Our parents in the fifties and sixties hardly worried about kids playing all over the neighborhood. Will the kids growing up today be different because they never experienced the youthful independence that we had? No one knows, I know that we got to enjoy a sense of independence that would hard for a child to find today.
Anyone who grew up in the fifties and sixties has to marvel at the organized life of today's kids. In the fifties, we came home from school, either played pick-up football or baseball depending on the season or wandered the woods. My mom and dad weren't together when I was young so my mother ran a beauty shop out of room attached the back of our house. She worked really hard so I was pretty much on my own after school, but so were most kids with two parents.
There was little fear in our village of Lewisville, NC. In the fifties I can still remember Dr. Hampton making house calls and walking to Beck's Store at the end of the Lewisville-Clemmons Road. I believe Cokes were a nickel. Comic books and Tom Swift books served as entertainment instead of computers. I can remember when our neighbors, Tom and Jet got their first television. I would go over and watch Howdy Doody with their sons Tommy and Steve.
The real entertainment was outside in the vacant fields where we would build forts or the in the woods where we would dam streams or search for salamanders and craw fish to be used for fish bait. We wandered the woods without much thought. We explored, had imaginary battles, wore ourselves out each day. In the summer we could hardly wait to get going since there was so much to do. It was a great place to grow up, you could walk to church or school.
Then of course there was "Vacation Bible School." I made a deal with my mom that if I would go until I was a certain age, then I wouldn't have to go. When I got set free from Bible School, I would take a short cut behind the church with bike on my way to my favorite fishing pond. All the time I was hoping some friends would see me sliding through with my fishing pole. I remember the time I caught a catfish weighing four pounds. I rode home with it tied to the rack on the front of my bike. It bent the rack, but mom cut its head off with a small axe and filled two pans with catfish. I had some older friends in those days, George and Junior, but no one worried about those things in Lewisville in the fifties.
Eventually my life long friend Mike and I would wander the woods with shotguns and occasionally decimate the squirrel population. We hunted once near Styers Ferry where my great grandfather ferried people across the Yadkin River. We actually lived on Styers Street at the intersection with Shallowford Road. Here is the Google map of the area and the satellite map. Even today as you can see from the satellite photo there is plenty of woods for little boys to wander.
I can't help but wonder if any of the kids today get to have the fun that we did. While we were living there, Styers Street was a dirt road. It was named after my Uncle Joe who lived beside us. He only had one arm since he had lost one a saw mill accident. Great Grandma Styers lived in a little house beside us. One of my chores was to run over and peep in the window to see it she was still alive. I think she lived to be 100 years and six months.
I've often argued with folks that today's kids don't have enough freedom to explore and be on their own. Will they make good leaders? We'll have to see. I'm glad that my kids got to spend part of their life on a farm and didn't miss building a few forts in the woods. I hope there are kids out there still keeping the tradition alive. If the massive Red Tides are any indication, we're going to need them at the top of their game.