By on March 14, 2013

A lot of folks may look at their early teenage years with fleeting moments of fondness.

Friends, birthday parties, fun and games. Not to mention a healthy variety of mischievous activities to help keep life interesting between the endless classroom lectures and local social drama.

I don’t remember 99.9% of it… which is no doubt a good thing since my life was pretty much in a counterclockwise hormone ridden tailspin by the time I hit the big 1 3.

But I do vaguely recall one unfortunate thing I never could avoid.

Long distances to get anywhere that would remotely qualify as fun.

In the asphalt asphyxiated roads of northern New Jersey, nearly all fun activities for a pre-licensed teen required a long drive through potholed roads with a mom chauffeur (usually) and a never ending chorus of stop signs and red lights.

The two movie theaters took about 20 minutes. A nearby roller rink loaded with, even then, vintage arcade games like Pole Position and Mr. Do took another 25 minutes. A walkable town? That was 10 minutes away. But at least over there I could get a slice of pizza and a video on VHS.

The weather was cold, cloudy and windy most of the time. While the freedom was limited to parental whims, a 10 speed bike, and Converse All-Stars.

Sometimes I would listen to a Walkman and just jog around the neighborhood… for fun. The thought of it now depresses me. In part, because life is now infinitely more interesting. But also because I now realize that a lack of mobility, at any age, can be as crippling to a person’s psyche as any other challenge.

So this brings me to two distinct thoughts for you to consider. Was there a time in your younger days when you didn’t have your own wheels, but needed them? Related to this, what the heck did you do for fun back in the day? Other than watch TV?


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46 Comments on “Hammer Time: Before Cars...”

  • avatar

    When i was like under 12 i used to dig holes in my back yard, make forts, with the neighborhood kids in bushes. Fun for hours.

    Latter got into video games, most everyone i knew lived 5 – 10 minute walk away.

    Now i usually stay home at 20, or go to my friends and bs, play video games, fix stuff, move stuff, fix cars. I’m more of a introvert and all the fun things cost money so i keep it cheap.

    As a side effect i have saved money to start to do some international travel. One of the best decisions i have made. Who said you can’t travel the world, while being poor, and in college?

    My parents would never drive me so to the bus, or biking. Both could have taken a long time to get where i wanted to go but, was cheap.

    This mobility problem is a issue with American cities. If we lived in European cities all the fun stuff would be nearby.

  • avatar

    I grew up in Chicago….there was always the “green limousine”. Wheels were never really necessary and basically unheard of before the end of h.s. Then my 17yo buddy with the 2 doctor parents had his parents buy him an early 1990’s Mustang with a 5.0 as his first car (auto of course)…. 2 years later, attending the same college in downstate IL as my buddy, he had the fastest commute back for the weekend but it requrid all passengers to split all tickets which happened more than once.

    For fun: Sports…

  • avatar

    Short answer: Yes, and ‘not much’

    Until I was 8, I lived 15 minutes outside of a tiny Appalachian town of 2k people. When I was 8, we moved to a hobby farm 15 minutes further into the sticks, which was also now a long distance phone call to anyone at my school.

    Nearest movie theatre: 45 minutes one direction, 1 hour the other.

    Outside was great: Woods, fields, creeks. It was wonderful for a kid with an ATV whose luck hadn’t yet run out.

    But basically, even a bicycle was a no-go. Narrow ribbons of curvy, hilly asphalt–so awesome when I got my SE-R–were death to anyone on a bike, as they also carried overweight (40 ton+) coal trucks.

  • avatar

    Im sure this will p!ss off everyone, but I grew up in a coastal suburb of Los Angeles. We had movie theaters but no shopping malls in town. Video arcades didnt exist yet. The beach was our playground.

    A skateboard took me most anywhere I wanted to go. Mom didnt drive and dad didnt get out of his chair in front of the TV after dinner, so I was on my own, except on weekends when dad would take us pretty much wherever we wanted.

