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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - L

In the 1940s, Latchkey kids could be as young as six when they came home from school to an empty house. Primarily due to soldier fathers and working mothers, the eldest Latchkey was often the family cook and babysitter as well. It was common for Latchkey kids to wear their house-keys on a string around their neck, and no one worried about safety. Or did they?

The 70s and 80s saw a dramatic increase in Latchkey safety concerns as crime increased. Experts declared the “lonely life of a Latchkey” a national disgrace, and finally, someone thought to ask the kids how they felt about it. While a few kids felt anxious, even neglected, most had no idea what the fuss was all about.  Most enjoyed the freedom, as well as the confidence-building responsibility that came with getting yourself a snack and having homework done before going outside to play each day.
Experts were also concerned about long-term effects. Were Latchkey kids scarred for life? Most survivors think not. In contrast, experts point out non-latchkey, highly-educated intellectuals who can’t make a decision for themselves without first consulting a parent.
With a name like Laughing Gas, it’s no surprise that in the late 1700s, Humphrey Davy’s experiments with nitrous oxide would eventually be used for recreational purposes for its euphoric effect. Laughing Gas parties were all the rage in circles of British upper-class.  By 1863, the gas was commonly being used by dentists for its analgesic qualities. One of the earliest US commercial producers of nitrous oxide was George Poe, cousin to poet Edgar Allen Poe. These days, use of the product is restricted (in varying degrees) in nearly every state of the United States.

So, what do you think? Were you a Latchkey kid? Are you a Latchkey or Helicopter parent? Have you ever tried Laughing gas (at the dentist’s office, of course)?


  1. Hi, diedre!

    Happy "L" Day, dear friend!

    Yessum, I was a latchkey kid starting in 1964 when my mother got a job and both parents worked. When I got off the school bus in the afternoon I went to our carport shed and found the house key hanging at a designated spot. I let myself in, watched TV and did homework as I awaited my parents' return at dinnertime. The freedom and independence felt good, same as it did a short time later when I started going to the Shady Dell. In those days I never gave safety and security a thought. As you pointed out, things changed in the 70s and 80s. Crime (or the reporting of it) increased and so did child advocacy. Leaving a child home alone was verboten. Safety is important, but I agree there are benefits in giving children a taste of independence and allowing them to assume the responsibility that comes with it.

    I think what America needs now is a great big Laughing Gas party. :) I don't remember ever having Laughing Gas administered by the dentists I went to in my youth. Do you?

    Have a safe and healthy day, dear friend diedre!

    1. Hi Shady!

      Did I forget to mention these were adult Laughing gas parties? Crazy, huh?

      I was in my 20s before I ever had nitrous oxide at a dentist's office. I thought it was strange that they didn't want me to drive home - until it was time to drive home ;-) I was glad I'd brought a friend along.

      We do need a good dose of laughter these days. Thank you for stopping in with a smile!

  2. When I was growing up I didn't imagine the concept of a latchkey kid. All the kids I knew had mothers who stayed home for the kids all the time. My mother was always around when we needed her. We seemed to have lots of freedom to roam if we weren't in school, but when we started getting hungry we knew that lunch or dinner would be there for us when we were ready.
    They were good times. Too bad more kids today don't have a parent that stays home and provides that sense of security. Maybe that's why so many young people today like the idea of socialism--of having a government take care of their needs.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. Hi Lee!

      Someone was always home at my grandmother's house, though we were latchkey anywhere else we lived. Learning how to be self-sufficient was certainly not a bad thing. I think the disadvantage is cluelessness, and yes, dependency. I must admit, though, we loved going home to grandmas;-)

      Thanks for visiting, Lee!


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