Where Have All The Children Gone?

By: Anne Corke

Jul 29 2011

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Category: Life stories

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On Thursday morning, I was walking the dogs in a nearby subdivision. We took a different route along several of the side streets away from the through traffic. As we walked, it suddenly struck me how empty the neighbourhood was. I stopped and looked back. No one. Ahead of me. No one. There was no one around at all. It appeared as if the entire area was deserted. It’s summer and there wasn’t a child, or for that matter an adult, in sight. It looked like a scene from a sci-fi movie where all mankind has been abducted by aliens! I started to ponder how things have changed since I was a child oh so many years ago.

When I was young and off on summer holidays, the neighbourhoods buzzed with activity all day long. Of course, back in those days, almost all the mothers were at home looking after their kids and running the household. You would see them in the backyard hanging out the laundry on the clothesline or chatting to one another over the fence. Children were out and about right after breakfast, calling on their friends to see if they could come out to play. Sometimes we would walk over to the park or the schoolyard for a game of tag. But most of the time we would play at our homes, swinging in the backyard, sharing our toys, riding our tricycles on the sidewalks. We were busy from dawn to dusk and the days seemed to stretch on forever. Our fathers were off to work during the week but there were lots of other people coming and going. The milkman delivered milk and dairy products to your door. If Mum was busy, she could leave a note of her order along with her payment in the milkbox, and the goods would be left there. In those days, all the houses had milkboxes and they were very handy if you got locked out of the house. They were just big enough that a small child could squeeze through! In those days, long, long before email and online banking, the mailman delivered letters and bills twice a day! And the breadman brought bread and baked goods right to your home. And everyone in the neighbourhood knew everyone. There wasn’t a lot of traffic during the day. Many families didn’t have a car and if they did, Dad would have driven it to work. In those days, most people bought used cars and the men worked on their cars on the weekends, doing everything from oil changes to engine replacement. My Dad even dug a pit at the end of the driveway so he could work underneath the car! (I remember one of our neighbours bought a new car and the entire neighbourhood traipsed over to get a look at it, it was such a novelty!) Television programming was limited and besides, our mothers didn’t want us hanging around the house on a nice day so they would insist we play outside. Even if it was raining, we could still play on the porch with our dolls. On those hot, humid afternoons, a jingling bell signalled the imminent arrival of the ice cream truck. We would run to mother to beg for some change then dash off to intercept the truck for a cool treat! If we were lucky enough to get a small allowance, or if we had pop bottles to return, we would walk to the corner store and spend an inordinate amount of time deciding what to buy. Our mathematical skills got a workout as we tried to determine which types of candy to buy to get the maximum quantity of sweet stuff for our money! Boodle bags, small brown paper bags containing an unknown assortment of candy, were two cents each. Blackballs were three for a penny. But my vice was sponge toffee. I would blow my entire allowance on five pieces at five cents each! There were no organized sports back then although swimming lessons were offered at the public pool at the park. We didn’t care much for sports anyhow. We made up our own games. If there was any construction going on, we would wander over to watch the big machines. If there was paving going on, we would sneak over and grab a hunk of tar to chew on! (Don’t ask!) There were no bike helmets and those that had two-wheelers would often ride with someone sitting on the crossbar or even the handlebars (and I have the scars to prove it!). We were far more carefree than today’s children. We didn’t have a lot of toys but we had vivid imaginations. We had our mothers at home to make our lunch, to listen to our stories, to sort out our quarrels. We had the freedom to wander the neighbourhood since someone’s Mum was always keeping an eye on us. We were safe (well, relatively!), we were busy, we were happy, we were kids, and summer was the best time of our lives. I’m glad I was a kid back then.

Copyright 2011 Anne Corke

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