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I got a funny story about that. Well it's not so much funny as it is long

[I'll get back to baseball in a bit. I've been sidetracked by a conversation with a friend, which led me to channel Grandpa Simpson]

I kind of feel sorry for kids these days. Thanks to several things - the self-esteem movement of the early 90's; the paralyzing touchy-feely don't-let-your-kids-deal-with-reality method of dealing with life that is rampant in our public schools and the endless parade of rules and regulations designed to protect but only stifle - our children are living the life of Bubble Boy.

abe1.jpgBack in my day, we didn't worry about self-esteem or agonize over feelings. We didn't care about elbow pads and cooperative games where everyone was a winner.

We played musical chairs at birthday parties and laughed and pointed at the kids left standing. We played dodgeball without sissy rules and our gym teachers coached us to hit the other players where it hurt the most. We used the stones from hopscotch games to beat the winner senseless. Ok, no. But sometimes we would draw on her stupid pink, frilly shirt with yellow chalk. It made her sneeze. And she would tell on us and our mothers would say "Oh, stop complaining, Lori. It's just freaking chalk." Can you imagine this happening today? I'd be sued by Lori's mother for the emotional damage I caused her child and my Saturday mornings would be spent in an overstuffed chair in some dark of office of the state-appointed psychiatrist who would ask me how I feel about being so evil.

Not back in my day. There were two boys in my neighborhood who used to throw bricks at me on my way home from school. Bricks. When the principal found out that the same boys were throwing rocks at me on the playground, he took action. The boys got the shit beat out of them by their fathers and no one - not one person - blamed me for being bullied or looked for root causes as to why those children behaved like monsters. They just got detention and sore asses.

I laugh and laugh at extreme sports shows today. Extreme? How can anything be extreme if you're wearing fifteen layers of protective gear while you're doing it? You want extreme? Try powering a rickety, unstable bicycle going about 50 miles per hour - with your sister riding on the handelbars - down the steepest man made slope on Long Island, a slope which ended at a wall of pure concrete into which you would smash and die if you didn't apply the brakes with just the right amount of pressure at the right time. No helmets. No knee pads or elbow pads. We didn't even carry Band-Aids with us. That's extreme.

We played soccer without headgear. The boys played baseball without cups. We rode in the backs of station wagons, not wearing set belts and hanging out the window to wave to strangers. We walked to the candy store by ourselves. We rode our bikes after dark. We called each other horrible names and sometimes we had fistfights right on my front lawn and my mother would tell us to shut up because the noise was drowning out Dark Shadows. And when we got up from the fistfight all bloodied and scraped, mom would tell us to stop our crying, slap some Bactine on us and shoo us outside again.

Oh yea, you saw this coming. In my day we walked to school. Our district was on an austerity budget for years. Walked in the rain, the snow, the sleet and hail. Our parents never drove us because our fathers were at work and our mothers were busy preparing for the fondue themed dinner party they were throwing that evening. So we walked to school and when we got there we learned about history without the P.C. agenda that you get today. And we read books in English that would make P.C. people shriek in horror. We sang Christmas and Hannakuh songs in the winter concert and nobody batted an eyelash.

Self-esteem? We didn't exist to build up each other's egos. We were supposed to knock them down. Life was all about rivalries and competition. If a teacher back then ever told us how wonderful and beautiful and special we all were, we would have reported her to the authorities on suspicion of being a pot smoking hippie.

You know when the world went to hell? When Coca Cola decided to teach the world to sing. The second that commercial came out, a death knell sounded across the playgrounds and schoolyards of America. Parents everywhere, suckered in by the feel-good lyrics and hand-holding sappiness of the commercial felt an awakening of sorts. All those who missed the hippie train of the 60's were going to jump on the Free to be You and Me train of the 70's, and ride it hard.

Back in my day, kids weren't sheltered. We were fed the day's news raw and uncensored. Our parents took us to see gory, bloody horror movies. We were read fairy tales, grim and perverse and wicked as they were, without remanufactured endings where everyone is beautiful and everyone smiles.

We had real playgrounds with merry-go-rounds and metal slides and wooden see saws, all placed on concrete. None of this plastic adventure-in-learning crap sitting on a gentle bed of soft wood chips. We had broken noses and we had scabs covering half our bodies. The school nurse would wipe up our blood, swab us in Bactine (the panacea of our time) and send us back outside for more. Today's kids get a piece of wood chip dust in their eye and they're carried to the nurse's office on a stretcher where they're handed ten different accident and liability forms to give their parents and forced to sit through a video taped lecture on playground safety, presented by a singing, dancing, man in an elephant costume.

