Generation X Latchkey Kid
Astonishing True Stories
General Latchkey Background
Starting around age six I have an excellent memory. It's hard to keep these in exact order because of overlapping and long time ranges for each category, so that's why it skips around a lot. Upon writing this, I'm astonished all this really happened, especially regarding a single kid, so I think it's fit for a book and/or movie. Latchkey kids are portrayed elsewhere as simply kids left home alone because their parents were too busy working. That's only one component. The main theme here is that the adults simply didn't care about the kids, whether theirs or others kids. This is especially evident when those in charge of kids on their job (teacher, principal, etc.) failed to supervise or care much.
I was born in March, 1969 in Findlay, Ohio. At age 8 (1977), my family moved to 6410 Belair Dr., Texarkana, Texas. At age 17 (1986), my family moved to Ashdown, Arkansas.
I'm not saying I was always left alone and my family was completely dysfunctional. We had many great times together and I did spend a lot of time supervised, particularly during school classes. My parents did a lot for me. But I definitely was way under-supervised and put in too many dangerous situations. I have watched a lot of videos recently published regarding other latchkey kids and conclude I was on the extreme side of latchkey. Most other kids had to deal with their parents getting divorces. I didn't.
As a teen, particularly around age 15, I realized there was something terribly wrong with everyone else. I felt like they were mentally ill and I was the only sane one, but they all tried to make me look like I was wrong. This was very frustrating. I knew I was right and they were wrong.
My father worked full time as a supervisor at a tire factory. My mother worked part time and sometimes full time as a Swiss Colony store clerk, Albertsons grocery store meat department manager or, for the most part, a seamstress at Holiday Cleaners (all in Texarkana, Texas).
My babysitters were almost always other kids only a few years older who were also latchkey kids.
I often played in the yard all by myself. I was rarely introduced to neighbors.
Adults ignored me and considered me as a nuisance. When my parents brought me other to visit their friends and family, I was ignored and left to sit and watch them talk together. One time when we visited my dad's sister's husband Mike Niemire, I was left alone for so long while the adults were talking and having a good time together I started to make noises to get attention. Mike started facing me while punching one fist in his other hand as threat to hit me. My father said he didn't trust Mike because he worked in the stock market.
I was extremely bored as a young teen. I didn't know what to do with my time. All I had was time. It was very frustrating. I often would ask my parents "What's there to do?!? and their answer was always "Spit in your shoe. Mix it up and make a little glue". I was not encouraged to do homework, participate in extra curricular activities (except for a very brief time Cub Scouts and baseball), make friends, play with others, etc. I often sat upstairs and watched TV alone. Since I was used to getting my way with channels (there were only three local TV stations), there was conflict when someone else wanted to watch when I was in the middle of watching something.
When I was around age 10 to 13 in Texarkana, Texas, my sister paid me a nickel to walk several miles to a convenience store on a busy highway to buy her cigarettes. Ironically, she blew cigarette smoke under my bedroom door to torture me. More irony: In 2019 she was diagnosed with COPD and had to quit. I asked her to apologize and she refuses. I don't speak with her.
During this same time frame, my father closed off the central heat and air vent in my bedroom to save on energy costs. I would often suffer from heat exhaustion day and night and fight him over the thermostat of which he instructed me never to touch. When I would suffer in 90 degree hot and humid air inside and turn on the air conditioner, he scolded me. He had no concern about my well being and prioritized spending money on fishing supplies, his stamp collection, etc.
From age 10 to 18 (1980 to 1987) I was often left home alone for many hours at a time with very little to eat. What was available was not very nutritious or junk. My parents went out to eat and didn't take me. I developed an eating disorder of binging when food was available, but this was also aggravated by the US Army from 1987 to 1988 because they also didn't provide enough food for a growing young, tall man.
At age 17 in 1986, out of boredom I drove my mother's car, a white 1984 four door Chevrolet Caprice Classic, out on a joy ride about 20 mile in the country. An old man in a Ford pickup was driving on the wrong side of the road and hit me head on, totaling the car. My father got extremely angry at me for totaling mom's car even though it wasn't my fault and it was fully covered by insurance. This a disturbing example of how even our own parents didn't care about us, but sometimes rather a material object even more so. This isn't put under the category "dangers" because driving a car at age 17 was normal. This was an accident.
Around 1984, my father bought a motorcycle. He offered an attractive neighbor across the street to go for rides. Her name was Sandy. My mother threatened to leave him to go back to Germany and leave all of use three kids with him if he interacts with Sandy any more. My sister stepped in and convinced my mother not to do it. My parents (barely) stayed together, celebrated their Silver (25th) and Gold (50th - 2009) wedding anniversaries. My mother passed in 2009 at age 69. My father passed in 2011 at age 73.
Almost all of the "woods" or forest I lived next to, hunted and hike in as a child has been destroyed by developers, particularly the installation of a golf course and college (which has a vast expanse of roads and parking lots).
To this day, year 2020 at the time of this writing, I still am alone too much without enough good people to interact with. Society doesn't pay attention to others who are lonely very much.
How ironic that when I turned 18 and started working, suddenly everybody wanted to very closely supervise me! But it wasn't so much for my well being as it was for control and profit.
When only three years old, I was a victim of a stove that was not designed with child safety in mind at all. At that time stove controls (dials / knobs) where mounted within reach of children as well as the burners! My mom was cooking chicken noodle soup and said she told me not to touch the stove. She said I disobeyed her by reaching for the pot. She said I pulled it over the edge and it spilled on me, causing a large area of third degree burns on my left shoulder. She had to provide intensive care for a while for me. I see the large scars, but I don't remember the incident, perhaps due to my mind suppressing such a traumatic event.
