Here’s a photo from Britain, where it was once absolutely common to let your kids wait in their buggies while you went shopping.
Isn’t it odd the way what’s normal in one era seems nutty in another, even though the world has not changed that much — just our perceptions of it? (Here are some crime hzirkksyih
stats to make you feel great.)
We can’t bring back the past, but we can salvage some of the practices that made life nicer. And one of them was trust. L
Sometimes societal rules must bow to plain practicality. Can you imagine trying to maneuver one of those prams into and through a 1940’s shop? Or all 6 of those in the store at one time?
This particular practice is still the norm in several countries, including Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. At first it seems even more remarkable, because those are such chilly climates, but in some ways it makes even more sense. Sudden inconsistent temperatures are more physically disruptive to a baby than consistent ones. I remember bringing my baby to the grocery store in the middle of 95 degree summer heat and trying to bundle her up to protect her from the icy air conditioning inside the store. If a little Icelandic baby is all bundled up for a walk outside, why bring her into a hot stuffy store for 8 minutes where she will sweat profusely, just to re-enter the chilly air with sweat all over her body?
I read that babies are left outdoors in Denmark, Iceland, etc. because there is more smoking in those countries (particularly in bars) and the parents don’t want the babies to inhale the smoke.
WendyW is right on both counts. I lived in England for 3 years, and it is NOT stroller-friendly as a general rule in any store. Plus, tons of people smoke.
I wish I could say it was still this way for the above reasons — but I was warned once about letting my 7-year-old play in our front yard alone. “Someone might call the police for child neglect,” they said.
My twin boys (age 6) were being disruptive while I checking out items in a Walgrens and I told them to go play outside in the parking lot while I finished up paying and packing up. I have no fears of them being hit by a car, since they are tough wily creatures easily able to dodge cars.
My son said, “But Dad told me a stranger could take me.”
My Mom did this quite regularly. Even here in Canada, this was a common practice for the same reasons mentioned above … those carriages/prams they had in the 1950/60’s were ungainly huge and hard to maneuver in and out of stores so you left baby outside and we were fine. Also, it was common practice to put your baby out in the carriage at home. You parked it at the bottom of your stoop or on the porch and let baby sleep outside. I’m in Ontario and my mother said this was also done in winter with baby bundled up very warm as it was said to help baby sleep, ward off germs and helped croupy babies sooth their cough as the cold air was good for that. Lots of healthy benefits.
” Iâ€™m in Ontario and my mother said this was also done in winter with baby bundled up very warm as it was said to help baby sleep, ward off germs and helped croupy babies sooth their cough as the cold air was good for that. Lots of healthy benefits.”
My mom (a Dane living in Ontario, by the way) said exactly this too: when my oldest sister was born, both grandmas (the Danish one and the Canadian one) insisted that outdoor napping absolutely necessary for a healthy baby – summer or winter, it made no difference. They even had special buggy coverings to facilitate this. It sounds like a lot of the “proof” was baby’s rosy cheeks when brought back in from the cold.
It’s actually true that cold outdoor air can stop a croup attack, and I do personally find that cool night air makes me sleep better.
Prams and strollers are just as much of a menace now as they must have been back then, especially those designed for multiple children. As someone who spent years working in a small retail shop with shelves full of easily-knocked-down, often fragile items, and limited floorspace, I would have been thrilled if parents had left the strollers outside.
We had one parent who brought her stroller just inside the door and left it, baby included, in the front window while shopping; of course another customer had a hissy fit about the “abandoned” child who could have been snatched, and threatened to call the cops on her. This was in an incredibly safe, affluent small town, on a street where I often forgot to lock my bike and never had it stolen.
This is just a note on Lenore’s image of prams with infants parked on the sidewalk in front of a store, somewhere in England.
From the signage in the store window, “Boxing Day Sale”: The photograph was taken in December. December 26 is traditionally Boxing Day.
Also from the signage: “Nylons 4’6” (meaning: Nylons 4 shilling 6 pence): The photograph was almost certainly taken after 1940. Nylon was introduced as a fabric fiber in 1939. The term “nylons” for womens’ stockings was introduced in 1940.
From the extensive fluorescent tube lighting inside the store: The photograph was almost certainly taken after 1940. The first widespread marketing of fluorescent tube lighting began at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.
So, the photograph was almost certainly taken in December (the middle of winter) sometime after 1940, no more than about 75 years ago.
Some of the infants in the photograph may still be alive today, [begin sarcasm for the humor impaired] assuming they survived the unspeakably dangerous horror of being left unattended in prams outside a store on a winter day. [end sarcasm]
Back in 1955, on Long Island, a little boy was kidnapped outside a supermarket as he waited by his sister’s baby carriage while the mom shopped. His name was Steven Damman…he was 2. I grew up on Long Island, born in 1958…I NEVER heard of another kidnapping in that way in all the 20 years I lived there. Anything is possible in ANY year.
Not something I would do, but you gave me a laugh for the day! “Tough wily creatures” indeed! 🙂
The harder you look at something, the clearer you can see it. If you spend 10 years thinking about kidnapping, pedophilia, and danger, you will see that everywhere you look. I wrote about this on my blog. I have an analogy about a stereogram and how to train your eyes to see the hidden picture inside. You can train yourself to look for the good things or the crappy things in life.
I.E. If you train yourself to look for crap, the good things in life will be harder to see. In fact, you’ll start to wonder about the other people that can see the good things in life. Perhaps they are hopeless optimists? After all. Crap is EVERYWHERE! Do they have an ostrich mentality?
