Dear Free-Range Kids: My sister from New York just sent me some photos of us growing up in the South Bronx in the late ’40s and early ’50s. One is of my sister Helen, me and Santa Claus. The story behind that photo describes perfectly the differences between child rearing 60 years ago and the present bubble wrap age.
Helen and I lived in a tenement building on 141st St. in the Bronx. As a kindness to her kid brother (me!), my then 9-year-old sister took me by the hand and walked me up to 149th St and 3rd Ave, a business hub in the Bronx. We went to Hearn’s Dept. Store to see Santa. She negotiated the purchase of the photo, put us in line, and this lovely 1949/1950 photo emerged, a photo that we both cherish.
We had to cross many busy streets, ride the escalator (! – always an adventure) and wade through Christmas crowds. No one thought it at all odd that a 9-year-old girl could do that safely or competently. You can see in the picture an injury to my face that occurred when I did some stupid unsafe kid thing…that’s why the eight kids in my family always had scars. It was thought to be an integral part of growing up. How times have changed! I live in Australia now and called Helen – she’s 72 and I’m 68 – this morning and thanked her again for her venturesome kindness.
Yours, John McCormick
Scone, NSW, Australia
P.S. By the way, the Santa in the photo is THE REAL SANTA. All the others are frauds.