Also around age three I was left unsupervised at a YMCA swimming pool. I went in and started drowning. My mother barely arrived in time to pull me out. I don't remember this either; it's based on what my mother told me.
There was minimal communication to me from adults about safety. My parents never gave me any safety advice for anything. We never had any codewords for any emergency situation. There were no time curfews.
My schoolteachers of all grades, even kindergarten, often left me completely unsupervised in play areas with no fence or if fenced, many public unlocked entries. When in high school, I was allowed to wander off anywhere I wanted, particularly during lunch. There was no encouragement to join extra-curricular activities, get good grades or make friends. I was simply dropped off and picked up from school with a bus or my parents, but almost always with a bus. While in elementary school during recess, we were sent to a playground on campus with no supervision and easy access on and off the school property which means easy abductions could have occurred. Out of all grade school teachers, there was only one teacher who believed in me and cared about me: Karen Hundley, my 9th grade English teacher. But even in that case, it wasn't great care, just relative to the other teachers she cared.
When I lived in Ohio at around age 6, I was left to play in the yard and streets all alone during the day. I found a hammer and some
arm bullets lying around and was so bored and felt so useless, I hit the bullets with a hammer on the driveway causing some to actually fire! To this day I don't know what the bullets might have hit! Nobody in the neighborhood cared! Years later from age 10 upon moving to Texarkana, Texas, I had access to high power shotguns and rifles at home and would often wander off into the woods after school by myself to just go shoot at anything I wanted. I mean anything! It could be aircraft, water towers, powerlines, any animal, etc. I'm not saying I ever shot an aircraft, water tower, etc. and of course that's all illegal to put it mildly, but back then nobody cared. I was in extreme redneck territory. My best friend in the 8th grade invited me over to his house to shoot his 357 revolver with special high power, long bullets. This was in a neighborhood in his yard! We target shot right next to other homes. Nobody cared.
During the 4th of July and New Years holiday seasons (about two weeks long each), year after year, I was given money to walk or bike alone for miles to the nearest "fireworks stand" to purchase fireworks. I was free to buy anything I wanted such as bottle rockets and free to ignite them anywhere I wanted. I was taught how to light multiple bottle rockets together for an ultimately dangerous experience and fire hazard.
I lit paint spraycans, poured gas over ant mounds and lit them on fire in the back yard with at least three neighbors able to see. Nobody cared.
When spray painting things such as my motorcycle, there were no protective masks.
I was hired by my parents and neighbors to mow their yards with loud, junky, dangerous lawnmowers and weed trimmers with damaged or missing safety shields and thus was at risk of flying debris, usually small rocks. Their yards were uneven, causing large amounts of dirt and rocks to fly in the air when mowing. I never wore hearing or eye protection.
I was left alone inside family cars, often with the keys while my parents visited friends, shopped, etc. Often the temperatures were very cold or very hot. I was so bored, I would play with the automatic transmission stick and various controls for radio, roof (convertible), etc.
I was given bicycles and motorcycles and allowed to explore anywhere I wanted without checking in (partly due to no cell phones at that time). I sat on the front porch one lonely, boring day for hours in extreme anticipation and hope for my first motorcycle to arrive: A repainted and junky yellow 1971 Yamaha 125 dirt bike I found in a local paper ad cheap. The anticipation that this was going to solve all my boredom problems was so great, I think it was the most euphoric time of my life. I couldn't stand the wait. When it arrived I think my brain would have lit up on an MRI like crazy. I was allowed to ride unlicensed motorcycles on roads to include interstates as early as age 14 when I rode my first one to the elementary school I went to, riding around the perimeter when the principal flagged me down and said I'm not supposed to be playing hooky, but said I have a nice bike. I was free to go. The motorcycles I was given were heavily used, junky and therefore unsafe. I had to figure out how to fix them on my own due to a tight budget. This helped me develop engineering, inventive, problem solving and innovative skills I use to this day a lot. My father said I'm going to get hurt or killed riding motorcycles, but made no effort make sure they were maintained for safety or discourage their use in any way. I was left to handle the gasoline on my own which sometimes included mixing oil and gas for the two stroke engines.
I was allowed to play hooky from school anytime I wanted to do anything I wanted while my parents were working. One day I rode my yellow Yamaha motorcycle by the elementary school I attended and the school principal, Mr. Taylor, waved me down. I stopped and he said "Nice bike". He knew I was playing hooky and said not to do it again. I was free to continue illegally and dangerously ride the bike around!
At around age 12 to 15, I would occasionally visit with my sister in Bridgeport, Texas where she lived on a horse farm called P.J. Halter and Sons. I was often left alone to roam the farm.
There is one rare instance an adult was concerned for my safety I recall: My family would often go camping, but my parents would let me wander way off alone. One time at Millwood State Park, Ashdown, Arkansas, I was hiking on some boulders along a dam and a park worker warned me that there could be snakes in the rocks.
My mother often dropped me off at Central Mall in Texarkana, Texas from around age 12 to 16 (years 1982 to 1986) to play token operated video games at Silverball arcade. I was abducted by a man around age 60 who lured me into his class C RV in the parking lot by asking if I wanted a job. He showed me child porn magazines and offered me a glass bottle soda with metal cap I rejected. I noticed he also locked the door with what appeared to be a special lock. I asked him to open because I was not interested. He obliged. I didn't tell anyone because at that time I didn't think much of it. I continued to eat milk and cereal, the milk carton having missing kid photos on the back.
Aout a year after that, at the same arcade, I asked a man who always wore dark glasses "why do you always wear dark glasses?" and he slapped me very hard on the face and said "that's why". He threatened me if I would press charges. I didn't much understand what "pressing charges" meant. There were witnesses, but others also didn't care at that time.
For Halloween, me and my two siblings would often wander the streets alone to collect candy from strangers, even well past dusk.