Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I went to Ojai House last week to buy some greeting cards. I love Ojai House — they have hilarious cards, and Meg is a sweetheart and always fun to talk to. One of my favorite cards stated that the biggest problem with the younger generation is that we’re not in it any more. Boy, I can relate to that.
Meg and I started talking about growing up, and about how much things have changed, especially in the realm of personal safety.
Take air bags, for instance. Every new car comes equipped with them; we take them for granted. But when I was growing up, our family car didn’t even have seat belts. The first car my family owned that was equipped with seat belts was a 1964 Chevy Impala. And while seat belts were installed in some cars as early as the 1950s, they were not mandatory until 1968.
I don’t know the statistics, but I cannot believe those old belts saved many lives. When I was young I cannot recall a single person, except for my old maid aunt, who ever actually fastened a safety belt. The belts in our car were usually stuffed in the seat crevice so you wouldn’t accidentally sit down on them — not exactly a well-thought-out safety plan. The early belts were merely lap restraints designed to hold your body in place and keep you from flying out of the car. They did nothing to control anything above the waist, including your head. In the event of an accident, there was nothing to keep your head from bouncing on the dashboard like Magic Johnson dribbling a basketball down the court on a fast break. And since the old dashboards were made of metal, if you had any type of serious accident, all the old seat belts did was to make it easier to find the body.
No one ever wore a bicycle helmet. They didn’t exist; no one would have even considered putting on a helmet to ride their bike.
I continued along this line over lunch one day with John Broesamle. He pointed out that we have progressed light years concerning the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. He added that whereas now we are extremely restrictive about areas in which you are permitted to smoke, there was a time when people thought nothing about smoking in confined spaces, including the family car. In fact, if the weather was cool, they didn’t even roll down the windows — you just inhaled whatever the smoker was smoking.
Even rolling down the windows didn’t necessarily mean you were safe. My daddy, who was a heavy smoker, used to flip his lit cigarette out of the driver’s side window, only to have it blow back in and ricochet off my head as I sat in the back seat. Come to think of it, that probably explains a lot.
No air bags, no helmets, constant exposure to cigarette smoke — the list goes on and on. For those of us who grew up in those times, it’s amazing we survived long enough to make it out of the younger generation at all.