  • avatar

    I grew up in a small town in CT that had sidewalks (gasp); at least my neighborhood did so it was very walk able. We also rode bikes everywhere, with a two mile ride to the center of town I never relied on my parents for transportation much, which was good because they were mostly never home.

    We spent a lot of time running around in the nearby salt marsh, running through the grass, playing tag, hide and seek, we used to build ramps to jump our bikes off, I rode straight into a tree once, hurt like hell but I rode it home with a bent fork and dried blood on my forehead – Good times. Another time I went over the bars and cracked a rib, it hurt baaaad but I actually rode 3 miles back to my house to my mother’s horror…

    Looking back on those days I actually felt quite free, the bike was cheap and easy to fix myself. No worries on paying for gas, insurance, repairs etc. I could go anyplace I needed to in town with my own two legs and it was awesome.

    Gradually my Redline BMX bike gave way to a Fuji 10 speed and the 10 speed to a VW Fox I bought for $75, total crap can but it was mine…

  • avatar

    I grew up in the suburbs of Portland, Maine. I got into bicycle racing so I had “wheels” at a pretty early age. No big deal to bike into Portland or the Mall if the weather was decent. Even in the winter, cycling the mile or two to friend’s houses was not a big deal. I didn’t get my license or a car until my Senior year of High School (Fall of ’86, hand-me-down ’82 Subaru). That was it for cycling though – wish I had kept at it, still have my racing bike from back then.

    It is odd to contemplate those days before computers – I didn’t even have an Atari, though my kid brother did. I did a lot of reading, but I was kind of a geeky kid.

  • avatar

    In Miami, before cars – I rode the municipal bus system from age 10 until I hit 15. Trips included the Beach, Crandon Park for music and of course various movie theaters. After 13, the bus was my ride to work.

    Needless to say I was a latch key kid. – Looking back 50 years ago, it was a bad idea to allow a kid to ride around unsupervised on a city bus back in the 1960’s and it would be even worse of an idea today.

  • avatar

    Boarding school. Nowhere to go, other than walking into town on weekends, and taking the train into the city once a month or so.

    Kept me out of trouble. We’ll see if it does the same for my kids.

  • avatar

    a bike, my most intimate traveling companion. i had to be back for lunch and dinner but the rest of my time was my own. my god, we went on some long trips in a 4-5 hour time frame. later i would just indicate that i would not be home for lunch and come home at dinner. phone calls were a nickle in older public phones most a dime but i could call if for some reason i was going to be late.

    my parents might have worried but then did not let on and i never worried about where i was or what was going to happen.

  • avatar

    Having been one of the abysmal geeks (you know, the guy all the girls pray to God doesn’t say “good morning” to them) in both junior high and high school, my social life didn’t exist to the point that transportation was needed. And what transportation I did need (mainly rides into downtown Johnstown, PA to pick up the latest science fiction magazines at the newsstand)were ably handed by the Schwinn MkIV Jaguar that dad got me for my eighth birthday, and I was still riding seven years later. It got put away at 16 in the desperate hope that the folks would let me use a family car occasionally. Fat chance.

    So I sat at home, read science fiction, and got bullied when I did go out. The bicycle came back out in my sophomore year of college, and I’ve always considered bicycling commuting normal due to those days.

    However, the best revenge is living well. I finally showed up at my 30th class reunion, riding the Harley, club colors on my back, and watched the jaws drop as my classmates realized who I was. It was an evening that a Hollywood scriptwriter couldn’t better. Started with the guy who bullied me coming up and apologizing, later I told the quarterback on the football team he needed to dump his wife and get his dick back (she was standing next to him at the time), and ended up leaving with my female counterpart from our school days . . . . . who had developed the looks and figure of a very attractive porn star in the intervening years.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    From 6th grade on, I grew up in the DC suburb of Arlington, Virginia. I had a bicycle that would take me anywhere, although the steep hills were a challenge. We were a 1-car fammily, so when I got my license at 16, I had to make appointments to use the car for, e.g. a date. I carpooled to high school (bus was too slow), but most of the time the carpool was driven by someone’s parent as parking at school was limited. And I carpooled to athletic practice.