We learned about life with all its cuts and bruises and hurt feelings. We worked hard around the house and yard and built up a work ethic. We earned our allowance and walked half a mile to the candy store where we spent it all on sugary, fattening candy and rolls of caps for our cap guns. We would point our guns at each other and say things like bang, bang, you're dead.

Who knew that a generation later, that phrase would probably get you sent to the principal's office and an appointment with the school psychiatrist?

Sure, I lived in dangerous times. Maybe somewhere in 60's or 70's America there were babies flying out of cars or kids smashing into concrete walls and maybe death came calling to some in the form of an errant merry-go-round or a lethal dose of Red Dye #2. But most of us made it. And most of us made it without the lingering head wound side effects.

A little head wound builds character, you know.

I know, Bitch, bitch, bitch.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference I got a funny story about that. Well it's not so much funny as it is long:

» To good not to pass on from A Family Guy
From A Small Victory: I got a funny story about that. Well it's not so much funny as it is long. (more...) [Read More]

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Every so often you read a post that makes you think 'Why didn't I write that?'. The always entertaining Michele at A Small Victory has outdone herself with a rambling, scornful Grampa Simpson-esque bitch about the coddled youth of today and times pas... [Read More]

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Michele Catalano has apparently been replaced by the Grumpy Old Man! Be sure to check it out. Its a very amusing post. Speaking of grumpy old men - just kidding happy birthday wishes to the Crank!... [Read More]

» This Is the Way the World Ends: Not with a Bang, with a Coo from Dust in the Light
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we disagree on a lot of things, but i am totally with you on this. i've always said that kids are being so damned, coddled, that it's no wonder that they're all fucked up and pissed off by the time they're 18.

Love it. But you've got a closure problem. With the download hyperlink, that is.

I bet you get the same strange looks that I get.

I second that vent.

I don't think anything pisses me off more than the move towards fairness in sports - you know, the 'everybody's a winner' philosophy where instead of giving the winning team a trophy, both teams get awards for participation. If you want to do your kids a favor, you'd better teach them young that in this life, some people win and some people lose. And when you lose, you don't blame it on anybody else.

When I coached soccer and would be giving my half-time "okay....what's going on out there and why aren't we scoring" talk, I never allowed my players to get away with the blame game - 'the field is a mess; the ball is flat; the ref isn't calling the fouls on them'. My answer was 'you are playing on the same field with the same ball as them and they can manage to score...and if the ref's not calling fouls, that's tough'.

The worst was the other day, when my daughter's friend who plays for the recreation league (no tryouts, anyone can play) told me that one of the other team's goals got taken away because "it was too high". I asked her what she meant - did it go over the net?

"Oh, no. It went in the net. But it was so high that the goalie couldn't have gotten it anyway, so it didn't count."

Oh. my. gawd.

It's called the "Pussification" of America. Look no farther then mandatory helmets on hockey players, warning on jars of nuts that read "May contain nuts", manicures for men, bike helmets on every kid, the entire po-mo ideas, the ROTC backlash on college campus', etc.

I cdn't agree with you more, and it sickens me.

Michele, you expressed that message in a way so much more entertaining and vivacious than I possibly could have.

GREAT post.

That was brilliant.

Michele, fear not. I was raised during the very late seventies through the eighties, and I my parents didn't suffer me the slings and arrows of harsh reality. When I was probably 3 and my big bro was 6, my dad took us sledding to a hill that sloped right into the back of an apartment building. We didn't go there, he TOOK us there. I was riding in the front, Chuck in the back, and dad pushed us off. When my barely formed brain realized what was going to happen, I just rolled off the sled. My older brother couldn't see past my huge noggin, so he slammed into the building and was in a neck brace for a few weeks. Not to mention hunting trips, boy scouts, private schooling, none of which were ever very PC. And we turned out alright. Well, at least my brother did.

Man, I was just thinking about this in the shower this morning (that's when I do my best thinking) - how hard my Dad had it, and how it made him the way he is, and how my being shielded from a lot of that made me a little less than him. And I worried about how my coddled, spoiled kids will turn out, expecting everything to be given to them and done for them.

When I saw "Sixth Day and the option to get a dog clone's teeth made softer, I knew out future was bleak.

So what are we going to do to fix this problem? I have a few suggestions:

[sarcasm]Bring back the days of gravel playgrounds. I played city league soccer on a gravel field for four years. It's doable.

Summer reading lists to include: Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Crippilatin': The Life and Times of Eazy-Mahfukn-E.

