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Childhood Memories of the Fifties: Trapping a Monster

Updated on November 14, 2015

Tarzan Was Raised by Apes Like This One

As kids, we pretended that our woods was a jungle inhabited by apes.
As kids, we pretended that our woods was a jungle inhabited by apes. | Source

Childhood Memories of the Fifties

It was no surprise to my parents that my brother and I were not angels. Our energy and active imaginations got us into trouble on a regular basis. During the summer we had even more opportunity to get into mischief as our parents both worked, and we were on our own to invent our own play and entertain ourselves and each other.

It was the early 1950s and, at twelve years old, I was in charge of my nine year old brother while my parents went off to work. Not that I really watched him, but we spent many hours playing together because there were no other children nearby.

Kids Had More Freedom in the 1950s

Times were so different for kids growing up in the 1950’s. Back then, no one gave a second thought to working parents leaving a twelve-year-old in charge of her nine-year-old brother. Nine and twelve were considered too old for babysitters. Besides, neighbors always watched out for us.

We lived in the country and played in the fields and woods and creek most of the summer. No one was afraid that we would be kidnapped or hurt. Our parents knew that we wandered in the fields and woods, and that we rode our bikes on the road. No one got upset if we came home with scraped knees or bruised legs because that’s what happened to kids who played outdoors. Parents didn’t worry about kids playing outdoors, doing normal kid things. Maybe they should have!

Tarzan of the Apes

Television was still somewhat of a novelty in our house in the early 1950s. While most of our time was spent outdoors, my brother and I were allowed to watch some of our favorite shows in the daytime when our parents were gone. One of our favorite adventure shows was Tarzan of the Apes. We loved hearing Tarzan's trademark call and watching him swing through the jungle to rescue Jane or escape the bad guys. In fact, this was inspiration for a lot of our play in the nearby woods. The long grapevines hanging from some of the trees were perfect for swinging. Well, they were perfect as long as they didn't break under our weight. Sometimes we'd end up in a heap on the ground, but a few black and blue marks, cuts and scrapes were commonplace in our summertime activities. No one ever even noticed.

Tarzan of the Apes with Johnny Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O´Sullivan

Endless Days of Summer

School let out in mid-June and the summer stretched out ahead. There were so many things to do, but we were in no hurry as the lazy days of summer seemed like they would last forever. We always had a stack of books from the county library, and there was the TV if we cared to watch it, but mostly we made up games to play outdoors. Robbie and I both had active imaginations, but as the eldest, I could usually persuade my brother to go along with any of my ideas. Not to say he didn't have a few hair-brained ideas of his own!

Biking, Fishing, Playing in the Woods — All Part of Summer

Robbie and I pushed our bikes up Mason’s hill so that we could coast down with our feet on the handlebars. That didn't end well on one occasion when I missed the driveway and crashed through the bushes.

We made fishing poles out of sticks and string and caught sunfish in the creek. We built forts in the woods and made up fantasy games. Early mornings in July, we sneaked into our neighbor’s berry patch and picked raspberries berries for our breakfast cereal. It was always a challenge not to get caught after he started watching for the little thieves.

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan of the Apes was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the first story was published in the pulp magazine, All-Story Magazine in 1912. It was a popular series, that came out in book form in 1914. By 1918, the book was made into a silent film, and followed by 23 sequels starring Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan. Tarzan and other characters in the book were so popular that other movies, a TV series and comic books were based on them, some authorized, some not.

The story of Tarzan of the Apes

The Tarzan story is about a feral child who is adopted and raised in the African jungle by apes. He eventually learns of his human heritage, but is caught between two worlds, ape and human. His adventures include conflicts with Africans tribes as well as other tribes of apes, and he is eventually recognized as King of the Apes. The romantic interest is provided by Jane, who is marooned on the island with a new party of Americans. Tarzan’s convoluted adventures carry him from the jungle to the United States where he follows Jane. His love unrequited, he eventually returns to the jungle to live in the wild again.

Playing Tarzan - The Bright Idea!

Playing Tarzan was one of our favorite games because he did so many fun things, from tree climbing and swinging from vines to fights with natives and other daring escapades. One of the most fascinating things we learned from the Tarzan show was a neat way to catch dangerous animals or trap enemies, and we couldn't wait to try it. How devious it was to dig a huge hole and lay leafy branches across the top so that the beasts (human or otherwise) would step on them and fall into the hole with no means of escape!

Building the Monster Trap

Although we didn’t know what dangerous beasts we might catch in such a trap, Robbie and I decided to do it. We borrowed Dad’s shovel and a few other tools from the garage and started digging in the clay soil near the creek banks.

