Yesterday I saw a 13 year old kid hanging out on a local street corner in the late evening. I wondered why he was there and not at home playing some video game or just sitting in front of the tv watching some age appropriate show. I thought about the plight of children today. I thought about what this young boy’s home life must be like and why his parents allowed him to be alone in the street at such an hour. I watched as he grabbed a small bag and headed up the street and disappeared from sight. I wondered why no one had told him about the 8 o clock man.
I grew up in a small southern town where everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood. I did not have one mother, I had 20 and they all had their eyes on me at all times. If any wrongdoing was to be done it was relayed home to my mother before I got there. We were a close knit community and we always had others to play with as the neighborhood was filled with kids. We all knew what our parents expected. We knew the guidelines of where we were allowed to play, when we needed to be home and we knew our manners. We respected our elders and they were given carte blanche to correct us if we were out of line. Parents had a way with us and to this day I think they held secret meetings to come up with ploys to keep us walking the straight and narrow. We all knew to be home at 8 o clock as that was when parents began flicking the porch light and the infamous 8 o clock man began his rounds. Now you may be wondering what and why with regards to this legend. It was rumored at 8 o clock a tall thin sinewy escaped convict would search the streets for children and if he found one they would disappear forever. Word had gotten around and some even had a description and had reported seeing him. Now needless to say this worked like a charm to insure we were standing porch side 10 minutes shy of 8 o clock to avoid a chance encounter with this ghoul. I think every neighborhood or town probably had their version of the 8 o clock man. I often wondered why 8 o clock? why not the 7:30 man or the 9:00 man? Perhaps 8 was the time the sun started to set and darkness crept in, the perfect scenario for the doings of Mr 8 o clock. I certainly don’t condone scaring the bejeebies out of youngsters but I guess a parent needs to do what works and yes it worked.