Looking Back
August 3, 2016

Safe and secure

The world is very safety conscious these days and that is a good thing.

When I look back into the 1950s, and before, I wonder why some of us are even here!

Many of the houses on our street had “garages” in the cellar. Ours was one of them. We always had a full-size car and after it was driven into the garage you could barely open the door to get out. The giant-size furnaces from that era were all next to the space that was designed to hold the car. Everyone who didn’t want to scrape snow and ice off their windshield used this arrangement. I doubt today’s safety standards would allow a car to be parked right next to a furnace.

Of course, if just about everyone used carbon monoxide detectors like they do today, they would have been going off like mad. Even with the cellar door open to the outside some of the fumes would inevitably go upstairs.

Smoke detectors were also not common in most homes back in the 1950s. All of us go to bed now feeling much safer knowing we will be jarred awake if smoke is found in our homes.

Car seat belts are another item that didn’t exist. I remember a friend’s father often took us to Clarendon Gorge to cool off when he got out of work. Somehow he managed to get six kids plus himself in the car and off we went. Nobody was strapped in like today. When teenagers got their license, they often went flying down the road with as many kids as the car would hold. There were no seat belts available for anyone in those cars. Child safety seats with their rigid standards did not exist either.

Cars were also lacking many of today’s features that offer us protection. Drivers didn’t see multiple lights coming on to telling them what part of the car needs to be checked. There were no emergency flashers on our cars in the 50s but by the 60s they appeared as standard features.

Directional lights on cars didn’t become mandatory until the late 50s. I have a feeling that on a cold, snowy day in Vermont, some people didn’t want to open their driver’s side window and use a hand signal. That meant safety might have been overlooked in favor of staying warm for many decades.

Household appliances have added safety features over the years. When I was young I don’t remember having any appliances that automatically shut off after a certain period of time. Now you can purchase small appliances such as coffee pots and irons that shut off after not being used for an hour or two. This puts your mind at ease if you are wondering whether they were shut off when you left home.

Of course, a “Smartphone” app makes us whole lot smarter and safer since it can tell us if we left home with our garage door open. If we did, we can use the app to shut it. No safety concern about coming home and finding the garage has been emptied out while we are gone.

Our homes, in general, are safer these days with security systems. The sad thing is we are now concerned about home break-ins, and back in the 50s many people never locked their doors. Those were the days!

There was also no 911 service back “in the day.” Of course, people didn’t carry cell phones back then so being in a car accident or getting lost on a hiking or ski trail was a much scarier ordeal than it is today. A sense of security arrived when 911 service came on the scene.

In the world of skiing and snowboarding helmets are either required or encouraged at most areas. Skis themselves are much safer because of bindings that release when you fall. My husband could have used that feature back in the 50s when he fell at Lake Placid and his skis had no choice but to stay on. The result was a broken leg!

Bicycle safety means that adults and children shouldn’t ride without a helmet. I follow that rule and am troubled when I see that others don’t. We need to do all that we can to stay safe.

It’s hard to imagine the ways in which safety and security can be improved above and beyond what we have today.

As I “look back” I am glad all these improvements have happened. I also look forward to seeing what lies ahead!

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