Dare you ask — how did we ever survive?


Mike Rainone


In these most hectic of economic times those of us who are seniors have been told that we are indeed living a whole lot longer, and costing the government so much money that it is at a loss to know how they will cope with us all.

Yet as we watch our children trying to lead their flocks through the rigours of growing up, we then look back a half century or so and really wonder how we ever managed to survive our childhood, let alone get to middle age.

Just think of some of the perils that we faced daily. There were no bicycle helmets, no car seat belts, no trauma counselling, and our dogs roamed the streets freely with nothing except the elements to clean up their messes. How did we ever survive our normal daily activities you might ask? We roamed around our community and countryside picking all sorts of berries, raiding gardens, and it never occurred to us to wash them or if they might be harmful. We ran through the poison ivy and nettles, chewed grass in the fields where the cows were grazing, rolled in the dirt, and ate snow in the winter when we were thirsty. Sure, along the way we suffered through all sorts of aches and pains, and cuts and bruises, and childhood illnesses, but we had absolutely no choice about receiving the treatment, taking the shots, and getting better the next day.

We even accepted candy from an old man who sat on a park bench watching the children at play. Today he would likely be looked upon with suspicion, when at that time he was accepted for what he was, a lonely old man getting pleasure from sharing his sweets with us.

Hygiene was another minefield in our days. There were no sell by or use by dates on food products, few fridges, and tight household budgets dictated that every morsel of everything had to be used up. After appearing as the Sunday roast, meat was kept in an outside or basement winter or summer cooler, and throughout the week appeared in a variety of tasty treats from stew to sandwiches. As far as toys go, we each got one on special occasions, but created great playthings out of junk or whatever was lying around the house or garage.

Shopping was also another source of potential disaster. Most items of trade from candy to meat and veggies were openly displayed on the counters or in tins or jars, and were touched by many hands before they reached our table. How did we ever outlive all those germs that were constantly ravaging our insides?

These hidden dangers in food were nothing compared with those we faced each and every day. We played risky games such as cowboys and Indians, pumpum-pull-away, kick the can, and red light; built tree huts and dug tunnels everywhere, and walked or quickly pedalled our bikes home in the dark or in a storm. Our parents taught us to be polite, respect our elders, and be careful crossing the road — but there weren’t as many cars in those days and drivers weren’t always in a hurry.

Remember when we climbed trees and regularly fell out of them, we rode and fell off our bicycles without wearing helmets, and were driven in cars without seat belts? Us kids slid on thinly frozen ponds, made slides in the school playground, where there were swings, teeter-totters, and roundabouts, but not a whole lot of soft grass to fall on. We used to take makeshift rafts out on the pond, which tipped over often, but everyone could swim and always watched out for each other.

At school if we pulled off to many no-nos, it could result in the strap, but usually ended up in detention or a dreaded phone call to our parents. The parent’s reply to our wining about punishment was that we must have deserved it, and then followed through with their own rules, such as extra homework and chores. Our folks would no more have thought of taking a complaint to the school than of flying to Pluto, and there weren’t too many counsellors around.

By rights, most of us from that generation should have succumbed to accidents, food poisoning, or simple wear and tear, but although those days may have held many dangers, everyone seemed happy and carefree. By comparison, our children of today have to be carefully guarded from the perils of the world around them, simply because the dangers of modern life are now on a much larger scale. Yet, what if at some time these dangers are gradually removed, and given the rapid advances in modern science and medicine, does this mean we are all heading for eternal life?

Whatever the case, for those of us who tried to grow up then, and for our present vibrant youth, everything will be fine, as long as we can find a patch of green grass, find time to enjoy and share precious time with family and friends, and strive to live each and every day to the fullest.

Have a great week, all of you!

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