Nothing New — Kids today — and yesterday


Parental cries of “Kids today are out of control! It’s never been like this before…” accompanied by anxious hand-wringing, has been heard since Cain and Abel became teenagers. Most will mature with age — unfortunately some don’t and grow up to be irresponsible dolts. The point being, kids say and do dopey things and often make poor decisions — they always have and they always will — but they are no worse now than any other time in history. The Aberdeen Bulletin, The Washingtonian, and the Vidette have all carried stories and editorials bemoaning “kids today.” A look through the local newspaper archives shows that things have not changed all that much in the last 110 years.

In March, 1902 a local milk merchant had a run-in with youthful hooligans:

Yesterday morning Will Crammatte left his milk cart, well laden with cans of milk and jars of cream, standing at the corner of Wishkah and F streets while he made a delivery. Some small boys happened along and tipped the cart, with disastrous results to its contents. There was a river of milk, much broken glass and a very angry young man at that corner.

Four years later, a lad brought the wrath of the Electric Company:

Frank Sagendorph, 10 years old, was arrested by the Electric Company for breaking an arc light. He was tried before Judge Fox, Wednesday, and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Small boys are doing much damage to birds, flowers, and arc lights and the police are being urged to correct some of these evils.

Today’s students should be happy that corporal punishment is no longer an acceptable way to deal with impertinence, as in this item from 1902:

Fred Patterson, of Cosmopolis, had a large tumor successfully removed from his upper right jaw, by Dr. Stapp yesterday at St. Joseph’s hospital. The cause of the tumor forming was from Patterson having his ears pulled when he was a lad at school, the growth having started from a ruptured blood vessel in the ear, which, in time, extended down to the jaw. This is the second case of exactly the same nature and from the same cause that Dr. Stapp has been recently called to operate upon and shows that some school teachers have a habit of pulling their pupils ears in punishment for some breach of school discipline.

At some point, a misbehaving youth can end up dangling from the long arm of the law. Sometimes just a good scare is all it takes, as with these three junior arsonists-in-training in August 1906:

Three small boys, terrified beyond measure, looked into the stern face of Judge Drake Saturday afternoon and promised that they would never do it again. When told to go they lost no time, and hereafter will undoubtedly fade from sight upon the appearance of a policeman within four blocks of them. The lads built a fire which might have had serious results and Officer Myles thought a trip to the city hall would do them good. The approving mother of one was called in and she thinks the proceedings will have a decidedly lasting effect.

Boys weren’t the only ones to bring heartache. Girls brought their fair share of grief to parents and patrolmen alike. In 1896, the Aberdeen Herald reported on a Hoquiam runaway:

Kittie Stapelton, a fifteen-year-old Hoquiam girl, ran away from home Monday, and came to this city. Her mother followed and had her taken before Judge Andrews who ordered her before Judge Irwin for hearing, the mother desiring her sent to the reform school. She was placed in charge of Constable Pearson, but she gave him the slip at the Aberdeen hotel, and started for home. He followed on a bicycle and waited for her at the ferry, she having left the plank road to escape him. He took her home, and the mother having relented somewhat, asked that she be left there a few days.

Finally, children getting their hands on alcoholic beverages is an issue of genuine concern. This scandalous item from the Vidette furrowed many a brow in the summer of 1903:

A big sensation has been caused in church and Y.M.C.A. circles by the report that a number of young boys have been expelled from the Y.M.C.A. camp at North Beach for drunkenness. The vigilance that should have prevailed is said to have relaxed and a number of sons of temperate and God fearing people became intoxicated from the effects of the subtle puckaroo.

Roy Vataja is the son of Finnish immigrants and thinks it’s time to return “puckaroo” to the modern lexicon.