"It's like taking a nap on that little rug when you were in kindergarten."

Why I Shouldn’t Have Survived My Neighborhood

If you think growing up in your neighborhood as a child was rough, raise both hands.

Take a look at your fingers? Do you have all ten?

If you don’t, you might want to lower your hands.

ER, neighborhood, childhood, accident

When I look back at my childhood, it’s surprising that ANYONE “made it out” alive.

No, it wasn’t a crime-infested neighborhood. Homes weren’t broken into. And kids weren’t roaming the streets at all hours of the night. McGruff, the Crime Dog, wasn’t needed in our area.

It’s just that in a three city-block space, we must have had more accidents per person than any other city in America. I don’t know why the Safety Dog – if there was such a dog, back then – and Smokey the Bear didn’t visit every week and Gibbs-slap us all upside-the-head.


In fact, I’m pretty sure many of today’s safety devices on consumer items were developed because of our neighborhood.

And it’s no wonder: The adults were about as bad as the kids.

You be the judge based on these occurrences:

1. Adult up the street attempts to pull grass out of the lawnmower chute
Yes, you guessed it – while the motor and blade were still running – lost a finger.

2. Teenage kid rides down a steep hill on his bicycle, “no-hands” on the handlebars.
Not so bad – if you don’t have arms full of glass milk bottles. When he hit that bump and went down, it was NOT pretty.

3. Grease fires – there were several. We kept the Fire Department busy. Those poor guys must have gotten so much practice coming to our neighborhood that when the caller started giving the street name, they automatically knew where to go.

4. This one makes me cringe. We had a couple of moms who got their fingers caught in the old Sunbeam Mixmaster.

Maybe all those kid distractions made them take their eyes off those spinning wheels of delight and destruction.  Whatever caused these accidents, led to some busted up fingers – OUCH!!

5. Playing with matches – I documented one situation where someone started their hand on fire, and then another time where a certain someone *may have been me* started about 5 acres of field aflame (that’s a future post!).

“Hello, Mr. Fire Chief, very nice to meet you.” Woops!

6. Fingers stuck in the center of those metal glue lids. Um yeah, sometimes medical personnel had to help cut off the lids.

Come on, some of you remember the old paste glue that smelled so delicious that some kids even ate it. The lid was made of steel or tin and looked like the one in the picture below, ONLY it was a big enough hole where you could get your finger stuck in it. Go ahead, shake your head “yes” if you did this. None of us are judging right now.

neighborhood, glue, finger stuck, lid

7. Bayer Children’s Aspirin overdoses.

Yes, we had several kids in the neighborhood (possibly one in my own family :)) actually *eat* a whole bottle of those tasty little orange pills.

What?? They tasted like Tang orange drink.

        nieghborhood, childrens aspirin, bayer, st. joseph

“Welcome to the stomach pump, Billy.” I’m confident the “child-proof” medicine lids were invented by someone who knew about our neighborhood.

Don’t even get me started on what happened with fireworks!

Maybe “helicopter parenting” isn’t so bad, huh?


Did you have any incidents like these in your neighborhood?



  1. …and you wonder why we worry as parents? lol…

    Yep, I lived through many crazy things myself too!

    • Amy, so sorry, I didn’t see your comment, or it snuck in somehow.

      Yes, that’s why I worried so much as a parent, for sure. I always told my kids, “If you do half the things I did, I’ll be scared!”

  2. Oh, the paste…I can still smell it in my mind. OK, maybe that’s because I sniffed so much of it, it actually stuck to my brain. But whatever.

    No incidents to report in my neighborhood, but perhaps that’s only due to the fact that my parents stuck my brother and me in front of a TV watching CHiPS, Emergency!, The Love Boat, Gilligan’s Island and Love, American Style for the first 13 years of our lives. So yeah, we didn’t exactly socialize much.

    Which explains SO MUCH about me, if you think about it…


    • I might have tried that paste, once. Probably doesn’t taste as good as it smells.

      Now that’s a great tv lineup. How could you go wrong with Gopher on Love, American Style?