    I did not watch much TV (weekends only, if then) and spent a lot of time hitting the books, doing athletics and other extracurriculars at school.

    I did not have a car at college, which was in a small college town that was an exurb of NYC. It would have been useful only for roadtrips to other college towns, and I had friends for that. Locally, it would have been a burden to park. There was a bus that ran into NYC twice an hour for something like $5 round trip; and I rode the train home to DC.

    In graduate school in downtown Baltimore, my friends who had cars were always worrying about parking them without getting a ticket . . . or the car getting broken into or vandalized. City busses ran outside my front door, which took me, among other places, to the train station.

    I saw my first video game — Pong — in a beer joint in Houston that I frequented when I was working there as a newspaper reporter.

    My personal mobility device, from about age 8 up, was a bicycle. I went everywhere on a bike. When I lived in Spain, I went everywhere on a bike — and so did most of the rest of the population of the city. I had a road bike in college and used to ride 100 miles or more a week until winter set in. Bikes are very elegant machines. Going fast on a bike — 30, 40, 50 mph — is as good a fun as there is.

    I bought a car when I went to work fulltime, after getting my master’s degree.

  • avatar

    Bicycle got us around fairly good. We lived in a urban-suburb type place (with no real huge city nearby, just endless sprawl packed into a peninsula). There was a elementary school in the neighborhood with a small patch of woods we played in at a young age. We built forts, set off fireworks, chased each other around, etc. Sometimes we played video games, ran around the yards, kids stuff.

    Even with cars, there wasn’t that much to do for a teenager who only made $50 a week. Do far more things and see so much more a decade later.

  • avatar

    A lot of the “middle of nowhere” kid stuff already mentioned plus hiking. All of us were too poor for mini-bikes, go-carts or snowmobiles.

    Then, oh man, my parents would send me to “summer camp” in Tijuana… It was actually my grandparent’s home in Tijuana steps from the city during the mid ’80s.

    Wow, it was like NYC to me and my cousins. And yes I “learned” to drive there. I didn’t understand what was in it for my young aunt to go clubbing at night, but then I got older and oooh man.

  • avatar

    My younger age summers were:

    -Ride bikes
    -Play in back yard
    -Play in driveway
    Repeat til dinner!

    Oh and then at 14, work. School. Repeat.

  • avatar

    Pedal power FTW!! I rode my bike everywhere, sometimes just for fun. I had a trick BMX/Freestyle bike and a 10-speed road bike. For a kid/early teen riding a bike 10 to 25 miles a day was pretty common: 5 miles here, 5 miles there… its quickly adds up. I lived in area full of other kids so we would ride over someones house and beg their parental units to drive us to the “cool” places (movies, mall, roller rink, beach, water park, go-kart track, etc). The local pizza place, with Mrs. PacMan, was next to the library so we ride over there all the time under the guise of doing homework. Even closer was 7-11 with Donkey Kong.

    Now living in southern Florida directly on the water meant we could also grab a boat and head out, back then there was no age limit or boating license required. Usually we would just zip around annoying other people, fishing or dragging each other behind the boat on various things (surf boards, rafts, skis). Basically any object that would sort-of float, never anything fancy or planned, just whatever we had around. I honestly think we tried wake-boarding once with just a scrap piece of plywood.

    When I got older I started skateboarding, but still biked to school until I knew other kids with cars that I could bum rides off of. I worked since I was 14 and saved up enough to buy a car a 17 (a used Mustang) with my parents assistance.

  • avatar

    Having grown up in a hilly, wet and cold suburb of Seattle, I swore the second I got my license I would NEVER ride a bicycle again.

  • avatar

    During my younger teenage years I biked everywhere: soccer practice, friends’ houses, the pizza place in town, if a destination wasn’t reachable by bike it might as well have been on the other side of the world. If I wasn’t riding my bike I was wrenching on it and spending the cash from my lawn mowing jobs to upgrade the components. Of course this interest in mechanical tinkering and going fast was a natural segue into cars.

