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The End of the Runway

 

Someone recently related another one of those stories about the government investigating parents for allowing a child of 12 to be alone everyday for 45 minutes. It got me to thinking of when I was 12. My parents would have been put in jail by now, I’d guess.

We were living on the NATO base in Keflavik, Iceland, and I had a bike and went anywhere I wanted on that base all by myself and no one ever stopped me or questioned me. It was normal back then. I used to go to the junkyard with a sling shot and shoot at bottles and an occasional seagull (never hit one, but not for lack of trying).

I also had a habit of taking my camera to take pictures of the F-4’s and and P-3’s taking off to intercept Russian Bears and Russian submarines. I would tell my dad, “I’m off to take pictures of the planes, dad.” He’d tell me that technically I shouldn’t be doing that but he doubted anyone would arrest a 12-year-old for spying. His advice was mostly, “If anyone stops you, just say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ and come back home.”

I don’t think he knew I was riding to the end of the runway and low crawling all the way to where the concrete ended. I was among all the landing lights and taking pictures with my Kodak Instamatic X-15 camera as the jets roared a few dozen feet over my head. If I could convert slides into pictures, I’d have a lot of pictures of the bellies of those planes. Probably blurry, of course.

I suppose if there were a problem on take off, the accident investigators would wonder where the extra body parts came from.

But back then kids were allowed to explore. All the parents left their kids unattended outside the commissary because kids weren’t allowed inside, even at the stateside commissaries. Can you imagine that being allowed today? No one thought anything wrong back then.

Life was more exciting back then.

 

Addendum: I lived in Keflavik from August 0f 1975 to August of 1977.

There are 29 comments.

  1. Member

    do you still have the slides? They’re fairly easy to convert….

    • #1
    • April 16, 2018 at 10:53 am
    • 1 like
  2. Member

    I have a theory that perhaps some of us who had that freedom got ourselves into situations that we did not want our kids to get into. I have long wondered if that is one driver in this insanity. :-)

    Another major driver has been the entertainment media. It creates a disproportionate sense of drama and death and fear in parents.

    And another was the Adam Walsh story that began when my daughter was born and resulted in the establishment of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which spent a lot of money to “raise awareness” about abducted children. One day I saw an interview with a Boston police officer in which the officer said, “This fear parents have is getting out of hand. Children are not abducted by strangers. Most of these missing children have been taken by estranged parents. That doesn’t mean it’s right, but it does mean that your children are not going to be taken from you while you walk down the street or from their beds in the night. Look,” he said, “if a child were abducted by a stranger, the entire Boston Police Department would turn out to find that child.”

    Then came the Amber alerts and the sex offender stories, again making parents fear everyone in the life of their children.

    All of this has been added to by the professionals whom parents are surrounded by–pediatricians, teachers, and others.

    Parents are living under a lot of stress.

    • #2
    • April 16, 2018 at 11:08 am
    • 8 likes
  3. Member

    My friends and I used to pick up discarded radios and TV sets, bring them home and disassemble them for useful parts. Sure, we did lots of risky things back then. I used to be allowed to wander the sidewalks in front of our Bronx tenement; I was four. 

    But don’t romanticize those times too much. Kids regularly blew their hands off with fireworks. Kids died when they climbed inside junked refrigerators and couldn’t get out. The expression “sniffing glue” was not an idle metaphor; the cement used for car models was dangerous. Hungry kids in poor neighborhoods ate flakes of paint. They say it tasted good–and left them permanently brain injured. The Fifties wasn’t paradise by a long shot. 

    So yeah, let your kids off the leash. But not too far off the leash. 

    • #3
    • April 16, 2018 at 11:30 am
    • 5 likes
  4. Coolidge
    Skyler Post author

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    do you still have the slides? They’re fairly easy to convert….

    Yeah, it’s been on my list of things to do since about 1977.

    • #4
    • April 16, 2018 at 11:32 am
    • 1 like
  5. Coolidge

    You’re lucky they didn’t see you with the camera and think you were a Soviet spy tracking the take-offs and landings. Or (more likely) someone did know and kept quiet so you could hopefully get some cool pictures.