Take Dr. Phil off the air. Did anyone catch The Man Show episode wherein Dr. Phil's true gender is outed?[/sarcasm]

I mean, really...there's nothing we can do about it. It's inherit in the American Dream, to give a better life to our children. It's why these sports leagues exist, why they recommend summer reading lists, and why we worry so much about them that we hire psychologists to tell them they have some BS syndrome and need to start taking some BS pill. People have become so concerned with the ends that they rationalize the means. [sarcasm]Personally, I'm going to chain the children to a tree out in the yard. I'll bring a bowl of food out there once a day, and whoever survives to eighteen gets to go to college. You know, it lets natural order take over and that appeals to the purist that lives inside me.[/sarcasm]

and we had to get up and CROSS THE ROOM to change the TV channel!

to one of 3 or 4 channels! 5 or 6, if you lived in a large enough market.

Matlock! Maaaaaaaatlock!

Wonderful. Forging removes the defects of castings, which otherwise remain grainless. This does NOT mean that your children should be heated and beaten with hammers, it's a metaphor!

To begin with, right out loud: soccer sucks bat-shit off cave walls. It's a nearly perfect recipe for raising asshole incompetents. Stop it. Right now.

Beyond all that, I'll only say that I fondly recall all the BB-gun and bottle-rocket fights of my childhood. Brothers, friends and enemies, we all shot right straight at each other, and it was a wonderful thing. I wouldn't have missed a minute of it. And that's before I get started on banged-nail go-carts, jumping off the garage roof on a giant rope-swing, and that monster 200-foot cable slide we built down the side of that hill when I was twelve years old.

I'm pretty sure I was one of the last authentic American kids, and it's a goddamned shame.

My grandmother took me to the Brighton Park theater in Chicago to see "Born Losers",and when it started to get real ugly,I looked over at her and she just said"watch the movie!"It may explain why I've never really been fond of motorcycles.

I'm 27, so I kind of saw both sides of this. We had tire swings at my elementary school, but they were removed by the time I got to high school. We still picked teams in sports in elementary school, but by high school the last few players were designated by the teacher.

Here's the underlying danger: competition allows kids to find out what they're good at and not good at. If, like today, kids are made to believe they can do anything, and they're all equal, they'll remain blissfully mediocre at everything.

You know what happened with the kids who were picked last in sports? They felt like crap, but it motivated them to find something else they were good at. So they went home and played video games and worked on computers, and now they make twice as much as most of the jocks.

When it comes down to it, the real world will always be competitive, and jobs will always go to just one person, and people can choose to acknowledge this or not.

Great post!

Like shank, I also grew up in the 70s and early 80s, and experienced a similar childhood to Michele's. Maybe growing up in the South meant that lifestyle hung on longer?

But shank, I have to mock your memories of playing soccer on gravel. We used to play tackle football on the streets. When we got older, they repaved and put asphault on top, but before that it was some concrete mix that had a lot of seashells in it, amongst other sharp pointy things. Now THAT's the way to live! And only several of us suffered crippling injuries. Ah, good times....


AAAAAA-Men, Sister! This is the biggest area my wife and I agree on in our current life. Kids don't play. At least, not without prodding. We played baseball until it was too dark to find the ball, we had bb gun fights, we would even find a way to turn something like tossing the football into trouble. If the football hit a dog turd (and EVERYONE had dogs) you would carefully avoid touching the shitty side and toss it back. You did it to your friends, they did it to you. The only time you went in with an injury was if it didn't stop bleeding.
Although we grew up miles apart, my future wife and I both played this game where you got the carport wet, rode down the driveway into the carport as fast as possible, hit the brakes and slid into the back. Then the next kid would do the same thing, except they would slide into you. And so on until everyone had a turn, then you started over. She was quite the tomboy; she has as many football/minibike scars as I have.
When I first got disgusted with this whole "pussifiction" thing was when stores started selling bluejeans that looked dirty. That way, you could LOOK active and never leave the couch.

Soccer rules.

pfffft, Billy.

I think the last time I saw kids walking or riding their bikes out of my small town to an oil lease to go shooting, toting their .22's, was ten years ago.

In the 1960's, when I was 6 or 7, me and my brothers would go with my dad to my uncle's house on Sunday. While dad and my uncles watched a football game, or a race (tape delayed in those days), my twelve year old cousin would get his CO2 or .22, and the younger kids would grab our Daisy BB guns, and we'd climb the fence across the alley and walk down the ditch, through the flood control tunnel under the highway, and go shooting out in the fields.

The only safety measure taken was we'd get told to "Watch out for snakes and black widows", and "Don't point the muzzle at anyone else". Since my twelve year old cousin was responsible for us, it was his job to kill any threatening wildlife with his firearm.