    By the time I was 15 my best friend, who was a year older, was given a beat up but still serviceable ’70 Chevelle SS 396. We would wrench on it all week and terrorize the neighborhood by night tearing down residential streets and revving the engine which sounded absolutely feral though cherry bomb mufflers. We would melt the tires in front of our high school and drag race on the weekends. Even though this all took place during the late ’90s the teenage scene in our medium-sized Oklahoma town was very much reminiscent of the movie Dazed and Confused: cars, girls, and cheap beer were our top concerns.

  • avatar

    Growing up I lived on a residential street with a few other houses nearby, in a small town where the the malls and movie theatres were all at least 30 minutes away.

    My family lived backing onto a creek big enough for power boats, so as kids we built a lot of rafts. My poor younger brother would always be the first one to try them out to see if they’d sink. We also rode our bikes everywhere. We’d make trails through the woods and made a wicked BMX track at the back of a farmer’s field.

    We figured out how to make potato guns and injure and burn ourselves. We’d make fires and someone would call the firedepartment. There were railroad tracks nearby, and it was always entertaining to flatten things on the tracks when the train went by. Go carts and minibikes came and went, still have the scars to remember those by.

    When my friends and I got a little older around 14, and mobility was more important, some of us bought cheap cars and drove them to each other’s houses on country roads. We’d sometimes off-road them and they’d die in spectacular fashion. Or the police or someones parents would catch one of us and impound or get rid of the car.

    One time a school bus driver saw us driving and recognized us because we should have been on the bus, and called the cops. I rememeber the cop gave me a stern warning to get the car home before my dad found out.

    I remember a lot of those years. By the time I got to the 2nd year of high school, my friends and I had been labelled trouble-makers and I switched to a city school where most kids didn’t even know what a burnout was. It was a well worn parking lot by the time I graduated. Well, I never went to graduation, there was a points race at the drag strip that weekend, but they tell me I have a diploma here somewhere.

  • avatar

    /i grew up in suburban Pittsburgh. Wasn’t an active kid except for riding a bike. Rode that thing everywhere! Rode the single speed everywhere with my childhood friends and, as they got older, my brother and sister. Rode the ten speed, then mountain bike, anything with wheels. We didn’t have many (any) sidewalks near us, so it was all on the shoulder of the road. If my folks only knew where went!
    . Around 12, I had a nasty spill on the ten speed. I was riding down a hill as fast as I could and then I remember waking in the hospital, in pain. Helmets weren’t “cool” and I wasn’t wearing one. The chain must have broke and got stuck in the spokes or back tire and I wiped out. 8 hours of my life I was out for. I see the same daredevil stuff with one of my two year old twins and it scares me.

    Car at sixteen, hand me down 81 Regal V6. Typical teenage hoonage ensued.

    I travel for work and having a rental for personal use is completely up to the client (i.e will they pay for it). I’m in Secaucus NJ right now, in a hotel with plenty of shops and a nearby bus stop that will take you to the NYPA bus terminal in NYC. But I’ve been lots of places where the closest restaurant or convenience store is a decent walk and/or someplace without sidewalks. Not having wheels is still painful, especially for a car nut like me.

    • 0 avatar

      I also grew up in suburban Pittsburgh. No sidewalks, and nothing nearby to do, so we rode bikes as kids. Anything else worth doing needed a car, and I never rode a city bus until I was in college (just once). I was a geek, so I’d fly model rockets in the mall parking lot on Sundays, back when malls were closed on Sundays.

      I didn’t date until I could drive, so I never suffered the humiliation of being driven to a date. I commuted to college in my own beater cars, which was liberating and enslaving all at once.

      Now, I still drive to my job in suburban Pittsburgh.

