Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s was an absolutely glorious time. As a young boy it was quite common, in fact nearly a daily event for a typical American boy to come close to dying while doing some crazy or dangerous stunt. And those stunts were always done in order to impress one’s friends, to scare the living bejesus out of your parents, or to just push the edge of the envelope for one’s own personal satisfaction.
A parents admonishment of “you’ll break your fool neck” was taken as a challenge. How close could one come to living out your mom’s warning without actually crossing the line and achieving it became a contest for young boys.
During the week leading up to Independence Day it was normal to see young boys chasing each other around the yard at night shooting Roman Candles and Bottle Rockets at each other. Or lighting a package of firecrackers under a bucket and then sitting down on top of it to see what would happen. It never occurred to us that doing so⏤might result in not being able to carry on the family name some day.
We had drills in school where we practiced crawling under our desk in case of a Nuclear attack from the Rooskies. The thought never occurred to us that a nuclear blast anywhere close to our school was going to leave nothing but a pile of ashes where we had been hiding.
We had Little League Baseball in the summer, ice skating on the neighbors half frozen pond in the winter, Boy Scouts, fishing in the ‘crick’, and playing ‘army’ with my friends and our BB Guns. Yes, just like Ralphie, you really could put your eye out.
We built forts and tree houses, some so elaborate that they became architectural marvels, and the girls weren’t allowed into our clubs because they all had cooties.
Unfortunately “progress” happened as the world grew up around us. I pity the young boys of today who neither know the “thrill of victory, or the agony of defeat”, as described on the Wide World of Sports television program that was broadcast every Saturday morning right after Bugs Bunny, and the Road Runner and Wylie Coyote.
But nowadays everyone gets a trophy or a Blue Ribbon, there’s no real ‘First Place’ anymore. And the Warner Brothers cartoons have been deemed too violent and politically incorrect.
Boys aren’t allowed anymore to settle differences with their friends like we did, with a split lip. A split lip or a ‘shiner’ that was quickly forgotten as we resumed playing together. Disputes flared up quickly and just as quickly were settled and over.
And while we took the warning not to pee on an electric fence to heart (usually after having tried it once before just to see if what we were told was really true), young boys today have become confused about which bathroom they’re supposed to use.
If you misbehaved at home you got whacked by mom or dad. If you misbehaved at school you got whacked by the teacher or the principle. Everybody had a mom and a dad, not two moms or two dads. And teachers, police officers, and your parents were treated with respect. There were absolutes. Life just wasn’t confusing for us as it is now for youngsters. And “Boys will be boys” just isn’t really allowed anymore.
Yes I’ll begrudgingly admit there have been some positive changes in the years since I was a small boy. Girls have more options now than just being a ‘Secretary’, ‘School Teacher’, or a ‘Housewife’.
And obviously technology has made life easier. But has it made it really any better? Are boys growing up to be men nowadays, or just what they ‘identify’ as?
What life skills are they learning? Can they change a tire on a car? Could they start a fire without a match? And do they know enough to take an old lady’s hand and help her across the street?
Somehow we’ve lost our way. We’ve ‘woosified’ our boys. They’re missing out on many of life’s lessons. Not to mention a hell of a lot of fun. And society has suffered greatly as a result.