      And now I understand why I “get” you.

  3. I remember crashing on my bike when I was a kid while carrying a bottle of soda. I was scraped, bloodied and torn, but not only did I not break the coke, I didn’t even spill it. You’ve got to have priorities.

  4. For real. Today. Baking a cake.

    Fingers in the Kitchen Aid Mixer.

    Thank goodness they don’t make things like they used to! 😉

  5. We’re all here aren’t we? We survived without being incased in bubble wrap like these whip kids are today. Get a scape, live a little.
    I did the mixer! Stuck my finger in to get some mash potatoes …you could hear the screams for miles.
    My neighbors would build ramps and jump them with their bikes. This was pre-helmet law by the way. Michael G. the dare devil broke his femur and was in a wheel chair…oh, yes he was jumping the ramp in his wheel chair!
    Fearless risk takers…yea, we could use some of those today.

  6. No, but Sam (my son) got his finger stuck in a dustpan, the metal kind that you can hang on a nail. Only the hole you would hang it from is just the right size to trap a 2 year old’s finger. I saw it trapped and swelling and gasped. He saw ME panic, and he snatched it out.

    Twenty. Two. Stitches.

    In his left middle finger no less. And he loves, still, three years later, to show off his war wound with NO CLUE, what it is that makes people SO interested when he walks up to them with his middle finger held up.

    • Goodness Jessie, that’s unbelievable – 22 stitches on a finger. Must have really torn it up. That must have been horrible for you to deal with. Are you pretty good with blood?

      Pretty funny about it being the middle finger. :)

  7. I will never forget when my best friend’s mom stuck her hand in the blender to free up the blades and it suddenly turned on and took the little tip of her finger off. *shivers*

    As for outside accidents? I had five brothers. I think there was an injury almost every single day. My mom can rattle off a huge list of the various ER trips…concussions, broken bones, stitches…two of my brothers had stitches in their heads AND concussions (explains a lot). I suppose there’s something to be said for helicopter parenting, you’re right. But my son would injure himself when I was STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO HIM. He split his head open when he was two when I turned my back to answer the phone and he decided that would be a good time to climb up on our kitchen island and jump off.

    • OUCH on the blender!

      Loving the five brothers. That must have been exciting every day. I had two brothers and four sisters. Sounds like you had just as many trips to the ER, or more. I hope those boys didn’t beat up on you too much. Or the other way around. :)

      What are you gonna do with your son’s type of injury. Some things you just can’t prevent.

  8. This was pretty funny! There’s gotta be a happy medium between helicopter parents and being raised by wolves. My husband has stories that are downright insane. It must be a boy thing!

  9. loved this post.. it really cracked me up! 😀 thank you for the good laugh..

  10. WOW! I’m reasonably sure everyone survived my old neighbourhood with all of their fingers. But there were always packs of kids roaming from sunup to when the street lights came on, so injuries (both minor and major) happened every day. One of my cousins scalped himself between the bars on an old-fashioned threshing machine/merry-go-round. And the children’s Aspirin? They did taste very, very good. But the stomach pump, um… sucked. =D

    • Sounds like we had similar neighborhoods. But the scalping – that’s horrible. I have to admit, playgrounds always scared the crap out of me when my kids went there. Where’s the padding. All metal merry-go-rounds? What? Um, skin and bones are not gonna win against steel.

      I knew there would be at least one stomach pump victim, out there. :)
      Those little orange aspirins were just too good.

  11. That cartoon made me laugh. It made me think of what Tim Taylor and Al Borlen might have been like as childhood friends.

    Paste… Eww. The smell of that stuff always made me a little sick to my stomach so no, I never snacked on it.

    All I have to say about your neighborhood, MJ, is that I’m glad mine was a little more boring. Well, not entirely, because one of the local hospitals was just two blocks away, so we heard plenty of sirens. But as for the neighbors…they were pretty well behaved.

    Hmm. I’m not even going to comment on the adult who tried to pull grass out of the running lawnmower.