  • avatar

    I spent the first half of my childhood in Caracas, where doing anything beyond our house, whether going to the pool or riding my bike in the park, etc. required getting there in a car. I spent the second half in inner-suburban Atlanta, where, again, going most anywhere required a car but at least I had the subdivision to ride around in. All my friends’ houses had to be driven to. Eventually my mom let me ride beyond the neighboorhood, but doing stuff still required a car ride. Once I was old enough to drive, I could borrow my parents’ cars and, once my dad and I got our project car driving, he drove that and I (and then my sister and I) got to drive his car. So we generally got to go wherever we wanted or needed to go pretty easily. I was a pretty solitary kid and could happily entertain myself for ages. OTOH for years now I’ve lived in a city (Chicago) where I don’t need to use a car for anything that I don’t want to, and it’s wonderful.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I grew up in a small industrical town about 35 miles NW of Philly. It was a very walkable and bikable town with it’s own downtown shopping street. I got a bike around age 8, and that became my main means of transport until I acquired a drivers license at 16. In the long summers, my buddies and I would travel far out of town on our bikes on the lighlty traveled two lane roads. I lived a half mile from HS and walked in rain, ice and snow as did everyone else in the neighborhood. We didn’t get many “snow days” either, and used to have contests to see how few times we would fall on the way to school when we had freezing rain.
    Since very few kids drove to school, we didn’t feel like we were deprived. We always had an old second car which is what I drove when I needed to go some distance.
    I got my first car in the summer before my senior year at college when we had five familty members with full time jobs and only two cars to get them there. I still found the bike to be a better means of transportation around the campus, and the car just sat around most of the time. I still take long bike rides on weekends for excercise, but traffic is too brutal where I now live for biking more than routes selected for lack of traffic.

  • avatar

    My teen years were spent living on a military base in Germany. Everything on base was within walking distance. If I wanted to go to another base, there were buses that ran every hour. The base was in a pretty large German city, so I could walk off base and head into town. If I wanted to get somewhere faster, I would bike it. There are bike trails everywhere in Germany, between towns, and part of every sidewalk in the bigger cities. Our city also had a great bus system if I really wanted to get to the other side of the city.

    We did lots of walking/hiking to neighboring towns and hanging out at the castle ruins in the hills. We also did all the normal ‘American’ teen things – hanging out at the bowling alley, shopping districts (Germany doesn’t have US style malls)and movie theaters. Sometimes on base, and sometimes in the city. Getting around was extremely easy, and I never had to bum a ride from my parents.

    I didn’t even want a car at that time – what I wanted was a moped to speed up my travels. As an American in Germany you couldn’t get your auto learners permit until you were 18 anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      I lived in Mainz (Bretzenheim) and went to General H.H. Arnold High School in Wiesbaden. As an American in Germany at the time you could get your drivers license at 17 (I did). I was one of the few in the school that had their license though, so needless to say that I would gain instant “friends” whenever there was a need for a car.

      I still took the bus and train everywhere eventhough I had my license. Going out on Friday and Saturday nights was so much easier if you do not have to worry about parking or calling your parents telling them you were too drunk to drive home.

  • avatar

    That Wildwood NJ video cracked me up since I had lived/worked there summer 1989 during my college years.

    Anybody else remember having the phone numbers for pay phones written down in order to call another teen someone who would be on the boardwalk or at the mall or pizza/hamburger place or school hallway, etc?

    North Jersey probably did stink for getting around but the Shore area (Ocean and Monmouth Counties) was pretty fun growing up since the summer brought fun to you in the form of vacationing families with teen children from other areas going to the beach.

    Hmmmmmmmm, fond memories though the one piece, New Wave-esque, neon colored female bathing suits of the early 1980s covered much more than the barely-there, stripper-ette style, sleaze-wear bikini swimsuits of today. Though I am not complaining about today’s swimsuits diminutive size…just complaining that they weren’t that way when I could have benefited from it much more.

