those innocent days of cap pistols and water guns

These days, guns are no laughing matter because kids are killing each other with the real thing, intentionally or accidentally, and it’s generally illegal to make toy guns that look too real or to make a toy gun without a splash of yellow or orange coloring at the end of the barrel.

Back in the old days, we played cops and robbers or ar army with cap pistols and water guns and the police and our liberal parents saw nothing wrong in that. When you got shot, you fell down, counted to 50, and then got back in the game.

Mother used to tell the story about the time she walked into my bedroom and I shot her with a water gun which, like the guns of detectives and mobsters, was at the ready in the righthand drawer of my desk.

Even though we were both laughing, she said, “What have I told you boys about loaded water guns in the house” and I said, “What have I told you about coming into my bedroom without knocking?”

We agreed to do better. When asked why she was all wet, I said I thought the sudden opening of my door was part of a mob hit.


“Well, you and dad live at the safe end of the house, but when you come back here, you’re in a zone so dangerous that even the cops won’t patrol after dark. This is the part of the house you see on TV detective shows: it’s just not safe.”

“Oh my,” she said. “How can we fix it?”

“You and dad need to start carrying,” I said.

That was funny then, but it wouldn’t be now because kids are doing the same thing with real guns. I don’t know if our kind of playing turned evil or if changing times brought evils into our homes and schools we didn’t know existed fifty years ago. So far, the answer to the problem seems to be that all of us need to start carrying, and then when friends come over for dinner, everybody has to check their guns and ammo at the door.

As a pacifist (yeah, from that childhood, who’d have thought it), I despair at every stupid gun death in the home, the latest school shooting, and the unchecked violence against cops and others in our cities. I wish somebody had an answer. It bothers me that “they” don’t.

Counting to fifty just doesn’t work anymore.



If eBay had been around when we were kids, we’d be rich today

I used to buy and sell a lot of stuff on eBay, old books, postcards, brochures, old advertisements from old magazines–ephemera, was the technical term. But no toys. There’s a reasonn why. We were destructive kids.

Tin soldiers bit the dust on the screen porch when we set up forts at each end, filled them with soldiers, and then used marbles to wipe them out. A logroller was like an a-bomb.

Old metal airplanes such as the kids’ versions to B-17s and B-29s. If you filled them with pine straw, lit the pine straw on fire, and ran through the pack yard holding the plane it’s wingtip, the result was pretty exciting. It looked wilder when the plane kit a tree.

Plastic toys tended to leave the world via an “unfortunate explosion.” We weren’t allowed to play with C-4, but on trips we stocked up on M-80s and cherry bombs at places across the border such as Crazy Eddies’. You guessed it.  These were thrown at old toys.

I assure you, after watching th Toy Story movies we all feel quite a bit of sorrow for doing this. We also feel financial sorrow after seeing years later that the toys we destroyed would one day be worth big bucks.

I’m not sure why, but we just enoyed playing with fire and explosives. We proved, I guess, that you can play with fire and not get burnt–physically, that is. But the money we could have made if we’d put the toys away in their original boxes at the end of the day.

In our defense, I should mention that a fair number of these toys (the ones not destroyed) were donated to Toys for Tots where, years later, other kinds would probably destroy them one way or another. Via fire or rain, nobody would ever know.

The odd thing is, our parents never seemed to worry about fire and explosives or even the homemade missiles we made by adding “extra”chemicals to our Gilbert chemistry sets.  Maybe they snuck out and got extra life insurance on us so that if “anything went wrong,” somebody would make a few bucks.

Our excuse was, “all the kids are doing it.” And they were. Today, I suppose, we’d all be taken away from our parents by DFACS.  But in those days, we were free to play dangerous games at the park and blow stuff up. Fireworks like the M-80 weren’t exactly legal. But nobody cared.

We’re lucky we survived.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Earphones Winner from Audio File magazine.

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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