A TIME OF INNOCENCE
I was born on Christmas day, 1950. Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Dennis the Menace, I Love Lucy , and The Dick Van Dyke Show were the popular TV shows of the time. Kids pedaled their bikes through the streets without helmets and rode in cars with no seatbelts. They had no fear of being kidnapped off the streets. Our household medicines were kept in medicine cabinets with no locks, and we even drank tap water! We didn't have computers or video games to distract us from developing our social skills, and there were no high-tech toys to entertain us. We actually had to use our ingenuity and make up games. We could play outside for hours and into the early evening.
We went trick-or-treating without adult supervision. Sometimes, we ventured far into the woods to climb trees or play hide-and-seek. No one ran background checks on our friends' parents or kept a special watch on the older man who lived alone down the street. When door-to-door salesmen rang our doorbell, they were invited in to make their sales pitch. After school, we took our leisurely time walking home. We frequently stopped at the neighborhood candy and gift store to see if we could slip a few pieces of our favorite candy into our coat pockets without being caught.
I was "mommy" to my Chatty Kathy, Tiny Tears, and Betsy Wetsy dolls. I acted out scenes with my play kitchen and my painted cardboard grocery store set. My favorite books were Dick and Jane readers , Little Golden Books and Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes . I loved playing with Slinkys, Jacks, Pick-Up sticks, Tinker Toys, electric trains, and racecars. My favorite board games were Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. I ate chocolate cupcakes and drank lots and lots of Coca Cola and chocolate milk. No one talked about the detrimental effects of sugar. The line from Peter Pan, "I won't grow up, I won't grow up, I don't want to go to school!" was my theme song. I dreamed of being able to fly just like Wendy and her brothers.
Every morning at school, we said the Pledge of Allegiance. Kids fought with their fists, not guns or knives. One time in elementary school, my girlfriend and I staged a fight in the schoolyard. We thought it was hilarious, but our teachers didn't. When I went into junior high, the boys and girls had make-out parties and played spin-the-bottle with an empty Coca Cola bottle. Our choice of compelling literature included Archie and Veronica comic books, The Nancy Drew Mysteries and popular teen magazines. American Bandstand was the craze, so every Saturday I turned on the television to learn the latest dances and to hear the newest performers.
Later on in high school, I cruised around town with friends and hung out at "Hot Shops," a drive-in hamburger joint. We ordered food from our cars, listened to the radio, and gawked at boys. If a high school girl got pregnant, she was usually sent away to have her baby. I never heard the words "abortion" or "condom" while I was growing up. I was so insulated. The most daring act that I ever undertook was throwing a cupcake party with my friends during study hall. As a result of this ingenious idea, I was awarded a visit to the principal's office.
My great grandparents immigrated to the United States from Russia, Poland, and Austria. My paternal great grandmother, Esther, was an Orthodox Jew. When she was 16 years old, she, along with many other Jews, ran away to escape the anti-Semitic Russian and Polish pogroms that were occurring at the time. She escaped from Russia by hiding in a hay wagon and later came to America alone, carrying only a small suitcase of clothes and her only other possessions, a pair of brass candlesticks.
When my great grandmother reached America, she met my great grandfather, Alexan