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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

walkie talkie kid

I don’t recall my elders ever commenting on me using my walkie talkie too much growing up. Of course, there was a problem with using walkie-talkies too much. The battery life and the range were both greatly limited. But I got to thinking about playing with walkie-talkies as a kid today after thinking about how many of the older generation now express concern over the younger generation spending too much time playing with cell phones.

One of the most frequent comments I hear is generally along the lines of “we did just fine without cell phones” and tends to involve side references to how, instead, they went outside and played or would actually go interact with their friends in person. Fair enough criticism and one that I considered (and still do consider) has some merit. But not so much since I thought about the walkie-talkies.

Sure, there were other devices that we had, some of which equally raised hackles in our parents and their friends. My brother was obsessed with his Coleco electronic football game for a while as was I with the racing game. In high school, some of the nerdier guys I knew all got HP48c scientific calculators and used to spend hours trying to program rudimentary software into them to do a plethora of inane things hardly worthy of the time it required to achieve them.

“Look, I wrote a program last night that tells me the time in Shri Lanka!”
“And we need to know the time in Shri Lanka because why?”

But the closest analog to the modern cell phone has to be the walkie-talkie. For those of you that might be from my generation or slightly before, you probably know what I’m talking about even if you haven’t considered the comparison. The first thing you did after making sure they worked – a process that generally involved about 20 minutes of tinkering with batteries, switches and buttons – was to hold them next to one another pressing the buttons on each at once. This usually produced a loud squalk which could sometimes pre-occupy those kids new to the concept of audio-feedback for another 30 minutes. But once the initial fascination with the devices and the feedback subsided, the ultimate use of hand-held walkie-talkie radios was finally put to the test…

And without question, that involved getting out of sight of one another. Walkie-talkies made no sense what-so-ever if you could hear the guy talking within earshot. It didn’t even make much sense if you could see what he was doing, especially because the most common subject of conversation amounted to “what are you doing?” and the corresponding response. Needless to say, the nature of the ‘walkie talkie’ was to be out of line of sight from your friend. More often than not, the bulk of the first few weeks of playing with walkie-talkie radios involved an endless series of tests to see just ‘how far out of sight’ you could get from one another and still be able to converse. Once the initial fascination with wireless communications settled down, then and only then would you try to figure out things to do that did not revolve directly around the concept of getting-as-far-away-from-one-another-as-possible.

Another common practice, and one that would also generate concern from parents would be if and when two kids in close proximity could figure out how to use the walkie-talkies to converse while still in their own houses, especially the privacy of their own bedrooms. While this too caused concern with parents, it was generally not over the devices distracting from other activities — well that is except for the most common activity that generated the concern, going to bed instead of talking on the damn radio all night!

walkie talkies

As I mention, the devices were limited though, so there was not nearly as much concern. If you talked in them too much, the batteries went dead and getting mom or dad to buy you more batteries was an effort that became more difficult with increased use of the radio and increased frequency of need for new ones. So ad-hoc communications such as with the modern day cell phone and the advent of built-in rechargeable batteries was extremely limited. Of course, you were also limited to just talking and then only half-duplex. (read: one side conversing at a time) And as already mentioned there was only a limited range. If your friend went to the mall, you would be lucky if you could hear him transmitting past the top of the street corner. (though that did not stop us from trying, especially in the aforementioned ‘range testing’ phase)

There is also the very real concern today that a cell phone can connect to an internet full of all sorts of other influences. While many walkie-talkie devices were defaulted to channel 14 on the citizen band (CB radio) which was also used by truckers, truckers also tended to be more polite to kids on CB in those days and any nefarious behavior, if and when a meager walkie-talkie signal actually got heard by an adult, involved the adult telling the kid to knock it off!

Thinking back, however, if there had been any way for us to play games directly on those walkie talkies, we would have utilized it. If we could have talked farther than to the next block, we would have reveled in it. (hey, I became an Extra class amateur radio operator in my teens – I actually DID it) And if we could have sent text over them, we would have done that too. (the best we ever had was the occasional walkie talkie with a second red button that could send a morse code tone)

Thus, I think it is fair to say that for my generation (and those immediately before) who enjoyed things such as walkie talkies, we do not have much cause to complain – or at least to complain too loudly. Envy, perhaps. But complain? No!

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ground bees

ground bees

I grew up in a typical middle class, semi-rural neighborhood. As with most middle class neighborhoods, we had our fair share of hyjinx. I was recalling a few of those stories this morning that thought they might be fun to share.

