20 Nostalgic But Dangerous "Back In The Day" Childhood Experiences Older Adults Are Surprised They Survived

20 Nostalgic But Dangerous "Back In The Day" Childhood Experiences Older Adults Are Surprised They Survived

It's no shock that childhood experiences have wildly changed over the years; things considered a big no-no today were totally normal 20-plus years ago. Recently, Redditor u/ChillwithRon asked the r/AskOldPeople community to share the things they did as kids that would be considered "horrifying" today. Here's what older adults had to say.

1."I played with my friends on construction sites after the workers were gone. From the ages of eight to 10, they built a bunch of new homes in my neighborhood. We had so much fun playing in people's houses when they were just wooden frames!"


2."There was a swimming hole near our Alabama home in a creek. In order to use the hole, you had to throw a couple of large rocks into it, which caused the water moccasins to run out of the water and into the woods. We would then swim there. Wild, I know."

A snake swimming on a reflective water surface with its head raised. The background is blurred, giving the image a peaceful, serene atmosphere
Trevor Howard Jones / Getty Images

3."I lived in Guam about 10 years after WWII, and in certain areas, ammunition had been unceremoniously dumped, and other places where the soldiers had left it in the heat of battle. We used to go looking for the ammunition, and then, here comes the fun part: when we found it, we disarmed it, cleared it up, and added it to my collection. I knew how to completely unload Japanese and American hand grenades, knee mortars, and shells below 40mm. Every few weeks or months, you would hear about kids trying to disarm bombs and dying — I never touched one. I was 11."


4."We made homemade fireworks..."

Fireworks spark and light up near a road at night, with buildings visible in the background

5."Tricks off the high dive at the local swimming pool. These days, public pools don't even have diving boards, let alone high dives."


6."Delivering newspapers and collecting the money; 11–15 year-olds waking up at 4:30 a.m.–5 a.m. daily, sitting on a corner (by themselves sometimes), and riding a bike around the neighborhood trying to throw newspapers onto people's porches. Then, we went to every house every two weeks to collect the money, sometimes carrying around $50–$100 in a pouch. To top it off, it was considered okay to be welcomed into the houses during winter when collecting the money. We definitely had encounters with what we considered 'weird' people. Now, they'd be considered creepy. I think about my own kids; telling them to wake up at 4:30 a.m., seven days a week, and expecting them to perform well at school would just be irresponsible."

A young person riding a bicycle is tossing a newspaper in front of a house
Patrik Giardino / Getty Images

7."My sister and I rode for hours home from vacation one time. We sat on lawn chairs in the back of our dad's truck."


"OMG, yes! I rode with our dogs in the back of my dad's truck. I also do not remember being in a car seat or even a booster past preschool age. I'm not even that old either."


8."For the most part, my parents kept me on a fairly tight leash, but one thing I never understood was why they thought it was okay to send me on foot to kindergarten without an adult. The trail started behind the barrier of a dead-end street, wound past a cornfield, and then passed an apartment complex before it took me to school. Today, someone would call CPS for letting their 5-year-old do something like that."

A young child walks down a sidewalk with a purple backpack and a lunchbox. Trees line the path on a sunny day with other kids and cars in the background
Jupiterimages / Getty Images

9."My sister and I regularly crawled through the storm drain tunnel in our town (we had to hunch over a bit, but it was pretty big). At the halfway point, there was a road with a bus stop overhead and a drainage hole. We'd stand under it and use vulgar language at people waiting for the bus. Then we'd continue to the end of the tunnel, where we'd sit and smoke cigarettes. Thank god neither of us got addicted, bitten by a rat, or arrested."


10."I rode in railroad boxcars from my northern New Jersey town's railyard, up into New York, and back again. Running and jumping in was very dumb."

