Monthly Archives: June 2007

Enough talk about free-range chickens…

…How about free-range humans?

This article from the U.K. confirms what many have suspected: the personal range of children has shrunk drastically over the last century.

When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere. It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision… Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas’s eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom. He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home. Even if he wanted to play outdoors, none of his friends strays from their home or garden unsupervised.

The article has an interesting graphic showing how the “roaming range” of the generations of this particular British family has shrunk little by little. No doubt this is true in America as well. I’m not sure if this automatically means that children are being raised to be less street-smart and less curious. Certainly my “range” as a kid (which was no more than a mile, I would estimate, if that) wouldn’t be very impressive to my grandparents’ generation. (Although there were limits in the old days too: my dad once as an 11-year-old decided to ride his bike from his Syracuse home to his cousins’ farm in Stockbridge. This produced mighty consternation.)

Do parents of any generation ever realize how many scrapes and even hair-raising incidents occur to their kids even within the safe zones? (The article touches on this.) Well, kids rarely talk about them to grownups. They’re too afraid that their freedoms will be taken away. I recently compared notes with some people on this and it’s true — everyone has childhood experiences (yes, even some involving unsavory people) that they never bothered to tell Mom and Dad about. What happened? Either your radar was working and you avoided any damage, or the sibling protection system kicked in (your smarter, older sibling or friend warned you away from the danger), or some alert adult was looking out for you. But then, of course, we have learned all too much about the worst case scenarios where kids’ wits weren’t enough to protect them, so…

I just wonder why the trend of declining “ranges” for kids (and people in general maybe?) is tied to a discounting of the factors that used to keep kids safe. In my dad’s case, by the time his epic bike ride became known, he was halfway to Madison County and his parents were torn about what to do. Should they stop him, or let him go? In the end, they figured since he was already more than halfway there, they’d just let him go.

Unseen Syracuse

While looking through photos on Flickr recently, I found myself coming across some stunning pictures of Syracuse and environs taken by various people. I thought I would gather them all in one place in a little gallery here. This was taken from the roof of the Mizpah Tower downtown by a Flickr member called Mindful One. Click for more.
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A comment on Bob Niedt’s Store Front column from Sunday’s paper…

“When I brought the Wal-Mart project awhile back and was talking to town officials, I said Wal-Mart coming to Camillus will drag a lot of traffic to Camillus Commons and Fairmount Fair, and will draw a lot of tenants that had not come to that area,” said Don Robinson of Benderson. “Between Target, PetSmart and Michaels, that’s happening.”

LOL! Nice spin on it. But it’s not so much Wal-Mart coming to Camillus as it is Wal-Mart leaving Fairmount that’s done it, Mr. Robinson. He makes it sound like Wal-Mart is a huge attraction that’s somehow going to pull more people into Fairmount — when the truth is, it’s the Target at Fairmount that is attracting the relatively high-quality outlets they expect to take up residence in the corridor — Michael’s, Pet Smart, and now possibly Kohl’s. You know, places where people want to shop, not just places they have to go to pick up something quick and cheap. Meanwhile, all Camillus is getting, in addition to its two sterile big boxes (Lowe’s and Wal-Mart) are more pizzerias, sub shops, and cell phone vendors. Once again, it’s being demonstrated that junk (Wal-Mart) attracts junk.

One further matter is the question of how the middle stretch of West Genesee Street (around the Dueling Drugstores) might develop if Fairmount Fair takes off again. Wouldn’t it be interesting if there could be some smart planning on that little stretch that made it pedestrian-friendly for people who live there? Maybe that municipal parking lot will come in handy.