If those who were born in the ’60s and grew up in the ’70s seem a little blasé about COVID-19, maybe MeTV explains why:
If you grew up in the 1960s or 1970s, then you know how relaxed everything used to be. Our parents never forced us to wear seatbelts, we pretty much ate whatever we wanted, and were given way more responsibiity than we should have been given. It’s a little sad kids today won’t get to experience half the things we did, but looking back, there’s a good reason why they won’t.
Were these 12 things we did as kids kind of dangerous? Yeah, maybe some of it was.
1. Playing with dangerous toys
Parents were a lot more liberal with what they would let us play with. Forget about choking hazards, we’re talking hot plates, noxious odors and sharp metal objects. It’s a wonder how we made it out of the decade intact.
Not only were there lawn darts in the neighborhood, but we used to have a waterslide (a plastic sheet into which a water hose was plugged in, with holes on the sides squirting out water) that supposedly caused paralysis when someone hit a dry spot, or something.
2. No seatbelts
We never had to buckle up back in the day, which meant we could sit wherever. That includes stretching out across the seats, lying against the back windshield, or, if your parents had a station wagon, rolling around in the cargo area.
What was better than all of that was hitching a ride in a flatbed pickup. No cushioned seats, no roof and nothing but the wind in your hair and sun in your face.
Our first second car was a 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air, whose rear seat had no seat belts. So my brother and I had to share the front-seat lap belt, because the possibility of our faces slamming into the metal dashboard was certainly preferable.
3. No helmets
Just like seat belts, people didn’t really see the value in this piece of life saving gear. Kids popped wheelies and raced each other without helmets, let alone knee and elbow pads. Falling was an art form too because you had to land without splitting your head open or breaking any bones.
At one point we set up a bike ramp on the sidewalk. Heading into a jump our dog started to walk out in front of my bike. I hit the brakes hard and suddenly found myself looking up at the sky, having flipped the bike. No helmet. No concussion … I think.
4. Running after DDT trucks
This one is probably the biggest “what were we thinking” moments of the ’60s and ’70s. We would run after these suckers when they rolled into our neighborhood and sprayed the air with a chemical fog. If your street had some traffic, it was just the risk you had to take to have a little fun.
I don’t remember this, though I’ve read about it, possibly in Monona but not in Madison.
5. Unsafe playgrounds
Anyone remember swinging so hard that one part of the swing set would come off the ground? Or what about the burns we suffered sliding down scorching metal slides during the summer? And there wasn’t a cushy rubber foundation back then, just asphalt.
The grade school playground and the neighborhood park playground all had metal equipment on asphalt and dirt, respectively. Over at school, a kid running in fog soundly connected with an iron basketball hoop post, resulting in a concussion.
6. Latchkey kids
If your mom or dad worked late, then chances are they gave you the keys to the house so you could let yourself in after school. For those couple hours, you might as well have been a full-fledged adult.
Sure, your parents expected you to do homework while you were alone, but you secretly watched an episode or two of The Brady Bunch before they got home.
7. Leaving 12-year-olds in charge
If you had a younger sibling, then you best bet you would be watching after them at some point during the day (especially if you were a latchkey kid).
You didn’t need any certifications to babysit either. If you were at least 12 and able to dial 9-1-1, then you got some pretty sweet babysitting gigs. It was perfectly acceptable too.
I started babysitting in middle school. It was next door, for the princely sum of $1 an hour.
There was no such thing as “health foods” like kale and quinoa back when we were kids. If it was sold at the store, then it went in our stomachs. Plus, the less preparation that went into a school lunch, the better. Shout out to the Wonder Bread sandwiches, chips and Twinkies that probably stunted our growth as kids.
I’m 6-foot-4. I thought my growth was being stunted by the coffee I started drinking when I was 4.
9. Sitting in the front seat
The lack of seatbelts meant you could sit wherever you wanted, and no seat was more coveted than the middle seat in the front, back when front seats were benches. If there were six people in your family, then you fought your siblings for that position. If you sat there, you got to control which radio station the family listened to, and got the extra protection of your mother’s arm when your father stopped too hard.
10. Secondhand smoke
There was no escaping the haze of cigarette smoke in the 1970s. From airplanes to automobiles, we probably inhaled more secondhand smoke as children than some people do in a lifetime today. Looking back, we’re happy to leave this one in the ’70s.
I had a few relatives, and more coworkers, who smoked at work. I don’t think it caused (cough, cough) any problems.
11. Explosive cars
It’s basically a fact that cars were death traps back in the ’70s, and the Ford Pinto is the prime example. Not only did we not wear seatbelts and sit wherever we pleased, we were driving in cars that could explode because the fuel tank wasn’t designed properly. Luckily, the cars were discontinued in 1980, but only after we had risked our lives riding in them.
Our Boy Scouts carpool included a Pinto. It didn’t kill us, but the back seat required flexibility to get in and out. (Particularly because the rear-seat cushions were like falling into a toilet when the seat wasn’t up.)
Come to think of it, the three months between the school year were the most dangerous times growing up. We would leave the house for hours at a time, run around without shoes, and come home with more scrapes and bruises than we could count.
There was no structured playtime and no cell phones, just long days of sunshine and absolute fun. Yeah, being a kid in the ’60s and ’70s wasn’t all that bad.