It's Great To Be Alive! An Unintentionally Funny Safety Pamphlet From the 1950s

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Going through the scanned images of It's Great To Be Alive!, two things quickly become obvious: a. kids from the 1950s were terrible bicycle riders and b. kids also did a lot of stupid, dangerous things.

I could find out little information about the history of It's Great To Be Alive! other than the fact that it was distributed by local police, but clearly someone at the time thought it would be a great idea to shock children into being safe by painting morbid scenarios of what could happen if you didn't exercise caution and common sense. This little booklet didn't mince words: there's maiming, crippling, and death sprinkled throughout its sometimes disturbing and unintentionally funny illustrations. So let's have a look...

They're right, you know. It really sucks to be dead...on the other hand, you can probably have lunch with John Lennon on the other side, and that's pretty cool.

Poor Mary. But she's lucky to get off with just a cast. Here are some kids that were not so fortunate...

Another. That means this happened on a regular basis in the 1950s.

Always respect your elders.

Forget Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun...who knew that falling off a bike is a sure-fire way to lose an eye? I just want to know which one is Bill and which is Joe in the illustration? I HAVE to know!

Tommy? More like Don Draper's silhouette once he hit the ground at the end of the opening credits for Mad Men.

See? I told you guys some crazy kid was going to lose his life playing Pokemon Go.

It's funny to see a depiction of kids (I think those are supposed to be kids) waving fake guns around on the street. Today, that would be deadlier to them than running out in front of oncoming traffic.

OK...why would you be hiding in a pile of leaves...on the street???

Of course, it depends on what the treat is. This is made even creepier by the fact that one of the pervert's hands is much larger than the other.

Oh, well. It could be worse -- at least he didn't drink the stuff.

This kid is stoned, right? That would explain the dazed look and why he's not screaming as his back is engulfed by flames.

The yuks stop here -- my sister's friend was actually pushed into an ice box by some of the neighborhood girls that were bullies back in the day. She had nightmares from the experience.

Stay safe, kids!


  1. When I was a kid we came close to accidentally killing ourselves on a regular basis. One time a bunch of us kids were horsing around, and my brother was scampering across the roof of somebody's garage. He jumped off that, onto the roof of an ice-fishing shack, which was not designed to hold weight. He crashed through that, in a plume of dust, and without checking I gathered everybody together and told them we were gonna have to our stories straight, because he was probably dead or maimed. I figured it was gonna be a bitch to explain it to Mom and Dad, or the cops.
    But no, he staggered out of the wreckage, relatively unscathed but somewhat stunned.
    He later attended college but did poorly, and is now a foreman in a construction company.

    1. There was a blog post I saw a few years ago of photos of the '70s showing children doing all kinds of dangerous things while their parents just stood and watched. And yet today I think we've gone to the other extreme where kids easily get away from their parents' sight because mom and dad are simply not watching them or they're too busy looking at their mobile device. The gorilla incident that happened at the Cincinnati Zoo earlier this summer is a good example of what happens when parents don't supervise their kids closely enough.

  2. How can one biker lose a leg in a collision with another biker?

    1. Ha ha -- they really wanted to scare kids when this booklet came out.

  3. Wow, I didn't realize how unsafe the 50's really were! I'm glad I grew up in the 70's when things were much safer. I have to say, the one with the train did make me laugh out loud.

  4. Wow, what a treasure! I love this safety booklet sooo much.

    The picture of the kid buried in leaves just made me remember that one time in 1st or 2nd grade we had to draw a picture of a dangerous thing that kids shouldn't do. I drew a picture of a kid hiding in a pile of leaves in his driveway and his mother backing the car over him. haha I wonder if the assignment was precipitated by the teacher reading us this booklet or perhaps teacher was influenced by it? This was in the mid-60s.

    1. I forget to mention the part about building fires kills me. You'd think they'd tell the kids to not build fires at all!

    2. Ha ha, sounds like you had a great imagination, Dawn!

  5. They were certainly blunt and graphic back then. One thing that is interesting is the emphasis on bike safety. That is because kids rode bikes everywhere back then. It was a mode of transportation to get to the store and your friends house. Now, it's pretty rare to see kids on bikes.

    1. You're right, Mapster -- I do occasionally see kids on bikes in my neighborhood but it's becoming more rare in general. Had this booklet been made today, it would mostly be about the hazards of using a mobile device and walking. "Johnny was too absorbed with texting his friend that he didn't see he stepped into a busy street and into oncoming traffic. Another healthy boy is crippled for life."

  6. That is some of the worst artwork I have ever seen.


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