Of course, in those days the oil companies were mainly concerned that nobody shot any signs or insulators, and stayed the hell off any equipment. Other than that, no one bothered kids going out to do some shooting. It was the way life was then--a little bit less pressure on the kids than today, at least where I grew up.

"Soccer, in other words, is a long series of busted plays, plans that don't work, and failures of execution." (Levin)

Soccer blows.

If this breaks out into a soccer sucks/soccer doesn't suck debate, I will close these comments down faster than you can say boooring.

we used to not only use the train bridge as a short cut across town, but we'd climb to the top of the tressel.
My friend even dropped tro and took a whiz on a passing locomotive once. it was brilliant.
we had rope swings in the town park that swept out over the fastest part of the river current... and it was only about 3 feet deeo where you landed.
We sledded in the same park in the winter time and sometimes zipped right out on to the partially frozen river.
we made bike ramps and laid down in front of them while our friends launched themselves over us.
and we played with FIRE!
We doused a nerf soccer ball in gasoline, lit it up and kicked it around the yard to one another... we had one of our friends mind the hose to put out our flaming shoes.

...and when there was no crawdad, we ate sand.

ahhh yes, you have described my childhood. I should add riding your bicycle behind the mosquito fog truck, building forts in trees with rotten wood found around the neighborhood, setting fire to your army men and tank models that were meticulously assembled, having rock fights, having roman candle fights on the golf course.
My kids are the kids riding in the neighborhood without helmets or adult supervision and fighting each other (7 and 9 year olds) in the front yard. I try to limit the "pussification" factor to a certain degree.


I still remember the sting of the scrapes on the palms of my hands and knees -- which was the feeling of preventing a face-plant on the cement playground while running for a pop fly. I also remember how you just sucked it up and didn't say anything because the stuff the nurse slathered on there hurt worse than the scrapes themselves.

And seatbelts? If I was in the front seat, the seat belt was my mom's arm thrown across my chest every time she slammed on the brakes of our enormous Impala.

You brought back a ton of memories, Michele.


It's your blog, so have it your way, Michele--things didn't go to hell in this country when someone decided to make the kids play soccer. Happy?

I hope, however, you don't turn up the lights and make everyone go home. I'm having a great time here at Cootapaloozza '04.

Ozone ferd....add sticking little green apples onto the ends of long pointed supple sticks and flinging them at passing cars to your list, and you've got my childhood, too.

Nothing gets the adreneline going like being chased down by an irate driver whose windshield just got cracked by flying fruit.

My brother used to make ant farms out of glass jars - he had one with red ants and one with blacks ants. The finale to his collection came when he decided to conduct an experiment in segregation.

Make that 'de-segregation'.


(sigh) Bike ramps. Bike nonsense in general.

We were fooling around with drag chutes on bicycles going down hills one day. Don't ask why: it just seemed like a good idea. My brother was wailin'-ass down the steep and not watching where he was going -- looking back at the lovely billows of one of Mom's bedsheets not slowing him down one little tad -- and that's how he knocked the mailbox clean off the steel post when he took it in the upper chest. You had to hear the howling laughter. Except from Michael, of course. He didn't laugh much for a while, which is why Mom didn't give him bloody hell about the sheet. She (correctly) figured we wouldn't be doing much of that anymore.

We built take-off and landing ramps with concrete blocks and old planks in a place where the rope-swing from the tree by the garage would travel directly between them, and then time approaches to the ramps in order to barely miss the fool on the swing intersecting the approach.

Fireworks deluxe, of course. All the time. We didn't think twice about playing with gasoline if it was all we could get our hands on.

I could paint you a picture of three twelve year-olds three miles out in Kaneohe Bay on a reef with sharks bigger than their boat, from personal experience. Today, they'd call out the Coast Guard with helicopters & everything, and you'd see it on CNN.

It's a cryin' shame, I'm tellin' ya.

someone said it and I agree. I think the 'pussification' was delayed in the south. not that there aren't places up north where the kids are all wimps, I'm just saying that I went to camp with these two little redneck kids when I was ten or twelve and they would pick up four foot copperheads. With their bare hands. I guess to find that lifestyl you have to search it out in a place that isn't completely overrun with pop culture and 'modern living'. you gotta go to a place where the term metrosexual means nothing and people have too much important stuff to sit around watching daytime TV. What ever happened to that game "Smear the Queer"? Christ, I think that's the first time I've heard or used that phrase in easily ten years. I remember playing that game in 2nd grade, before I ever knew how to spell its name. We used to play it at recess, I think we even ran around the playground shouting "SMEAR THE QUEER!! SMEAR THE QUEER!!" Now I think it's got some dumbass name like 'kill the man with the ball'. I don't think being gay even had anything to do with the game. Hell, I don't think we were even concious of our willies outside of the fact that we needed them to pee.

add sticking little green apples onto the ends of long pointed supple sticks


Grapefruit wars! Sticking firecrakers into grapefruit from the neighbors tree and playing war.

