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The Xenophile Historian

K. U. P.

(Kimball's Unauthorized Perversion)

The Second Greatest Generation?

You've probably heard Tom Brokaw hail those who grew up in the 1930s and 40s as "the Greatest Generation," because they got us through the Great Depression and World War II. Fine; I have no argument with that, but look at the dangers their children faced before we became an overprotective society. Can we call the "Baby Boomers" and the oldest of the Generation Xers "the Second Greatest Generation?" Here is one of several e-mails circulating that praises folks my age just for staying alive:

Survived a 60s or 70s Childhood? Congratulations!

You lived as a child in the '60s or the '70s. Looking back, it's hard to believe that we have managed to live as long as we have. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat. Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!) We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Horrors! We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones. Unthinkable. We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us.

Remember accidents? We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it. We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda but we were seldom overweight because we were always outside playing. We shared one grape soda with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from this. We ate peanut butter and none of us knew peanut allergies were dangerous. We did not have video games, 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cellular phones, personal computers, Internet chat rooms -- we had friends next door.

We went outside and found them. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the door, or rung the bell or just walked in and talked to them. Imagine such a thing. Without asking a parent! By ourselves! Out there in the cold cruel world! Without a guardian. How did we do it? How did we survive? We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Some students weren't as smart as others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade - Horrors! Tests were not adjusted for any reason. Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was practically unheard of.

They actually sided with the law, imagine that! The generation of people who were kids during the '60s and '70s has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to. And you're one of them, so congratulations!

Unquote: To that I would add that we had dangerous toys, like pocket knives, slingshots, BB guns, fireworks and lawn darts, and still we managed to grow up all right. Maybe that's also why we turned out smart; those toys were a form of natural selection, to remove dumb kids from the gene pool before they got old enough to reproduce!

Foghorn Leghorn places a firecracker.

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