So, I came across an article in the Federalist Papers written by a gentleman named Steven Straub
ve-ruined) It’s about what weenies kids today have become and lists stuff
that they’re not allowed to do anymore. I was shocked at the innocuous stuff that is considered “dangerous” today.
I hate to tell Mr. Straub, but this proud native Floridian can say the things he
listed would have been considered uber weenie stuff in my (mostly liberal)
For background, my Grampa and Dad were bootleggers back in the day.
Dad had been an all-state end playing football in high school. Grampa
designed and raced speedboats and he and Dad smuggled liquor from
Canada. (Presumably that was why Grampa designed and raced
speedboats.) So they knew not of weenie-ism.
After prohibition they got into rum running but Dad (an atheist) fell in love
with Mom (a strict Catholic, sweet as pie, who had never been exposed to
such a wild guy in her life). Dad was tough as nails. Jeez he was tall, a
great jock, and had hands as big as catcher’s mitts. Mom was a tiny little
thing who never raised her voice and was kind to everyone.
So, anyway, if Mr. Straub doesn’t mind (I hope he does not, I fully attribute
his work herein) here’s what it was like being a native Floridian back in the
day, compared to what he thinks is not being a weenie.
BTW, this wasn’t mentioned as one of his items, but, we had this indoor
game for after we had to come inside for the night. It was called Rocky
Socky Football. My little brother and I were the footballs and my older
brother was the football team. We had this 40 ft long living room. We
would start in the middle and my older brother would try to knock us across
the room (not in one hit, mercifully) into the east wall. No, he didn’t pick
us up and carry us, he would get down in a football stance, and charge low
and fast and hit us–like a lineman’s hit–knocking us backward if he could. (We little kids didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be used as the football.) My little brother (aged two – four) and I (aged six – eight) would doubleteam him and try to overrun him and get to the west end of the room.He was seven years older than I and 11 years older than our little brother, so it was a mismatch.
Before he went away to university we moved to a new house, which ended the game forever, because the new house didn’t have a 40 ft living room. But it was fun while it lasted.
My parents would sit quietly after dinner, having a cocktail and cigarette, and watch the mayhem as we got knocked around, shrieking and screaming because the game was so fun. My mother was alarmed but Dad didn’t see anything odd about such rough horseplay.
Back to Mr. Straub’s list; here are his items, and how they compare to our
“Riding in the back of an open pick-up truck with a bunch of other kids”
Yeah, we used to do that. We rode in the back of Grampa’s pickup
truck. He’d been a bootlegger and drove like one. When he was in his late seventies he hit a tree, going 85 mph on his way to court for a hearing after he’d been arrested for being drunk and running red lights in Palm Beach. So, riding in
the back of Grampa’s pickup was fun.
“Leaving the house after breakfast and not returning until the
streetlights came on, at which point, you raced home, ASAP so you didn’t
get in trouble”
Yeah, we did that too. In the summer we hopped on our bikes after
breakfast and roamed from the inlet in Palm Beach to the Burnt Bridge on
Singer Island and everywhere in between.
“Eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the school cafeteria”
Sorry, I was a purist. Jelly just detracted from the peanut butter. I
scraped it off.
“Drinking water from the hose in the yard”
Yeah, and we didn’t hold it to the side and just drink from the stream
of water, either. We’d put the filthy end of the hose right in our mouths and
redirect the water back out, spitting it at each other.
“Swimming in creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes (or what they now call
*cough* “wild swimming“)”
Oh, come on! Of course we did. When I was in fourth grade Mom
would let my sister and I go alone to the Singer Island causeway (which had
no lifeguard) to swim. And we took the bus, alone, to get to Singer Island to go
to the ocean because the beach there was a lot better than the pitiful Palm
Beach Mid-town beach. There was no roped off section to protect us from
“Climbing trees (One park cut the lower branches from a tree on the
playground in case some stalwart child dared to climb them)”
Are you kidding me? We just about lived in trees. One of our favorite games was “see who can jump from the highest branch to the ground”. And “see who can jump the farthest out from the highest branch” was another. My older brother nailed some pieces of 1” x 8” board, each about a foot long, to a big slash pine so we could climb up it without getting sap all over us. Of course with all the
kids scrambling up and down this makeshift “ladder” the nails would pull
out at unpredictable moments so you always had to be ready to make a four
point landing to distribute the impact when you’d hit the ground. We never
“Having snowball fights (and accidentally hitting someone you
Uh, what’s a snowball fight? I’m a Floridian who also lived in the
Caribbean. But we’d make little projectiles out of rotting kumquats, stick a stripped palm frond center in one end and sling them. My big brother made a blowgun out of metal pipe and used to blow real darts (which we were supposed to dodge) at us. It worked so well that the darts would embed in the concrete wall of the living room. We only played this game inside. There were a lot of little pinholes (okay, a bit bigger) in the wall, which our parents repainted again and again.
“Sledding without enough protective equipment to play a game in the
Uh, what’s sledding? We knew not of such things. We did play
tackle football without pads or helmets though. And touch football in the
street was a favorite too. The “touches” were hard enough to knock us little
ones down. We thought that was how football was supposed to be played.