BB guns..and everyone was jealous when Mike got one with a CO2 cartridge..we all still had to pump ours.

roasting marshmallows in the backyard over fires in the "incinerator"..where we used to burn yard clippings and paper..in the San Francisco Bay area no less..all without "Parental Supervision"

We never ever played in the house, that was boring as hell. Who wanted to be inside when you could lay bottle rockets on the ground, light them, and watch them launch from the dip in the street..

Aww..good times, good times..

oh, and building forts too. Indoor forts out of blankets and chairs, outdoor forts from tree limbs; fort archetecture is a lost art. I used to 'run away from home' when I was a kid and someone pissed me off. I would load up my t-ball trophies, struggle to get the high-tops on my 8 year old feet, and I'd go build a fort out in one of the front flower beds. I'd hold until as long as I could, which was usually about dinner time. By then I guess I'd completely forgotten what the hell I was doing out there in the first place.

Jesus, this is fun.

I think you need to get an environmental impact study done now before you're allowed to build a tree fort....to say nothing of the building permits and zoning clearances.

we would camp out in my buddies back yard and scoot out into the night as soon as the lights in the house went out. we'd roam the UMaine campus and reek all kinds of havoc. Our goal was to be chased by the campus police.
when we got older we'd have our older simblings by us beer and we'd camp out and make a big fire. We threw an old christmas tree on there... it was July so you can imagine that the old tree was quite dry. It went up like it was made out of hydrogen.
then my buddy thought it'd be great to toss a can of OFF on the fire. He plunked it on there and we all hauled ass as fast as we could. we peered back at the fire in anticipation... then realizing that all of our sleeping bags were layed out in front of the flames we began to tip toe back toward the ticking OFF can. we made it to about 5 feet away when she blew.
big chunks of red hot coal shot out into the night air falling and starting small fires on all our sleeping bags.
I was using my father's bag that night. It was quite a imaginative fib i came up with to explain the 128 quarter sized holes burned into his brand new LL Bean sleeping bag. I believe the story had something to do with a branch breaking off the tree and falling into the fire casuing a cascade of embers. I can still see my father's cocked right eyebrow and his doubting gaze in my mind's eye as he heald his mortally wounded sleeping bag..

Thanks for writing this, Michele. And thanks for giving us a chance to rant.

As an only child, I was overprotected by my mom. But when I'd go camping with Dad, things were better. He'd let me wander through the woods, alone. I could go wherever I wanted, all day, as long as I was back for dinner. I never followed a trail, I learned to use a compass, leave a trail of pebbles or breadcrumbs and just guess how to find my way back.

Maybe he was trying to lose me, but it never worked. I always came back :-)

Now 'nature lovers' and park rangers have a fit if you wander off the trail. 'Don't damage the moss, don't scare the chimpmunks.' Chimpmunks exist to be scared. And what's the point of going where everyone's already been?


Summer was a timeless age of hurried breakfast to get outside, to ride bikes, climb trees (I loved climbing until I was above the peak of the roof of the house), skate (if you could locate the key), make a fort with the large refrigerator box from your neighbor, play endless games of hide and seek or statue-maker or tag, or baseball at the end of the cul-de-sac, beg mom to eat lunch outside, run through the sprinklers, through dirtclods until someone's mom yelled at you, plan on doing a backyard show and dream what you'd do with the "admission money" of a nickel a piece, see how many friends you could jam in your red wagon and ride down the hill to spill out at the bottom hoping for not too much blood...

I remember when my dad took a 2×4 board, took apart an old metal skate and screwed the wheels to each end, nailed an orange crate at one end and nailed two pieces of an old broomstick on the top to make me a scooter .... tincan bottoms on the front for "headlights" and then handed me a brush and leftover paint to decorate it. I remember using cloth's pins to put playing cards on my bike to "thwap" in the spokes.

There was still danger in those days. But we kids ran in packs, and a neighborhood always had most moms home who had no problems with disciplining whatever kid was within arms reach. Moms who ignored normal play but also made sure that no one was really and truly hurt. Moms wanted you OUTSIDE and not underfoot.

I spent summers with huge scabs on knees and elbows, peeling nose and bruises and scratches up and down arms and legs from hard play.

