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Peggy Horton: 'Worry-free' childhood is a thing of the past

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A family member phoned one night, rather late, and said he was coming by to drop off some things. My first impulse was to unlock the door and continue reading my engrossing book, but on second thought, I decided that wasn't a good idea.What if a stranger decided to walk in?Oh, how times have changed! When I was growing up, we never would have worried about such a thing. We didn't even lock our doors.In the summertime, at night, we used the little latch on the screen door and left the big door open all night. We had to. It was hot and we had no air conditioning. Besides, there was nothing to fear. We lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone else and we took care of each other.Imagine leaving your doors unlocked now. Mine are usually locked, even in the daytime. My children have their own keys. I wish we didn't live in such an untrustworthy world.As a child, I walked quite a distance to school, sometimes alone. In those days, no one ever thought a child from an ordinary family, like mine, would be kidnapped or harmed in any way. In a small town, like the one I lived in, everyone looked out for all of the children not just their own. It was a much safer world then.My friend and I used to spend Saturday afternoons at the movies eating popcorn, watching a movie, sometimes more than once, and interacting with other school friends, who spent their Saturdays the same. It was great; something to look forward to every week.
Nowadays, mothers deliver their children to and from school and accompany them everywhere they go. There are some who still ride school buses, but when they step off the bus in the evening, their mothers wait nearby to take them home.Some of my most enjoyable times occurred on the way home from school in the afternoon. I shudder at the thought of all the fun I would have missed if my mother had picked me up!There was a soda fountain in our town reminiscent of the one on "Happy Days." As we sauntered home from school, my friends and I stopped there most evenings for a coke, a milkshake, an ice cream soda or just plain enjoyment. Lots of good things happened there.While the jukebox played my favorite songs, I sometimes met a new friend or engaged in a flirtation with a boy from school. And when I was in high school, many Saturday-night dates were made sitting at the old soda fountain sipping a coke. A few times, I was asked to write my phone number on a napkin for someone who may want to use it later.Yes, it's a changed world.I suppose my parents thought the same thing when I was growing up. If there's anything we can count on, it's change. But no matter how things fluctuate, the era we grew up in -- to each of us -- will always be the best.Peggy Horton lives in Nitro and may be emailed at
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