    • #5
    • April 16, 2018 at 11:39 am
    • 1 like
  6. Thatcher

    At the age of 10 or 12 our parents were around but not watching us all the time. We regularly biked many miles from home. We would frequently bike 15 miles to my grandmothers that lived in a different town/city so we were crossing highways and streets, etc. Now for the kicker. I remember many afternoons that we would go out with our .22 shooting with no parent in sight. Nobody ever got shot. We also rode dirt bikes and mini bikes. All the time. Occasionally a kid would get hurt. Usually from wrecking their bike, either pedal, dirt or mini. I remember a few broken collar bones. I had a couple of broken fingers. It was a great childhood. Had fun. Learned a lot. By today’s standards we would have been out of control, removed from our parents and our parents locked up. That is really sad.

    • #6
    • April 16, 2018 at 11:53 am
    • 7 likes
  7. Member

    Makes me think of the kids on bikes trying to outrun the Gimli Glider as it careened down the runway drag-racing strip.

     

    • #7
    • April 16, 2018 at 12:07 pm
    • 2 likes
  8. Coolidge

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    At the age of 10 or 12 our parents were around but not watching us all the time. We regularly biked many miles from home. We would frequently bike 15 miles to my grandmothers that lived in a different town/city so we were crossing highways and streets, etc. Now for the kicker. I remember many afternoons that we would go out with our .22 shooting with no parent in sight. Nobody ever got shot. We also rode dirt bikes and mini bikes. All the time. Occasionally a kid would get hurt. Usually from wrecking their bike, either pedal, dirt or mini. I remember a few broken collar bones. I had a couple of broken fingers. It was a great childhood. Had fun. Learned a lot. By today’s standards we would have been out of control, removed from our parents and our parents locked up. That is really sad.

    Hiking up the mountain for hours; riding bikes miles away to swim in a pond on someone’s property; walking across a railroad trestle to get to a favorite spot (we did stop and listen first); digging caves in the hillside; shooting slingshots and bb guns (sometimes at each other); using old car hoods as snow sleds; etc.

    • #8
    • April 16, 2018 at 12:14 pm
    • 1 like
  9. Member

    We roamed our neighborhood in Ft. Worth, all fine if we came in by dark. The thing was, if any kid needed correction, any adult would give it. And the parents were grateful. Parents now would chew out (probably cuss out) the neighbor! So we were watched over plenty good. 

    • #9
    • April 16, 2018 at 12:20 pm
    • 6 likes
  10. Coolidge

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    do you still have the slides? They’re fairly easy to convert….

    A few years back, I bought a manual slide scanner and scanned a box or two of my dad’s slides. I may just use Costco to do the rest:

    http://www.costcodvd.com/services_and_pricing-slides.aspx

    • #10
    • April 16, 2018 at 12:31 pm
    • Like
  11. Member

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    do you still have the slides? They’re fairly easy to convert….

    A few years back, I bought a manual slide scanner and scanned a box or two of my dad’s slides. I may just use Costco to do the rest:

    http://www.costcodvd.com/services_and_pricing-slides.aspx

    You can get it done for about 22 cents a slide here. I’ve run thousands of slides and photos through them.

    http://www.scancafe.com

    • #11
    • April 16, 2018 at 12:34 pm
    • Like
  12. Coolidge

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    do you still have the slides? They’re fairly easy to convert….

    A few years back, I bought a manual slide scanner and scanned a box or two of my dad’s slides. I may just use Costco to do the rest:

    http://www.costcodvd.com/services_and_pricing-slides.aspx

    You can get it done for about 22 cents a slide here. I’ve run thousands of slides and photos through them.

    http://www.scancafe.com

    That’s for 10000 slides

    • #12
    • April 16, 2018 at 12:40 pm
    • 1 like
  13. Member

    When I was a kid I used to love roaming and exploring the nearby woods, ravines, and farmers’ fields.

    Today, all that real estate is houses and mini-malls and big box stores, for as far as the eye can see. The remaining “wilderness areas” are city-owned parks where you don’t dare leave the paved paths.

    Maybe there’s a reason parents don’t let their kids roam free as much as they used to.

    • #13
    • April 16, 2018 at 1:01 pm
    • 2 likes
  14. Thatcher

    OkieSailor (View Comment):

    We roamed our neighborhood in Ft. Worth, all fine if we came in by dark. The thing was, if any kid needed correction, any adult would give it. And the parents were grateful. Parents now would chew out (probably cuss out) the neighbor! So we were watched over plenty good.

