A Simpler Time – Growing up in Mayberry

Over the years there have been several kids rescued after they’d been kidnapped and held for several years by their kidnapper. Most recently, the three women rescued from the “house of horrors” in Cleveland come to mind. Thankfully, there are a lot of names of the rescued I could list, which doesn’t balance out those who have been lost, but it does give hope for those still missing.

My new book, Critical Pursuit, is about a police officer whose mission it is to find kidnapped and missing children. Her back-story is that she herself was kidnapped at a young age but rescued and brought home safely.

Writing about Brinna Caruso and her adult mission to protect children from predators who seem to be everywhere now a days, made me reflect back on my own childhood and give thanks that I was raised in a simpler time. As a kid I remember riding my bike everywhere. I had a sting-ray with a banana seat and u-shaped handle bars. I’d chase the ice cream man from block to block.

After we moved from a flat neighborhood to one with hills too steep for racing around on bikes, I rode horses. I can remember riding by myself on fire roads for hours, with my dog following along. I don’t remember worrying about predators or bad things happening.

Fast forward many years, when I worked in Long Beach I bought a house in a quiet neighborhood near El Dorado Park. The neighbors two doors down were quick to come introduce themselves. Yes they were welcoming, but they also wanted to know who the new person was because they had a young daughter they were vigilant in protecting. Wise parents, but a little sad that the world is the way it is now. Most kids don’t live where they can roam freely without fear of a park pervert and parents are justified and required to be vigilant.

I recently moved out of California to a small town in Oregon where I was surprised to discover my neighborhood is a place like the one I remember growing up in. Kids ride their bikes in the street, they play football, ride skateboards and toss balls around. Little girls have knocked on my door asking if they can walk my dogs. All in all it feels safe and old fashioned. I know that the parents are no less vigilant, but it’s great being in such a neighborhood and seeing kids laugh and play unburdened by worries of a dangerous world.

If you feel the need to help keep kids safe, please visit the National Center for Missing And Exploited Children for tips and information on how to help.



12 thoughts on “A Simpler Time – Growing up in Mayberry”

  1. Hi Janice! I really enjoy your books and would love to get your new one! I grew up in the 80’s and remember the simpler times then! I would bake cookies for new neighborsand stay outside playing until it got dark outside. I would ride my bike all over the neighborhood and walk to the mall.
    We have lived in the house we’re in for over a month and have barely met our neighbors. My boys are little, but I can’t imagine letting my boys do the things I was allowed to do. I wish things were simpler like they use to be!

  2. I remember growing up in the 60’s and we live in a small village of about 300 people. We didn’t worry about kidnappers or anyone trying to hurt us at all. We were always outside playing or riding bikes to the post office or friends houses to play there. We sould come home for supper and then play some more until dark. I know things have changed a lot since then! If I had children now, they wouldn’t have the freedom that I did while growing up. I would be worried if they were out of my sight!

  3. Times have certainly changed! I grew up in a neighborhood where we played in the street, rode bicyles, and picked up pecans beneath our neighbor’s trees. My husband and I are blessed to live on 18 acres in the country (small town Texas). Our children, while they aren’t able to play with neighbors, can still enjoy playing outside until dark. This certainly wouldn’t be the case if we lived in a big city!

  4. I grew up in east Long Beach and much like could ride bikes and play outside till late at night with no worries about being assaulted. Neighbors watched out for each other.

    Myself and 3 friends even rode our bike from Long Beach to where Coat de Casa is now located and camped overnight for 3 days. With no parents. It was that safe.

    We played on the construction of the 405 freeway when it was being built and generally had a great time.

    We knew to listen to our parents, try in school , care about others and become the best we could.

  5. I grew up in the 50’s, one of the 6 kids in our family. We all spent a lot of our days riding our bikes & playing with the neighborhood kids on the vacant lot next door. In winter, when there was snow, we went sledding down the big hill we lived on- a county road that nobody got out on when it snowed. I know that our parents did not know where we were most of the time, but felt we were safe. Times sure have changed!

  6. I so relate to those safer days. I too experienced them at a camp in the Minnesota woods where my parents lived and later in Bolivia. However, though we roamed at will in High School in Bolivia, a couple years after I graduated and left Boliva Che Gavara was killed right in those same hills. It occurs to me we maybe don’t realize fully protects we ourselves experienced. It is frightful the lack of safety today for our children but I’ve wondered if closing our schools and our governmental offices to prayer and the 10 commandments has be a major part of our downfall. Again, I love your books. Curious – which little town – we live in a little on called Jefferson on the river!!!!!


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