"The Window" is a movie made in 1949, starring Arthur Kennedy, Barbara Hale, and Bobby Driscoll. I watched it on one of the really hot days recently. I'm not going to give away the story line, but it involved a 9-year-old boy in a blue-collar family living in a tenement in New York. I almost gasped as this kid played in abandoned buildings, went up on the rooftops, and with his parents' approval slept out on the fire escape on hot nights. It most certainly was a different world in 1949.
The movie brought back memories of that different world, my world, in 1949. My mother would tell of hot, humid summer nights in Peoria, living on the banks of the Illinois River, when the family would take mattresses out on the porch to sleep. Reliving her memories, sometimes she and I would sleep outside in the backyard in summer, but what I remember best is when she, my sister and however many kids she had at the time (she had seven altogether) and I would take blankets and spend the night at Santa Anita Park, across the street from the racetrack. My father never joined in these outings, trying to maintain some form of dignity, and saying, "Craziest thing I ever heard of." The point of this is that in that day and age, women and children lived a life of freedom, without fear. A great nephew once came for a visit here. He was about nine years old then. (He's now close to thirty and is a father.) He stayed sitting in the house and bored, and I finally told him, "Go outside! I'll pack a lunch for you. Go climb a tree or something. You can go anywhere as long as you can still see the house." "Can I, really?" Where he lived in southern California he was not allowed to even go into the front yard. That's pitiful, but watching the news these days, it's the new reality. Pete came up yesterday and we were talking about this, and he said, "Mom, when we were kids (1960-70s) we left the house in the morning and didn't come home until dark!" It's true, and I wasn't worried. My only caution to them was to "stay together." Life may not have been perfect back in the "good old days," but it was a safer world. I miss it.