Sunday, February 8, 2015

Kids Can't Do These Things in 2015

That is really me, on the left

Fifties May Have Really Been the Golden Years for Kids

At the ripe old age of eight in University City, Mo, the first suburb West of St. Louis, I could leave the house any Summer morning on foot or bicycle, and not show up until Dinner. Parting words might be: "I'm going to Levitt's" (best friend), or "we're heading to the park to play some ball." Many of those days were spent wandering up and down a local creek looking for arrowheads, quartz, lizards, or butterflies. No cell phone. No way to be found.

At age nine (3rd grade), I'd head over to Susan's house. I can't remember what we used to do at her house. I don't think it was play dolls. I liked her a lot, and never tried anything with her. There were other girls who were more likely to play doctor or some such. I suppose "I'll show you mine if... " still goes on today. Since I was all boy in every other way, I don't guess my folks wondered why I wanted to spend so much time with a girl at that age. I always liked girls. Still do.

We had wild blackberries, grapes, pears, peaches, and more that we ate straight off the vine or tree. Never thought to wash any of them.

At age 11 we moved further out to Creve Coeur, a new suburb. Our subdivision backed up to a farm and had a nice creek running next to our yard. My friend had a horse, and we'd take off for the day on the horse with the usual destination being Creve Coeur Lake.

The next year in the 6th grade, I was fortunate enough to land a job at a local music store. My duties
That isn't me. My dog was a cocker
including filling out rental forms, inventorying the sheet music, and placing orders. I also was often running the store when the owner gave lessons or ran errands. Another of my 6th grade friends gave piano lessons there.

We weren't allowed to babysit younger kids in our own family until age 12. Shortly after reaching that advanced age, I was mortified when my folks still brought over a 14 year old girl to "help" me with the two younger siblings. After that, I was on my own.

Given a year of experience, at age 13 I was allowed to babysit other people's kids. I quickly let the world know of my availability and made quite a bit of money at this effort. My least favorite, but most profitable job was sitting three little preschool girls, ages 5, 3, and almost 2. Their mom was a model, and I would baby sit from 8:00 a.m. until after 5 p.m. when the dad arrived home. This included naps, making lunch, and more. There are many great stories from those days, but the best was the day the 3 year old decided to draw on mommy's white bedspread with lipstick. 

Also at 13, I was working on my bicycle merit badge for the scouts and made numerous cross city bicycle trips. One was 50 miles total.

At age 17 I wrote letters to various hotels, campgrounds and such, trying to find summer work. I eventually secured a job waiting tables in Excelsior Springs, MO, about 230 miles from Creve Coeur. I took the train, lived in a single room with bath down the hall, and worked 60+ hour weeks. I also broke the color line as the first white waiter of a traditionally all black wait staff. Not sure who was more surprised when I arrived, them or me.

No, my parents did not neglect me. They were solid suburban parents who loved and doted on all four of us. Times were just different. Others I speak to who grew up then had similar experiences. My sense would be to say this freedom was better for our emotional growth. My own four kids had pretty exciting and fulfilling childhoods, but the kind of freedom that we had in the fifties compared to what young folks have today had to shape us. I suppose time will tell what the consequences will be of the over parenting and over protecting of this era.


  1. I lived in University City for several years. In the 80's though. Quite a different place then. But fond memories.

  2. I lived in University City for several years. In the 80's though. Quite a different place then. But fond memories.