This post has been bottled up inside of me for years. No, I haven't been blocking it from my memory; I just wasn't sure how to put it in to words. But with all the talk now of free-range parenting, I thought it was time to finally show an example of what I believe to be one of the most extreme examples, and I lived it.
The setting was the mid 1970's. A more simple time when all we had to worry about was the cold war, an occasional gas crisis, high unemployment, the decline of the American auto industry and Patty Hearst as a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
I was around 12 years old and in the long hot days of summer in Tampa, FL was bored. What entertainment did my parents find to keep me happy?
THEY DROPPED ME OFF AT THE TAMPA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TO PLAY FOR SEVERAL HOURS!!!
This was not an isolated incident; it happened on a regular basis and it wasn't just me, they would have me take friends, whose parents knew what was occurring. In some cases, my parents might drop us off at departing flights and someone else's parents might pick us up later at arriving flights -- the red arrival and departure areas were our favorites (OK, maybe I made up that last part, but it feels right).
They sometimes did this to empty the house of all children when there were out-of-town guests with children -- presumably so that they could more thoroughly enjoy their non-stop partying involving lots of liquor and cigarettes -- something I have posted about on my personal blog in the past.
Now to clarify, we were not THOSE kinds of Florida people that you see today on tabloid television shows. We were a normal middle class family who owned their home, had multiple cars and even went out to dinner regularly (a big deal in the 1970's).
We had a great time at the airport. We hung out on the top floor of the parking garage watching the planes take off and land, riding the then-exotic people movers, going through the metal detectors (no TSA back then, just simple security), getting a coke at the one of the concession areas, or going to Main Street Ice Cream Parlor. I knew every make and model of plane that landed at that airport, from DC-3's to wide body Lockheed L1011's. I would have course known a 747 if one had landed, but stops in Tampa by those were rare.
When we were done, we went to a pay phone to call our parents and they would come pick us up. According to some research I just did on Google Maps, it was a 12-minute trip. It was closer than the nearest mall to our house.
Can you imagine doing this today?
Please feel free to leave a comment of the most EXTREME free-range parenting that you ever experienced in the 1970's.
image courtesy of flickr Creative Commons
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