‘Wildlife in suburbia: The best gifts for nature-loving kids in the ’50s and ’60s’

Nov 18, 2021
Remember getting inquisitive in the backyard? Source: Stock Photo / Getty Images

Someone described nostalgia as an escape for seniors. Yes, but it is fun to reminisce.

These days, I live in a unit, just like the rest of this suburb. In the long ago sunlit afternoons of our childhood, my sisters and grew up playing in a large backyard. One sister and I celebrated our birthdays close together, in the same week of the same month.

One epic birthday year, little sis received a bug catcher as her gift. I was gifted with a magnifying glass and a simple microscope. Junior scientists took over the vegetation in the backyard. My sorority quickly learned that that we were all allergic to the bees. These seemed to be released from the bug catcher at regular intervals. The bees were not feeling too peaceful.

Moving on, my little sis also ensnared bull ants, a highlight of our juvenile days. Stinging! We found rainbow Christmas beetles, ladybirds, and praying mantis, along with a variety of grasshoppers everywhere. Finding a praying mantis was good luck, so we released them.

We tried to keep some of the insects in matchboxes, with a few blades of grass. But they either escaped or did not last long. I never seem to notice Christmas beetles in the tiny garden where I dwell. They were like a symbol of summertime. Beautiful.

Using my microscope, I was soon learning the noble art of making glass slides of a mosquito’s wing, or the antennae of any minute insect. I tried to dodge the bull ants. They do not seem to appear in this part of town either.

We were encouraged to be inquisitive about this abundance of wildlife in suburbia. The bug catcher and microscope were great gifts to give kids our age then. These days, for the grandchildren’ birthdays, I purchase junior microscopes. There is nothing wrong with Australian scientific brains, boys or girls, from any land.

Of course, a lot of children are now growing up in townhouses or units, with minimal green spaces. In those days of our backyard, our patch of leafy suburbia even contained a blue-tongued lizard, which we tried to pat, but it scuttled into the garden. We also had a free-ranging land tortoise, a species native to the area, largely now extinct.

The backyard was, in some way, an escape for us, loads of fun. That is part of a Boomer’s nostalgia, which may be an escape for a senior. I reminisce on great gifts, and early natural science.

What's the most amazing gift you ever received as a child?

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