Return to the Past

I just got back from our whirlwind road trip through central, northern, and coastal California. Along the way, we stopped in Capitola, where I spent most of my weekends as a child. The cabin we used to stay in (the yellow one), and the beach haven’t changed much. The village is much more "upscale" compared to the shabby, hippie-dippy feel it had in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was there but I was relieved to see that it hadn’t lost any of its charm. It’s basically the same as it always was. 

I sat on the beach and watched the kids playing. They were about eight or nine years old. I could have been looking forty-some years back in time at myself and my friends. I know it’s a cliche to say this, but it seems like it was a much more innocent time when I was growing up…or maybe we were more naive. I’d have breakfast with my parents and then they wouldn’t see me again until dinner, unless I was playing on the beach or in the river. Otherwise, I’d roam freely all over town, visiting the used bookstore, shopping at Disco (a Wal-MartP3270483 type store in its day), playing with my friends, having an ice cream at the Dairy Queen, walking to the  Crockers in Soquel for a cheeseburger, or looking at the magazines at Nussbaum’s grocery store. Some times I’d run into my Mom,  who would be shopping for antiques, chatting with the artists at the galleries, or browsing the clothes at the Plum Tree. My Dad always stayed outside the cabin, reading books or chatting with the neighbors. Even at night, we were allow to go off on our own to  play Skeeball until 9 pm.

If I had a cabin there today, I would never let my daughter roam around town unsupervised…and she’s twelve. When I was a kid, I knew all the shopkeepers and they all knew me. So, in a sense, the town was watching out for me. Maybe that would also be true today
for my daughter…but I doubt it.

When I think of the freedom I had when I was my daughter’s age and younger…and, by contrast, how much we supervise her….I wonder if times have changed or if I am being over-protective.

(You can click on the photos for larger images)

7 thoughts on “Return to the Past”

  1. I agree with you. My sons are 10 and 14 and when I was there age, living in a small town about 30 miles north of where I live now, I was all over the place unsupervised.
    It’s not like where I live now is a site of much crime–it’s an affluent suburb–but it seems to me and my wife that the world can be a dangerous place filled with predators.
    I don’t know if it was less-so when I was growing up or our parents just weren’t aware of it. But times have changed.

  2. I know the feeling about those innocent times. When I was a lad, it was nothing in the summer for me to jump on my bike and take off across town to play ball. Gone all day, my mother never worried about my safety. But, as you say say, in today’s world, such a thing is inconceivable.

  3. It is the times that have changed, and not for the better. Part of the great charm of Capitola was how everyone knew each other and all the kids could roam free and in safety. I always felt it gave you a great sense of confidence and personal responsiblity. It was a happy place and happy times. The other families, who were our neighbors, shared that euphoria that came with the ritual of arriving in Capitola each Friday afternoon.
    Loved seeing your pictures, it brought back so many wonderful memories. I’m glad you were able to show it to your daughter… and that it hadn’t changed very much.

  4. The most intriguing novel I’ve read in a long time is The Berkeley Pit, by Dorothy Bryant (Clark City Press). It is about the true believers in the 70s who drove themselves and Berkeley into the fever swamps. It offers a rich insight into how California changed into an unsafe place.

  5. I don’t really think things have gotten more dangerous – but I do think that the ubiquitous nature of media and their obsession with pain and suffering has given the illusion that things are far worse.
    With over a third of a billion people in North America alone, bad things are going to happen. The difference now is the explosion in media that try and slot themselves into the “news” genre. There are several 24 hour news channels, a handful of “entertainment news” shows, a dozen magazines and tabloids… along with the old standard from our youth- the network news and daily papers.
    These outlets have to fill thousands of hours and pages every day and they are competing with a thousand other sources of “entertainment”. Unfortunately, the single most reliable way to get the viewers to pause as they click by seems to be the pain and suffering of a child.
    In the past, the disappearance of a child in a smaller city would get local coverage on the news and in the paper… usually after the police had time to investigate for days if not weeks. Rarely would it make it nationally and then usually as a wrap up on a case solved.
    Now, if a child is missing it plays out on a hundred stations in realtime with the family crying, the police chasing after leads as they come in, every neighbor and relative giving their tear-filled pleas and half baked theories… all the anxiety, rumor, pain and drama fed into our homes as they happen.
    And it all feels local.
    I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the actual chance of a bad thing happening to a particular child today was lower than it was twenty, fifty or a hundred years ago. The problem is our primitive monkey brain is bombarded with images from the “pain sells” media outlets and filters it through a mind that evolved knowing only a few hundred people. If we see it, our gut can’t tell the difference between what happens in our own little tribe and what happens five thousand miles away.

  6. Yeah, I agree. The world is a much more complicated and alarming place now. For one, there’s the shootings in high schools, which point to underlying discontentments and resentments. And there’s the way girls are dressing nowadays which is another set of energies getting into play at a very young age. The world is just very complicated and I think that kids growing up today really do need the kind of supervision you are talking about. What’s more, my sense is that kids growing up know they need all the help they can get from their parents because, simply, the parents can understand the world better, and their children can realize it. And the supervision is based on caring and is for the kids rather than satisfying inner needs of the parents. Leaving kids to work it out on their own is no longer a good idea, but lots of good communication is. It was really good to see your photos and the trip you gave your family.

  7. My parents let me roam Seaside, OR in the summers with friends starting at about age 10. I just figured that they felt that anyone who wanted me could have me, as long as they understood there were no returns or exchanges allowed.
    I find that I’m not nearly as protective as any of my friends and neighbors. Mostly it’s because anyone who would take my children would likely come drop them back off at home within hours after they started their usual complaining about someone else getting a larger piece of desert.
    By the way, extremely cute picture! Be happy that your daughter will still sit that close to you on a beach at her age. In a couple years, she’ll be hanging around with boys pretending not to know who you are! 😉


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