En Passant — a clue that might bring it even farther forward in history is the use of the word “girdles.” If I’m not mistaken, girdles were still called “corsets” in Britain until more recently than 75 years ago. Anyone know if I am correct on this?
Also, those prams don’t look too different from the one I remember still being around in my family. My siblings and I were born 1951-1965. Of course, I don’t know how much baby carriages changed over the decades back then.
Oh, another thing, if a store had an abundant enough supply of nylons that they’d do a window advertisement of the price, it was a few years post-war, after scarcity ended. So now we’re into the late 40s at least.
Hi, there. I am a recovering helicopter parent, and I’m trying to get my husband and friends to join me in my new outlook. I keep getting the argument that crime and accidents are down because of helicoptering. Can someone direct me to some info to refute that claim? Thanks.
pentamom wrote October 20, 2016 at 6:07 pm:
I expect you are correct about this, and about the “girdle” versus “corset” wording on the signs.
I was only estimating the earliest possible year the photo could have been taken.
Another indication (but not dispositive) that the photo was taken several years post-WWII is the absence of any signage indicating rationing or ration coupons. According to Wikipedia on rationing in the United Kingdom, clothing rationing didn’t end until 1949.
Larissa, I don’t have any links to direct you to, but one aspect refuting the helicopter parenting = lower crime rate is that ALL crime is way down, not just crimes against children. Helicopter parenting wouldn’t lower crimes against other adults.
“But what happens if the Germans bomb the city?”
I also like the kid in the white pram has been placed facing the kid in the black pram so that they can entertain each other.
Another supporting element is that the small sign under “Girdles” is advertising a “Christmas Turkey.”
I love those old prams. Like others we grew up in them, and my mother would regularly put all three of us in it for longer trips ( I was older than the youngest by 3.5 years, but had bung feet, so would often end up back in the pram after I’d walked my fill). I wish we still had those prams – much better suspension than the buggy I used with my kids.
We were also left outside regularly, which just might explain my fear of heights. One day it was so windy that the pram was lifted and tipped right over the neighbour’s fence, landing on top of one very indignant baby :-).
As to leaving kids outside the stores, I used to do that in the mall sometimes, if it was a small store. As long as I could see the kids, no one seemed to mind :-).
Child Abduction was apparently a thing back when O Henry was still writing, or there wouldn’t be “The Ransom of RedChief”, published in 1907.
Then there’s that whole Lindbergh thing.
What made child abduction by sexual predators so scary was that it could happen to YOU. Only rich people had to worry about having their children abducted, when the assumption was that any child abductor was after a ransom, but if they’re sex predators, they won’t prey upon only the rich. Now… they’ve been around for a long time, it’s the fear that has spread, not the thing feared.
“My son said, â€œBut Dad told me a stranger could take me.â€”
Just tell him “if someone tries to take you, kick him in the groin until he goes away”…
I was studying abroad in London in 1986 and you’d still see a few baby buggies lined up like that so it wasn’t even that long ago that it was still like that over there.
We have pictures (circa 1940?) of my dad playing at his cousins’ house. All of his little cousins were tethered to the clothesline that hung on the porch. My dad was the only one who was not. Interestingly, my dad had been left out on the porch to nap when the great hurricane of ’38 blew through New England…as family lore has it, his carriage blew right off the porch with him in it. A neighbor saw it careening down the road and ran out to rescue him. Near as i can tell, he was returned safely to a grateful mother and no charges were pressed. 🙂
That reminds me of a story my grandmother told us about her older brother. They grew up in Kansas and when my grand-uncle was about 14 he was at a friend’s house when a tornado appeared. They were in a barn door when my uncle was snatched by the tornado. The last his friend saw of him, my uncle was flying through the air over the trees. After the storm he went to my grandmother’s house to tell them what had happened. They were all sure my uncle was dead but then he came walking up the road, apparently without a scratch on him.
“En Passant â€” a clue that might bring it even farther forward in history is the use of the word â€œgirdles.â€ If Iâ€™m not mistaken, girdles were still called â€œcorsetsâ€ in Britain until more recently than 75 years ago.”
I believe the girdle was the waist/panty component of nylon stockings in those days, the two separate legs of the stockings being attached to it with garters.
My mom used to say that if anyone stole my sister, they’d bring her back in a hurry. Pretty sure we read “Ransom of Red Chief” as instructional.
My 10 year old daughter now has to ride the bus for an extra 30 mins, because the new bus driver doesn’t think the kids are competent enough to cross our country road without adult supervision. So she, and about 10 other children, get less outside free play time. Even though all of us have voiced our dislike about it and are even willing to sign a permission slip allowing them to get off at the appointed stop. There’s a large group of irritated free range parents on our country road. I wish we could go back in time.
“My 10 year old daughter now has to ride the bus for an extra 30 mins, because the new bus driver doesnâ€™t think the kids are competent enough to cross our country road without adult supervision”
Wow. They’re supposed to get it… the school bus has all those lights on it to alert other drivers that kids are crossing the street. The bus isn’t supposed to proceed until all the kids crossing the street have done so.
Unless your “country road” is a four-lane divided highway.
Regarding one of the kidnappings mentioned below Steven Damman may not have actually been kidnapped by a stranger. It goes to show children are at more risk with a close family member than a stranger most of the time.
Suzanne..Interesting. I had never heard those theories.