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resolving dilemna in historical MG novel

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I am writing a historically-based MG novel (set in NYC Great Depression 1933). Part of my plot centers around main character, 12, trying to find out why a man is often seen skulking around the hospitality house that main character has become involved with. Any ideas as to how far a girl of that era could go (and/or not go) in attempting to follow this man, or find out more about him? (Ways a 12 year old girl might do this now, I think, might be different from 1933).  I am pretty sure about events in the rest of novel, but I am worrying about this.
Thanks for any help on this.
#1 - March 07, 2013, 11:28 AM

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I doubt there would be any resitrictions from her family. Back then there was a lot of freedom of movement. It might be more of an issue of chores/jobs that need to be done that limits the time she has. Many 12-year-olds had to make dinner.

From a terror/discomfort view, I'd think that depends on your character.
#2 - March 07, 2013, 12:08 PM

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I think she can have as much freedom as you want to give her, based on her circumstances. An "upper class" child might have had more restrictions on her time (piano lessons, dance class, parents wanting to keep her "ladylike", etc.) and ability to roam at will, but a kid with working parents could probably have a fair amount of freedom unless she had siblings to look after or chores, as David said.
#3 - March 07, 2013, 12:21 PM
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Thank you, Marissa and David. She is an only child, and therefore, yes, chores would have to work into the picture. 
I think that would answer the question I posed myself: what would be the difference in what she could do at that period of time compared with what a 12-year-old today would do; I think there would be more chores would be the answer around 1933, given so much a youngster had to deal with then.
#4 - March 07, 2013, 01:10 PM

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If the story is set during the fall/spring then school would be a restriction. Otherwise, children of the 30's were given a lot of autonomy. (My mother was raised during that time, in a large city, said she was all over town by foot or bike, either trying to earn money or visit friends. She had to be home in time to prepare dinner for her brother and get her schoolwork finished without using too much electricity.) :)
#5 - March 07, 2013, 01:17 PM
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This is set in the summertime.
#6 - March 08, 2013, 06:38 AM

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Ah! Well then, guess schoolwork isn't a problem.  :grin Good luck uncovering more lifestyle details. In my opinion, this type of historical detective work is what makes writing HF sooooo much fun.
#7 - March 08, 2013, 06:58 AM
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You're right, Bridgette, it is fun.  I recently wrote a non-fiction work-for-hire book, my first, and though I hated the short deadlines, I did love the research that I had to do!
#8 - March 08, 2013, 12:12 PM

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Both of my parent's were raised during the depression.  My father had almost nothing and very little resources, he was raised by his grandparents.  While I believed he could go almost anywhere in the area they lived in, I am not sure his grandmother allowed him to roam all over.  I am sure he pushed the boundaries.

My mother family always had employment during the depression.  Her father was a meat cutter and her mother picked up jobs where she could in such places as Miles Laboratory (Bactine and Alka-Selzter).  The lived pretty close to the down town area, but my mother had the responsibility of making sure certain chores were done at home and many relatives lived near them.  So I am not sure how far she and my uncle were allowed to wonder away from home due to the number of relatives that lived near-by.  There were also a large group of relatives that lived in other parts of town and my mother's family was always getting together with them.  There are many pictures that show my mom and uncle watching a circus come to town, dressed for a church play. with many pets, etc.  The neighborhood they lived in was sort of made for adventures with a creek, a river and a large hill.  In this case it could have been possible for someone to cover a missing kid as that person went downtown.  My mother also took piano lessons, as well.  My grandparents tried very hard to make my mom and uncle's life seem very normal for them, even though times where hard.
#9 - March 08, 2013, 12:31 PM
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Thank you, Liz. Even though, from what you say, it does not seem like it is in an area like New York City, your words give me more clues as to what life was like then....and what children could or could not do....no matter where one lived. I appreciate this. It will help me shape my book, I think.
#10 - March 08, 2013, 05:42 PM