“Carrying a pocket knife to school (or having a fishing tackle box with
sharp things on school property)”
Man, I got into the habit of carrying a knife at all times when I was
still in elementary school. Mom knew I had knives but she didn’t realize I
always had one with me.
My parents refused to take us camping. They liked hot water, beds and a
“Throwing rocks at snakes in the river”
There was no river, only salt water (Lake Worth and the Ocean) and snakes
don’t go there. Why would ya throw rocks at a snake anyway?
“Playing politically incorrect games like Cowboys and Indians”
There was no such thing as “political correctness” then. We played cowboys and Indians all the time. My sister and I were “Big Indian” and “Little Indian”.
When we played cowboys I was either Gene Autrey or Roy Rogers.
“Playing Cops and Robbers with *gasp* toy guns”
I had a great collection of toy guns (cap guns–pistols, with holsters that had real bullet holders). Sadly I must say that Mom would not let us have real guns.
“Pretending to shoot each other with sticks we imagined were guns”
Why would we do that? We had real fake guns. We were gunslingers when
we weren’t being Indians. Of course we pretended to shoot each other.
What the hell do ya s’pose the guns were for? My older brother had a toy
bazooka which shot relatively hard balls and we used to shoot those at each
other too. You were supposed to dodge them.
“Shooting an actual gun or a bow (with *gasp* sharp arrows) at a can
on a log, accompanied by our parents”
When I was in fourth grade I bought a real hunting bow and real
arrows and my little brother and I used to shoot them all the time. We
didn’t shoot them at a can on a log. No, we would shoot at various stuff
while on the run, “like an Indian”. Sometimes we tried doing it on our bikes
but the bow was too cumbersome. We didn’t shoot at each other though.
And we were never accompanied by our parents when we did this.
“Saying the words “gun” or “bang” or “pow pow” (there is actually a
freakin’CODE about “playing with invisible guns”)
I hate to tell ya but saying “gun” or “bang” would be sissy stuff. We were all
about heavy firepower–pow, pow, pow, pow, pow–yelled very quickly and
loudly. For the bazooka rounds we would make the sound of an explosion.
“Working for your pocket money well before your teen years”
Are you kidding? Mom had my sister and I doing dishes and household
chores before we even got to kindergarten, to earn our allowance. My big
brother had to mow the lawn for his money–with one of the old-fashioned
push mowers. In a large family everyone was expected pull their weight.
“Eating pop rocks candy and drinking soda, just to prove we were
exempt from that urban legend that said our stomachs would explode.”
Please. That wasn’t even on our radar screen. We never felt we had to
prove anything except on the field of combat, i.e. when we were playing.
We played war all the time. One time our parents went out and we took all
the living room furniture and made two forts, one at each end of the long room,
and had a big war with our home-made zip guns. They only shot rubber
bands though, not projectiles.
“Writing lines for being a jerk at school, either on the board or on
Well, duuuh. Yeah. We went to Catholic school. Everybody got
punished for something, and deportment was never my highest grade.
“Playing ‘dangerous’ games like dodgeball, kickball, tag, whiffle ball,
and red rover (The Health Department of New York issued a warning about
the ‘significant risk of injury’ from these games)”
Oh, brother! Danger was the whole point of playing! Of course we
played those games but we didn’t consider them dangerous. We did far, far
more dangerous things than any of those. Jeez, even swings were dangerous
the way we played with them. We’d get going as high as we could and leap
out. The point was to see who could leap from the highest point and/or who
could leap the furthest out. There was one park that had very long swing
chains and a high bar, and you could really generate some power with a
good, strong pusher. You could get, like, ten feet in the air and then bail out.
And just one person swinging wasn’t enough for us. Whoever was in the
swing would pump as hard as they could, and someone would be behind and
push as hard as they could. I can still remember how it felt to push one of
those swings because it would be generating so much torque that it would
lift me off my feet. Just as I’d hit the ground I’d put my full weight, plus the
strength of my arms and legs into the push. Man we’d be flying higher than
the crossbar and would just sail out. (My big brother was into aeronautics
and dynamics, so propulsion was a big part of many games in our family.)
“Walking to school alone”
Starting in first grade. Mom even made me walk to school when I
was having bad asthma attacks. (That’s when I learned to hitch-hike.) No
sissies were allowed in our family. Well, not until the last child anyway.
She was coddled and never played sports or any rough games. She just
My parents would probably be arrested for child neglect today, for letting us
roam around unsupervised and engage in such dangerous pursuits. I’m glad
they did let us run wild. As a result I’ve had an adventurous life. Jeez, the
first time I went to Europe it wasn’t to go look at artwork and fall in love in
Paris or anything like that. Nope, I went to go and drive in the fast lane on
the Autobahn. Sooooo fun! I’ve never thought twice about just flying into
some country and taking off driving–alone–just to roam around for a month
or two, with no itinerary and no reservations, just to see what was out there.
Thanks Mom and Dad for letting us kids be feral children–just as wild as
our inclinations led us to be. We grew up to be fearless adults. And most of
us are at least quasi-liberals. So much for your generalization about liberals Mr. Straub.