Welcome back to Blogville, thanks for joining me. Today I am enjoying a Hibiscus tea as I remember my childhood in the 1960s. I am wondering if the Children’s Aid Society knew the safety risks when they placed me with a family in Cochrane, Ontario lol? Let’s find out.
So, I am sure my social worker talked with my parents about the adoptive family’s pledge to keep children placed with them safe. I am also sure the worker heard their assurances about always keeping me safe from harm while raising me ‘as if I was born to them’. Obviously my parents gave all the right answers, for that era. Their idea of keeping kids safe was, of course, relevant to the standards and practices of families in the 1960s.
Please note, I was raised when there were 70 mph (115 km/h) posted speed limits on highways and there were no laws about seatbelts in vehicles. Kids would lay across the top of the back seat, just under the rear window, and sleep. Especially if the family didn’t have a station wagon where a kid could sleep in the back, while on the highway, with their 5 siblings and 4 cousins sleeping alongside them. Families were often on their way to the cottage where the kids could swim freely, or canoe, or drive speedboats, all unencumbered by those silly life jackets. Once tired of that, the kids would hop in the bed of a neighbour’s truck for a ride, all the while trying to push each other out onto the dirt road. A kind of moving ‘King of the Castle’.
People of my generation reading this are saying, ‘OMG I remember that, how did we ever survive?’ But survive we did. The thrill of screaming while seated on our bikes, or standing up on the pedals, flying down paved streets with the highest grade slope (in my case 6th Avenue), with no hands, and a blurry side view unencumbered by helmets! We had little regard for the stop sign at the bottom of the hill as we wanted only to be slowed down by the street’s uphill grade once we blew through the intersection.
On long summer days our parents would collectively shoo us out the door, often with the responsibility of a younger sibling in tow; much to our dismay. But at least we had each other. Groups of us would spend our days wandering around, or playing pick up games of baseball, or tag, or hide and seek. We were known to play a few rounds of ‘rap, rap, ginger’ where we would hide, and the kid who drew the short straw would have to run up to a home’s door, rap real hard and loud, and RUN! The rest of us, our hearts in our throats, watched to see if the kid would get caught, and if caught, what the grown up would do about it.
If we got thirsty on those hot summer days every home usually had a water hose laying in the yard that we could grab a drink from. If we were hungry there were crab apple trees and vegetable gardens to raid. Oh how I miss grabbing a fresh carrot from a garden, washing it using the nearest garden hose, or in worst case scenarios, wiping the garden dirt off on my shorts and taking that first bite of the carrot, tasting both the carrot, and the ground it came out of. As well, people often had raspberry bushes in their yards that we called, ‘dessert’.
Even way back then our parents had warned us about ‘stranger danger’. We were equipped with the knowledge of how to scream, kick, or bite anyone trying to get us into a car. In my case, fully street-proofed, I once stepped out of school into intense rain, a Cochrane tsunami! This car pulled up and a woman said, “Lynn, come on, I’ll drive you home.” Did I tell you how hard it was raining? Well, I hopped in the car and said, ‘I’m not supposed to take rides with strangers.’ She said, “I’m not a stranger, I know your mom and dad and where they work.” For a second, as is the life of an adoptee I held my breath and thought, ‘could this be my birth mother?’ So I started asking her questions, all of which she patiently answered while driving me the 4 or 5 blocks to my house. ‘Where does my mother work? What is her name? Do I have a brother? What is his name?’ All of which she knew the answer to. No, I didn’t ask if she was my birth mother, strangely, I always regretted that. We arrived at my house and I practically leapt out of her car saying politely, “thanks for the ride” before slamming the car door shut. I ran in the house and told my mom immediately of my error in taking a ride with a stranger. I explained that she knew her and she knew dad and she could answer all my questions. Rather unconcerned, my mom said, “Oh, who was she?” My mom could barely contain her smile when I realized, and admitted, that I hadn’t asked her that! Obviously, I never accepted a ride with a stranger again.
Oh, but nothing beats winter in Northern Ontario. So much to do. We were fearless. We would toboggan down steep laneways, often not stopping until we were in the middle of the street at the bottom of the lane. There would be as many kids as could hold on to the toboggan screaming and laughing all the way down, or at least until they fell off. Then there would always be that brave kid who would stand mid-toboggan, pull the rope as taught as possible in their mitt-covered hands, and see if they could make it to the bottom of the lane still standing! Some made it, while some left blood in the snow. I mean, when you are 10 years old, blood in the snow is pretty awesome.
One of our neighbours had a huge St. Bernard dog and we would put on our slipperiest boots and ask to walk him. You see they lived in the middle of a steep hill and at the end of our walk we would aim him down the hill toward his home. Oh, how that dog would run! We would be flying behind him holding tight to his leash and suddenly he would turn and bee-line it to his house. We would release the leash and, propelled by the dog’s speed, we would almost fly, screaming, the rest of the way down that hill!
During the Cochrane winter carnival there would be a fishing derby on the lake in the middle of town. Hundreds of holes were made with ice augers by fishermen hoping their catches would win some carnival prizes. But after the derby was over, those abandoned holes in the ice surface became our challenge. We waited for the first post-carnival snowfall. Then, like a reverse Whac-A-Mole game, we would challenge each other to run blindly across the lake’s frozen surface hoping not to step in one of those boot-eating holes in the ice’s surface. Yes, we were worried about losing our boots, but innocently, we never really thought about breaking a leg or ankle. Magically, to the best of my knowledge not one of us ever broke a bone during this challenge. However, I’d bet there are more kids’ boots at the bottom of that lake than there are cars from the carnival’s annual car-plunge contest!
So my friends, we made it. With a little skill and a lot of luck, we survived all those 1960s childhood shenanigans. Here is a challenge, let’s work very hard at getting our grandchildren away from their screens and outside to enjoy some terrifying fun, like we did. There must be a big hill to slide down, or a field for some pick up baseball still left on this planet. But, don’t forget to go home before the sun starts to set. Supper will be on the table.
As always my friends your comments or questions are always welcome, here, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to hearing from you.