    Our neighbor had 5 kids and erected a giant bell in their back yard. Whenever any parent wanted a kid they would ring the bell and we all came running. It was the code.

    • #14
    • April 16, 2018 at 1:50 pm
    • 4 likes
  15. Coolidge

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    do you still have the slides? They’re fairly easy to convert….

    A few years back, I bought a manual slide scanner and scanned a box or two of my dad’s slides. I may just use Costco to do the rest:

    http://www.costcodvd.com/services_and_pricing-slides.aspx

    You can get it done for about 22 cents a slide here. I’ve run thousands of slides and photos through them.

    http://www.scancafe.com

    That’s for 10000 slides

    Also, they charge $.89 for B&W.

    • #15
    • April 16, 2018 at 1:52 pm
    • Like
  16. Member

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    do you still have the slides? They’re fairly easy to convert….

    A few years back, I bought a manual slide scanner and scanned a box or two of my dad’s slides. I may just use Costco to do the rest:

    http://www.costcodvd.com/services_and_pricing-slides.aspx

    You can get it done for about 22 cents a slide here. I’ve run thousands of slides and photos through them.

    http://www.scancafe.com

    That’s for 10000 slides

    23 cents for 2000. I’ve run 3 or 4 of the values kits through them over the last couple years.

    They also run a lot of promos on knock their topline price down quite a bit.

    • #16
    • April 16, 2018 at 2:08 pm
    • Like
  17. Member

    Yeah, when I was 10 – 12 years old we lived in Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach, Florida at the peak of the US space program (1966 – 68). I’d head off in the morning on my bicycle with a sandwich and a dime to buy a soft drink somewhere in my wanderings (usually a gas station vending machine), and my mother’s inviolable demand that I be home before the street lights came on (boy did I get some verbal lashings on those days I got home late – there were also days when I could tell I was running late, and I’d find the ability in myself to ride very, very fast to get home on time). I’d go up to the submarine base (now a cruise ship harbor), check out the horseshoe crabs at the edge of the Banana River, visit with the police officers doing speed enforcement up the street from our house (other times they’d set up the radar in our front yard and we’d take them lemonade and snacks), etc. Driving cars on the beach was allowed there then, so my brother and I would sometimes go together and take our short-handled shovels to help dig out the inevitable person who got stuck in the sand, particularly near the waterline as the tide came in. 

    In the summer, there was always a thunderstorm in the early afternoon, so I’d find someplace under cover for the 15 – 20 minutes it would take the storm to pass (usually the awning on the front of a store).

    We were aware that crime in that place was unusually low even for that era. Even then I was aware that I had an unusual level of freedom as a kid. 

    • #17
    • April 16, 2018 at 2:44 pm
    • 4 likes
  18. Member

    A friend of ours spent part of her childhood in Los Alamos, NM after the Manhattan Project was complete, but before the town was opened to the public. She loved the freedom she had. Since it was a closed off (fenced) military area, there was zero concern about criminals preying on her, and she couldn’t get very far to get lost, so she could go anywhere at will. 

    • #18
    • April 16, 2018 at 2:49 pm
    • 4 likes
  19. Member

    I remember one summer morning, brother Buck said he was going for a bike ride. He was probably 12 or so. When he didn’t come home for lunch, mom was a little concerned, when he finally came home about 3:00 with his old Schwinn cruiser, mom asked him where he’d been. She was remarkably patient with her questioning, I thought, but probably because he looked a lot worse for the wear. He told her that he decided to turn back and ride home into the wind (it was real easy on the way out) at the turn off to her Uncle’s ranch.

    Mom just had this exasperated look (not uncommon), “Buck, that’s more than 30 miles from here.”

    • #19
    • April 16, 2018 at 3:40 pm
    • 5 likes
  20. Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    do you still have the slides? They’re fairly easy to convert….

    A few years back, I bought a manual slide scanner and scanned a box or two of my dad’s slides. I may just use Costco to do the rest:

    http://www.costcodvd.com/services_and_pricing-slides.aspx

    You can get it done for about 22 cents a slide here. I’ve run thousands of slides and photos through them.

    http://www.scancafe.com

    I’ve used them for color neg conversion. They do good work.

