Editor’s note: This week’s column was originally published in 2014. I came across a humorous, yet thought-provoking article on social media this week. At first it had me laughing, but as I started to give the subject more thought I found myself amazed that so many children from the 1970s — and decades prior — survived to adulthood.
The article was titled: Eight Reasons Children of the 1970s Should all Be Dead. Not the most comforting title, but in hindsight, looking back on my childhood in the ’70s, I had to agree it is a miracle any of us survived.
The eight reasons were as follow: the game lawn darts (also called Jarts), no seat belts, lethal playgrounds, no sunscreen, no bike helmets, lack of adult supervision, allowed to get seriously hurt and second-hand smoke (everywhere).
Reading these I realized we were constantly in danger back in the old days. I can say I remember ALL of these things growing up and miraculously, I survived, without major injury.
The lawn darts game I specifically remember because my mother once accidentally threw one and hit my dad’s new car. Fortunately, it never hit me or other children in the family.
Seat belts? Yeah, we didn’t use those when I was a kid. I remember the seat belts in my mom and dad’s cars ending up pushed down into the seats shortly after the car was purchased and then they were never seen again.
Of course, cars from the 1960s and ’70s were built like small tanks, so they were safer (or so we told ourselves) but it probably would have been wise to wear seat belts.
I wouldn’t call the playgrounds of my youth “lethal” however I did receive my share of injuries there. I have a chipped tooth to this day which was the result of falling face first into the monkey bars. I remember sliding down a slide and landing on a jagged piece of ice jutting up from the frozen water puddle at the bottom of the slide. Even in the early 2000s my daughter fell from playground equipment and broke an arm.
Sunscreen was something we never really thought about until we were already burned to a crisp or red as a lobster.
Bike helmets were for sissies. You wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one and we all wanted to learn how to ride our bikes quickly so no one would see our training wheels.
In general, we didn’t have a lot of adult supervision all the time — hence memories of friends playing with sharp objects, fire and various crude weapons.
I recall frequent injury, most of which we were told if we could stand up and walk it off, we’d be OK. And yes, most adults smoked back in those days, so as children we were subjected to secondhand smoke almost constantly.
Today our kids live in plastic bubbles, or so it seems. They are better protected from all these things, maybe because we are better informed due to our own experiences. Or because the government tells us everything is bad, and they try to make things safer.
Whatever the reason, kids today don’t have to deal with the same daily threats to their well-being as we did growing up. While I think it’s good to be safe, sometimes I think we were better prepared to face the world than many of them are today.
As they say, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Not a theory anyone wants to test with the lives of their children, but we all need to look adversity in the face so we will be tough enough to overcome it.
Gary Gould is the managing editor of the View Newspapers. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org