are sue-happy today and will sue the Board of Education at the
drop of a hat... or the drop of a Snowflake.....
The slide that killed kids daily! We just piled the bodies in the basement to be picked-up at the end of the day
The dreaded Teeter Totter, where when one kid hopped off, a herniated disk was sure to follow
OTHER WAYS TO KILL US I'm
not saying that the following examples are safe, or that they shouldnt
have been corrected. I'm just saying that somehow we managed to
live through all these "killers" without dying on the spot, or by age
30 at least. But sometimes we go overboard in our concern.
Let's take a look at what us kids had to deal with.
THE DDT FOG TRUCK
summer the DDT fog truck would drive throughout my neighborhood
spraying a fine fog of pesticide that us kids ran behind and played in
for blocks at a time. You couldnt even see the kid standing 3
feet next to you, and yet after all that, we didnt drop dead like the
flies it was killing.|Can you believe this? DDT wallpaper for babies!
Bet some of those babies are reading this right now
Handing out DDT free to people of our area. This was across the street from the Virginian Theater.
more homes than not, people used space heaters like the one
above. We had at least four of them. Some of them had radiants that
glowed and sparkled when hot. This was asbestos applied to the
radiants to give it that look. There was usually asbestos panels
behind the heater and sometimes under it.
grew up across from the largest rail-yard in the city. Those
engines and boxcars ran day and night, 24-7. Guess what stopped
those heavy trains? Asbestos brakes. That asbestos floated
through the air for years and I somehow managed to survive. But
there was a danger worse than asbestos: We kids would cross part
of the rail yard by crawling under the trains. We didnt know half
the time if the boxcars were hooked up to the engine and if they were
going to start moving. It's
a miracle we lived. MERCURY As
kids, many of us played with Mercury. My mom actually encouraged
it, as she told me stories of how she and her friends used to shine-up
dimes with mercury when she was a kid. (she lived to be 83)
When I was around 13, I had a full pint of mercury. I "think" one of the guys at a chemical plant
gave it to me. I played with that mercury for two years or more.
I carried it around in my pockets for months. I shined
dimes and anything else I could find. I dropped it all over my bedroom
floor and it was probably still there when they tore the house down 20
years later. NOW.... if one drop of mercury is found in a public
place like a school or business, the entire place is closed-off
and people in Haz-Mat suits are hired at great expense to remove it!
Heck, I'll remove it for ten bucks wearing nothing but shorts and
a T shirt! Oh... remember when every Jr High chemistry or science
lab had a big bottle of mercury? Remember when we performed
all sorts of neat experiments? The chemical
plants used marbles in some of their processes, and some of the guys
would bring me big bags of them after they were used. God only
knows what was on them as me and my friend played for years with
I was a kid, there was no such thing as seat belts. There were no
baby car seats. We rolled around in the car like monkeys.
We sometimes even rode in the back window ledge! (you never
did that?) The dashboards were pure steel and most cars had bench
seats, which meant that you could slide from one side to the other in a
sharp curve. Ahhh... the good ole days! Now, I'm in no way
advocating this in any way. I'm just saying that somehow we
managed to live through it all.
of our favorite past times as kids was to snow surf. We didnt use
a board or even a hill. We would hide behind a parked car and
wait for a passing car to stop at the intersection. Then we'd
sneak up behind that car and grab onto the bumper. (couldnt do that
today because plastic bumpers have no where to grab onto). Then
off we'd go down the street at the mercy of the driver. We never knew
how fast he'd drive or if the cops would see us. We'd go for
blocks sometimes, and our biggest fear was the cars behind us... should we
hit a dry spot and roll out in front of them. Good times, good
times! HOPPING TRAINS I'll
bet that 50% of the boys who lived anywhere near the railroad tracks
hopped trains. I've even known girls who hopped trains. It wasnt
unusual for us to travel to the West Side and back again this way.
Dangerous? You bet! Hanging onto the ladder and hoping that
the train would go slow enough to hop off was the fear. Most
trains were easier to get on than off. And if the train didnt
slow down, you might wind-up in Nitro.. or worse! I COULD GO ON AND ON....
used to climb the rock quarry at the end of Capitol street.
Crumbly sandstone that gave way with every foothold. We
walked all over town at nighttime, when the biggest fear wasnt
child molesters or druggies, but the cops catching you out after
curfew. We threw rocks at each other and went into abandoned
caves so dangerous that animals wouldnt even enter. We got cut,
and bruised and yes, even broke bones. But if nothing else,
we learned in the long run what pain was. And we thought twice
about doing it again. (some of us took several times however). We
woke up to skies so polluted by chemical
plants that we couldnt see the hillside 200 yards away. We grew
up breathing this stuff, and yet most of us are still here to talk
about it. Boys especially arent being allowed to do what boys do
naturally anymore. They are protected and raised closer to girls
boys in many cases.
Today's Snowflake is so protected that I'm afraid
that when he or she DOES get injured, it's going to be much more
serious than otherwise need be. Again, I'm not advocating
any of the above. I'm just saying that there's a fine line
between being careful.... and running scared.
Back to Index