You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out: How Times – and Toys – Have Changed

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In the movie A Christmas Story, which plays continuously on TV during the holidays, a warning used throughout the story rings true to many of us Baby Boomers. The story centers on Ralphie, a young boy growing up in the 1940s Midwest. His Christmas wish is to have a Red Rider BB gun. He sets out to convince everyone from his parents to his teacher that this is the perfect gift for him, but they just don’t share the same feelings he does about his dream of saving the world with the perfect Christmas gift from Santa.

He runs into opposition from everyone, including ol’ Santa Claus himself at the local department store. They all give him the same answer: “You’ll shoot your eye out!” And, at the end of the story, he almost does.

I, for one, can easily relate to Ralphie, because I heard those same comments growing up in rural Rutherford County in the ’50s and ’60s. I, like Ralphie, had a good ol’ trusty Daisy BB gun, and I don’t think a day went by that my mother didn’t tell me to be careful or I would shoot my eye out. I never did, thank goodness, but I have to admit it did get its share of misuse many times.

The interesting thing is that I never heard of a major recall of the gun, and advertising continued every Christmas for years in wish books and catalogs that came out during the holidays. In fact, over the years Daisy even sold commemorative guns of the Red Rider model, advertised regularly in Boys’ Life magazine.

It is a known fact that kids will attempt many of the things they are told not to do. A pretty good example is the little boy in the movie who stuck his tongue to the flagpole on a very cold day, and the fire department had to come and get him loose. Now admit it, haven’t most of you tried to touch your tongue to a cold metal object to see what happens? Tell the truth. Despite knowing what would happen and your parents telling you not to, you did it anyway. I touched my tongue to a cold metal ice tray (the ones with handles that are supposed to pop the ice out but don’t), and it stuck tight. Boy, does that smart. But it taught me real fast not to ever do that again.

I really don’t know how we ever survived. We did dumb stuff like that very often, from drinking out of garden hoses, which they say today we shouldn’t do at all, to riding bikes without helmets. These days, toys are pulled off shelves daily because of lead from products made in China or because they are too violent. I never heard of a toy recall in my childhood days – maybe because there weren’t as many back then as there are now. Back then, most of our lead toys came from America and Japan. Plus, toys were intended for fun, not to educate. Our toys developed imagination, not mathematicians. I guess that is why my generation went to the moon and today’s generation reads about it.

Warnings are everywhere these days for all of us. We are warned to eat better, exercise more, drive safer and let regulatory agencies keep us safe. We are told daily, “You are going to shoot your eye out.” And, sure enough, many of us do because we just have to try to ignore the warnings. But every now and then, you just have to touch your tongue to the ice tray to find out for yourself what life is all about.

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