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Old Things That Are Tough To Explain: Lack of Safety Precautions

June 28, 2016
WE didn't HAVE to do this. It was merely a suggestion. (image via wikimedia)

We didn’t HAVE to do this. It was merely a suggestion. (image via wikimedia)

The monkey bars at our local park just got taken down because a kid broke his arm on them a few weeks ago.  At least, that’s the rumor, and I’m pretty sure it’s true.  The park still has some slides and see-saws and exercise equipment, but it’s kind of bare.  When I was a kid, parks had more stuff.  We had merry go rounds (that we shot bottle rockets off of), monkey bars (that we’d break our arms on), and sand boxes (that somebody peed in).  Most of those are gone now.

“That’s stupid,” my youngest daughter said when I told her why the bars were no longer in the park.

I don’t trust my daughter’s opinion on a lot of things.  She doesn’t understand liability, hospital bills, and stuff like that.  She knows a kid who got her toes sliced on an ice rink, so she understands inherent risk.  The ice rink is still open, but part of that might be because parents have to sign waivers.  I’m not sure the waivers mean much.  A lawyer friend of mine laughs every time we have to sign waivers at a kid’s party.

“These don’t mean sh*t,” he declares, and he signs them without reading them.  He’s my friend, but I don’t know how good of a lawyer he is.  He travels a lot, though, and his house and cars are bigger than mine.  As far as I remember, my parents didn’t have to sign many waivers when I was a kid.  Life was more dangerous back then, and we didn’t know it.

My daughters look at me bewildered when I tell them that seat belts were not mandatory when I was growing up.  Parents usually forced their kids to wear them but often didn’t do so themselves.  That way, the kids might be orphaned after a traffic accident, but at least they’d still be alive.  Kids didn’t have to wear helmets while riding bikes.  Skateboarders didn’t wear pads, and we intentionally chose streets with the steepest hills to try our stunts.

We used to ride unrestrained in the back of pick up trucks.  My hair always looked great after riding in the back of a pick up truck.  No hair dryer could get my hair to look as good as it did after riding in the back of a pick up truck.  If that pick up truck had ever been in a wreck, I don’t want to think about how far (and fast) my body would have flown and how many places where they would have found my body parts.  At least the hair on what was left of my corpse would have looked good.

When I was a kid, bottles didn’t have child safety caps.  If I wanted to swallow a bunch of aspirin (that’s what we called pain relief medicine back then), I could open a bottle and chug down a bunch of pills.  We had easy access to a bunch of cleaning fluids too.  Nobody I know ever drank any though.  Our parents would have killed us if we did.

We even had a song about it, based on Comet, a prominent cleaner of the time.  I’m not sure what tune it was based on, but the lyrics went like this:


It makes your teeth turn green/


It tastes like gasoline/


It makes you vomit/

So eat some Comet/

And vomit/


I didn’t write those lyrics, but I recognize the genius behind them.  We were too young to worry about body image, so all of us hated vomiting, so therefore nobody would eat Comet or anything like it.  But we knew somebody must have done it because otherwise nobody would have written that song.

Pre-teens used to have paper routes.  Some kid in a nearby town got killed while he was doing his morning paper route, and the next day another kid took his place.  The paper route was a popular job.  At the time, I wanted a paper route too.  Now, it’s adults who do the paper routes, even though nobody really wants the newspapers anymore.

During the summer I could eat breakfast and tell my mom I was playing outside all day, and it would be okay.  Lots of kids played outside, baseball in the streets, riding bikes down steep hills, swimming in backyard pools while the home owners were at work.  It was great.  Then cable TV was invented.  Once we had cable, there was no need to go outside anymore.

Parents today sometimes yearn for the good ol’ days.  I like that kids are supervised.  If I go to the mall and see a bunch of unsupervised kids running around, I get annoyed.  Kids should get bossed around as much as possible.  It prepares them for their adult lives.  Plus, being supervised makes them safer.  All that freedom I had running around, it was great, but I was probably lucky I didn’t get killed.

I’m really glad I didn’t get killed.


What do you think?  How dangerous was your daily routine when you were growing up?  What safety precautions do you remember not having back then?