By the mid afternoon, our hole was close to 3 feet deep and we were sweaty, dirty and tired. We decided to camouflage it until we could come back to complete the project. It didn’t take long to gather some sticks to lay across the opening and cover them with leaves and grass. We also covered the loose dirt with weeds and grass to hide the evidence of digging. You could hardly tell there was anything unusual about the area at all. Robbie and I congratulated each other and went back to the house to get a well-deserved snack.

A little later, we went back to check to see if we had caught anything, but our trap was disappointingly undisturbed.

Still tired, we trudged back to the house to watch an episode of Sky King until our parents got home from work.

Your Outdoor Play as a Child

Did often have unsupervised play outdoors as a child younger than 12?

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Catching the Monster

My parents were home by 4:30, and Mom always got right to fixing dinner while Dad wanted to do some work in the garden.

"Where's my shovel? Did you kids take it down to the creek again?"

Robbie, who was engrossed in the TV, answered, "We might have left it down there. I'll get it as soon as this is over."

Well, Dad, being the impatient type, couldn't wait five minutes, so he headed out the door. We didn't pay much attention until we heard a yell from him followed by some words we seldom heard from our father.

"What the blazing &*%#$$%& were you kids thinking! Somebody could break a leg in that hole! Fran, do you know those kids dug a three foot deep hole out there? I could have broken a leg!"

Oops! We knew we were going to be in deep trouble when Dad swore because we seldom heard that kind of language from him.

In limped Dad covered with dirt and madder than a wet hornet. Before he could catch us, my brother and I beat a hasty retreat to the "trap" and started filling in the hole.

But we did laugh a little as we did it. Our dad could play a pretty good monster!

Lucky for us, we didn't complete the trap as planned. We never did tell Dad that the next part of our project was to put pointy sticks in the bottom of the trap...


Copyright ©2012 Stephanie Henkel

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    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      3 years ago from USA

      Playing outdoors and using our imaginations kept our bodies and minds healthy. So glad you have wonderful childhood memories -- as do I!

    • sybol profile image


      3 years ago

      Being a child in the 50s and 60s was so much more enjoyable. We used to play in a vacant lot on the corner of our house for hours on hours day after day. It had a large bill board in it that was very high. We would climb up to the deck that was just at the beginning of the sign. Our favorite game to play was "Moby Dick." The lot was filled with very tall weeds. The weeds were taller than us and that was the ocean. Oh, this brings back so many fun and adventurous memories.

      Thank you for your article.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      3 years ago from USA

      Madison76 - Glad you enjoyed my hub! It sounds like we shared an interest in Tarzan! My brother and I also tested out some vines in the woods -- wasn't that fun? :)

    • madison76 profile image

      Paul Madison 

      3 years ago from Gibsonton

      Nice Hub,

      One day my sister and I found a huge vine in the woods and actually swung on it for a few minutes with no problem. I then had the idea of swinging with her on it. Needless to say, the vine broke and we landed in the swampy mud below us in the middle of December. Tarzan was retired after that. Thanks for sharing.

    • Al Greenbaum profile image

      Al Greenbaum 

      4 years ago from Europe

      Really liked your Hub. Tarzan was a hero for us when we were kids in the 60's. We all used his cry when we got to the woods near our home. We had so much fun in the woods we just didn't want to go home. We would play Tarzan for what seemed like hours. We tried the jumping the vine thing but couldn't get a strong enough rope with predictable results.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Barbara Kay - Of course, we never thought someone might get hurt by falling into our trap - It was lucky that my dad didn't break a leg! Those Tarzan movies sure inspired a lot of interesting play back in our childhood days, didn't they? :) Thanks for stopping in to read and comment!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Midget38 - I like to think of myself as a precocious child... My parents may have thought differently... :) You have that Tarzan yell down pat - you would have fit right in with my brother and me!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      I enjoyed reading this. It was a good thing that your Dad didn't break anything though. We played Tarzan too, but didn't have a woods or creek nearby.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Whoa, Stephanie, you did get up to some naughty tricks! Tarzan was one of my favorite movies too. Aw-yee-or-ye-or!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      The Dirt Farmer - I've n never read the Tarzan novels, but you've gotten me interested. I'm always looking for something good (and free) to download onto my Kindle. While you watch the movies, I can read the books! :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      whonunuwho - Kids today probably think we were deprived, but our childhoods were so rich in experiences and life lessons. I wouldn't trade mine for anything! So glad you enjoyed my childhood memories.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

      I read the Tarzan novels last year (there are lots of them, and many of them are free if you like reading eBooks). What fun stories they are--although Burroughs' attitudes are ... elitist. The book are quite different from the TV shows & movies, but lots of fun, too. Enjoyed your hub. Made me want to watch an old Tarzan flick.