    Maybe I’m just a naturally careful person. The only real hazard in my house is the small fan on the table with my alarm clock. A couple of times I’ve leaned over to change the setting…and nearly had my hair sucked into the fan. That’s just not something I’d care to experience

    Love your posts…they almost always make me laugh. :)

    • Oh yeah, you’re a Home Improvement fan, I see. :)

      Don’t knock the paste till you try it. Not that I ever did. hehe

      It’s so funny that I was a safety manager in two very large plants. I became Mr. Safety at home and at work – must have been from childhood. Please don’t get your hair caught in the fan. Real scalping does happen, and it’s so horrible.

      Hey now, KK, “almost always??”

      • Yup. Gotta love the Toolman. :)

        Again…Ewwwwwwww to the paste.

        LOL…yeah, I’m pretty careful about the fan. But I’m going to wind up moving it or the alarm.

        And yes, MJ…almost always. Once in a while you tackle a serious subject. 😀

        • I seriously would have worried about that fan. No kidding.

          Thank you for clarifying about almost always. I thought that’s what you meant, but wanted to be sure for self-esteem sake. :)

  12. sunshine says:

    Haha, MJ, I think you and my brother shared the same love for matches…he was caught with a bunch of no good friends playing with matches. Umm, of course, they would be torching them matches under the office of the Catholic school nuns!! Their capture by the nuns was not a pretty sight.
    Thanks for the laughs!! :)

  13. Anonymous says:

    Our town, North Miami was safe in the 50’s and 60’s but we made it unsafe. Favorite game was war and the ballistics varied but revolved around fruit . Such trees were abundant. Lemons, limes, oranges clouded the sky on direct hand to hand. Nothing like splattering a rotten grapefruit or mango in the face of the younger kids and watch them screaming crying home to their mothers. What a thrill. What a rush. Splat. Waaaaa. The best ammo was what we call Florida cherries . They grow on bushes that make great rows of hedges. We never at them because they are bitter, acidic and citrusy not sweet. And they stain clothing. Permanently. Gave appearance of gunshot wounds and ruined the clothing of younger kids and we would watch them running home to mother screaming crying. Splat . Waaaa. It is unfortunate that kids today do not have such opportunities for American Christian character building activities in which we engaged. Splat.

    • Hey I am not anon. I am me.

      • You always make me laugh with you stories, Carl. I bet those “fruit wars” were super-painful. I can’t imagine getting hit by a grapefruit. I don’t like to admit it, but my brothers and I were the kids that sent other kids home to their mothers, also. :)

        We were just helping build character, right?

  14. Guilty of the orange Bayer aspirin myself. Now the memory horrifies me. It may explain my parenting.

  15. >Did you have any incidents like these in your neighborhood?
    – Neighbourhood? My folks didn’t have to stray that far to get a few tales. To quote you, the following “may have been me”. 😉

    i. Age 5: I roly-poly*-ed down the steps at home. Deliberately.

    *A forward roll.

    Roly-poly-ing on a flat surface got too dull. I thought it would be much more fun to roll down an incline of 11 steps. Luckily, my expectations were the only thing that bruised harder.

    ii. Age 6: I fell out of the car. Because I suddenly thought it would be fun to swing on the door. While Daddy was driving.

    Fortunately, Dad was driving at around 20 (kmph) and I got a bigger shock than an injury.

    What I remember even more clearly was how Dad was more concerned about me being hurt to yell [which he never did; that was Mum’s forte 😉 ] and how we made a secret pact not to tell Mummy if I promised never to do it again. We both kept our promises.

    iii. Age 7: I set fire to Big Bro’s bed.

    Big Sis, 13 at the time, and I were playing house. I observed her set up a three-stone, campfire style stove replete with twigs as kindling in our garden. She lit the fire to “cook”. I did the exact same thing at my site. It happened to be at the head end of Big Bro’s bed.

    iv. Age 10: I stuck my fingers together with Super Glue.

    I wanted to see if “fingers could stick to one another.” This was one of my most painful experiments.

    Think I would have qualified being your neighbour?

