The Years of Living Dangerously… 10 Death Defying Feats We Performed in Our Youth.

I know it’s not intuitive that I (a retired English teacher) might have lived dangerously in my youth…but it’s true. Because we ALL did.

I grew up in the late 50’s and 60’s … I was a teenager in the 70’s. Those were dangerous times people!

1. We rode in cars without seat belts.
Everyone did. I mean there were seat belts IN the car, somewhere, but no one wore them. And no child seats. Remember climbing into the back window of your parent’s car and lying there on long car rides? Well, I didn’t do this, but I know kids who did.

2. We smoked. EVERYONE smoked. I think the only person who did not smoke when I was a child was my grandmother. My grandfather, all my uncles and aunts, and both my parents smoked. And us kids… we all smoked when we grew old enough to sneak around. I remember starting to smoke in grade ten. Learning to inhale. “Bumming smokes” off friends. I quit many years ago (we all did in my family) and find it hard to imagine now that I ever smoked.

But back then…oh it was cool. So cool! My girlfriend and I even smoked Kool cigarettes….talk about a clever marketing ploy!

3. We rode our bikes without helmets. And as kids we were on our bikes 24/7 in the summertime. To us, a bike meant freedom. I feel that sense of freedom even now when I get my bike out in the spring.

And in the winter…well, we skated, tobogganed and skied without helmets too.

4. We rode our bikes (without helmets) to the corner store to buy little brown bags of  penny candy … filled with sugar.
Like… Pixie Sticks … coloured sugar in a straw

Or… Candy Cigarettes … little white sticks of sugar with a red dot to look like flame on the end. These were great because we could practice how to properly hold a cigarette so we would look cool when we were old enough to sneak around and try smoking for real. (Please tell me you caught the ironic tone here!)

5. We were bad in school. Well… not me, exactly…but certain friends of mine….who shall remain nameless. Bad enough to get the “strap.”

But the real danger was when we arrived home. We were a lot more afraid of getting in trouble with our parents, than any punishment at school.  And we were not allowed to whine about the nasty teachers who were sooo mean. This was the baby boom era…with 30-40 kids in a class… I distinctly remember my mum saying, after one of us complained about a teacher… “If I had to deal with 40 of you little so and so’s … I’d be a lot worse!”

6. We played outside after dark. Kick the can, snowball wars, mudball wars, sharpened stick sword fights …you name it.. if it was dangerous, we did it.

7. We ate peanuts and peanut butter. In sandwiches…with jam, with marshmallow fluff, with banana. And took them in our Barbie lunch box to SCHOOL.

8. We rode in the back of pick up trucks. On Sundays, before my mum remarried and we moved to the farm… we went to my grandparent’s for dinner… my grandfather would pick us up in his truck. Mum rode in the front with Grampy and us kids rode in the back. Whoo hoo! Okay..maybe my teenage sisters did NOT find this as fun as I did. I distinctly remember one of my sisters wangling her way up front with Mum and Grampy using the excuse that she had just “done her hair.”

Later, when I was a teenager, we used to hitch a drive to the Saturday night dances in Nackawic (a town a few miles away) with a boy who drove a truck. He charged for passengers; a dollar to ride in the back and two dollars to ride up front. Once there… a half hour in front of the bathroom mirror was required to repair any damage to the hair-do. Especially for me! Thick, curly hair tends to hold onto the wind-blown look.

Imagine trying to get a comb through that mop after a half hour in the wind! What I would have given for beautifully sleek, straight hair like my best friend.

note: I just looked up on Google Maps to see how far that ride might  have been. 50 kilometres!!! Were we nuts??!!

9. Once we had a driver’s licence… we drove to the dances. Or wherever. Without seat belts … the better to be able to pack as many kids as we could into the front and back seats of my stepfather’s car. We drove with the windows down and the radio up…as far as it would go. All smoking cigarettes.

And one night we had to pull over and all pile out of the car quickly. The back seat was on fire…..well, there was smoke, anyway. A lit cigarette flicked out of the front window… had flown into the back window. And landed in someone’s lap. Who was sitting on someone else’s lap. Well, you get the picture.  We found the cigarette, and put it out. And luckily there was no damage. Phew! I mean we might have been grounded… or worse…not been able to borrow the car!

When we couldn’t get the car we hitchhiked. Alone or with girlfriends. When we did have the car we picked up hitchhikers. Nothing could happen to US! We were invincible.

10. We defied our parents…. and crossed the old cement dam at “Mill Brook.” We walked on foot wide cement, then had to carefully lower ourselves down a few feet onto the sluice way where the water actually ran and then walk through the water as it gushed  and cascaded down to the rocks below. And it was a looong way down. Or we walked the log boom on the Nashwaak River in the spring. I personally did not do this… I was too chicken. Or we swam in the deep water under the Penniac Bridge. And swung out on a rope before dropping into the water. My sister and brother did this. I was too young when we lived there.

In later years, we stayed out too late… and, because we were too young to drink legally, we visited the bootlegger (well, once, anyway… sorry Mum)… or had mysterious fender-benders after which my stepfather pounded out the dent and didn’t tell Mum (sorry, Mum, and anyway, that one wasn’t me)… or skipped school (sorry Mum, but it was only once and I WAS in grade 12.) Or. Or. Or… I could go on… but I won’t.

You know, I started writing this thinking how it was a miracle we ever survived our youth, our years of living dangerously. Now I think it was even MORE of a miracle that our parents survived them.

Anyway… I gotta go call my mum, now.

And apologize.

What “feats” did you get up to when you were young?


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5 thoughts on “The Years of Living Dangerously… 10 Death Defying Feats We Performed in Our Youth.”

  1. Just received this comment from my mum after she read this post. Mum has had a lap top computer for the last two years…learning to turn it on…to send e-mail and finally to surf the net…at 85! She reads my blog regularly and usually sends me her comments via e-mail. But I thought that this one was too good not to publish. Hope you don't mind Mum!

    "Hi Susan
    Do you mean to tell me I raised a delinquent???? Wonder what else Mum doesn't know???
    Maybe we better just forget this and not tell the other angels that I thought I had raised.
    Going out to dig up some plants so I will have forgotten this email by the time I come back in.
    Love you just the same!!
    Your poor OLD MOM with the bad memory."

  2. LOL-great post! It's amazing you lived! I lived in similar dangerous times, just about a decade later. I recall riding in the back part of the station wagon where there were no seatbelts or seats. Remember the Brady Bunch piling into their station wagon? No mini vans in those days so what else could a big family do?
    Other dangerous things I did? I went outside to play and was not always in within eyesight though usually within calling home distance and might be gone for hours.

    1. Brady Bunch…well remembered! Also roaming the neighbourhood and not having to be home until dark!
      Thanks for commenting on this one Shawna. This post is near and dear to me. Mum and I have had a few laughs about it. I will pass on your comments to her:)

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