And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, Editor Emeritus

... that I know that a lot of people who will bother to read a few paragraphs deeper into this column will stop there, and say something like, “well, that was then; this is now.”
And that is sort of what I want to write about.
Scarcely a day goes by without a story about a “helicopter” parent or an unfit parent. Helicopter parents are those who hover over their youngsters at all times. Unfit parents are characterized as those who don’t pay enough attention to what children are doing, or “free range” parents.
Two recent stories concerned sledding. In one city, sledding was being banned except for two areas. The other city was carrying on a long-standing practice of actually blocking off a section of a city street to allow sledding.
That first city is modifying rules to allow more areas. The second city reminds me of something I have written about here before, how the city of Waukon used to allow kids like us who were being raised on the “wrong side of the storm sewer” to erect barricades on what is now Fifth Ave. S.W. to keep a block of what is now Second St. S.W. open for sledding. We put the barricades up when it got dark, and took them down when we were done. If a car wanted to go across, we obliged.
I know. There were fewer cars 65 years ago.
Another story concerned a mother who was accosted by human services for allowing her two children to walk to a park several blocks from their home, unaccompanied by an adult.
In my pre-teen years, while dad was at work, my mother saw me out of the house right after breakfast summers, and the only caveat was to come home when the noon church bell rang. Same thing after lunch, to come home when the 6 p.m. bell rang. She might have no idea where I was during those hours I was absent from home. I guarantee it was often spent more than a few blocks away at times. Once we rode bikes to Rossville and back, and she never did find out.
Once when I was very young, maybe five, a friend and I rode our tricycles from the house in which we lived near what is now East Elementary down sidewalks along Main to the candy store near the theatre while his mother visited my mother. When they missed us, they guessed our destination correctly, and did not bother police or anyone else.
The sledding fuss was because the city was worried about liability. Who would have sued if one of us slammed into the top of the storm sewer on the run-out at the bottom of the hill?
Human services was worried about child abduction. Then, that was not an apparent concern. We’d like to think that sort of thing “couldn’t happen here.” But of course, it could.
That was then. This is now. It’s a different world.