Scanning Around With Gene: Kids Being Kids, 1940s Style
I’m working these days with several parents of younger children, so I get to hear all about the summer activities they participate in. When I was a kid my mother didn’t work during the summer and so we pretty much stayed home and did more or less what we wanted, playing with neighbor friends, riding our bikes to the park and just hanging out. There weren’t a lot of organized activities.
But of course today’s reality is quite different and in many families both parents work, so summer means a well-choreographed series of camp days, summer school, organized trips, team sports and other adult-supervised outings. And it seems when kids do get some unplanned time on their hands, they are more likely to use it playing video games or going to see the latest blockbuster movie than kicking around the neighborhood with the family dog.
Today’s images show some of the things that kids did in the 1940’s, at least according to a variety of popular artists at the time. I’m not sure where these images first appeared – they came to me as individual prints, probably cut out of a calendar or booklet, suitable for framing. Click on any image for a larger version.
Many of these prints are not credited, but others are from both well known and lesser known American artists such as A.C. Compton, Francis Tipton Hunter and Hy Hintermeister.
There was a large market back then for color prints of all types – people would frame these images and hang them in their homes, or just enjoy them in their printed form – sort of the equivalent of today’s coffee-table books.
Kids were a popular subject, and many of these images have a Norman Rockwell-like feeling about them – showing the charm and innocence of life.
But others have a slightly darker side to them and remind us that danger is lurking around many corners. I’m not sure who would want a framed picture of a sick child or a near-accident, but nonetheless some artists chose to portray these things as part of the tableau of day-to-day life.
I have no idea if these images are at all realistic, though I suspect things really were a bit more innocent back then and let’s face it, kids have always been prone toward cute and somewhat predictable behavior.
One thing that has definitely changed is the role of the family dog, who these days would most likely be on a leash and some adult would be nearby with a fist full of plastic bags at the ready.
I’m not sure what the contemporary version of these sort of images is – we just don’t have as many platforms for illustration as we once did, and most people would prefer to chronicle their own children’s activities than look at images of others.
And I do know that today there would likely be a bit more diversity shown in the images of America’s young people. Some activities remain the same, but times have certainly changed.