When I was 9, I used to take the bus from my apartment building to the train station, get on a train, ride it out to the suburbs, get off at my stop, and walk 1/2 mile to my school. It didn't seem strange at the time. In fact I did it every day for almost 2 years. My brother Pete, age 8, was usually with me the first half of the way and then there were a few other kids who got on the train at various stops. We'd walk in a sort of staggered single file to the school. We wore uniforms: white button down shirt, green tunic with a belt, green knee socks, green blazer or sweater. I kept my hair in braids or else just hanging down, straight and stringy. I didn't carry a back-pack, no one did then; I carried my books and lunch in a canvas bag that was kind of like an electricians bag, which I sometimes held on my back like Santa.
No one ever told me to only walk in well-lit areas where there were a lot of people. No one told me to avoid weird freaks or scream loud if anyone came towards me inappropriately (I didn't even know what that meant). No one told me not to get into the back of someone's van or told me not to wait in front of the XXX movie theater at 17th and Market after dark. I think I knew not to speak to strangers or accept candy. I think I knew to cross at the cross walk and look both ways. But that was it. I never even had money. The times we did get some change, never a dollar, we'd immediately go to Parvin's pharmacy and buy pixie sticks, tootsie pops and sour cream and onion potato chips. All for 50 cents.
In other parts of the world there was a war, civil rights protestors were getting sprayed with fire hoses, 18 year olds were allowed to vote, women were standing up for themselves. Our older brothers and sisters were dropping acid and using words like fuck and no way and far-out in their every day lingo. Some of our parents were having key parties or getting divorced or smoking pot. Others were having parties at the country club or playing golf. A few of our parents were doing all of those things. What was the big deal about sending a 3rd grader on an hour long journey to school by himself every day. He knew where he was going.