  • avatar

    I too grew up in a small town in Appalachia (<600 people)in the 50s and 60s. We walked to most places in the town and biked in the summer since winters were terrible there. Believe me, pumping a full sized Schwinn balloon tired bike up those mountain roads built up your legs. I think my thighs were bigger than my waist until I was 21! Wish that were true today.

  • avatar

    I grew up in north Buffalo in some very nice neighborhoods filled with kids my age. We played outside from dawn to dusk. Baseball or football in the street, hide & seek at night. What a great time. At 16, we moved about 5 miles north of the city. My bike got alot of use after we moved. I used to ride home in the dark, flying up Parker Blvd., pretending I was Jim Ryun setting a new mile record. I think I broke it a few times!

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I was a kid who played outside with friends and stuff, until I was about 12 then I turned into a 40 year old. I missed out on being a teenager and now it’s too late.

    What does this have to do with cars again?

    • 0 avatar

      Popping a cherry in a cherry red ’69 442. Repeat after me: “Memories…” And forgetting the sexual innuenndo, let’s go to the words of my generation, “freedom.”

      Off topic; was watching ’12 Mad Men and a line hit home funny and true…Don D’s French Canadian father-in-law talking about his grand daughter growing up…”one day your daughter will spread her legs and fly away…”

      So true.

  • avatar

    I had the best time you can possibly imagine during this period. I lived on military bases. Specifically, Corpus Christi NAS, TX and Kadena AFB area on Okinawa. Nice weather, so many other kids, everything nearby, and a LOT to see and do. I remember once riding my bmx up to some grunts who just had a damaged apache helicopter flown in, thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I imagine stuff like that is more secured these days. We would go to the beach and swim or fish whenever we felt like. Most of the time we were just looking for trouble. We went places we didn’t belong and explored abandoned stuff on the base. In Japan, we were always hopping the fence, and going off-base. A bunch of 14 year olds running around in a foreign country… you can only imagine. I have lots of stories.

    Skateboarding was huge at the time so we rode those a lot. Wore out 3 sets of wheels one year. We also had BMX’s modified with smaller wheels off a junior to give better gearing on hills and turn them into “lowriders”. Never really had a need for a car. Never asked my parents for a ride once. Kids today are lame, and I don’t get it. Some day the Iphone will just turn into a phone, and they’ll wonder what happened.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Since I grew up outside a suburb of a major city in the 1960’s-’70’s, I guess xburb is the proper nomenclature, aka country. I remember going to Boy Scout camp when I was 9 or 10 thinking it was the end of the world when it was only about 5 miles from my house.

    Bicycling everywhere was the norm as was being outside dawn to dusk. When I was 15 I got a dirt bike and found a loophole in the law that allowed a “sort of” recreational vehicle license plate. My friends and I put on about 1,000 miles on that bike between my 15 and 16th year. We were never hassled as it was the first energy crisis in ’73 so there were lots of alternative vehicles on the road.

    Anyway, thanks for the good times remembered. It’s hard to relate to “real” physical obstacles when the grand kids are hopping around in the living room to the latest xbox kinetic game.

  • avatar

    Slot cars, RC cars, and model cars. Oh, and bikes and go-karts, too, of course.

  • avatar

    Wow – takes me back in time. I was fortunate enough to spend most of my first 14 years living in the suburbs of a small southern Ontario city, and then a small town followed by a village. Because winters were fairly mild, we rode our bicycles almost all year ’round. We would ride to Grand Bend or St. Mary’s to swim in the lake or quarries during the summer, and be gone all day, or ride to London Ontario, and many other destinations within 30 miles or so.

    We never felt we were in danger, either on the rode or at the hands of strangers, and getting around on our bikes was just the expected and most common form of transportation.

    If I had asked my father for a ride somewhere, he would’ve just laughed at me.

    We were only allowed to watch about an hour of television per day, and only after homework and chores were completed, and if we finished dinner in time. No video games, no computers meant more involvement in sports, but to be honest I begrudge the kids today their absolute mastery of video games, and the ability to learn and use computers so early in their lives. I would’ve liked that opportunity, to be honest.

