Front Porch Stories: Learning The Truth in the 1970s

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By KATHY BOHANNON, Special to The Weekly

The Truth.

“Stop, drop and roll” was a fire safety skill we learned in elementary school, maybe as early as kindergarten. I have no idea if they taught it in kindergarten because I dropped out on the first day. They wouldn’t let mom stay, so I had a full morning meltdown and spent the rest of the year hanging out with mom at home.

“Stop, drop and roll” meant in case our clothes were on fire, we were to “stop” and not move so we didn’t fan any flames. Next, we were to “drop” to the ground and then “roll” to try and get the fire out. It was the 1970s, and according to Google, beloved actor Dick Van Dyke even made public service announcements about it, so that made it “really” real to us well beyond the classroom. It was decided many years later that there was improvement needed on the whole process. If a smoke alarm went off while mom was cooking, she sure didn’t need all five of her kids rolling around in the floor of the kitchen. 

But that was the way we did things in the 1970s. We believed everything we were taught. We thought “duck and cover” would save us from pretty much everything. I remember the awful sound of air horns going off in the distance and teachers having us either get underneath our desks, or go out in the hallway and put a book over our head. That was our first and foremost defense against anything from tornadoes to nuclear attacks. I should have realized the folly in those things since our teachers typically just walked the aisles, bold and brave, rising above all danger; heroes that they were.

For the exception of a few nuclear attack drills and wondering if our clothes were going to ignite, the 1970s were a time of innocence. The only things I really remember “worrying” about were burglars, snakes, tornadoes and losing fights with my brother. I was sure I would die in any of those cases. 

There was a narrow stream behind our neighborhood and one day I hopped over it and landed just a few inches from a massive, full-grown python. Of course, everyone else said it was just a black snake, but it was my memory and I was sticking to “massive full-grown python”. Either way, I started running. I busted through the kitchen door, and ignoring my mom’s startled scream, I shoved my bedroom door open and climbed on top of my “Chester’s drawers”. (I later discovered they were “chest of drawers”, but “Chester’s drawers” still reigns today.)

It was in my teen years that I found out that the old man who lived with my grandmother was not my grandfather. He was her dad, my great grandfather. They both looked ancient to me. We were his remote control for the television and he called us all Charlie Horse because he couldn’t remember our names. “Charlie Horse! Come change the channel!” That was all I recall him saying. Ever. 

With a childhood filled with pythons, nuclear attacks and only knowing how to stop, drop and roll, I was glad to eventually learn the truth about some things. 

Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” 

Now that, my friends, is truth we can all rely on.

Kathy Bohannon is a freelance writer, Christian humorist and inspirational speaker. She can be reached at [email protected].

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