By Harriet P. Gross
What do you remember from the summertimes of your childhood? Mine were filled with dangers – but nobody knew that then, which made all the difference in the world.
In the grassy “gangways” between the houses on our street, we used to play mumbly peg with pocket knives. Yes – real knives, with real blades! We worked our way up our bodies, doing “toe – knee – chest – nut,” and none of us ever got hurt.
I had a little electric stove. I plugged it into the outlet on our side porch, put some miniature cast iron pans on it, and melted lead in In them. Yes – real lead! My friends and I then poured that molten stuff into molds and cast toy soldiers. It was World War II, remember? Even girls were patriotic then. We played at war, cutting flaps in the soles of our shoes to carry secret messages behind enemy lines. That destruction infuriated our parents, but not the electricity, or the lead. Somehow, we all knew how to take care of ourselves (if not of our shoes).
There were empty lots then, good for catching bees in mason jars in the daytime. Then, after dark, we caught fireflies. Kids, outside, alone, in weed-filled vacant lots, even at night, without our parents worrying. Because they didn’t have to. Life was much safer then. Or maybe it just seems so, looking back, because nobody realized there was so much to be worried about.
Today: Parents are reported to juvenile authorities when they let their kids go out to play alone, even near their homes. Lead is a recognized terror in any form. And using an electric stove without adult supervision? Why, even those little Easy-Bake Ovens so popular a while back have been cited as being possible sources of burned fingers. Bees are dangerous, so are breakable glass jars, and modern kids never even heard of mumbly peg. But they hear plenty about small children drowning in backyard pools or dying when left too long in closed-up cars, things that were foreign to us. Who had a pool? Who needed one, when there were so many other things to do! And when we got into the family car, it was to go somewhere to do something with our parents, not to sit and wait alone while they did something themselves.
I feel sorry for today’s children, don’t you? They’re in so much more danger than we – or our loving parents – ever knew we were in!