Bonnie Shell's Life Stories

What about being a child do you miss the most?

Childhood was much more carefree when I was young. Girls played with dolls, and boys had trucks and cars. We read books, played games, and played outside in good weather. Everyone was more trusting. Neighbors knew all the kids on the block and watched out for them.

I remember my mom sending me to the grocery store when I was about five or six with a note of what she wanted and the money wrapped in a handkerchief. The store was a block away. She wasn't worried that I would get mugged or robbed. The grocer read the note, put the items in a bag, took the money, and wrapped the change in the handkerchief.

We didn't have cell phones or computers. I learned to spell and write my name on a chalkboard my parents bought me for Christmas one year. We listened to stories on the radio and used our imaginations to visualize the story.

One year I played a couple of characters on a children's radio show. Unfortunately, that experience squashed my imagination because I played a little boy in one story, and in another, I played an old woman. The slamming door was a little door about two feet tall, and the hoof sounds were two blocks of wood on a table, but it was a fun experience.

We walked or took the streetcar to get anywhere. We became more aware of our surroundings than when we rode in a car. For example, we went to downtown Chicago at Christmas to see all the window displays. Many of the big department stores had a Toyland set up in their top warehouse space, and we got to ride a small train to see Santa and the carolers dressed in colorful costumes walking around the store.

Families got together more often, and friends could drop by for a visit without an invitation. I miss the big Christmas dinners with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We had family traditions and always looked forward to getting a new outfit for Christmas and Easter.

Technology is great, and kids learn so many new things, but family get-togethers and personal interactions suffer.