Back in the 1970s and 80s, half of all Gen-Xers grew up in households headed by single moms. They didn’t call us free-range kids back then, but I suppose that’s exactly what we were. Latchkey kids that roamed the boulevards, back roads and byways of America. We dodged all kinds of dangers, both real and imagined. And we lived out our childhoods, whether rural, urban or suburban, with a level of independence that was not always in accordance with our age and development.
I love to scout out amazing pictures of Generation X. High-quality images from the 1970s are very hard to come by. I treasure the collection of 10,000+ images I’ve amassed over the years. Most of the photos were published in public forums beginning in 2002. In most cases copyright is unknown.
Playing on the Freeway
The following pictures feature two Gen Xers playing on the freeway. Actually, they’re roller skating on California State Route 118. The photos were taken in 1982, 12 years before the freeway was named for President Ronald Reagan.
The pictures got me to thinking about a few other photos I’ve collected of Gen-Xers doing free-range things. For example, this kid who did an Evil Knievel type jump over a row of his friends.
Or these boys skateboarding on a homemade ramp. Looks like fun…
These kids enjoyed “sanctioned” skateboarding at a place called Skatecross in Los Angeles. Good times – before everyone had a helmet and lawsuit for every little thing.
Here are some older Gen-Xers smoking cigarettes behind their Los Angeles high school. Remember when schools let kids smoke?!
This is the Topanga Slide in Los Angeles. I remember going to a place like this as a kid and getting fiberglass and burlap burns on my arms. Again, nobody got sued and I certainly didn’t complain about my injuries. If I did, I might never get to go back!
I sure do have great memories of the nearly eight years I spent living in the San Fernando Valley. It was so long ago, sometimes, I wonder if it was even real. I miss the concrete fences, palm trees and all the mid-century signage on businesses. I miss that trip to Huntington Beach with my sisters and cousins and the fun times I had at Puddingstone in San Dimas wearing my bright orange Styrofoam safety bubble and trying not to drown. Mostly, I just miss the people who were in my life back then – my grandparents and my father.
Do you remember playing on the freeway? My younger two kids actually got to play on the freeway during construction of the new I-40 south of downtown OKC. Here is a post about their urban adventure. Sadly, I don’t think they’ve had enough adventures. Just a lot of music lessons and sports practices. Stuff like that. Not very free-range, but very scheduled.
What did you like most about your free-range childhood?