And when it was too hot to play, there were BOOKS and glasses of ice cold rootbeer.

Damn. I'm old.

When I was a kid we lived in a shallow pit covered with a tarp. We brushed our teeth with razorblades and tar. It's not that we couldn't afford toothpaste and brushes - my parents just thought it built character.

I walked 18 miles to school, and 22 miles home (my parents kept trying to move house while I was out).

At the age of 8 I left school to work down t'pit. I worked 3am thru 11pm, carrying hodsful of coal from a shaft 4 miles underground, and when I reached the surface I turned around and carried it back down. Not only did I not get paid, but I had to pay the mine owner 5 shilings a day for the privilege.

My happiest day was my 11th birthday. As a gift my father beat me with birch branches instead of the usual 5-inch thick oak branch studded with rusty nails. It was heaven itself.

Life was tough. Still, if it hadn't been for my upbringing I wouldn't be the stable, responsible man I am today.

I remeber my parents taking us to see Papillon, Orca, and Nashville as pre-teens (we left at the begening of Barbarella.)

We had two toboggan routes at the farm, one ended at an electric fence and a drainage ditch, the other you had to lie down to go under the barbed wire.

Good times, of course the emergency room nurses knew us by name.

40 comments and no one's yet quoted the Monty Python "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch? I'm surprised and kinda' disappointed. ;-)

...we used to get up at half past ten at night--half an hour BEFORE we'd gone to bed--clean out the lake, drink a glass of cold sulfuric acid for breakfast, crawl 100 miles naked through a blizzard (uphill both ways) to get to work, work 29 hours a day, pay for permission to come to work, come home, and then our dad would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing hallelujah. If we were lucky.

My childhood was not tough. It was simpler, true, but for a child what did I know of bills, mortgages, taxes and politics? I know now about the Cuban missile crisis, but my biggest worry at that time was what Halloween costume I was going to wear and if my little sister would last long enough on trick-or-treating so would could get a huge haul of candy.

That said, there have been trade-offs in our society. Well and wonderful that women feel free enough to pursue whatever careers they want. Not so wonderful that more kids than ever before don't come home after school to mom and play outside with other neighborhood kids who also have just come home to their moms.

My own children have had so many opportunities I didn't have as a child, and they've missed out on things I took for granted.

Did anyone ever take vienna sausages on their campouts?

Did you ever know that -- back in the day -- a vienna sausage can would fit very, very neatly into a regular Campbell's Soup can?

Here's why this was important:

You could take the soup can, and poke a hole in it with a nail, down at the base, on the side. Then, you could put a firecracker in the can, with the fuze sticking out the hole. Then, you could drop a vienna sausage can into the soup can -- open side down into the soup can. Then, you could light the fuse, hold the soup can in your hand, point it at your enemies behind their cardboard box fort, and launch it at 'em.

This weapon was good for about fifteen or eighteen feet on the level fly, and more if you faked-up some kinda mortar lookin' ballistic arc. A hit on someone's body was a kill, of course, but there could also be rules about "blast radius" kills if it landed near someone. Of course, there were often fights about how close the "mortar" landed and whether anyone was dead or only wounded -- lots of screaming and hollering until everybody was more than ready to start shooting again.

Go ahead: ask me how I know this.

BTW -- the vienna sausage cans stopped fitting into the soup cans by about '72 or so.

I've always wondered who got tipped to our engineering and put a stop to it.

I was channeling Python, Dave, but I couldn't remember how it went. Thanks for hunting it down, though, cause I almost wet myself reading it.

Fuck, Python was funny.

I agree w/ most of your rant ( I was born in'55) but, does anyone remember learning anything about african americans. Other than Flip Wilson and "Julia" were there any black faces on tv?

That's a completely different subject, Earl. Nobody is talking about reverting to that.

But since you asked: yes. I learned about them from playing with them, having their mothers threaten to whip my ass right along with their kids, and having my mother do the same to all of us.


I was born in 54. Amazingly, I didn't look to tv to "teach me" about "other" people.

That was what happened by going to school, talking with my parents at the dinner table each night, being the in Girl Scouts, attending temple with my Jewish friends on Friday, mass with Catholic friends on Saturday and going to Sunday school for me was all about.

TV was entertainment. And rationed entertainment at that in my home.