    >Come on, some of you remember the old paste glue that smelled so delicious
    >Go ahead, shake your head “yes” if you did this.
    – *shaking head vigorously and grinning broadly at the aaaah, memory*

    >None of us are judging right now.
    – Thank you, MJ. This is exactly why I am comfortable enough saying everything I do on your blog.


    • Why am I not surprised by some of the perils/mischief that you got into??

      Starting your brother’s bed on fire – sure, it was an honest mistake, daddy! Right.

      Super gluing your fingers together. That one’s kind of funny. I’m picturing 10 yr old Kate with fingers stuck together (of course, with a strip of black blotting out your eyes).

      You definitely would have fit in well in our neighborhood. Might even have been one of the legends.

      Also thought for sure that you were a “paste-taster.” :)

  16. Oh wow, quite entertaining, MJ… what town did you say you grew up in, LOL!
    **I know my siblings were caught lighting matches on top of the very large propane tank outside our house. **My one sister had another sister run over her foot with a car to try to break it… so she could be excused from PE (it didn’t work).
    **My brother managed to start the garage on fire when he stashed a cigarette, and somehow got by with it.
    **We had not one, but THREE chimney fires when I was young, and a very paranoid dad… I’m not all that fond of wood heat these days :-/
    **And although I remember those yummy orange aspirin, it was the Flintsones vitamins that I devoured a good half-jar of one day :-)

    • Definitely not in Nebraska! 😉

      What the heck, Jules – you all were a lot worse with the fire starting. Lighting matches on top of propane. Oh my goodness, that’s crazy.

      And LETTING someone run over your foot? You all are something.

      I’m thinking maybe your house was more dangerous than mine. :)

  17. Omg, no, none of those happened in my neighbourhood. The biggest accident I remember involved setting a dustbin (not even a large trash can but those tiny wastepaper basket thinggies) on fire and dousing it with a jar of water, melting the plastic lid of the jar in the process. That’s a baby thing compared to those you cited. I don’t think I ever had aspirin all my life! I did, at one point, try consuming a capful of the johnson & johnson bath lotion that was a tempting bright blue but that tasted so bitter it would have taken supernatural willpower to consume. Reading all those things you cited makes me feel maybe I should just let my dad carry on with watching my daughter like a hawk. Who cares about independence and creativity, its about staying alive here.

    • Very funny, Elaine. Okay, maybe we were pretty bad. :)

      Although I don’t think I would have ever tasted bath lotion, no matter how good it smelled or looked.

      Yeah, I think you better keep little bit out of harms way.

  18. Ouch ouch and more ouch! My son broke his wrist on his scooter, and no sooner was he home with a plaster, than jumping on the skateboard and zipping round the yard… Then when he broke his foot and had a half leg cast, he wanted to ride his bike, down the hill!

  19. Thanks for the paste craving, MJ.

  20. Our block was populated mostly by retired people, or working folks who’s kids had long since moved out on their own. There was only one other kid down the street from us… a wimpy kid named Phillip. Phillip’s parents were very protective of him and most of the time his parents wouldn’t let him play with us. Accidents?? There were so many I wouldn’t know where to start. I, being the eldest, was rarely involved in shenanigan’s that got me in trouble. I think the worst thing that happened though, was my brother flicking off both front teeth at the gumline, doing a front flip on the parallel bars. He tucked and flipped foward on one bar, only to hit the second bar with his mouth. We all got punished for that!

    • Hmm, I’m surprised that Lori wasn’t involved in shenanigans.

      Oh, you made me cringe with the teeth being knocked out. That is terrible. Was it a bloody mess, too?

      You all sound like a typical farm family. You probably couldn’t go to the ER since it was too far away, eh?

  21. We spent our childhood playing on the railroad tracks, and paddling around in canoes with no lifejackets before we could swim.

    But we survived. What’s the problem. Unless of course it is my kid we’re talking about. He’s in a plastic bubble and will be until he has kids of his own.

    • Ha, I wish we would have had railroad tracks nearby, Elyse. That would have been a brilliant way to get in more mischief. Did you ever put a penny on the track to flatten it? I had some friends in a different neighborhood do it.