  • avatar

    I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan- 2 miles from the Rouge plant. At 12 or so, in the summer my buddies and I would bike down to the Ford Rotunda almost every day and gape at the new exhibits and marvel at the “City of Tomorrow” ( never happened!) Then we would take the buses from the Rotunda to tour the Ford Rouge either the Engine plant or the Assembly line, and the Steel Plant. I recall doing several tours per day. We loved riding the new Ford cars around the ‘test track’ at the side of the Rotunda property, especially the high banked oval. When that got boring, we would spend countless hours in the Henry Ford Museum. It was all free, if you were a resident of Dearborn. The Rotunda burned to the ground during Christmas time 1962.
    I remember in September and October during the fifties biking to all the new car dealers to check out the new cars models! I really do thank Henry for wonderful times!!

  • avatar

    I rode a bicycle or I took the train. I grew up in the New York City commuter belt so I could walk or bike to the station to get into the city and I could rode my bike to lots of useful places. Once I got a car I stopped biking for many years but still took the train in preference to driving into Manhattan and trying to park.

  • avatar

    10 speed racer here – we lived about 10 miles out in the foothills and the closest town was in the valley. You could get down there in 45 minutes if you worked hard. Getting home took a couple of hours.

    The town had a bunch of bars, antique shops, a couple of supermarkets and a theater that showed porno movies all week long breaking only to show a kids’ double feature on Saturday. The closest real movie theaters and the mall were a good 20 miles away across a bridge we called the “trestle” No sidewalks and no way to get there unless you rode the bus. I did that maybe once or twice total.

    There was no carpool for me. Mom didn’t drive and dad worked all day and half the night. No sports, no after school clubs no nothing in town. If you missed the school bus you were SOL.

    Of course I had a BB gun at 8 years of age and a .22 at 12, lots of deep, deep forest to roam and real lakes to swim in. Today, it makes me wonder why the hell I ever wanted to go to town…

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Growing up in Houston, as flat as it is , it was always easy to ride a bike long distances . In junior high had a candy apple green Schwinn Stingray with the banana seat, developed a whole new set of friends who lived a few miles away . Would ride with my buddies to the movies , shopping centers , etc. Boy Scout activities often involved a 20 mile bike ride to go camping . Later on got a ten-speed . As soon as I turned 16 Mom insisted I get my license so somebody else could go to the grocery store besides her and always had access to one of the his-and -her Tempests my parents had . Even so , I still enjoyed both bike riding and walking for miles and still do and I have always tried to get a job within bicycle range ( 12 miles or less here ) . Just got back from a 5 mile ride an hour ago , and I’m in my late fifties .

  • avatar

    Some great memories here… As one outside of the apparent age norm on TTAC (I’m 64), the same single speed bike got me around from 1957 until the summer of 1964 when I got my driver’s license. My neighbor and I took an old 20″ bike frame from his garage, added a 15-year old 4 cycle lawnmower engine to it and created a “direct drive” mini-bike which still had the 20″ wheel on the front and a Sears pneumatic wheelbarrow wheel on the back. Because I had no clue what to do when I opened the motor up, I wrote the manufacturer (Lawson Power Products) to see what else could be done, and got a nice letter from an engineer telling me how to remove the governor to get more horsepower. He also said the motor would overheat when revved like that, but not to worry, the cast iron piston and block would be fine once it cooled down. The resulting assembly would probably hit 25, but was usually only good for ten – fifteen minutes or so of spirited riding. With a variety of similarly home-built junk, we used to raise the ire of the local cops, but the worst they ever did was to just send us home after shaking their heads at the wild collection of junk we were using to terrorize our suburban Connecticut neighborhood. I credit that motorized bike to a lifetime of enjoyment of both two- and four-wheel devices, including two wheelers that have no motors.

  • avatar

    I watched all three videos. If you want to know how America’s culture became what it is, the second one is educational. Today these people vote and live among us.