    • whonunuwho profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      These days were more of a time of innocence and more freedom seemed to be only natural for kids back then. I remember those days and will always cherish them in my fondest memories. Thank you for sharing this nice memory. whonu

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Bac2Basics - We did have so much more freedom as children, and our imaginations got us into all kinds of trouble, too! I'll check out your sounds like fun. Thanks so much for taking time to read and comment!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Mary615- I think we were so lucky to have grown up in those times. Glad you enjoyed my story...I'm sure you have many of your own! Thanks for the comments and the share!

    • bac2basics profile image


      7 years ago from Spain

      Hi Stephanie.

      I really enjoyed reading about your escapades as a child in the 50´s. We certainly did have good imaginations back then and got up to all kinds of tricks, usually inspired by the TV or matinees in the local cinema. I have written my own memories from that time which you may also enjoy, it´s called " Camping with the Cows. A trip down memory lane to the mid 1950´s"

      As children back then we could be gone the whole day and I usually was once I got my bike, but no one turned a hair and the freedom to do our own thing was great. My daughter can´t believe some of the stuff I tell her about those day´s, but it´s just the way things were back then.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      You sure brought back some great memories for me with this Hub! My dog and I play all in the woods and swam in the creek. I swung from the grape vines over a deep ravine.

      Loved your story, and I can just see your Dad when he walked in the door after falling into your trap.

      Voted UP, and shared.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Jools99 - Playing in the woods with my brother and kids in our neighborhood is one of my cherished childhood memories. That was a wonderful time and place to grow up! As to catching my dad in our "trap" ...I'm not sure that my dad was impressed, but he sure was ticked off! :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Teaches12345 - Life in the 50's was so much simpler, and I think that kids learned so much by having the freedom to explore, learn and create without constant adult supervision. Glad you enjoyed my hub!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Stephanie - loved it! it rang som many bells for me and I remember we often built dens in our local woods and it was a day long adventure, our camp versus the kids up the street's camp - competition was fierce but we took it all for granted, we loved being outside in all weathers - happy days! I laughed at your dad's reaction - ha ha - he was secretlyimpressed I think at your strength and determination.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      I am do glad I caught your post before retiring. I lived this life! It was a simpler time but the lessons learned were much more real and built character. Loved your story of digging the hole.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Vellur -Thanks so much for your kind comments!! Glad you enjoyed my hub about some of my childhood memories...have a great day!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      8 years ago from Dubai

      I enjoyed reading your hub. Childhood memories are very precious and helps to enliven an otherwise dull day. Voted up.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Rebeccamealey - I agree that the games that we played were wholesome and healthy. We used our imaginations and creativity to invent exciting adventures. Glad you enjoyed the read. Thanks for stopping in to comment!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Tillisontitan - Being a kid in the 50's was so much different - we certainly did have adventures and innocent (mostly) fun. We did have the better end of the stick! Thanks so much for stopping in to comment!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Daisy - What's life without some adventure? :) Glad you enjoyed the story. My brother and I did manage to get into hot water more than once!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      An enjoyable read. Those kids games back in the days...cops and robbers, Tarzan and others were so wholesome and healthy. I think it is too bad kids don't play outside more these days. Thanks for fond memories here!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      8 years ago from New York

      "Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end!" Now Tarzan is replaced with Sponge Bob and the likes....somehow I think we had the better end of that stick!

      Voted up, funny, and interesting.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      8 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


      What a terrific story! Your RV travels shows that you still have an adventurous spirit. I really enjoyed reading your article. Well done!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Unknown spy - My brother and I shared some wonderful adventures together as kids. Luckily, we never actually harmed ourselves or anyone else! Thanks for stopping in to comment!

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      8 years ago from Neverland

      hahaha i really laughed on your plan at the end of the hub. Great memories you ave here Step.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Angela Brummer - My brother and I shared some great times together as kids, even though we did get into hot water quite often! That might have been the only time we actually caught anything in our "trap" though! :)

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 

      8 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Oh my gosh we set traps also... I would have never remembered without your article and it brings back great memories?

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Debbie,

      My brother and I did have some great times as kids even though we were definitely not little angels! Thanks so much for stopping by to read and comment!

    • debbie roberts profile image

      Debbie Roberts 

      8 years ago from Greece

      Your childhood sounded wonderful, sadly times have changed. I can guiltily relate to the thrill of pinching raspberries, although it was apples we would pinch to eat from the nieghbours trees when were out playing and sometimes even the odd strawberry. Children today don't know what they are missing out on!!

      A lovely peek into your childhood, thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Sherri,

      It seems that children enjoyed so much freedom back then to pursue their own interests. We were never bored, either, and could always find something interesting to do. Those were different times! Thanks for stopping by to comment and share some of your childhood memories!

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      What a great story about the monster, Stephanie. It had me laughing just as soon as your brother said he'd get the shovel later. Then I let out a good roar at the spikes. Delightful!

