Thursday, June 20, 2013


In yesterday's blog post, I wrote about how, as kids, we used to regularly blow up our plastic models with firecrackers, lighter fluid and matches on a regular basis. All of us kids had a stash of Black Cat firecrackers squirreled away somewhere in our closets. Those firecrackers used to be much easier to come by back in the 1960s. We didn't have to wait for the 4th of July or New Year's Eve to purchase them and there were no ordinances banning the use of fireworks in the city limits.

Still, I'll be the first to admit that while the destructive, pyrotechnical practices we indulged in on a regular basis were and are dangerous things to do, none of us young miscreants were ever seriously hurt while doing this, nor did we ever cause any property damage (except the loss of our models). And none of us grew up to be arsonists, terrorists or other threats to society.

You must remember that this was fifty years ago and the world was a radically different place.
Safety gear? Didn't exist. Adult supervision? Are you kidding? As kids, we regularly engaged in various dangerous practices (almost all of which could have ended very badly) but we came through all of these adventures in one piece. And most importantly of all, we had fun doing it.

We rode our bikes all over hell-and-creation without bicycle helmets or any other safety gear. There were certain streets I was not allowed to ride on but I regularly rode to my friends' houses and to the neighborhood 7-11 to buy comic books.

During elementary school at Brykerwoods, a bunch of us boys would gather on the playground after school, choose up sides and play either tackle football (in the fall) or baseball (in the spring). The only equipment we had were a football, a couple of baseballs and a few bats. Every kid had a baseball glove. There was no protective gear, no referees, umpires or adults. Everybody played and everybody had a good time. No one, that I can recall, was ever seriously injured. We'd go home with a skinned up knee or elbow and our clothes would be filthy but we were uninjured.

On Saturday afternoons, we'd hop a city bus and ride to downtown Austin to see a movie at the Paramount or the State Theaters and afterwards, we'd go to the soda fountain in the basement of Woolworth's or goof around in Seniors' Discount store (they had amazing novelty items) until it was time to get on a bus and go home.

There was no such thing as a "play date". If you wanted to play with a friend you rode your bike (or walked) to his house, rang the doorbell and when he came to the door you'd ask "want to play?"

In the summers, we'd play some kind of crazy ass game in the street until it was dark enough for the streetlight to come on. That's when we knew it was time to head for home.

We regularly played along the banks of Shoal Creek which ran near my street. There were no homeless encampments then, just us kids playing "army" or "spies" or whatever.

But 2013 is a vastly different world than 1965 and I must caution my readers (especially the youngsters, if there are any), not to do as I did when I was kid and blow up your monster models with firecrackers. In fact, almost all of the activities listed above are most likely forbidden (or greatly frowned upon) in today's world. I did all of these things and survived but I certainly don't want to be seen as an advocate of unsafe and dangerous activities.

But boy, did we have fun.

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