A freight train moving on tracks in an open landscape under a cloudy sky
Elsvandergun / Getty Images

11."I grew up in a small town in Indiana. My sisters were seven and 10 years older than me, and our mom's rule was that they couldn't leave me alone at home, so I always tagged along with them and their boyfriends. Indiana is littered with abandoned quarries, and they're the best swimming holes you can find — 10 to 100 acres big and 200 to 500 feet deep or more. They'd fill with rainwater over the years, and with no current, they would just warm in the summer sun to about 85 degrees or more. However, below 15 feet or so, the water was about 58 degrees year-round."

"While my sisters' boyfriends were 17–21 or so, I was 10–11, and when the boys climbed up the walls and jumped into the water, I would follow.

You kept your shoes on and dropped feet-first into the warm water, but you would zip down to 30 feet or more instantly. The cold shock would zip up your body and take your breath away. Then, it was time to struggle back to the surface. Sometimes, you'd run out of air about two or three feet down, and it's the most terrible feeling to expend your last bit of energy to cover that distance to sweet, sweet air.

I went back to visit many years later and found that we were routinely jumping from 60 and 70 feet to the water. That was 50 years ago, and I can see and smell it like it was yesterday."


12."My friends and I made an Evil Knievel kind of ramp over a creek that ran in the back of our houses. We then tried jumping it on our bikes — no helmets, of course. I was maybe 11 or 12."

A young boy in a striped shirt and shorts rides a bicycle on grass with a vintage car parked behind him. The image has a retro aesthetic
Shanina / Getty Images

13."There was a medical clinic near our house. They would dump the test tubes full of blood into the big trashcan. We liked the glass tubes with stoppers, so we pulled them out and washed out the tubes to play with them."


14."This was not a regular occurrence for me, but when I visited a family in rural Tennessee, a group of kids got together after dark, formed two groups, and shot bottle rockets across the field at each other as long as they lasted."

Plastic bottle water rocket, mounted on a wooden launcher, ready for takeoff in an open field with trees in the background
Charinporn Thayot / Getty Images

15."When I was in high school, I was really into high heels but had a long walk home. Random guys would stop and ask if I wanted a ride home. I'd jump right in with a smile. Nothing ever happened, but I would NEVER do that now or let my kids!"


16."I used to run around corn fields as a kid, playing chicken with combines. I'm 95% sure they couldn't even see me. I should be dead, honestly."

A red combine harvester operates in a wheat field under a partly cloudy sky
Drs Producoes / Getty Images

17."I used to babysit, at 13–17 years old, for families I didn't know before that night. Yes, they were recommended by other parents, but quite often, the first time I met the parents would be when they came to my house to pick me up. The dad — a 30-something man previously unknown to me — would drive me to their house, where I would meet the kids, and the parents would go out on their date or whatever. Then, at 11 p.m. or midnight, they would come home. The dad, quite likely already drunk, would pay me and drive me home along narrow country roads."


18."I sat in my dad's lap while he drove. From ages two to six, I regularly sat on the armrest between the seats in the front seat of the car (so I could see where we were going, obviously). I'd push the lighter in to heat it in the car so my mom could smoke while we drove around (I'm pretty sure all the windows were up, too)."

A man drives a vintage car with a young boy in his lap. Another woman and two children are in the backseats
Bethany Petrik / Getty Images

19."I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania on the shores of Lake Erie. Think 'lake effect' snow — at least 100 inches a season. We would go out at night and wait for a car to come by, run to the back, grab the bumper, and get pulled as far as we could without falling off. Our parents had no idea, and my mom blanched visibly when we told her about it several years ago. We had done this about 35 years ago. My cousin lost my best mittens this way."


20."Going to the public pool all day with a couple of my friends, minus any adults. We'd either ride our bikes or get dropped off by someone's mom at opening time and then picked up late that afternoon at a pre-arranged time. We all somehow survived it."

Two women, one in a visor, and a child with snorkeling goggles swim at a pool, smiling at the camera
Jena Ardell / Getty Images

What experiences do you remember from childhood that would be considered dangerous today? Let us know in the comments, or fill out this anonymous form!

Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.