      I’m picturing Travolta in “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” right now! Did you ever see that?

  22. Judy Berman says:

    Did anyone ever manage to open one of those cans where you twist a key around and get the lid all the way off? Half the way off?

    In Florida, I heard it’s great sport for kids to dive into a body of water where alligators are lurking nearby.

    I recall a time when I was a kid and my friend let me drive their bike. Its brakes were on the handlebars. I flew thru an intersection before I figured out how to stop.

    How did we make it thru childhood? A thoughtful reflection, Michael.

    • I remember those cans. Haven’t thought of that memory in a LONG time. No, I never got the lid all the way off.

      Um, alligators?? That’s just not smart at all. Even I wouldn’t have done that as a kid.

      We were just lucky, Judy. That’s all I can think of for making it through.

  23. Hey Mj Monaghan, I noticed your blog does not have ‘like’ button? Where are they? I want to like! Nici

    • Hey Nici, how are you? I haven’t seen you in months. Thanks for stopping by.

      I can’t figure out how to get the ‘like’ button on this theme. If you have any ideas let me know. It’s different than WordPress.com.

  24. The horrors you’ve seen…
    Congrats on surviving!

  25. Holy Moly! I’m thinking ‘I shouldn’t be Alive’ TV show could base a season or two on these events. Lol.

    I remember one neighborhood we lived in was pretty rowdy. All the kids dug a HUGE pit in the ground. It took a ladder to climb down to the bottom. That is probably very disturbing, but at the time it was the coolest thing ever. A pit! In the ground!

    • What the heck- digging a pit in the ground?? We would never have done anything that dangerous. 😉

      Really, is it any wonder there weren’t more fatalities or serious injuries.

  26. I was more a dimetapp kid. I loved the grape taste. I remember one time trying to open the bottle and ended up elbowing my sister in the face. I was pretty evil to her. I convinced her to stand up on her Hot Wheels bike then kicked it out from under her. I don’t know how SHE survived, but somehow we can laugh about it now. Kids will be kids, I guess. At least we have great stories to tell..

    • I was sharing your post with my sister and she told me a story I was too young to remember. My brother, the cub scout, had learned about camping and fires. He decided to try and build a campfire of his own. We lived next door to woods, which he almost set on fire! Family secret, indeed..

  27. That IS a dangerous neighbourhood, MJ! The unsettling thing is, I can recall many of the same things going on here. Must check the household insurance for my postcode…

    • See, Kate, we always think it wasn’t so bad until we start looking back. And then all those memories start flooding in, don’t they?

      Yes, you’d better charge the fire extinguisher and hide the matches. hehe

  28. Oh yeah, I can relate to all of these. My brother was a fire bug and set his bed on fire once. Thank God we were able to put it out before the whole house went down! As a baker, my biggest fear has always been getting my fingers caught in the mixer blades but hopefully I’ll never get THAT distracted!

    • Wow, I can’t believe how many fire-starters have made comments. Your brother, too, eh MM? Glad you didn’t lose the house.

      Congrats on keeping all of your fingers intact as a baker. That’s a remarkable feat.

  29. My brother slid on the ice for fun on his way home from school. Forgot that at the end of the walk was a staircase. Shattered arm, 6 months in a cast, lucky he didn’t lose use of it. Then he wondered what it would be like to shove a knife in the kitchen electrical outlet. He landed on the other side of the room. I’d say most of the neighborhood accidents are on his record. And clearly the brains in the family only filtered down the X chromosome – so he only got half… 😀

    • Staircase?! Not good. I would hate to have been there when that happened.

      Knife in the electrical socket. Sounds like he’s a cat with nine lives.

