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How Did The Kids of the 1970s Make It Out Alive?

While kids today are being coddled and over-protected, past generations were out in the real world, defying death every day.

If today’s parents could wrap their kids in bubble wrap, they would. But where is the fun in that? Parents from the 1970s loved their kids just as much as parents today. They just let us out into the world to learn, explore, and engage with our friends. 

Let this article remind you that letting your kids into the world is not as scary as it seems. A whole generation is proving that doing all these things might have left us with a few scars but also many happy memories! 

Although I, for one, am very happy there was no video proof of our escapades! 

It’s 10PM – Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

bicycles strewn on lawn

Kids would head out early in the morning and return when the street lights came on. We had no cell phones, and chances were good our parents did not even know all of our friends well enough to call them.

It was so common to let kids run free that a PSA was made that played on TV to remind parents they had kids! 

Latchkey Life

keys hanging on a necklace

A growing trend of both parents working meant more kids were letting themselves into the house after school. The kids would grab a snack and start their homework until their parents came home. Some would do chores or take care of younger siblings. There were no babysitters, nannies, or help—just kids being self-sufficient and responsible.

Playing in the Street

playing stickball in the streets

Yep, we played in the street. Whether we played a stickball game or challenged each other to hopscotch, the street was our playground. We always made sure someone was on the lookout for cars. When they saw one in the distance, they would scream “car” at the top of their lungs. That scream gave us enough time to grab our equipment and head to the sidewalk. 

Blood Brothers and Sisters

group of people putting thumbs up
serezniy / Depositphotos

Being blood brothers (or sisters) was all the rage back in the 1970s! You’d take a pin, prick your fingers, and press your fingers together to mix a few drops of blood with your best friend. We didn’t think about infections or diseases, but maybe we should have.

We would not recommend this to the kids of today! 

Bumming Rides From Strangers

1970s hitchhiker

We would think nothing of asking a stranger for a ride. 

I remember my Dodge Dart breaking down on the Parkway near Wildwood, NJ, during my senior year of high school. I got it towed to a local gas station, where we met a guy who worked at CeeBee GeeBee’s in NYC. He was on his way back to NY and offered to drive us back home since it was on his way. That 1.5-hour drive was so fun and will forever be an amazing memory. 

BB Gun Fun

vintage bb guns

If you loved playing army, then you probably had a BB gun in tow. Playtime included shooting friends with BBs, which always left marks. Protection gear? Heck no, we were too cool for that.

Didn’t Wear Bike Helmets

1970s kids with bicycles not wearing helmets

Most of the time, we did not even wear shoes, never mind helmets. We would run out the front door, grab the bike, and be on our way. There were no helmets, knee pads, or any other safety devices. Coming home with a scraped knee or elbow was just a sign of a great day with friends. 

We Covered Our Open Wounds With Mercury

bottle of mercurochrome

If you were a kid in the 1970s, you had cuts and scrapes. If you did not, you were not living your best life. When mom found out, chances are she covered them in something called mercurochrome. It would be a thin red layer of liquid that would cover your wound. Then, a band-aid would be placed over it.

The problem was that it was liquid mercury. Yes, our parents were poisoning us. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned mercurochrome as an over-the-counter antiseptic due to its inefficacy in killing microorganisms, its staining property, and the risk of mercury toxicity from absorption through the skin.

Bicycles Meant For Speed

1970s scwinn stingray

Not only did we not wear helmets, but we rode bikes that were built for speed. The Schwinn Sting-Ray Krate would be the dream bike for the neighborhood daredevils. Purposely designed to look like motorcycles, it featured a five-speed “stik-shift,” which allowed for some fun riding. 

Riding The Back of Pickup Truck

kids in back of pickup truck

Weekend adventures meant piling into Dad’s old Chevy pickup with your buddies and holding on for dear life as he barreled down dusty backroads. Laying in the truck bed, letting the warm breeze whip through your hair—those were the days before bucket seats and safety lectures.

Drinking From The Hose

little girl drinking from the hose
National Archives and Records Administration

Those hot summer days in the 70s were brutal – but nothing hit the spot like gulping down some water straight from dirty rusty garden hose.

Lawn Darts

lawn darts game cartoon

Those ’70s lawn darts were wild. They were giant metal spikes that kids would chuck into the air. Can you imagine? Like, “Here, kiddo, play with these impaling rods!” Safety wasn’t a thing back then. We would set up circular target rings, then fling the darts from across the yard. Aiming was a game of chance. Those things could’ve taken out a window, an eye, or little Timmy playing two yards over.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lawn darts in 1988 due to excessive injuries and even a few deaths. You can still buy something similar today, but most are plastic or soft material. 


kid sitting in a car with no seatbelts

Traveling to Florida from NJ with seven people in our 1976 Buick Rivieria was always a grand old time. Seatbelts were not mandatory in vehicles until 1968, but using them was optional. So, we chose not to.  

Our road trips included five kids in the backseat, on the floor, and in the giant window area. We risked death if we were in an accident. It would be almost 40 years later before we saw more families begin to use seatbelts.

Metal Playgrounds

metal playground in alabama

Whether we had our tetanus shots or not, we spent our days on metal playgrounds. Sharp edges, corrosion, and burning hot metal were never an issue. Even looking at a slide these days brings back the feeling of the heat searing my skin as a kid. If we were really lucky, the play set would be on grass, not concrete. 

Smoking Started Young

kids smoking
Mark Cohen

Smoking is the one thing I would not want to see today’s kids doing. 

The 1970s were a time of smoking, and we were the byproduct of that time. Many of us took up smoking at a young age, some because we wanted to be cool – others because it was all we knew. Our parents smoked. Our grandparents smoked. TV made smoking look cool with movies and commercials. 

Some high schools even had a “smoking area” for students. We are glad that smoking is a declining trend. Although vaping seems to have become a replacement. 

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1955 chrysler ghia streamline x

From prototypes to small production runs, these are some truly unique cars from the 50s that many will never actually see. 

View the weirdest 1950s cars


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