  • avatar

    I , was born between the election of Ike and the death of Hank Williams. I grew up in Greendale. Not the place Neil Young wrote about, but rather one of the first planned communities in the US-the living embodiment of Rexford Tugwell’s New Deal dream.
    Outside of the the horrible climate, the place was a little bit of paradise. We were two miles from everything, 20 minutes from the big city and 90 minutes from Chicago. The swimming pools, the movie theater, the biggest county park, the biggest mall in the state were all a short jaunt by bike or shank’s mare.
    When I was 5 I got a red Schwinn Tornado-classic fat tire cruiser. I thought it was the height of cool that my mount was named after Zorro’s steed.
    When I was 11 I upgraded to a genuine English 3-speed with wire panniers.
    Our neighborhood was Betty Friedan’s worst nightmare-stay at home moms. They all seemed pretty happy to me. They weren’t smothering at all and didn’t demand to know what you were doing every minute-they didn’t have to-they were in constant communication and had carte blanche to discipline you no matter who you were.
    In 1961 two events happened which set me onto an inevitable path to car lust.
    The local theater showed a B-movie potboiler called “Thunder in Carolina” starring Rory Calhoun. This was years before his star turn in “Motel Hell.” My consuming interest had been WW2 aircraft, but this film was an epiphany: man could break the boundaries of space and time, get lots of cool chicks and not get shot at!
    The second involved a book. My dad was in the business end of the local media conglomerate. The book section editors got volumes of books to review and would leave them around the newsroom afterwards for anyone to help themselves. My parents wound up with a pretty eclectic library. One day Dad came home with a big, coffee-table tome called “The Treasury of the Automobile” by Ralph Stein.
    I devoured that book. It opened up a whole world I didn’t know existed. Prior to my introduction to Mr Stein’s opus, I only cared about station wagons and VW Campers. I knew all of the domestics, VW’s, Volvos and MG’s-that was it. What an awakening that book was!
    Cars I had never heard of-Bugatti, Alfa, Hispano! Guys with “Von” in their last names driving spindly little roadsters and voluptuous sports cars on open roads! I was instantly addicted and I have never looked back.
    Dad had some pretty good cars. I learned to drive in a ’64 Galaxie converible, which he later traded for a ’69 Torino. We also had a fire-engine red ’66 Country Sedan with a mattress in the back! (don’t ask-I ain’t tellin!)

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    I grew up in the same medium sized city that I live in today. It seems to me that children now are chauffered everywhere they go, and engage only in supervised group activities. That, I suppose, is due to the changes in our modern world. But when I was a kid, we walked all over the place, and took the city bus downtown to see movies. As for our other activities, we played games – backyard football, tag – or just lazed around. Virginia Beach we would putt down to in my mother’s Corvair, while trips to Washington meant the train. Hot dog! I think we had more fun then. (Born 1952, started driving 1968.)

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    I kind of divided things up between getting taken places by my 6 year older sister (One of the few pluses of having someone that much older), my mom and dad, and the bike. I walked a lot too, but I have to admit I kind of hated it, it just took too long to get anywhere. The buses were in very bad shape at the time, being of WWII vintage and prone to breaking down, so I almost never used them. My sister only took me when she had to, usually because our parents made her. Towards the time I started to drive, she got into hot water with our parents when she took off and left me to walk 5 miles back home in the Winter a couple of times. My dad, who had a voice like a radio announcer, a really LOUD radio announcer, reamed her good after he picked me up about 2 miles from home in a snowstorm the second or third time she stranded me. He got her to the shaky lower lip and red nose stage before he stopped yelling at her. My mom then took over and got her blubbering, more with anger than anything else. I laughed till my stomach hurt. It was worth the cold to see her like that. With no cell phones, and no money for a cab or bus, walking was it. After that reaming, she never stranded me again, as my dad told her she wouldn’t have a car if she did. The six months from when I turned 16 until I got my license were the longest of my life.

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    Played with toy cars.

    Later on, drugs.

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