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No, they lived in Indiana.  But I cannot imagine that most rules for child rearing were that different.
#11 - March 08, 2013, 06:04 PM
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So much of Indiana is still laid-back today. And back then, your mc would have much more freedom from direct adult supervision than today's kids have. She'd have had more chores, but this could add a level of difficulty for her since she'd have to figure out a way to follow the skulker without getting in trouble for missing her chores.
#12 - March 08, 2013, 09:33 PM
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Thanks, Bobi - Sometimes I think we do more "figuring out" than we do writing!
#13 - March 09, 2013, 10:43 AM

My mother lived on a small farm on Staten Island and would have been a young teen at that time. She talks about going into the city to go shopping and look around with her brothers.  She's mentioned that NYC back then was a safe place for kids to wander around, though I'm sure she was restricted to going to certain districts. Her father was the chaplain at Sailor Snug Harbor and they often let complete strangers eat at their house. No one was ever turned away out of fear.

I'm sure her parents were more careful than it might have seemed to her, but that's the way my mother saw it as a child.

I really can't recall if my mother took a train into the city, but I'm assuming it was that not a bus. 

If I were you, I'd check out some of the smaller museums in the area where your story takes place. There are loads of photos and they'll probably inspire you.

Most of the restrictions which we would find strange seemed to have effected my mother as she got into her older teens. Weird stuff like the college she went to allowed single, but not married woman to attend. But that has nothing to do with your story.  Her brothers learned to drive, but many women of her generation didn't or at least not until they married.
#14 - March 09, 2013, 11:03 AM
« Last Edit: March 09, 2013, 11:14 AM by PatEsden »
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lgalliker, this is a few years earlier than 1933, but it does show what everyday family life was like in the mid-20s, including what some of the diarist's children were allowed to do. There are also some notes put in by the blogger for clarification, and I remember one episode that included putting very young children, as young as 6, in sole charge of a baby for quite some time. It makes me  :ahh, but this was apparently normal rather than fringe behavior at the time -- and in a big city, no less. I suppose it helps explain how mothers of large families got any housework done. At any rate, this is nice primary material if it would be of any help:  http://www.ruthcampbellsmith.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2008-12-31T05:00:00-05:00
#15 - March 09, 2013, 12:34 PM
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Marcia, thanks so much. I am going to check this out. From what you say, I think it may help me out a lot!

Leslie
#16 - March 10, 2013, 05:43 PM

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My father grew up in depression era Chicago and he and his brother had an amazing degree of freedom. During the World's Fair, my grandmother would give them each fifty cents and send them off to the fair for the day. They didn't want to waste 5 cents on a train ticket, so they sneaked on board by skipping over the electrified third rail and running over to the far side of the train. (If they had slipped or tripped over the third rail, it would have killed them.)

Often, they'd take off exploring for the day with instructions to be home for dinner. He has some wonderful stories, and although he and his brother were both boys (obviously), I got the impression that girls had much more freedom, too.

I envy those children.

Laurel
#17 - March 12, 2013, 11:58 AM
« Last Edit: March 12, 2013, 07:28 PM by Pons »

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They didn't want to waste 5 cents on a train ticket, so take sneaked on board by skipping over the electrified third rail and running over to the far side of the train.

Often, they'd take off exploring for the day with instructions to be home for dinner. I envy those children.

I only envy them a little around the edges. The third rail? <shudder>

Kids also hopped trains at this time. They played down by the river and fell in. They climbed the walls in the rock quarry (and a boy did get killed doing this). A fair amount of this permissiveness trickled down to the baby boomers as well, when their Depression-era parents raised them the way they'd been raised.
#18 - March 12, 2013, 12:55 PM
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Enjoying the discussion ... I think kids had a lot of freedom back then, but also greater responsibilities. An older child could also be pulled out of school to help manage the household and younger siblings. There was also greater mortality (both infant and child) and you can see why ...

You could write your story the way you want and then fact check later to make sure the actions are plausible.
Good luck,
Vijaya
#19 - March 12, 2013, 02:49 PM
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I grew up in the 60s and had a great deal of freedom, but I still had limits on where I could go; set boundaries and chores I had to do at home.  We did not live in a big city (I grew up where my parent's grew up).  Yes, we went beyond certain boundaries, did things my parents were not aware of or thought they were not aware of, funny how kids think their parents do not know what they are up too. 

