Childhood Memories…I’m Still Alive

I loved Kristen Lamb’s recent post titled I Miss Summer Vacation. As she talked about what summer vacations as a child meant to her, I thought about my own. Kristen mentions that her parents locked the sliding door when they went out to play on the Slip-N-Slide, and I responded with how my childhood sounded similar.

Which reminded me of this post from last year. I thought it was perfect to pull back out for a Deep-Fried Friday as we enter summer. Enjoy!

I grew up in the 1970’s (well, 1980’s for high school). As a mother, I have noticed that some things have changed since then – you know, besides the personal computer, internet, fashion, etc. I’m thinking specifically about safety. In addition to now locking our door every time we leave the house and talking to our children about a range of subjects that never occurred to our parents, we have a whole new set of safety rules for our kids. 

Come to think of it, by today’s standards, it’s a wonder I’m alive! Because we did some stuff that I would never encourage my kids to do today. Here are a few I recall: 

Played outside for hours without sunscreen. I don’t even remember hearing the word “sunscreen” until high school. And even then, we were far more likely to slather baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic on our bodies and lay out in our backyards, at the pool, or on the beach so we could have that sun-kissed tan. We weren’t thinking skin cancer; we were thinking of that Bain de Soleil magazine model. Remember her? I couldn’t find a photo of that browned body, but check out this 1980 Coppertone tan commercial if you want to stroll down memory lane. 

Rode my bike without a helmet. Helmets were for football, not bike-riding through the neighborhood! By the time I became a mother, there were statistics about preventable head injuries, articles on how to choose a proper helmet for your child, and doctors encouraging helmet use. Back in the 1970’s, though, not only did I ride with the wind whipping through my hair, but we happily careened down a slope at our local park we kids fondly called “Suicide Hill.”  I skinned knees, elbows, face, and more, but no skull fractures thankfully.

Drank from a water hose. Now apparently this is a no-no. But after all that bike-riding and hours without sunscreen, growing up in South Texas where temps could reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity was above 90% . . . well, thirsty! The easiest way to quench that thirst was to head to the nearest friend’s house and grab the hose. We’d take turns sucking down the warm water, thinking that we were health-conscious by not licking the spout. After all, there were others in line behind you. 

Rode in a car without a seatbelt. We had seatbelts in our car, but they were usually buried in the seat. Moreover, these were not shoulder/lap belts, only lap. And they were like airplane seatbelts, adjustable by pulling on a metal clasp. In the winter, that wasn’t a problem. But when the July heat reached the level of Hades, I was definitely willing to take my chances that we wouldn’t be hit by another vehicle over risking second-degree burns by yanking out that lap belt and strapping it over my hips. 

Ate deep-fried food. Thanks, Mom! Like many families in the South, we had a Fry Daddy, a Fry Baby, and a frying skillet. A meal served relatively often was fried chicken, fried okra and squash, and buttered corn on the cob. Or there was fried shrimp and fish, French fries, and hush puppies. Oh, man, I’m drooling just thinking of it! But I’m also imagining that my arteries were probably already clogging like rolls of toilet paper sent down the plumbing line. Where’s the Drano?! I still eat fried foods sometimes, but not nearly as often. After all, I want to outlive my cat. 

Dined in restaurants filled with second-hand smoke. Speaking of eating, I recall most dining out experiences involving my parents asking for the non-smoking section, which consisted of a few tables at the back with no barrier. Smoke filled the restaurant and wafted all around. It was common for people to finish their meals and light up back then. There were no city ordinances, no stiff social mores against such behavior. As a non-smoker myself, I think cigarettes smell bad and I don’t want my kids around a bunch of smoke. But it was the way things were back then, and I didn’t question it much.

Bought candy cigarettes. Now speaking of the smoking thing, did any of you buy candy cigarettes growing up? My sister, a friend, and I took gymnastics classes for a little while. (By the way, my sister was good at it; I stunk.) After our class, we had a little time before we headed home, so we scurried over to the convenience store and purchased candy cigarettes. We held them like mini Bette Davises, sucking on the sugary cylinders and then devouring them. For some reason, I don’t think that ever made me want an actual cigarette. And none of the three of us smoke now. But do I buy my kids candy cigarettes? No. I don’t even think you can find them now anyway. 

What do you recall doing as a child that you couldn’t imagine letting your kids do? Or doing now yourself? Do you think we are overly protective or just about right with today’s children? What are you amazed that you did and are still alive?

16 thoughts on “Childhood Memories…I’m Still Alive

  1. All that you said and more. Play on the streets alone, climb tall trees, run around the pool, play among horses, cows and chickens (my family had a farm when I was little and we spend the weekends there). I can be very overprotective =P

    1. Speaking of pools, Juliana, I don’t know if I ran but I went off the high diving board. These days, it’s hard to find a public pool with a diving board at all because they are considered unsafe. Playing among the animals sounds fun. And yes, I’m more protective of my own kids now.

  2. I remember doing all this things, except the sunscreen. I’m so fair I never had a choice. I’m glad things are so much safer now, and yet, sometimes it’s a bit overboard. It’s a wonder we survived;)

    1. It’s hard to strike that balance. I’m rather in favor of seatbelts and child car seats, but the absence of monkey bars on playgrounds just makes me sad. Thanks, Stacy.

    1. Oh, I STILL eat raw cookie dough. My husband warns me all the time that I’m going to get sick, but I’ve made 40+ years so far without incident. LOL.

  3. Every single one of these represents my childhood BUT you can still get those candy cigarettes and they still blow out the smokey whatever-it-is stuff! In fact, last summer my son and my daughter’s best friend made their own using paper and flour! Of course they couldn’t eat them nor smoke them, but they resembled the real thing!

    1. I would probably buy my kids candy cigarettes, but my hubby would definitely protest. I remember them tasting good, and not at all like cigarettes! Thanks, Patti.

  4. Didn’t Hawaiian Tropic smell heavenly? I loved that stuff. Well, you covered the tanning, the smoking, and the seat belts. Hmmm…

    ::snaps fingers::

    Nobody, but nobody, wore earplugs to concerts. Of course, you see the results of that now. People our age say, “Pardon me?” a lot. LOL

    1. What? Actually I was standing near the speaker at my Zumba class recently and wondering if I was losing my hearing there! But you’re right. I knew LOTS of people who attended rock concerts — the louder, the better. 🙂

  5. Oh wow! What memories. We did all of those and so much more. We lived in a small town and rode our bikes every where. We had to check in with mom every so often but otherwise we were free to roam the streets until the lights came home. No way would that be safe now. We also ate the raw dough like Jennette. Amazing we’re all still here to tell the tales. 🙂

  6. I had never heard about candy cigarettes until my BFF told me she used to love them. I think it’d be a big no-no nowadays, but I can see how twenty years ago or more nobody would give it a second thought. (You can still find them at stores that sell vintage style candy, by the way!) Sometimes I think it’s a little silly how protective parents are today compared to “back then,” but at the same time…the world feels a lot scarier now.

    1. A few years back, I did see candy cigarettes at some open air market. Of course, you can probably get just about anything online. Frankly, I appreciate some safety features (someday I’ll tell about NOT wearing seatbelt one month before the Texas seatbelt law — crash, shatter, blood), but others make me sad, like the absence of monkey bars at playgrounds and diving boards at pools (now considered too dangerous). Ah well, things change!

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