Surviving the Good Ol' Days
Warning! Everything is Dangerous to Your Health
Welcome to the 21st century, where Everything is Dangerous to Your Health. The precautions we take with every aspect of our lives nowadays never cease to entertain and amaze me. Don't get me wrong; many of these precautions - like restricted smoking areas - are excellent, and I really appreciate them. But sometimes when I hear the latest food recall, health study or warning about what might be bad for us, my mind wanders back to the blissfully ignorant days of my childhood: the 60's.
The Smell of Fresh Nicotine
My Mom and I talked recently about the birth of my sister in late 1963, and she mentioned that the worst part (!!) of the ordeal was "all the people in my hospital room talking loudly and smoking cigarettes." She had just endured a C-Section and her hormones were in shock, and the nicotine fumes made her violently nauseous. I'm sure the only thing that kept her from screaming "Get out! All of you GET OUT!" in a hysterical voice was not having an ounce of strength left. Can you imagine this happening today? I hear from my doctor's assistants that a local hospital not only bans smoking altogether, but does hair tests on new hires to check for nicotine. And yet we survived secondhand smoke as thick as fog on a cool spring morning.
Our toys were not so safe either. We played with marbles and tiny plastic soldiers, both just the right size to choke to death on. A lot of the "boy's toys" were metal: the pre-Big Wheel pedal cars, the wagons and sled runners. Heck, even my Jack-in-the-Box had a metal box! We went barefoot in summer, stepping on rusty nails, or slicing fingers and limbs on rusty treehouse nails. Hope we were up to date on our Tetanus shots (did we even get those in the 60's?).
And then there were what I like to call the "Projectile Toys": space rockets and guns. I don't remember much about the rockets other than that they were translucent red plastic and were pumped full of water until they "launched" up into the air, which of course they rarely did. The boys in my neighborhood (all seven of them) used them as missiles, and we girls had to duck and cover to avoid being hit. Good Cold War training!
The unsupervised use of air rifles (aka BB Guns) brought about some near-tragedies in my small neighborhood, one of which involved me. There was a pathologically disturbed kid among us, and one day he lured some of us other kids into the woods on a pretense and opened fire with a BB Gun. One of the pellets grazed me in the calf muscle of my left leg, and if being grazed caused that much pain I don't want to know how actually getting shot must feel. The pellet left a nice big welt, a bruise, and an angry father who marched down to the offending party's house and would never tell me what was said when he spoke to the disturbed kid's dad.
I suppose it goes without saying that we rode bicycles without helmets or any other protective gear. I remember limping home one day and leaving a trail of dripping blood after going over my handlebars and leaving much of my knee skin on the pavement. I was eleven.
We survived year after year of second degree sunburns and tanning to look "healthy", only to pay the price now (I've got some scary-looking moles and sunspots going on lately and I can assure you it isn't pretty).
When did seat belts stop being optional? And what have the lead paint and asbestos done to us? I shudder to think, but most of us are still kicking fifty years later. So I'll put on my rose-colored glasses and enjoy the memories of the naive 60's I knew and loved.