      I, also, was left alone during the summers while my mother went to work. But there was always plenty to do with or without friends. I loved to read and sew, take long bike rides all through town. Those surely were different times.

      Voted up and beautiful. ~Sherri

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Anndavis,

      I too worry that my grandchildren don't have the patience to read a book, as I spent many rainy days curled up with my books as a child. Their childhoods are just so much different than mine. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Sunshine,

      I loved the Tarzan could scoop up Jane with one arm as he swung through the jungle! And how about that trademark yell? We used to practice that a lot!

    • anndavis25 profile image


      8 years ago from Clearwater, Fl.

      It's wonderful that you and your brother had such a tight relationship. You were allowed to run free and use your mind to be inventive and imagine and create. I, like you, worry about my grandchildren and all the modern electronics. They love it, but I wonder if they will ever have the patience to sit down with a good book.

      Fun hub.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      This hubs brinbs back some Tarzan memories for me! I watched the show, movies and read the comics. It was something about Tarzan swinging from vine to vine that was just awesome!!:)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Movie Master,

      Glad you enjoyed the hub! It's fun to remember those wonderful childhood summers, even if we did get into trouble sometimes! Thanks for your comments and vote.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      I got to the 'pointy sticks' part and laughed out loud!

      I remember those wonderful summer days, spending hours in the fields and climbing trees, getting into mischief....

      A wonderful hub voted up and funny

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA


      We did get into a few scrapes, but it was always lots of fun. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      8 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      How funny! That sound just like a couple of boys! I used to love to watch Tarzan! Maybe it was a good thing I didn't have any woods near my house when I was a kid! Wonderful hub,voted up and funny! :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Kashmir,

      There were some great TV shows for kids back in those days! I loved growing up in the country, but sometimes wished there were other kids around to play with. It must have been fun to have playmates on your street. Thanks for stopping in to comment and votes!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Peggy,

      It's true, I don't think we ever locked the doors! We must have had very similar childhoods, mostly spent outdoors with lots of active play. Haha, I'm glad we didn't carry through our plan. I think we may have thought twice about it before we actually put pointed sticks in the hole...well, I hope we would have! Thanks for the question - I enjoyed writing about my childhood memories!

      Thanks for sharing your memories and for your comments and votes!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend,yes those we the days, loved that show Sky King. My brother and i where always outside playing games or sports and our mom or dad had to always call down the street for us to come in,and we always say just ten more minutes....please.I think kids today are losing out on the great fun times we enjoyed outside with our friends.

      Awesome and vote up !!!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Stephanie,

      My brothers and I played outside all of the time also. No locked doors in those days and no worries about being kidnapped or abused by strangers. Lots of tree climbing, riding of bikes, etc. Sounds like our childhoods were quite similar. Thank heavens you didn't get around to sharpen and bury those sticks! THAT could have been serious! Haha! Enjoyed this hub immensely. Up, funny and interesting votes and will share.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks, Gail! My brother and I still laugh about this one!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Great hub. That was quite a childhood story. Loved the ending.

      Voted up, awesome and interesting.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Joanwz,

      I feel fortunate to have grown up in a time where kids depended on their own resources for entertainment. It certainly encouraged independence and creativity! (Sometimes a little too creative!) Thanks for stopping in to share your childhood memories!

    • joanwz profile image

      Joan Whetzel 

      8 years ago

      I was a 60s kid. We played Batman and Robin and the like. Same idea thought. It's amazing the imaginative games and entertainment kids can create when left to their own devices.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Bob,

      I sometimes feel sad when I see my grandchildren spending so much of their childhoods in front of video games, computers and the TV because our outdoor fantasy games were a wonderful way to expand our imaginations and creativity. It doesn't seem that we were ever bored, and it doesn't sound like you were, either. It seems that your imagination developed just fine! :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Kevin,

      My brother and I shared some great times playing outdoors, and both grew up with a deep appreciation for nature. It sounds like you and your brothers had similar childhoods. Thanks for stopping by to comment! I'll look for your hub!

    • diogenes profile image


      8 years ago from UK and Mexico

      A dear friend a couple of years older than me and myself played the Mowgli stories out. We did the Red Dog Dholes and all the rest all over my little rural village, still all trees, beaches and fields back then. Laurette was a couple of years older than me...about 9 to my seven and she always said I had no imagination!


    • kevins blog52 profile image

      kevins blog52 

      8 years ago from southern Indiana

      Great hub Stephanie, I know what your talking about when you say there was so much to do back then. I had 3 other brothers and we played tarzan all the time,we were in the woods or in the creek all day every day during the summer.I just finished a hub about my childhood you might like, Happy times, voted up and awesome. God bless


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