The Golden Age of Childhood

A Texas playground in the early 1900s

Dean Acheson, Truman’s Secretary of State, on his childhood:

The golden age of childhood can be quite accurately fixed in time and place. It reached its apex in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first few years of the twentieth, before the plunge into a motor age and city life swept away the freedom of children and dogs, put them both on leashes and made them the organized prisoners of an adult world. … No one was run over. No one was kidnapped. No one had teeth straightened. No one worried about children, except occasionally my mother, when she saw us riding on the back step of the ice wagon and believed, fleetingly, that one of the great blocks of Pamecha Pond ice would fall on us. But none ever did.

Walter Isaacson, on Dean Acheson’s childhood:

Dean had a pony … a dog named Bob (purchased for five dollars), and a ready supply of playmates. … On the three-acre field between the church and the rectory, he and his friends would recreate battles of the Boer War and Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill … Each evening Dean would walk to the firehouse to watch the men drill and then run to the wharf in time for the arrival of the boat from Hartford. “To me, it seemed that the ladies and gentlemen promenading the deck of that ship were the most fortunate people on earth,” he later recalled.

Arnold Kling, on Arnold Kling’s childhood:

Those of us who grew up many decades ago probably would not want to trade our childhood for today’s childhood.


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