      Love the chromosome comment. May have been true for me too. :)

  30. Oh yes, when we were kids things were different, weren’t they. Why just the other day my kid was asking me what I used to do when I was his age and I was thinking there was a post in there somewhere. Here you have it, of course, so much better than anything I would do! When I was probably 7 or so my friends and I used to play in the empty lot behind the school every day. It was full of broken bits of concrete, wood and anything else you can think of. It was a treasure trove of imagination and fun. Till one day someone fell and needed stitches. The next day – fencing all the way around the lot. :(

    I believe it was that same year two of the boys in my class was playing with things they shouldn’t have in his back yard. It landed on his roof. Pretty soon we had the fire department out and the whole neighborhood gathered around to watch their house burn down. Yep. I bet he got a real ass whooping. I never did find out. He lived around the corner from me.

    There were other things. My cousins kept us on our toes, always getting hurt and needing a trip to the ER. But our neighborhood was nothing like yours. I bow to you, sir.

    • I can’t even imagine the trouble I would have gotten into if I started the house on fire. My dad would have put a hurting on me so bad I might not be able to sit for days.

      Your comment about the empty lot reminded me of a few nails stepped on by kids on my neighborhood in a few of those empty lots. They should have fenced them off, but the workers just hollered at us and said we should have known better.

      I’m thinking your neighborhood was no safe-haven, Debra!

  31. Very Funny Mj!
    I remember crashing on my bicycle while trying to ride it without holding on to the handle. I lost my control and went on to hit my neighbors wall. It was really painful. :)

    • OUCH, Arindam – straight into the wall? I hope you didn’t hit your head into the wall. I can say, that’s one thing I didn’t do. Though I did run into poles and mailboxes face first.

  32. Okay. I can’t wait for the MJ the Pyro post. And those aspirin DID taste like Tang. I was much more likely to OD on those than touch the glue.

    The mixer thing, though… I don’t know why I still have all my fingers…

    • Another children’s aspirin addict. I thought so, Jules. But you missed out on the glue – that was some tasty stuff.

      Just remember not to use the blender – IF you ever imbibe – with the lid off. I always thought it was crazy to use a blender WHILE drinking. hehe

  33. Growing up without bicycle helmuts. How did we survive! (not to mention with fire crackers, trees to fall out of, backyard jungle gyms and swings to jump off of, swimming pools next to the house, roller skates and skate boards with metal wheels, orchards in which to have dirt-clod fights…

    • I don’t know Oscar. I really don’t. We pulled mattresses out and jumped on them from the roof and the way we played with firecrackers was so dangerous. I’d forgotten about the 2 x 4 skateboards with roller skates. That’s a whole different story, there.

      Stay safe out there in the country, Oscar.

  34. I’m surprised I never had to get the St. Joseph’s pumped out of me. I used to sneak into the medicine cabinet and eat them like candy. Jeesh! The things that don’t kill you make you stronger, right?

  35. HOLY!

    WHOA! this really happened? and you what a what on fire? WHOA WHOA WHOA! WOW!

    My neighborhood never had any of those! Thank God! lol

  36. Aspirin tastes like Tang? I’m never taking Tylenol or Ibuprofen again.

    Kiefer played with some fireworks this past July. I just held my fingers posed over the 9 and 1 on the phone. Luckily, everything went ok.

    • Oh, you know it, Thoughtsy! It’s a little too good-tasting. You might want to make the switch. :)

      After the stuff we did with fireworks, I freaked out when my kids were lighting them. I dodge way too many bullets!

  37. Yikes! My mom once tried to lick whipped cream off the electrical cord of the beaters… that was still plugged in. She electrocuted herself when she put her mouth around the open socket part of the cord. Yeah. Not sure what she was thinking (aside from “sweet, delicious whipped cream!”). She’s lucky she didn’t sustain any permanent injuries. So are you, MJ! Sounds like quite the neighbourhood you grew up in.

    • What the heck, Dana!! Are you back-dating your comments?? hehehe
      Can’t believe I’m almost two months behind on answering this one. OMG!

      WHAT??? Lick the whipped cream off the electrical … NO-O-O-O-O-O-O-O!!! That’s kind of shocking (pun intended) and a little funny at the same time.

      Then again, it is whipped cream, so who can blame her. :)

      I feel like I survived okay, but I’m sure there are those who know me well who would disagree. hehehe

Love to hear from you.

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