Our closest neighbors right across the street were the McVetys. Our house and the McVetys both had very large yards which meant that a lot of the neighborhood activities were centered around our end of the street. The games of kick-the-can either we or the McVetys hosted were epic! This was assisted by the fact that the McVetys also had one of the biggest families in the neighborhood – 3 boys and 2 girls. (the youngest in particular I recollect, not only because he’s the only remaining resident in the neighborhood having taken over the old homestead when his parents retired, but because he is the only one for whom I know his full legal name, as well as the full names of the rest of the children. In fact everyone in the neighborhood knew their full names, because – as with most middle class neighborhood families – his mom would yell the full name any time she was perturbed “{first name} {middle name} McVETY – GET OVER HERE!!”

During one of the epic kick the can games that would extend from our 2 acres over through the McVety’s 3 acres and occasionally encompassing yards of the adjacent houses, most all of the McVety family and half the kids in the rest of the neighborhood were taking part. I forget who was “it”, but can always remember the mantra. Count to 200 by 5’s!

We had that mantra down to where we could roll it off in our sleep. And played so often, we probably did. “Five-ten-fifteen-twenty-twentyfive-thirty….” It would be come a blur of mush in our mouths as we tried to roll it off before everyone could find their respective trees or bushes or old boats in the long grass. There was also a small creek that wrapped itself around the entire neighborhood. Although creek is being gracious. Yeah the water flowed and if you stood there long enough watching it, you could satisfy yourself of that fact, but it was mostly an 8′ wide trench of mud with a little standing water on top of it.

As the ‘crick’ passed our house, it was mostly at ground level, but next to the McVety’s there was about a 4′ bank. A great place to hide for kick the can. Apparently the McVety boys knew this better than I did, seeing as how it was their property and all, so when I picked a spot along that bank to hide, I soon discovered the oldest of the boys had the same idea in mind.

He told me to move or find another spot. I like to believe I moved over out of respect for it being his property, but it’s more likely that I did so because he was much bigger than me. As I moved, however, my foot slipped down into the water making a splash. I tried to correct my footing and made another small splash. I didn’t think much of it at the time and eventually found a good footing.

I didn’t think that much of it at all until I heard the humming and saw the look on the McVety boy’s face. The look was so perplexing I hadn’t even noticed the humming increase and was only mildly aware of the things landing in my hair and finding their way into my shirt and alighting on my bare skin. Jerry took off like a shot. Apparently his few years of age on me gave him more common sense when combined with the fact he was closer to the way out of the hiding hole as a result of telling me to move over. The manner in which he shot out so quickly also perplexed me and held my attention – but not for long.

‘Ow, ow ow ow – OUCH!’

I soon found I didn’t need to think about it too much either and found myself running after Jerry, but I wasn’t quite sure I knew where I was going. Jerry ran in his house, but I couldn’t rightly do that since I didn’t live there. So instead I started heading toward my house, becoming more aware of the clear and present situation:  Bees!!! Upon realizing this, I slowed down to swat, slap and pick at the dozens of the buggers now stinging me all over the place!

It wasn’t too long and Mrs. McVety came bounding out of the house with a fly swatter. By this point in time, I had become aware that I was making quite a ruckus (screaming and crying as kids of that age could be expected to do) as a result of the whole affair. It was about this time that Mrs. McVety caught up with me and was trying as daintily as possible to swat at the bees on my skin with her fly swatter. Unfortunately for her, it was also about this time that my dad became aware of a kid wailing in pain somewhere out in front of the house.

So imagine this scenario as a parent: You are trying to enjoy a weekend off from work, sitting in the living room and you finally got the kids out of the house to get some ‘me‘ time. You’re just settling in to relax in front of the TV when you hear a kid crying. You head to the front door only to learn the horror of horrors – it’s your kid!!!!! and the crying is getting progressively worse….. and then you notice that some woman is standing by your kid – HITTING HIM WITH A FLYSWATTER!!!

My dad turned into a raging bull, he flung the screen door open and charged leaving a trail of uprooted grass and dust in his wake. Mrs. McVety looked up just long enough from her swatting to try to determine the source of this coming maelstrom only to see the beat red face of Mr. Wood barreling down upon her! A moments hesitation of ‘oh crap’ mental dynamics ran through her head as she groped for the right thing to say to immediately clarify the situation.

“*uhhh uhhhh*…. BEEES. BEES BEES BEES!!!

24 of the little buggers to be precise. I got to enjoy a few days of epsom salt baths and laying in bed with little dots of baking soda speckled across my body. Good times!

(originally posted to facebook)

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