    • #20
    • April 16, 2018 at 3:46 pm
    • Like
  21. Member

    Like the majority of the posters here, I am grateful I grew up when I did. My older brother and I would be gone all day and it was ok if we were home for meals. When we had bicycles, all bets were off! The only concern I remember was when we brought home a Copperhead we had killed (long story, but as the youngest, I was deputized to go poke it to see if it was dead after we had pelted it with stones)

    After I was married and happened to mention that I wasn’t sure where out youngest son was and my mother expressed worry, I was slack jawed in surprised. I can’t think of any day – other than school days – when she had a clue where we were.

    • #21
    • April 16, 2018 at 4:00 pm
    • 3 likes
  22. Coolidge
    Skyler Post author

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    A friend of ours spent part of her childhood in Los Alamos, NM after the Manhattan Project was complete, but before the town was opened to the public. She loved the freedom she had. Since it was a closed off (fenced) military area, there was zero concern about criminals preying on her, and she couldn’t get very far to get lost, so she could go anywhere at will.

    I’ve been in the military too long to think that a military base is any less populated by perverts and child molestors than the general public. (I’ll never forget the master sergeant in my squadron who explained why he molested his children. He said his wife was ill, so he had to do something.)

    But I agree that we still have a society where children are by and large safe, and most danger comes from family members, not strangers.

    • #22
    • April 16, 2018 at 4:34 pm
    • 2 likes
  23. Thatcher

    No fair! You had an airbase to run around in.

    In the summer, I’d get on my bike in the morning and as long as I was home before supper, I was gone. I rode to the other side of town to a park/nature reserve and tool around there, then hit the library, Walt’s Hobby Shop, maybe see a movie at the Rialto, then finally make it home. All this despite the Schuessler/Peterson and the Grimes sisters murders in Chicago, which both happened before I was born.

    • #23
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:36 pm
    • 1 like
  24. Member

    I have a Canon Canoscan 5600F scanner which I used to convert several hundred slides to digital photos. The process took a couple of days and was very easy. The scanner itself wasn’t very expensive and has been used for other purposes as well. I had tried a standalone slide scanner which was just a little cheaper than the Canon, but found it completely inadequate. 

    On the issue of childhood freedom, I grew up in Forest Hills Gardens in Queens, NY. My brothers and I would pack our cap guns and set out to play war and other games for hours before coming home and checking in with our parents. When I was big enough to ride a full sized bike I would ride all over the area. There were still some vacant lots during the 1950s in which we would build forts and play. No one I ever knew was seriously injured in all those years. Our parents set the rules and we pretty much followed them. 

     

    • #24
    • April 17, 2018 at 7:18 am
    • 2 likes
  25. Member

    On the issue of scanning: If you have boxes stuffed with envelopes of old prints, do *NOT* throw away your negatives. They scan *so* much better than prints do. You can get a couple thousand dots per inch resolution out of 35mm negatives. Prints are limited to about 300.

    Even if you have no plans for a scanning project in the foreseeable future, collect them and store them. It still pains me that my mother threw away a whole bunch of negatives just a couple months before I started my scanning project.

    • #25
    • April 17, 2018 at 7:51 am
    • 3 likes
  26. Member

    Just a brief addendum, The Canoscan unit mentioned above will scan slides, prints, both color and B/W negatives, all with equal simplicity.

    • #26
    • April 17, 2018 at 8:29 am
    • 1 like
  27. Coolidge
    Skyler Post author

    Another thing I remember is that on the military base, 14 year olds could get jobs. My 14 year old brother got a job mowing the grass. I was always jealous of him.

    Even more impressive was my 16-7 year old sister who got a job at the dental clinic. They had her doing “prophies,” which I think meant cleaning the sailors’ teeth. I know this because that’s where I learned the word.

    I don’t think the sailors knew she was still in high school, and frankly they probably enjoyed a young girl being so close to them.

    Can you imagine anyone allowing a high school kid cleaning teeth nowadays?

    • #27
    • April 17, 2018 at 11:27 am
    • 3 likes
  28. Member

    Sheesh, when I was 12 I was babysitting my 4-5 younger siblings, for however long it took Mom to do whatever it was she did. This was only the late 90’s.

    • #28
    • April 17, 2018 at 5:00 pm
    • 2 likes
  29. Coolidge
    Skyler Post author

    I guess it would be good to reveal that I lived in Iceland from 1975-1977.

    • #29
    • April 17, 2018 at 5:47 pm
    • Like