My uncle recently died, a story told during his memorial service came from a letter his one cousin sent (his wife had just had a stroke so he couldn't make it).  He told a story of my uncle and two of his cousins and a BB gun.  He made the statement that   they had a great time as kids, even though their parents were struggling.  It seems that the three boys were shooting the BB gun at cars that drove by on the highway that ran by my great-aunts (their aunts) house.  They were across the street.  My uncle and one cousin ran and hid and hid well, the cousin that wrote the letter panicked and ran straight home (to the aunts' house) and was caught.  The next day the three of them had to go talk to the police chief.  Apparently after a long lecture on not shooting the BB gun, the two cousins decided it would be great fun to shoot at the leaves in the river.  My uncle walked to my grandparent's house and left his cousins to their shooting.  They got away with shooting the BB gun at what ever came their way until they got to the aunts' house.  I am quite sure the three of them got into trouble again in the summer.
#20 - March 12, 2013, 04:51 PM
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By "freedom," I assume you mean kids able to do things and go places unsupervised by adults. I think in cities and rural areas it was the same -- kids out of the house for most of their "down" time. Of course, there were dangerous kooks in every era, but I think with today's media and technology, kids stay rather homebound.  So the "freedom" of the past was just a trust in human nature. I do remember growing up in Cleveland in the 60's and visiting a small town and actually walking IN THE DARK to a restaurant without adults. Totally surprised me. So night activities might be a consideration for your character, but other than that, daring out her normal neighborhood, would be... unusual, but not surprising. Just my opinion.
#21 - March 26, 2013, 03:50 PM
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In the 50's and 60's we always went trick-or-treating without adults, running from house to house in the dark, accepting popcorn balls and other homemade goodies along with store bought candy. It was wonderfully exhilarating and not one parent I know of even blinked as he/she waved us off into the night.

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#22 - March 27, 2013, 09:09 AM

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 :green: Oh, if we could just bring back those days of more freedom for children, without worry, knowing that every child would be okay. Because that was the way it was back then. Also, at that time, parents or at least a parent (despite the economic hardship of the 30s) was usually home. Today, one does not know whom to trust.
#23 - March 28, 2013, 07:14 AM

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Actually in the 30's both my grandparents worked at different times, even into the forties.  I think the time of mother's staying home all the time began more in the fifties.  Yes, in the agrarian society, mother was home, but her constant work made the older children responsible for the younger children.  Older children were often responsible for very serious farm chores at a much younger age than we would even think of giving most kids those types of responsibilities today. 

I think one of the biggest differences is that we did not move around as often as people do today.  When I was a child in the late fifties and sixties, we knew all the neighbors, my great-aunts lived two blocks away and during my childhood only one family moved away.  We were the second when I was in ninth grade.  At that time my parents picked a neighborhood that was very insular.  It remains that way today.  At one time there used to be a neighborhood directory of everyone that lived in  the 101 houses.  I don't think they have one of those today as there are to many houses for sale and the turn over is slower, but still happening.  Many people like my parents, who are in their late 80s still live there but new families are moving in and are not into the whole idea of wanting a neighborhood directory. 

Nothing horrid ever happened to anyone I know of when I was a child by outside forces.  However, I know of children effected by polio, scarlet fever and other diseases.  No one assisted families in extreme poverty like they do now, and trust me that had a big impact on everyone in class when that one poor child showed up in school for a length of time and then disappeared.  Never was an explanation given.

I was never sure if the boy who had scarlet fever and was left with a weak heart died or had to leave school for other reasons, no one ever told us, and I was not the type of child that would have ask that question.  I still have no clue. 

There were bad people out there in the fifties and sixties, trust me.  We swept them under a mat and did not talk about them.  We knew not to talk to strangers, not to take candy and yet we were sent selling Girl Scout Cookies and other things door to door by ourselves, no parent following us. There had to be a reason Girl Scouts seldom sell door to door anymore.

Empowering children so they can go out and play in their own back yard and later in their extended neighborhood is a skill you need to teach your children.  What is never reported in the newspaper is how many children safely play at home and in parks daily.  We only see the very nasty side of life reported.  Parent's are the only ones that can give their children freedom.
#24 - March 28, 2013, 04:21 PM
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