Heroes and Villains From a Kid's Perspective in the 1960's
As a kid growing up in the 1960's, there were standard heroes and villains in the neighborhood that all the kids agreed upon. Oddly, some of these characters no longer exist today, but were oh so important then. I look back on the era and now realize how tumultuous the times really were, but to a kid the only world was your family, your home, and your neighborhood friends.
The Top Five Heroes
The TV Repair Man: Amazingly, TV repair men actually existed and they made house calls! Televisions were an amalgamation of resistors, capacitors, vacuum tubes, and wires. You actually had to wait nearly a full minute for the set to warm up before watching and you watched the screen dim down to a small dot when you turned it off. Of course all this equipment operated tenuously. The set broke down annually. Life was horribly thrown off as you were deprived of your three channels. The TV repair man showed up in standard uniform with the embroidered name tag. These guys worked magic behind the set applying all kinds of tests and occasionally taking a tube out and holding it to the window to inspect the filament. You watched intently, but from a distance. You certainly did not want to impede his work. Usually, within a half hour, he had the set repaired and life returned to normal. Once again you could watch the violent cartoons on Saturday mornings (about the only time they played), westerns on weeknights (oh the shock I went into when I got older and learned what Ms Kitty's real profession was on Gunsmoke), and Walt Disney World on Sunday nights.
The Ice Cream Man: These guys cruised your neighborhood playing music and selling ice cream out of a van. They had incredible patience with you, especially if you were not yet literate. Their large signs showed each treat, of which you could point and gesture for which you wanted. For many of us, this was our first financial transaction without our parents present. The ice cream man's honesty was above reproach. You also quickly learned the value of nickels, dimes, and quarters. Unwittingly, they also were the catalyst for social planning. If enough neighborhood kids showed up, you determined to play some type of game - sandlot baseball most often.
Policemen and Firemen: These guys were automatically heroes, but not so much for who they were, but what they drove - vehicles with sirens and lights. When playing outside in the neighborhood, all friends drew silent as they heard the sirens far off in the distance. If the sirens got louder, we ran to the edge of the street. If we were really lucky they drove by at high rates of speed and we watched in awe. These guys also were the first in parades; their sirens announcing good things to come.
Military Personnel: Older siblings, cousins, and uncles in the military were all heroes. We had no idea where Vietnam was or that Vietnam even existed. All we knew was we were at war and our relatives were fighting the bad guys.
The Postal Carrier: Actually, this person started out as a minor villain and was later elevated to a hero. He was a villain because you trusted your dog's instincts on judging a person's character and a postman had no chance to prove himself. Later, however, you made your first mail order purchase - probably from a comic book for plastic soldiers or Sea Monkeys. Dang, that advertizement was right, allow four to six weeks for delivery. Alas, he came through as a hero with your parcel.
The Top Four Villians
The Dog Catcher: Most people kept their dog under control, but there was usually some neighborhood mutt that was allowed to run around. Usually he joined your neighborhood gang of kids from time to time and injected comedy relief - like tackling someone during sandlot football. He also had a knack for showing up when the ice cream truck came around. He would go missing for a couple of days and word got out that the dog catcher got him. Fortunately his owners would bail him out and your ad hoc mascot would return.
Old People: Old people tended to be crabby and saw themselves as self deputized law enforcement. They informed you of legal matters - like not cutting through the vacant lot, not being able to play catch with a hardball in the park, or yelling at the neighborhood mutt to get out of their yard. Old people were suspected of colluding with the dog catcher. Grandparents were exempt from being old people.
The Eye Doctor: It wasn't the eye doctor who was the villain directly; it was his assistant who put drops in your eyes to get them to dialate. In the 1960's it took an endless series of eye drops applied over a half hour period to get your eyes to dialate properly. Most of the drops burned and seemed to take forever to leave the bottle and hit your eye. You were certain this treatment was employed by the Japanese during WWII.
The Snow Plow Driver: Every kid loved a snow day that cancelled school. If the weather was too cold you stayed inside and played games. If not, it was a huge neighborhood rally of making snowmen and building snow forts. The snow plow driver just hastened the inevitable of going back to school. He was openly booed when driving by. When you got old enough to shovel the driveway, the snow plow driver became even more of a villain because he made a berm of snow at the end of your driveway from plowing the street.