I envy all of you, i really do. I just turned 18 about two months ago and my childhood was total crap compaired to that. Hell i got intouble with my parents when i was little for shooting A NEFR GUN at my friends,and them shooting back, what the hell!! if someone kicks my ass at school and i dont fight back, i got suspened for 5 days because i provoked the fight, and there is no justification for fighting back acording to them. I hate it. Tackle football was outruled in elementry because it was dangerous, and two hand touch was sometimes to rough. Gym teachersALWAYS pick the teams to make it fair. THIS SUCKS!!

crap and if its any indication of our youth, i just realized how many damn spelling nad grammer errors i had in that, god we suck.

I used to play 'guns' when I lived in Texas between the ages of 8-10. About eight of us would choose teams and run around shooting each other with our toy guns. I moved to New Jersey between the ages of 10-11 and had to teach my new friends about 'guns', but they learned fast and we spent many the day running around the neighbor shouting 'bang' at eachother.

That was what happened by going to school, talking with my parents at the dinner table each night, being the in Girl Scouts, attending temple with my Jewish friends on Friday, mass with Catholic friends on Saturday and going to Sunday school for me was all about.

What Darleen said, children don't come preprogrammed, in the non politically correct era, life taught us about life.

Oh, and TV was for when you were sick and propped up on the couch with a bowl of Campbells tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

OK, except for Saturday morning when we'd watch cartoons like the Road Runner, and Bugs Bunny and Pepe LePew and who knows what else.


None of us can really choose what our childhoods will be. We are the mercy of our era and our parents. My mom had a nice middle-class upbringing, my dad a dirt-poor, live in public housing, go to work at 9 y/o and live on his own at 15 y/o "upbringing."

But you can choose to think about how you want to raise your own kids before you have them. Think about how you would have wanted your childhood, and then plan what you have to do to make that for your own.

Hang in there, Brandon, it does get better. :-)


Oh, and TV was for when you were sick and propped up on the couch with a bowl of Campbells tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

MmmmmMMMmmm.... oh yeah (with Vicks VapoRub on your chest under the 100% cotton non-flame-retardent pajamas)

Uh, Michele? Here's another fun topic...comfort food!

Well, this brings back memories. I got off relatively unscathed: broken left arm in 3rd grade while playing freeze tag. On a jungle jim. Well, I didn't plan on falling off.

(Though dammit, I would've loved to have one of those Nerf gatling dart launcher thingies back when I was seven or so.)

Shark: haven't thought about "Smear the Queer" for 25 years! Damn!
Despite the humor from the Python references, none of us (I don't think) are complaining about the way we were raised. I'm from the south, lived here all my life and I can't provide my kids with the upbringing I had. Both sets of grandparents had outhouses, neither had running water (one had a pump on the back porch, the other had a spring), and we are too scattered for keeping as close as I would like. I had a good childhood, but it's the only one I knew. I hope my kids think their childhoods rocked!
And, hell, I wouldn't want them doing everything I did. On one scout campout, we were having a watergun fight in a huge live oak on the Naval Lab in Panama City, Fl. Eventually, we started running out of ammo and this one kid had the bright idea of pissing in his water pistol to refill it. Everyone recognizes brilliance when they see it so we all loaded up. Things were getting out of hand pretty fast so it was just a matter of time before someone feel out of the tree. I can see him now, arms and legs spread out in the air, falling back first right by me, disappearing through the bushes and landing with a soft thud.

Good times, good times.

I just read this to my kid...he says you are a genius. He never calls me a genius.

Yeesh, what a bunch of urban fancy lads.

Childhood fun in out the sticks meant live ammo battles with BB guns, South Dakota legal M-100s and -200s, and tricking stupid suburban cousins into pissing on the electric fence (hint: wear rubber boots to show that it's "safe"). I drove a fucking 3-speed 3/4 truck on the highway at age 11 because my Dad made me.

make that a 3/4 ton truck.

"Here, The Cheat, have a trophy!"

Iowahawk, you get full points for the pissing on the electric fence thing, I think everyone would agree with that. I can only but envy your having the foresight to be born and raised in a state which permits one to get cool fireworks; the best I ever came up with was setting my neighbors' yard on fire when I lit a smoke bomb and shot it nearly straight up in the air using a wrist rocket, plus or minus five degrees elevation or so.

But "I drove a fucking 3-speed 3/4 truck on the highway at age 11 because my Dad made me.?"

Please recall the topic of the post was a comparison of what kids today are allowed to do by themselves, versus what we got up to on our own. Your Dad might have made you do a lot of things, good or bad, and it wouldn't really apply to what we got up to when the grownups weren't around, would it?

ok, i'm in love with you.
hope you're not too fat.
give me a buzzzzz.


