Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Earlier Times

On a list I'm on, people were reminiscing about their childhoods and how kids could use their imaginations more because they played outside--no one organized them. Things have truly changed and I think it's too bad--and the main reason is because it's too dangerous.

Back in my younger days, I have a feeling there were just as many bad people around, we just didn't hear about them so much.

I had lots of freedom. Mom really didn't seem to care where I went as long as I was home by 5 for dinner. Also, if we heard my dad whistle, and he could whistle really loud, we better hustle on home. I did not grow up in the country, our home was in Los Angeles. We had hills behind our house where the Glendale Freeway is today. We usually didn't hike in the hills unless we had a grown-up with us because hobos lived in the hills. And yes, they really did, we often saw their encampments though never them.

We did a lot of roller skating down the sidewalks, we lived on a hilly street and usually stopped by crashing into someone's garage door. We also rode our bikes everywhere. I often rode off alone in the summer with my writing gear in my basket and a book to read, and parked myself several blocks away under a lovely willow tree on someone's front lawn. (No, I didn't know the people.) I would write and read and enjoy myself and no one ever told me to move along.

I can just imagine the people of the house saying, "There's that strange little girl again."

Though I spent a lot of time with my friends doing all sorts of things like digging tunnels in the vacant lot (to escape from the enemy--I grew up during WWII) and cococting poisons, putting on plays with the neighborhood kids, I also wandered around a lot by myself. Sometimes I even managed to get lost.

When my cousin and I were 10 our mothers let us go downtown (downtown L.A.) on the streetcar by ourselves. (What we didn't know is they followed us on the very next street car.) We had strict orders to stay in the block between 5th and 6th and to only go in those stores. Because we did as we were told, we were allowed to go downtown by ourselves whenever we wanted after that. Back in those days you could buy a lot at the dime store with one dollar.

Visits to the library were a weekly event. Mom had to drive us there. I always got 10 books and read them all before the week was up.

When I was a bit older mom subscribed to a book club and she told me I couldn't read the books--but I did after she finished them. (I'm sure she knew.)

My growing up years were filled with freedom and I truly know how blessed I was.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith


  1. Everything is very organized now and unfortunately, I think that's the way it has to be. I'm still a little uncomfortable with the kids walking around, even in groups, but I'm getting better. I find that there is someone I know always driving through town or right where my kids are, always happy to report back on what they were seen doing (which is usually cramming multiple slices of pizza into their mouths...no harm there). I, too, wish for a simpler time. We grew up on a block where the smallest family--ours--had four kids and there was always someone to play with outside. Other families had five, six, seven, and even nine kids. We didn't come in unless we were hungry or the street lights came on. Your stories of growing up in LA are fascinating, Marilyn. Maggie

  2. Marilyn, it's hard to imagine L.A. ever being anything but large, smoggy, and impersonal! So your memories of your childhood days were wonderful to read.

    I grew up all over the place since we moved every two or three years (my dad worked for IBM, aka I've Been Moved). Wherever we lived throughout the '70s and '80s, I remember playing with neighborhood kids, staying out until Mom called us in for dinner, and then going back out in the dark to play flash-light tag. One time when I got pissed at my mother, I said, "I'm running away." "Good," she replied. I took off for hours, climbing a tree in a nearby park until I got tired of it and went home. In high school, we had tons of freedom, often staying out past curfew (as long as I called Mom and told her where I was). I can't imagine growing up now with all the craziness out there. No wonder parents are thankful for video games and Wii sports that keep kids indoors. Something really precious has been lost, and I am grateful to have spent my kid years in less frightening times.


  3. When I threatened to run away I was in the tub and mom was close by. She told me go like I was because everything I had she'd bought. I didn't leave.

    We now live in a dinky town, still in California, but my great-grandkids live on a road where each house is on at least an acre, they roam all over the hills, ride ATVs, have a large above ground pool, always have a zillion friends over, and now that it's summer the teen age boys take turns helping their dad with the family's pool cleaning business and the 11 year old daughter answers the phone and does paper work for her mom. And yes they have a Wii too.

    Still glad I grew up when I did even though I'm now an ancient great-grandma.


  4. What a neat post. I often walked a block or two to go play with friends, and I remember this starting around the age of 4-5! My oldest is 8 now and I'd never let her walk around the block without me. The neighborhood is safe enough but I'm too worried about the aberrant freak that could drive by at exactly the wrong time. I think kids these days still have fun because they don't have a point of comparison. I used to ride in the front seat of the car, too, but nowadays no kids in the front seat until they're what? Twelve? My kids think it's incredible that "when mom was little, kids rode up front."