And for more about old things that are tough to explain, read Old Things That Are Tough To Explain: You Could Only Watch It Once.

From → Pop culture

  1. I did all that! The pickup truck rides were especially thrilling! Now if we see such a scene we feel as if we should report it! Crazy right?

  2. I rode in the beds of pick up trucks with a dozen other kids, rode my bike on way too busy streets without a helmet, stayed out all day without my parents being able to contact me or know where the heck I was, played at the creek behind our house and crawled through drainage pipes to surface in gutters at street corners, snuck out of the house at night and rolled the car down the driveway in neutral, silently, like a ninja, then turned the key two doors down and drove around town underage with no license and found places that would sell me beer with my crappy fake ID that I ordered from an ad in the back of a magazine and climbed on top of the roof of my middle school to drink with my friends in the middle of the night.

    And if I ever catch my kids doing any of those things, I might kill them myself.

    It was a lot more fun being a kid back then, I think.

  3. happyfreeconfusedlonelyatthesametime permalink

    The development you describe is the same everywhere I think but the US is especially bad. I heard about neighbours calling social services when kids walk to school by themselves. Totally crazy

  4. I’m lucky because my parents kept me locked in the basement. It was a wonderful time.

  5. Two words: Crazy Carpets…thin sheet of plastic with a crappy handle allowing you to “steer” as you barreled down various snow covered hills. Should have been far more injuries than there ever were….good times…:)

  6. We used to spend all day out of doors too in the summer – catching butterflies (which then died when I put a lid on the pot they were in), trapping caterpillars (which twere trodden ito the carpet when they escaped from their tub) watching froglets hop away from me through the grass (I suspect they had been in touch with the grieving families of the caterpillars and the butterflies).

    We had see saws that thumped into the ground when your mate jumped off the other end – the only seesaws around now have huge springs on the bottom to stop them doing that. All the play equipment now is bright, shiny, plasticised with springy surfaces underneath. In my day everything was rusty with shards of metal poking out and concrete underneath.
    Mind you, my father in law collected shrapnel from bomb sites during his postwar childhood, so it’s all relative.

  7. The Comet Vomit song!!!! I tried to explain that one to someone else recently and they thought I was crazy. LOL.
    I did all the usual, slept in the back of the station wagon, rode in the back of the pick up, bike no helmet, out all day playing, riding to the pool by myself. Now lets add in, here’s a horse, you ride it, have fun. Here’s an unbroken horse off a Cherokee reservation, have fun breaking it. LOL Good times.
    But of course all that went with some responsibility, like welcome to summer every day you will muck ten stalls before you ride. The rabbit hutches must be cleaned weekly. Don’t forget to collect the eggs from the chickens. You stack these bails of hay in the barn when I bring it in from the fields. Do the laundry, do the dishes, vacuum, dust, feed the dogs, feed the cat, feed the rabbits and horses and chickens.
    I think kids get protected from both danger and responsibility these days.

    • “The Comet Vomit song!!!! I tried to explain that one to someone else recently and they thought I was crazy. LOL.”-

      Well, now you have proof that you’re not crazy (and if you are crazy, it has nothing to do with the Comet song). The lyrics were on wikipedia, after all, and if it’s on wikipedia, then it has to be true.

  8. Dina permalink

    Great post. I’m in my mid 40’s and can relate to those childhood moments you recall. I always look back think how great it was to have that freedom. I feel sad for the child that never gets to ride at the back on of pick up truck. It’s so much fun, but yeah…. really dangerous I also would NEVER let my children do it (I don’t have children thank god, for them, poor things wouldn’t be able to do anything because of my fears).

  9. Times have changed, but it also matters where you grew up. I’m 18, wasn’t a kid that long ago, and I spent my summers outside, round the neighbourhood. I was hardly ever supervised, and when I was inside I was constantly told to get some fresh air and play outdoors. I still had strict rules ad curfew, but I think the perspective that everything is 100% different and safer is a bit bias and misguided. Nice article though, your style is interesting.

  10. I agree, learning to follow directives is important. Part of me wonders if the increased restrictions on activities slows the development of self-reliance.

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