I'm reminded of the time I broke my collarbone on the big waterslide by screwing around on the way down, trying to stand up and such. (I'm sure today such an action reported would force the tearing down of said waterslide.) My mom who had taken us to the waterpark in the back of the pickup, put us all in the back of the pickup (it was time to go, anyway) and drove home. The worst part was going over the railroad tracks. After further examination at home, we went to the hospital. Yep, broken.

One of the greatest weapons/building materials/adverse surface/facewash locales while growing up was snow. Lots of it piled up in the parking lots on the way home from school provided a hill for king of the hill games that would last for hours. Snow forts, snowball fights, facewashes (pushing someone's face into the snow and rubbing it around), all gave us a duality of evasiveness and attack strategy. During recess, we'd find the largest patch of ice that had formed overnight, get a run at it and slide (standing) from end to end, and this was allowed by the school! Mind you, some of these ice patches were over 50 feet long, and we'd stop at nothing to try to make it all the way to the end. Physics says an 80 pound kid had to have a sizeable initial velocity to make it all the way; some kids suffered due to lack of a smooth transition from pavement to ice.

I liked the part about the station wagon. We had one in the late 70s/early 80s. When we went on trips, we'd put a mattress in the "way way back". We'd hang out there and play or color or sleep or wave at strangers. The back window went all the way down, and nobody worried about falling out ... indeed, nobody was ever stupid enough to hang out it and risk it ... for we knew it would be certain death!

For the gearheads out there, if any ...
In "Motorcycle Mania 3," Jesse James and Kid Rock ride a couple of bikes deep into Mexico. At one point, they see some Dads cruising the 2-lane in a pickup with their kids in the back. Kid Rock later comments, "Man it's still a different world down here. Did you see those kids in that truck? I remember growing up, my Dad would cruise us around the countryside in the back of his pickup. Nowadays if you did that, they'd lock you up and take your kids and your truck."

Not that cruising around with your kids in the back of a pickup is the greatest thing to do, but in the America of old, it was your prerogative. Relative safety in most situations was each person's judgement call, not legislated necessity. Nowadays, with the advent of the hand-holding nanny state, it's just another choice that's not yours anymore.

Ah, yes. BB gun and/or corn cob fights at the railyard. I remember them well. And riding a home-made wagon downhill on a steep slope of Mississippi Hwy 9, just hoping there wasn't a log truck coming around the curve at the bottom of the hill.

And I remember living out in the Texas panhandle during the early '50's. We lived in a neighborhood with about 70 kids under 15, none of whom were ever inside during daylight hours in the summer.

There was a baseball game in a (literal) sandlot down the street that started at dawn the day after school got out and ended when it was too dark to see on the last day before school started. And in another vacant lot there were earthwork forts we dug with whatever tools we could scrape up; and from which we had 'clod wars'.

The only rules we had in the summer were "settle your own problems" and "be home when the streetlights come on". Other than that, we were completlely on our own.

That was the life!

Michele, i'm with you. Sure, i'm only 21, i missed the good yers, but i was brought up right. When my brother (7 years my senior) started beating up on me, ma said Hit Him Back Harder. My playground at my elementary school was rusty steelimplements on Asphault. One of my friends broke out his fron teeth when he fell face foreward off the monkey bars. W had one of those big ring things attached my chains to a central post adn we would see if we could get it spinning dast enough to lift our feet off the ground. And if you didn't have a good grip and you didn't know how to land, you'd be in a heap 15 feet away bloodied and battered by the hot, unforgiving asphault. But i'll tell you i learned how to fall right and get a good grip by the time i was 5. Only took me 2 tries efore i got it right. And don't get me started on teh Curly Slide. Oh my, 25 feet high, rusty steel, a big ass hole in the slide deck about 5 feet fom the botom adn we would pile in 5 or 6 at a time to slide down it. I myself climbed up the outside of it numerous times, and this time if i didn't have a good grip, i'd be screwed. I've done the same "Kids today" speech whenever i go back to that school because i know how much i leared on that(now a parking lot) playground. And the funny thing is, when they made it a parking lot, all they did was remove the equipment and paint on lines.
That was really long, sorry, but had to be said. Thanks.

the irony in all this, of course, is that most of those that lived through this are the exact people that are raising their children to be of the "kinder and gentler" variety.

A couple of terms you might want to make yourself acquainted with, ac--the "body of family law" (you might call it 'domestic relations), which hovers over parents in damned near every state of the Union, holding a club, and "Child Protective Services" (the designation of your fascist regime may vary), which strains eagerly at the leash, hoping for yet another report or continuing reports which justifies their existence on the public teat: in today's world it's a damn good paying job and they're not about to give it up.

Wasn't growing up on Long Island great? Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories Michele...