I Was A Free Range Child


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Photo from the collection of Crystal-Ann de la Mare . Frances Scott was her great aunt and lived next door to her until the day she died. This article by Frances was in the Townships Sun 1995. Don’t forget to get a subscription!!


In March of 2015 Maryland parents were investigated for letting their young children walk home by themselves from a park. They were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over questions of parenting and children’s safety. I believe authorities called the kids ‘free range children.’

I am proud to say I was also a free-range child and I think the experience of walking back and forth to school was a good lesson to me. Traffic speeds, congestion, fears for personal safety are all now deterring walking to school and it is becoming a thing from the past.

“We lived  on a dairy farm 4 miles out of town. My sisters and brothers drove a buggy to school. There were 8 of us going to school at one time.” -Frances Scott

Your mothers, father and grandparents all walked to school unaccompanied, often long distances. But the world has changed. Parents are in a hurry, have work to go to and expect to drive everywhere. Roads are busier and children are less independent.

Some of my friends walked 2 miles unaccompanied to our rural school but we did it in small groups. I remember waiting every single day in front of my home on Albert Street in Cowansville for my friend Sheila Wallet Needham to walk with me to school. I can’t remember if we complained about the cold or the snow, but I don’t think we did.  All I remember is great friendship, conversation and now memories.

” We were always willing and ready to go to school and very seldom late over the years”—-Frances Scott

I don’t think I was ever late for school- but there were always reminders not to be. Three notorious young brothers were constantly late and at least once a week were lined up in the principal’s office to get the dreaded strap. That wailing sound alone was a reminder to us all not to dilly dally to school.

Biking to my nearby elementary school on a regular basis throughout the good weather was the norm for most. Back in the 50s and 60s a  good percentage of all students walked or rode bikes to school, went up and down hills and dodged traffic. But today some schools go as far as to prohibit children from walking and bicycling to school in regard to their safety.

“We also picked up a passenger on a corner who had to walk a mile to come meet us”–Frances Scott

As kids, we were all over our neighbourhood streets.  We played outside regularly, and of course there were the daily trips to the local stores to buy candy. It wasn’t necessarily a safer time–but there was something in our heads back then that made it okay for all of us to be out and owning the sidewalks and streets of  Cowansville, Quebec.

Memories of wearing just knee socks and some old trench coat in minus winter weather now have me shaking my head. It took Sheila and I 25 minutes to complete the journey to Heroe’s Memorial, and to expect a child today to endure this experience twice a day for nine months would be unimaginable. Is nostalgia considered a disease because I am reliving it now? I hope not- but all I know is thankfully we didn’t need an app to walk home from school.

Thanks to Crystal-Ann de la Mare  for sending me the memories of her great-aunt Frances Scott



The leather strap was particularly prevalent in Canada, applied to the student’s hand, until abolished in 2004, but in recent times it was generally made of canvas/rubber rather than leather.

Free-range parentingread all about it here


Pour Some Sugar on Me! The Demise of the Penny Candy


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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