I am amazed that I survived childhood. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were great and I was well cared for and loved; there just was not all of the safety information and gear available to parents then as there is today. When I was a child, nobody wore seat belts. I’m not even sure our cars had seat belts…well, maybe lap belts, but it wasn’t a law that you had to strap yourself into one. A seat belt would have come in handy when I was little because on a shopping trip with my grandmother she had to make an abrupt stop in a parking lot sending me (seated in the front passenger’s seat) flying face first into the dashboard, requiring several stitches by my eye. Though this accident was bad, I fared far better than my little sister when it came to an unfortunate accident caused by lack of seat belts.
When my sister, Karen, was two years old, my mom loaded her and my cousin, Ann, into the family car to go pick me and my cousin, Michelle, up from kindergarten. As my mom was backing down the gravel driveway, my sister somehow managed to open the car door. She fell out of the car and landed on the gravel drive where my mom ran over her! Miraculously, Karen’s only major injury was a broken leg which required hospitalization and traction for several weeks. As a mom myself, I can only imagine the horror and guilt my mother felt having run her child over (although as kids we thought this was a funny story…sorry, Mom). Thankfully, my sister fully recovered. There must have been thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of accidents like these until it became a law to buckle up and use car seats. While the lack of seat belts was a huge safety issue, some of the toys from my childhood are considered dangerous weapons today. There are a few I remember well.
The first is Lawn Darts. Lawn Darts were darts about 12” long with weighted metal (yes, metal) tips that you sent flying through the air hoping to land them in the bulls-eye (think darts-horseshoe combination). These flying darts were heavy enough to pierce a skull and would kill you if they hit you just right. The fact that they were meant to be played by adults did not keep children from playing with them. While they were definitely not safe for kids, these things were not even safe for adults under the best of circumstances…I can only imagine what bloody chaos ensued when a group of drunken adults decided to play Lawn Darts…bad, bad idea. Then there were Clackers, which I loved. Clackers consisted of two hard plastic balls about two inches in diameter dangling from a string with a ring to wrap your finger through. They came in a variety of colors and when you hit the balls together they made a repeated clacking sound (hence the name). I don’t recall the point of Clackers, I just remember the sound drove parents nuts and they were fun (the Clackers not the nutty parents)…that is until my cousin, Michelle, got hit in the mouth while playing with them breaking her front tooth! I’m pretty sure my parents confiscated my Clackers after that. And who can forget paddle ball? You know, the ball attached to the paddle by a stretchy string where the object is to see how many times in a row you can hit the ball on the paddle? Paddle ball was fun and not really dangerous until the string broke leaving only the paddle, which parents could then use to deliver a stinging whack on your ass when you misbehaved. My kids are right, parents do ruin everything!
Child safety has come a long way since my childhood. Seat belts and car seats are now mandatory, toys are safety tested, and parents today have access to tons of safety information. Lawn Darts were banned in 1988 after enough people were seriously injured or killed by those giant metal projectiles. Also gone are the big hard plastic balls on a string that can knock your teeth out. Paddle ball is still around, but kids are smart, figuring out quickly after the first string breaks that paddle ball is probably the worst fun game ever invented. What are your memories of fun-then/dangerous-now toys from your childhood?
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