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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Stranger Danger

By Joanne Zimmermann

I could tell you the names of nearly all of the people living on Whitelaw Street. I played outside all day, roaming freely. So did all of the other kids. I was born at 2454 and by the time I was five, we had moved to a larger Dutch Colonial at the corner, 2494.

I was in heaven there as it had a basement with a slope in it and a metal pole in the center. I guess it held up the house but was great for roller skating around it. It also had an underground garage, and a “solarium.” That was a room with windows all around it, the casement type that cranked outward.

There were the English people on the other corner, the Italians, the dentist, the salesman and the banker. Next door was the fireman, the dry-cleaner, etc. I knew them all.

One day I walked home and noticed a tan car parked in front of my house with the door open. I looked inside at a man who had his privates hanging out beckoning me.

I knew that wasn’t right, instinctively I guess, and ran into the house to tell my mother. Of course by then, he had driven off! By then, I was six years old.

Upstairs, my room had a tin roof covering the solarium and I loved to listen to the rain tap-dancing at night. It also had a view of the corner and I often sat and looked out.

One day I saw “that car” stopped at the stop sign below my window. I wrote down the license plate. In those days you could read the plate pretty far away, not like here in Florida today where if you are lucky there is a big orange in the middle and pale green letters and numbers.

If you are unlucky, there are over one hundred specialty plates of all colors and designs and no one seems to care that the letters and numbers are illegible, except at a distance of four feet. It is rare today to be told a license number, just the red pickup, the white SUV, etc.

Anyway, that resulted in me having to go down to the police station to “identify” the man. I sat in a room with a big glass window and A, B, C and D came in. I selected one, they thanked me and that was it. I am not sure how I picked him since his face was not the most prominent thing I saw that day in front of the house.

Later in life, I became a guidance counselor in an elementary school. It was required that I teach a program called “Stranger Danger.” It covered just about anything you could think of to watch out for.

By then parents were not allowing such foolishness as kids roaming the neighborhood. I was told things had changed from the good old days. Kids now had to be driven to school by car or bus. Parent supervision was required and activities closely monitored.

I wondered how I had survived.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Thank you, thank you, thank you...I keep telling people that these things DID happen years ago.

In the mid-1950s (maybe I was 7-or-8-years-old) a man in a convertible pulled across the road in front of me as I went to cross and kept offering me a ride. This was a corner I crossed constantly in my small 1940s development where we knew everybody. It had to be a fluke that I was alone. And we didn't know anybody who had anything as exotic as a convertible.

I ran around behind his car and all the way home.

I don't remember anything being done about it...like reporting it or warning other families.

Perverts have been around as long as have people. The difference between then and now is that we no longer know our neighbors and the neighbors do not look out for our kids.

I am glad you told your mother and were clever enough to get the man's license plate. Very few small children would know enough to do that. I hope he was put away where he belonged.

Joanne - Nicely written!

In my preteens during the 1940's, I frequently walked a mile or two along wooded country roads to my friends' homes. From time to time, strange looking and behaving motorists would slow or stop near me. More often than not, my senses directed me to jump over the nearest stone wall and run into the woods.

As Darlene said, perverts have always been out there. But maybe they were a bit less aggressive in those days. - Sandy

In the 1940s my mom told me that if anyone should say, "Come with me little girl and I'll buy you an ice cream cone," I was to say, "We have ice cream at home." That was the extent of my guidance.

I remember them as being relatively routine, too. The principal would get on the school's PA system and remind us never to take candy from strangers when somebody had been trying to lure kids into his car. It seems to me now that the lesson we learned was that perverts were a fact of life and we were supposed to outsmart them.

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